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Energy & Climate

Capturing New Jobs and New Business: Growth Opportunities from Direct Air Capture Scale-Up

In the US, meeting the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 will require large-scale removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. The scale-up of direct air capture (DAC) technology could create significant employment and business opportunities.

In the US, meeting the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 will require not only a rapid reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), but large-scale removal of CO2 from the atmosphere as well. Direct air capture (DAC) technology, which removes CO2 directly from the air, can play a pivotal role in balancing emissions across difficult-to-decarbonize sectors.

Commercial DAC projects are already under development in the US, but more capture capacity is needed. Previous Rhodium research found that 689 to 2,260 million tons of capture capacity is necessary to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. This scale-up of the DAC industry could create significant employment and business opportunities across its supply chain.

The Linden Trust for Conservation commissioned Rhodium Group to conduct an independent assessment of the potential employment and business opportunities associated with the scale-up of DAC technology in the US. Using the scenarios above, we’ve quantified the number of potential new jobs and other opportunities for growth in major markets like construction, steel, cement, chemicals, electricity, and natural gas, resulting from broader DAC deployment.

DAC technology is commercially ready, with hundreds of millions of dollars in investor backing, and large-scale projects in the pipeline. However, a full and rapid scale-up of DAC technology will only occur with ambitious federal policy action both in the near and long-term. New federal policy is required to drive initial deployment of DAC because early-stage costs are higher than existing revenue opportunities. And long-term federal policy frameworks are needed for DAC to scale by mid-century. More policy action sooner can accelerate employment and business opportunities. For more information on policy support, see our previous report, Capturing Leadership.

New business opportunities

If DAC reaches full scale, manufacturers of key inputs in the supply chain will see a surge in demand. Equipment and steel markets have the most to gain. Equipment demand (turbines, pumping equipment, air contactor equipment, and other general purpose machinery) for DAC facilities alone could exceed the total existing US demand for this equipment. The same is true for the steel industry—additional demand for DAC facilities could exceed the current total US demand. DAC scale-up also represents a major new growth market for cement, chemicals, electricity, and natural gas.

New job opportunities

If DAC reaches full scale, workers in key trades will also see a surge in demand. A typical 1 megaton capacity DAC plant can generate roughly 3,500 jobs across the sectors in the DAC supply chain. Sector-wide, the construction, engineering, and equipment manufacturing sectors combined could see at least 300,000 new jobs with DAC at full scale. Cement and steel employment could increase by at least 50% relative to current levels. Operation and maintenance jobs at DAC plants could be a major source of jobs for the communities that host them. And DAC represents a major new job growth opportunity for chemicals and natural gas workers. Most of these employment opportunities associated with DAC are high wage jobs.

Read the full reports:

Report: Capturing New Business

Report: Capturing New Jobs

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