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Electric Vehicles

Biden’s Plan to Jumpstart Offshore Wind

On the new auction schedule, Tesla earnings, and the Mercedes G-Class EV

Biden’s Plan to Jumpstart Offshore Wind
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: A Saharan dust storm turned skies red in Greece • More heavy rain is expected in China’s flooded Guangdong province • Red Flag fire weather warnings are in place across much of New Mexico.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Key takeaways from Tesla’s quarterly earnings report

Tesla reported first quarter earnings yesterday. The electric car company’s profits fell 55%, and revenue fell 9%. But shares rose more than 10% in after-hours trading following the shareholder update and earnings call. Here are a few things we learned from the report:

  • CEO Elon Musk said Tesla “should be thought of as an AI/robotics company,” and that “if you value Tesla as an auto company, that’s the wrong framework.”
  • Plans for a sub-$30,000 EV haven’t been entirely scrapped, as previously reported. The company said it will “accelerate” the launch of new and more affordable models, but indicated “that any new, cheaper vehicle would not necessarily be entirely new nor unlock massive new savings through an all-new production process,” wrote Heatmap’s Matthew Zeitlin. The robotaxi, however, will rely on a new platform.
  • Tesla’s energy business is growing faster than its car business. The company deployed just over 4 gigawatts of energy storage in the first quarter of the year, and its energy revenue was up 7% from a year ago. Profits from the business more than doubled.
  • Musk still wants to sell a “general purpose, bi-pedal, humanoid robot,” and said the Optimus robot would be in “limited production” in a factory doing “useful tasks” by the end of this year.

2. Biden administration plans to hold up to a dozen offshore wind auctions by 2028

The Interior Department today announced that it will hold up to 12 offshore wind auctions through 2028, with four of those auctions happening by the end of 2024. President Biden has a goal of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030, but the industry has been blown off course thanks to inflation and disrupted supply chains. The Interior Department has held four offshore wind auctions so far during Biden’s presidency. The new schedule is an attempt to “jump-start the fledgling offshore wind sector” by expanding development potential, reportedBloomberg. “Our offshore wind leasing schedule will provide predictability to help developers and communities plan ahead and will provide the confidence needed to continue building on the tremendous offshore wind supply chain and manufacturing investments that we've already seen,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

3. Poll: Few climate-concerned voters know about Biden’s climate policies

In the last month alone, $37 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act has gone toward climate projects. That amount “exceeds what the recent foreign aid bill will give to Israel, Taiwan, and humanitarian aid in Gaza, combined,” reported Heatmap’s Robinson Meyer. As the election approaches, the Biden administration is spending funds from the IRA much faster than it was last year. But it seems President Biden’s climate investments and emission-slashing initiatives aren’t getting through to Americans. A CBS News/YouGov poll out this week found that even the Americans who are most concerned about climate change are unlikely to be aware of the administration’s efforts to combat it. About 45% of respondents said climate change is a very important issue, but just 10% of those said they had heard or read “a lot” about Biden’s climate policies. And 42% said the administration hadn’t done enough on the issue.

More than half of respondents said the outcome of the November election would have no effect on climate change. A recent analysis from Carbon Brief found that a second Trump presidency would likely cause the U.S. to miss its 2030 climate pledges, could lead to an additional 4 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, and result in more than $900 billion in damages. “A second Trump term that successfully dismantles Biden’s climate legacy would likely end any global hopes of keeping global warming below 1.5 [degrees Celsius],” the report said.

4. Global plastic treaty talks start in Canada

Negotiations on a global plastics treaty kicked off yesterday in Ottawa, Canada. The UN-led session is the second-to-last meeting before the treaty on reducing plastic pollution has to be finalized later this year, so the stakes are high, as are tensions between oil-producing nations and other countries that want to see plastic production dramatically reduced. The negotiations run through April 29.

5. Mercedes shows off new electric G-Class SUV

Mercedes unveiled the new all-electric version of its luxury G-Class offroader yesterday. The G-Class is “in many ways, Mercedes’ most prestigious car,” said Tim Evans at TechCrunch, so making an electric version is “the biggest test yet for the company’s recently scaled back electrification plans.”

