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Climate

Texas Doesn’t Like the EPA’s New Methane Rules

On the latest EPA lawsuit, Musk’s charity, and the Sycamore Gap tree

Texas Doesn’t Like the EPA’s New Methane Rules
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: It will be very blustery across the northeast today • Flooding and landslides killed 26 people in Indonesia • Catholics in drought-stricken Barcelona celebrated the coming of rain by carrying a figure of the Holy Christ through the city’s old town.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Texas challenges EPA’s new methane rules

Texas is suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its sweeping methane rules that target oil and gas operations. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is 80 times more warming than carbon dioxide, and oil and gas sites are a key source of man-made methane emissions. The EPA regulations, announced late last year, ban polluting practices like routine flaring of natural gas from new wells, require wells to be regularly monitored for leaks, and phase out some old and leaky infrastructure. AsHeatmap’s Emily Pontecorvo reported, the EPA says the rules will prevent the equivalent of 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted between 2024 and 2038, almost as much as was emitted by all power plants in the country in 2021. Texas is the largest oil-producing state in the U.S. It challenged the rules late on Friday, accusing the EPA of “overreach.”

2. Analysis shows Europe is woefully unprepared for climate change

Europe is the fastest-warming continent on Earth, heating at twice the global rate, but is underprepared for the “catastrophic” risks posed by climate change, according to an assessment from the European Union Environment Agency. The group considered 36 major climate risks, including ecosystem collapse, drought, and extreme heat, and concluded that unless preparations are made, hundreds of thousands of people could die from heat waves, and coastal floods could cost 1 trillion euros per year. The EEA warned that policymakers need to do more to shore up critical infrastructure, agriculture, and healthcare systems to prepare for extreme weather before it’s too late. “Our new analysis shows that Europe faces urgent climate risks that are growing faster than our societal preparedness,” said Leena Ylä-Mononen, the EEA’s executive director.

Climate hazards pose risks to many essential services and systems.EEA

3. Low-voltage batteries failing in some EVs

Some new electric vehicles are experiencing repeated problems with their 12-volt batteries, reported The Wall Street Journal. These are the low-voltage batteries that have been found under the hoods of most cars for years. They power things like interior lights and electronics, and seem to be dying quickly in some brand new EVs, including models from Cadillac, Hyundai, and Rivian. “The 12-volt battery is in many ways a dated technology for cars on the road today, which are becoming more like computers on wheels and have greater power needs,” Ryan Felton reported for the Journal. “But switching to a higher-voltage system is also difficult because it would essentially mean wholesale changes to the supply chain for these parts.” Tesla’s Cybertruck has already moved to a 48-volt system, and the company’s director called it “the future for low voltage design at Tesla and likely the rest of the industry in due course.”

4. Musk Foundation is ‘largely self-serving,’ according to NYT

A New York Timesinvestigation calls into question the integrity of Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s charity, the Musk Foundation, accusing it of failing to give away the minimum amount of money to justify hefty tax breaks, and being “haphazard and largely self-serving.” The Musk Foundation has a history of donating millions less than is required by tax law, and the Times found that about half of its donations between 2021 and 2022 were linked to Musk in some way, including a food charity run by his brother and a school where Musk’s own children attended. “The really striking thing about Musk is the disjuncture between his outsized public persona, and his very, very minimal philanthropic presence,” said Benjamin Soskis, who studies philanthropy at the Urban Institute.

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  • 5. Seedlings from famous Sycamore Gap tree begin to sprout

    Seedlings from England’s famous Sycamore Gap tree, which was felled by vandals last year, have sprouted. Conservation experts collected seeds and cuttings from the 300-year-old tree before it was removed from its home along Hadrian’s Wall and brought them to the National Trust’s conservation center with hopes of cultivating them and perhaps planting a new tree in the same location. The first seedlings began to sprout at the start of 2024. The conservation center is in a secret location in London. It houses genetic copies of important plants including the apple tree said to have inspired Sir Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity, and a tree where Henry VIII courted Anne Boleyn, according toThe Guardian. “while there’s a way to go before we have true saplings, we’ll be keeping everything crossed that these plants continue to grow stronger and can be planted out and enjoyed by many in the future,” said Andrew Jasper, Director of Gardens and Parklands at the National Trust.

    National Trust

    THE KICKER

    America’s unusually warm winter forced farmers to start collecting maple syrup from trees more than a month early.

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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

    Is Sodium-Ion the Next Big Battery?

    U.S. manufacturers are racing to get into the game while they still can.

    Sodium-ion batteries.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images, Peak Energy, Natron Energy

    In the weird, wide world of energy storage, lithium-ion batteries may appear to be an unshakeably dominant technology. Costs have declined about 97% over the past three decades, grid-scale battery storage is forecast to grow faster than wind or solar in the U.S. in the coming decade, and the global lithium-ion supply chain is far outpacing demand, according to BloombergNEF.

    That supply chain, however, is dominated by Chinese manufacturing. According to the International Energy Agency, China controls well over half the world’s lithium processing, nearly 85% of global battery cell production capacity, and the lion’s share of actual lithium-ion battery production. Any country creating products using lithium-ion batteries, including the U.S., is at this point dependent on Chinese imports.

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    Electric Vehicles

    AM Briefing: Tesla’s Delay

    On Musk’s latest move, Arctic shipping, and China’s natural disasters

    Tesla Is Delaying the Robotaxi Reveal
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    Current conditions: Heavy rains triggered a deadly landslide in Nepal that swept away 60 people • More than a million residents are still without power in and around Houston • It will be about 80 degrees Fahrenheit in Berlin on Sunday for the Euro 2024 final, where England will take on Spain.

    THE TOP FIVE

    1. Biden administration announces $1.7 billion to convert auto plants into EV factories

    The Biden administration announced yesterday that the Energy Department will pour $1.7 billion into helping U.S. automakers convert shuttered or struggling manufacturing facilities into EV factories. The money will go to factories in eight states (including swing states Michigan and Pennsylvania) and recipients include Stellantis, Volvo, GM, and Harley-Davidson. Most of the funding comes from the Inflation Reduction Act and it could create nearly 3,000 new jobs and save 15,000 union positions at risk of elimination, the Energy Department said. “Agencies across the federal government are rushing to award the rest of their climate cash before the end of Biden’s first term,” The Washington Post reported.

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    Politics

    What the Conventional Wisdom Gets Wrong About Trump and the IRA

    Anything decarbonization-related is on the chopping block.

    Donald Trump holding the IRA.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    The Biden administration has shoveled money from the Inflation Reduction Act out the door as fast as possible this year, touting the many benefits all that cash has brought to Republican congressional districts. Many — in Washington, at think tanks and non-profits, among developers — have found in this a reason to be calm about the law’s fate. But this is incorrect. The IRA’s future as a climate law is in a far more precarious place than the Beltway conventional wisdom has so far suggested.

    Shortly after the changing of the guard in Congress and the White House, policymakers will begin discussing whether to extend the Trump-era tax cuts, which expire at the end of 2025. If they opt to do so, they’ll try to find a way to pay for it — and if Republicans win big in the November elections, as recent polling and Democratic fretting suggests could happen, the IRA will be an easy target.

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