Donate $5/month or more today to get almost ANY thank-you gift.
Craft brewers cut down carbon dioxide pollution during COVID-19
Share Now on:
Beer makers buy a lot of carbon dioxide. They use it not only to add some fizz to your IPA, but also to purge tanks for cleaning and to transfer beer from tank to bottle.
Most carbon dioxide available for purchase is a byproduct of oil and gas production. But COVID-19 has depressed the price of oil and suffocated the demand for gasoline, so oil, gas and ethanol plants are making less carbon dioxide. Which is making the product more expensive for those who need it, breweries included.
Coincidentally, brewing actually produces a lot of carbon dioxide. But it’s expensive to capture so most brewers just release the gas into the atmosphere, contributing to pollution.
Amy George figured out that it doesn’t have to be that way.
“There are three steps of purification,” she said, pointing to a carbon capture machine at Austin Beerworks, a brewery on the north side of the Texas capital. The machine looks a bit like a hotel ice maker.
“The first are dryers that remove water. The second is an activated carbon vessel that removes impurities, and then the third is a chiller that takes that gas and converts it to a liquid,” George said.
Her company, Earthly Labs, sold this contraption to the brewery about a year ago.
“It was kind of always the holy grail of craft brewing was to be able to figure out how to reclaim the CO2 that we’re producing and be able to put it back into our beer,” said Adam DeBower, one of the co-founders and owners of Austin Beerworks.
DeBower said his company paid about $100,000 for the unit and its installation.
At Denver Beer Company, co-founder Patrick Crawford decided a carbon capture machine made sense there, too.
“I think we’ll see much smaller breweries and breweries our size, capturing their own CO2 and using it,” Crawford said.
One thing that’s driving breweries to capture their own carbon dioxide is that right now some suppliers don’t want to bother with low-volume customers.
“Some of our customers had suppliers say, ‘We’re going to ration CO2 for medical supply use,'” George said. “‘We’re going to increase your prices 30%, we’re going to cut your supply in half.'”
“Everybody’s going to feel the pinch,” said Bob Pease, CEO of the Brewers Association, which represents small and independent American craft brewers. He said a carbon dioxide shortage might get worse before it gets better as bars and restaurants, big users of CO2, reopen.
Molson Coors and AB InBev will likely feel the pinch less so than craft breweries. Because of their scale, larger breweries have been repurposing their carbon dioxide for years.
What’s true for all brewers is that the ability to capture carbon dioxide provides only some of what beer makers need to use, so they currently still have to buy carbon dioxide on the open market.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?
This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.
Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?
India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.
Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?
As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.
We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.
Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.
In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.
Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.
Donate now to get almost any thank-you gift.