Mercedes

The Mercedes-Benz G 580 with EQ technology (critics hate the name, by the way) can do a tank turn, and has one motor for each wheel, offering serious control for offroading. And it has a fake engine noise, the “G-Roar.” It’s also just a beautiful vehicle that seems to stay true to its design roots. The range, at about 293 miles, is relatively low but the sticker price, at about $150,000, is very high. It’ll be on sale in the U.S. in the second half of 2024. Here are some early reactions:

  • “The electric G-Class sounds like an impressive package, enough to woo any true fan of performance away from the models with internal combustion.” –Tim Stevens at TechCrunch.
  • “Is it a car the world needs? Probably not. But that’s never stopped the G – in any of its army or AMG forms – being one of the enduring off-road icons.” –Ollie Kew at Top Gear.
  • “This is a car that has been defined in many ways by excess, with the gas version getting just 14 miles per gallon. And yet here it is, in electric trim, with a huge battery (but not out of line with other huge EVs), beating the gas version’s performance both on- and off-road.” –Jameson Dow at Electrek.

THE KICKER

America’s first commercial big-rig hydrogen fuel station opened this week in Oakland, California.

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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.

Climate

AM Briefing: Displacement Fears

On the Biden administration’s carbon removal investments, the climate refugees of Brazil, and more

Wednesday sunrise.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: More storms and possible tornadoes are forecast to hit Texas and the Plains, where millions of people are still without power • Cyclone Remal, the first tropical storm of the season, killed at least 23 people in India and Bangladesh • Brazilian authorities are investigating up to 800 suspected cases of waterborne illness following unprecedented flooding over the past month.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Biden administration invests in carbon removal

The Department of Energy on Tuesday gave $1.2 million to companies competing for a chance to sell carbon removal credits to the federal government. These 24 semifinalists, which were each awarded $50,000, include nine direct air capture projects, seven biomass projects, five enhanced rock weathering projects, and three marine-based projects. Up to 10 of them will be offered federal contracts amounting to $30 million. “The Department of Energy hopes that by selecting 24 companies that have been vetted by government scientists, it’s sending a signal to the private sector that there are at least some projects that are legitimate,” Heatmap’s Emily Pontecorvo writes, referencing struggles in the broader carbon credits marketplace.

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The Department of Energy is advancing 24 companies in its purchase prize contest. What these companies are getting is more important than $50,000.

Heirloom DAC.
Heatmap Illustration/Heirloom Carbon

The Department of Energy is advancing its first-of-a-kind program to stimulate demand for carbon removal by becoming a major buyer. On Tuesday, the agency awarded $50,000 to each of 24 semifinalist companies competing to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere on behalf of the U.S. government. It will eventually spend $30 million to buy carbon removal credits from up to 10 winners.

The nascent carbon removal industry is desperate for customers. At a conference held in New York City last week called Carbon Unbound, startup CEOs brainstormed how to convince more companies to buy carbon removal as part of their sustainability strategies. On the sidelines, attendees lamented to me that there were hardly even any potential buyers at the conference — what a missed opportunity.

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Economy

Tom Steyer Is Baffled By Warren Buffett’s Oil Bets

“In the case of fossil fuels, he doesn’t seem to recognize how quickly our ability to develop and deploy clean energy is growing — and how cheap that energy is becoming.”

Tom Steyer and Warren Buffett.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

If you’re looking for a relatively optimistic read on the fight against climate change, Tom Steyer’s new book is out today. Called Cheaper, Better Faster: How We’ll Win the Climate War, it dives into the billionaire’s perspective on the state of the climate crisis and the clean energy solutions helping the world decarbonize. Steyer’s perspective is informed by the many hats he wears — investor, philanthropist, long shot 2020 presidential candidate, Yale man, and co-founder of the investment firm Galvanize Climate Solutions.

I chatted with Steyer a few weeks ago about his book, his guiding investment principles, and how and why people become environmentalists. Here are three things I found noteworthy:

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