As the Amazon rainforests have been burning for weeks and we still haven’t properly recovered from the IPCC’s latest report, it does feel very reassuring when someone exhibits confidence in the face of climate change. That someone is Mika Anttonen , the main owner and president of the board of energy and fuel company ST1.
“I’m confident I know how to solve the challenge of decreasing carbon dioxide emissions,” Anttonen says. Before going there, though, let’s hear how he got here.
Anttonen is known as one of Finland’s few billionaires, a generous patron of world-class sports (especially ice hockey), and a vocal advocate of hindering climate change. He holds a Master’s degree in energy engineering and began his career as an oil trader at prominent Finnish oil company Neste. Since the early 2000’s, Anttonen has been developing ST1 into the multinational energy group it is today.
“Once I quit trading and became a father I began thinking in earnest about what I should do when I ‘grew up’. I wanted to do something meaningful and sustainable in the field I had chosen. I started thinking about doing business with something else as a goal than just profit,” he says.
Hindering climate change with scalable solutions
Let’s go back to Anttonen’s declaration about decreasing emissions. Since 1959, humans have released over 200 billion tons of excess carbon into the atmosphere. In order to get rid of it, we need a sustainable carbon cycle, that is, a process in which carbon travels back and forth between the atmosphere and the Earth’s organisms, like plants.
This is where a technology called Power to x, or P2X, comes into the picture. The technology can be used to produce synthetic fuels out of air, water, and pure electricity. The main raw materials required are carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and hydrogen from water or nitrogen from the air.
“The technology provides a way to store renewable energy so that it can be used in current infrastructures. That way the world doesn’t need to be rebuilt. The technology doesn’t decrease the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but recycles it,” Anttonen explains.
He is very excited about the technology, which he calls “incredibly beautiful”. ST1 is currently looking into utilizing P2X in turning emissions into synthetic fuel. The technology is being developed by researchers from the Finnish Lappeenranta University of Technology and the Finnish technology research centre VTT.
Another weapon in the fight against climate change and especially in getting rid of carbon dioxide emissions is afforestation, that is planting trees in a barren land. This would work especially in African countries, Anttonen says. He has been very vocal about turning deserts into carbon sinks for a while now.
In 2018, ST1 began a three-year pilot where the company planted four hectares of forest in Morocco. The pilot is conducted in collaboration with Université Mohammed VI Polytechnique in Morocco and the Natural Resources Institute Finland, and first results are expected this fall.
Challenging the EU’s climate politics
So, Anttonen has a game plan. Now all it needs is execution. That, however, is much easier said than done. Although Anttonen seems relatively optimistic about hindering climate change and turning plans into action, he has a few issues with the European Union’s climate politics.
“Europe wants to lead by example. But it’s the dumbest thing in the world to try to lead by example in a geographically defined area, in this case Europe,” he says.
Seeing that Europe’s emissions form roughly 9 percent of the world’s emissions, Anttonen thinks it would be more beneficial to utilise European resources more efficiently outside Europe as well. For example, the population in Africa is ever-growing, and most of the continent’s people are born to conditions that simply cannot contain any more people. Everyone knows this, yet not much is done, Anttonen says.
“Our money and expertise should be used in constructing new systems in countries whose energy infrastructures mainly rely on fossil energy,” Anttonen states. At this point no effort is a wasted effort, and Europe should be as global an actor as possible, he continues.
“We only have one atmosphere and it doesn’t exist within any geographical limits.”
In Finland, energy company owner Mika Anttonen is a well-known advocate for controlling climate change. His company runs 1300 St1 and Shell branded gas stations in Finland, Sweden and Norway and is sworn to invest in developing renewable energy.
This is part of the Smart minds series introducing visionary people from the Helsinki Smart Region.
Image credit ST1 Nordic Oy / Tekir Oy / Antti Raatikainen.
Main owner and president of the board of energy and fuel company ST1
Generous patron of world-class sports (especially ice hockey)
Vocal advocate of hindering climate change
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