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Climate

AM Briefing: Chevy's New Electric SUV

On the Blazer EV reviews, Trump's latest climate target, and oil demand

AM Briefing: Chevy's New Electric SUV
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: More than 125 highways are closed in China due to a record-setting winter storm • Tropical Cyclone Jasper downed trees in parts of Queensland in Australia • The Geminids meteor shower will peak tonight.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Trump promises to revoke U.S. pledge to Green Climate Fund if re-elected

Former President Donald Trump told a crowd at an Iowa campaign event yesterday that he would cancel “all climate reparation payments” immediately should he be re-elected next year. A campaign aide clarified that Trump was talking specifically about America’s pledge to the Green Climate Fund, which helps developing countries adapt and become more resilient to the effects of climate change. Vice President Kamala Harris recently announced that America would give the fund $3 billion. President Biden’s climate policies have become a “core part” of Trump’s campaign message, saysReuters. In the same speech, Trump also promised to “end Joe Biden’s war on American energy” and “drill, baby, drill.”

2. Chevy Blazer EV first-drive reviews are in

Early reviews of the Chevy Blazer EV, which TechCrunchdescribes as “a vehicle designed to satiate Americans’ never-ending appetites for SUV,” are trickling in. The consensus? It’s good! But with a starting price around $56,000, it’s too expensive. Here’s a quick roundup

  • “Chevy has designed and produced an absolutely normal SUV — a welcome relief from the string of novelty EVs that have come on the market in recent years. The big miss is the higher-than-expected price tag.” –Kirsten Korosec at TechCrunch
  • “A solid and highly customizable first entry into the market … and we’re particularly impressed by the UI,” but “there’s a lot to be considered when looking at the lower-priced alternatives in the market.” –Jameson Dow at Electrek
  • “Not the most compelling electric SUV” but “its slick blend of new-age technology and old-school redundancy provides a compelling lure for hesitant EV buyers.” –Mack Hogan atRoad and Track

The Chevy Blazer EVChevrolet

3. Massive Tesla recall is a ‘win’ ... for Tesla

In other EV news, more than 2 million Tesla vehicles are set to receive over-the-air updates to address failures in the Autopilot system. As Wirednotes, that’s nearly all the vehicles Tesla has sold in the U.S. to date. At issue is the Autosteer functionality, and the recall follows an investigation by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (HTWSA) into a series of crashes that may have occurred while Autopilot was in use. The updates will include added safety controls and alerts, and further limit where drivers can use Autosteer, Wired says. The recall is a “win” for Tesla, argues Damon Lavrinc at Heatmap. “U.S. regulators did not conclude the technology itself was unsafe, and also determined that drivers are responsible for using Autopilot safely. This is what Tesla has contended since the beginning, and it’s a rebuke to safety advocates, many local legislators, and lawyers representing accident victims and their families.”

4. IEA and OPEC reports show conflicting projections for oil demand

The Inernational Energy Agency (IEA) released its December Oil Market Report this morning, which says that global oil demand rose in 2023 but that a slowdown has begun and will continue through 2024. This, combined with supply growth from the U.S. (and elsewhere), will “complicate efforts by key producers to defend their market share and maintain elevated oil prices,” the agency concludes. The report is in contrast to projections put forward by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which this week said it still expects demand for oil to grow next year by 2.25 million barrels a day. Oil prices have been plummeting for several weeks now despite OPEC output cuts. The oil cartel blamed this on “exaggerated” concerns about oil demand growth.

5. U.S. forecasters say Christmas snow is unlikely

Weather forecasts for the next few weeks are starting to come into focus, and a white Christmas is looking increasingly unlikely for the continental U.S. “For the second year in a row, models show low chances of snow leading up to and on Christmas, continuing a disappointing trend for snow lovers tied to human-caused climate change,” reportsThe Washington Post.

U.S. temperature outlook for the next two weeksNOAA

THE KICKER

PETA has named Apple its 2023 Company of the Year for its move to ditch animal leather in its products.

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Jessica  Hullinger profile image

Jessica Hullinger

Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London.

Technology

AM Briefing: TerraPower Breaks Ground

On Bill Gates’ advanced nuclear reactor, solar geoengineering, and FEMA

TerraPower Just Broke Ground on Its Next-Gen Nuclear Project
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Heavy rains in China are boosting the country’s hydropower output • Late-season frost advisories are in place for parts of Michigan • It will be 80 degrees Fahrenheit and cloudy today near the Port of Baltimore, which has officially reopened after 11 weeks of closure.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Bill Gates’ TerraPower breaks ground on next-gen nuclear project

TerraPower, the energy company founded by Bill Gates, broke ground yesterday on a next-generation nuclear power plant in Wyoming that will use an advanced nuclear reactor. As Heatmap’s Emily Pontecorvo and Matthew Zeitlin explained, these reactors are smaller and promise to be cheaper to build than America’s existing light-water nuclear reactor fleet. The design “would be a landmark for the American nuclear industry” because it calls for cooling with liquid sodium instead of the standard water-cooling of American nuclear plants. “This technique promises eventual lower construction costs because it requires less pressure than water (meaning less need for expensive safety systems) and can also store heat, turning the reactor into both a generator and an energy storage system.” TerraPower is still waiting for its construction permit to be approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and TheAssociated Press reported the work that began yesterday is just to get the site ready for speedy construction if the permit goes through.

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Donald Trump snapping a wind turbine.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Clean energy developers and the bankers who fund them are all pretty confident that a change in power in Washington, should one occur next year, won’t mean the end of the Inflation Reduction Act or the buildout of renewables across the country — except, that is, when it comes to offshore wind. Trump has special contempt for wind energy in all its forms — to him, all wind turbines are bird murderers, but offshore turbines are especially deadly, adding both whales and property values to their list of victims. He has said he will issue an executive order on day one of his second turn as president to “make sure that that ends.”

While the scope and legal enforceability of any potential executive order remain unclear, the wind industry, environmental activists, and analysts have all found plenty of other reasons to be worried.

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Donald Trump and Jaws.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Former President Trump wants to know: Would you rather be electrocuted or eaten by a shark?

On Sunday, during a rally in Las Vegas, the Republican nominee floated the question for what is at least the second time this campaign season (an odd choice, perhaps, given that Nevada is hardly shark territory, and therefore his supporters there are unlikely to have given the question much thought).

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