5 Unclaimed Environmental Prizes


Virgin Earth Challenge

Former Vice President Al Gore teamed up with Richard Branson to stage the Virgin Earth Challenge.
Former Vice President Al Gore teamed up with Richard Branson to stage the Virgin Earth Challenge.

In 2007, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and business mogul Richard Branson of Virgin Group announced a joint venture: the Virgin Earth Challenge, a competition to remove carbon dioxide from the air. It's a call to scientists and engineers to design a CO2 removal system that makes a real difference in long-term global warming predictions -- specifically, it must remove, at a minimum, a billion tons of CO2 per year during 10 years of operation. But that's not all.

The system has to be commercially viable, and it can't do any harm to the environment in the process of pulling carbon dioxide out of the air.

In exchange for this tall order, the Virgin Earth Challenge offers $25 million. It's the largest science and technology prize ever offered, and it'll be on the table for an initial five-year period [source: EL].

If engineers will be clambering for a $25-million chance to save the planet, imagine the rush for a $300-million endeavor. During his 2008 presidential campaign, John McCain suggested a $300-million, presumably government-sponsored prize for the inventor of a super high-efficiency car battery.

No word yet on whether the government is signing on.

For more information on environmental prizes and related topics, look over the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • "Branson, Gore Announce $25 Million 'Virgin Earth Challenge.'" Environmental Leader. Feb. 9, 2007.http://www.environmentalleader.com/2007/02/09/branson-gore-announce-25-million-virgin-earth-challenge/
  • Cooper, Michael. "McCain Proposes a $300 Million Prize for a Next-Generation Car Battery." The New York Times. June 24, 2008.http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/24/us/politics/24campaign.html
  • The Freedom Prizes.http://www.freedomprize.org/prizes/index.php
  • Owen, James. "$15-Million Marine Energy Prize Launched in Scotland." National Geographic News. Dec. 2, 2008.http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/12/081202-scotland-prize.html
  • "PETA Offers $1 Million Reward to First to Make In Vitro Meat." PETA.http://www.peta.org/feat_in_vitro_contest.asp
  • The use of special prizes to fuel global innovation. Gizmag. Feb. 13, 2007.http://www.gizmag.com/go/6822/
  • "Win-win." The Economist. Sept. 8, 2008.http://www.economist.com/research/articlesBySubject/displaystory.cfm?subjectid=7933604&story_id=12077182
  • "X PRIZE Foundation & Progressive Insurance Join Forces to Officially Announce the $10 Million Progressive Automotive X PRIZE." Progressive Automotive X Prize. March 20, 2008.http://www.progressiveautoxprize.org/press-release/x-prize-foundation-progressive-insurance-join-forces-to-officially-announce-the-1


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