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Climate

Florida’s New Climate Change Law Is About Much More Than Words​

On DeSantis’s latest legislation, solar tariffs, and brain disease

Florida’s New Climate Change Law Is About Much More Than Words​
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Areas surrounding Milan, Italy, are flooded after intense rainfall • Chile is preparing for its most severe cold snap in 70 years • East Texas could see “nightmare” flash flooding today and tomorrow.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Biden expands solar tariffs to include bifacial modules

The Biden administration is expanding existing solar panel tariffs to include the popular two-sided (or bifacial) modules used in many utility-scale solar installations. The solar manufacturing industry and elected representatives in states that have seen large solar manufacturing investments have been pushing to end the tariffs exclusion. With this move, the Biden administration is decisively intervening in the solar industry’s raging feud on the side of the adolescent-but-quickly-maturing domestic solar manufacturing industry, wrote Heatmap’s Matthew Zeitlin. Bifacial modules are estimated to account for over 90% of U.S. module imports. That amounted to some $4.3 billion of incoming orders in the first six months of last year. Developers who have contracts to buy bifacial panels that will be shipped within 90 days will still be able to import them without duties, and the tariffs also allow a quota of solar cells, which are later assembled into modules, to be imported without charges.

2. Florida erases climate change from state law

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis yesterday signed legislation that will result in most references to climate change being removed from state law. While the scrubbing of climate change is leading most headlines, the law does a few other important things, too:

  • It nixes requirements for state government to prioritize climate change when writing energy policy.
  • It removes language that gave state officials the authority to set goals for renewable energy.
  • It bans offshore wind turbines in state waters.
  • It repeals state grant programs that encourage energy conservation and renewable energy.
  • It deletes requirements for state agencies to use environmentally-friendly products and fuel-efficient vehicles.
  • It prevents municipalities from dictating which fuels can be used in appliances like gas stoves.
  • It waters down regulation of gas pipelines and boosts expansion of gas.

Florida is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, from deadly heat waves to stronger and more frequent storms and sea level rise. And most Floridians support state action to tackle the issue. The law will come into effect on July 1.

3. The North American grid is ready for a ‘normal’ summer

The North American electric grid has “adequate anticipated resources for normal summer peak load and conditions,” the North American Electric Reliability Corporation said yesterday. The nonprofit reliability organizaton’s chief executive officer Jim Robb said there are “fewer areas at risk than last year, but significant concerns remain at the system’s ability to perform under extreme conditions.” The report lays out summer reliability risks by region, including nuclear plant outages in Ontario, Canada, less-than-expected wind power generation in the middle of the U.S., and a heat wave affecting western states and Mexico.

Meanwhile, Texas’s main grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), warned that the state could face an electricity emergency this weekend, with power demand expected to creep up toward max supply levels starting Friday night and stretching into Saturday night.

4. IEA lowers annual oil demand growth forecast

The International Energy Agency has lowered its forecast for oil demand growth for 2024. In its May report, the agency projects oil demand will grow by 1.1 million barrels per day (BPD), down 140,000 BPD from April’s report. “Poor industrial activity and another mild winter have sapped gasoil consumption this year,” the agency said. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) released its own monthly report on Tuesday, projecting that oil demand will rise by 2.25 million BPD in 2024. “The gap between the IEA and OPEC is now even wider than it was earlier this year,” Reuterssaid.

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  • 5. Study: Climate change exacerbates brain diseases

    A new study found that extreme heat from climate change is making certain conditions involving the brain and the nervous system worse, including Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and even migraines and strokes. “Many of the components of the brain are, in fact, working close to the top of their temperature ranges, meaning that small increases in temperature or humidity may mean they stop working so well together,” the authors, from University College London, explained. “When those environmental conditions move rapidly into unaccustomed ranges, as is happening with extreme temperatures and humidity related to climate change, our brain struggles to regulate our temperature and begins to malfunction.” The authors note that 20% of the excess deaths that resulted from the 2003 European heat wave were among people with neurological conditions.

    THE KICKER

    Massachusetts is launching a $10 million Climate Careers Fund that will provide no-interest loans to help people pay for training in climate-related jobs from heating and cooling to electric vehicle mechanics.


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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.

    Bitcoin becoming the sun.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    Categorizing Crusoe Energy is not easy. The startup is a Bitcoin miner and data center operator. It’s a “high-performance” and “carbon-negative” cloud platform provider. It’s a darling of the clean tech world that’s raised nearly $750 million in funding. The company has historically powered its operations with natural gas, but its overall business model actually reduces emissions. Confused yet?

    Here are the basics. The company was founded in 2018 to address the problem of natural gas flaring. Natural gas is a byproduct of oil extraction, and if oil field operators have no economical use case for the gas or are unable to transfer it elsewhere, it’s often simply burned. If you, like me, have spent time sourcing stock images of air pollution, you’ve probably seen the pictures of giant flames coming out of tall smokestacks near oil pump jacks and other drilling infrastructure. That’s what flaring natural gas looks like, and it is indeed terrible for the environment. That’s largely because the process fails to fully combust methane, which is the primary component of natural gas and 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period.

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    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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    Technology

    Carbon Removal’s Stamp of Approval

    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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