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Climate

U.S. Wind and Solar Just Hit a Power Milestone

On the rise of renewables, peak oil, and carbon capture

U.S. Wind and Solar Just Hit a Power Milestone
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: More than 10 inches of rain fell over nine hours in southwestern China • Wildfires are spreading in Canada, with at least 140 burning as of yesterday afternoon • The streets of Cape Town in South Africa are under water after severe storms caused widespread flooding.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Wind and solar surpass nuclear in U.S. electricity generation

More electricity was generated by wind and solar than by nuclear plants in the first half of 2024 for the first time ever in U.S. history, Reutersreported, citing data from energy think tank Ember. Solar and wind farms generated 401.4 terawatt hours (TWh) compared to 390.5 TWh generated from nuclear reactors, setting 2024 on pace to be the “first full year when more U.S. electricity will come from renewables than from any other form of clean power.” It’s helpful to compare these numbers to the same period last year, when nuclear generated 9% more power than solar and wind. Solar saw the greatest gains, with output 30% higher in the first half of 2024 compared to 2023; wind generation was up 10% and nuclear was up just 3.4%. Between 2018 and 2023, installed capacity grew by 168% for utility solar and 56% for wind. Meanwhile, nuclear generation capacity dropped by 4%.

2. BP forecasts that oil demand will peak next year

In its latest energy outlook report, fossil fuel giant BP forecasts that global demand for oil will peak in 2025, and the related carbon emissions will, too. The analysis is based on current climate policies and pledges, growing efficiency standards for the internal combustion engine and a rise in electric vehicles, and rapid expansion of renewables. By 2050, oil’s share of the energy mix is predicted to fall to about 25%, and that would decrease even more, to just 10%, if nations strengthen (and follow through on) their climate pledges to better align with the Paris Agreement.

BP

The report notes that energy demand is rising, and says the world must enter an “energy substitution” phase in which clean energy supply increases quickly to keep up while also allowing for fossil fuels to be phased out. “The longer it takes for the world to move to a rapid and sustained energy transition, the greater the risk of a costly and disorderly adjustment pathway in the future,” wrote Spencer Dale, BP’s chief economist.

3. Intense U.S. heat wave kills least 28 people, breaks temperature records

More than 160 million Americans have been under excessive heat warnings this week. The heat is particularly oppressive in the West, where temperature records have been falling and heat-related deaths are rising. At least 28 people have died due to heat in the last week, and that number is expected to climb, especially as the heat wave persists into next week.

NWS/NOAA

Las Vegas recorded five days a row where temperatures soared above 115 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking a record of four days set in 2005. On Sunday the city hit 120 degrees, a new record for the hottest day. It will be 118 degrees there today. “This is the most extreme heatwave in the history of record-keeping in Las Vegas since 1937,” Nevada National Weather Service meteorologist John Adair toldThe Associated Press. In California, the weather has been so hot that emergency rescue helicopters are struggling to fly.

Human-caused climate change is making heat waves more intense and more frequent. “While this summer is likely to be one of the hottest on record, it is important to realize that it may also be one of the coldest summers of the future,” wrote climate scientist Mathew Barlow and meteorology professor Jeffrey Basara in an essay for The Conversation.

4. Report: Biden ‘made progress’ on most climate commitments since 2020

Climate change advocacy group Evergreen Action reviewed President Biden’s record of following through on climate actions over the last four years. In 2020, the group put forward a comprehensive set of policy recommendations for Biden to use as a roadmap. The new analysis finds that the administration has “made progress” on 85% of those recommendations, including implementing new clean power policies, advancing environmental justice, the creation of the American Climate Corps, and trying to restrict liquefied natural gas exports. “The Biden-Harris administration has done more on climate than any president before,” Evergreen said. It’s worth reviewing the entire list of recommendations.

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  • 5. Google-linked carbon removal startup signs deals worth $40 million

    A carbon capture company named 280 Earth has signed agreements worth $40 million to remove 61,600 tons of the greenhouse gas between now and 2030, Bloombergreported. The company emerged from Alphabet’s moonshot factory and recently launched direct air capture operations at its plant in Oregon. The plant is located next to a Google data center and can use excess heat from that center to “improve its efficiency, while cutting the center’s cooling costs,” according to Bloomberg. The company’s website says it plans to build more facilities across the United States. It recently raised $50 million from private investors in a Series B round.

    THE KICKER

    “Biden’s tremendous climate legacy rests on whether he can sell his accomplishments to the public and win the 2024 election. And that ability is faltering, to say the least.” –Heatmap’s Robinson Meyer

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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.

    Politics

    Energy Is a Culture War

    JD Vance is making the conversation less about oil vs. solar and more about us vs. them.

    JD Vance.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    “We need a leader,” said JD Vance as he accepted the Republican nomination for vice president, “who rejects Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s Green New Scam and fights to bring back our great American factories.” The election, he said, is “about the auto worker in Michigan, wondering why out-of-touch politicians are destroying their jobs,” and “the energy worker in Pennsylvania and Ohio who doesn’t understand why Joe Biden is willing to buy energy from tinpot dictators across the world, when he could buy it from his own citizens right here in our own country.”

    This is the tale Vance tells about energy and climate — one of contempt and betrayal, elitists sacrificing hard-working blue-collar Americans on the altar of their alien schemes. On the surface it may sound like it’s about jobs and economics, but it’s really about the eternal culture war that divides us from them.

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    Politics

    AM Briefing: A Quick RNC Energy Recap

    On Doug Burgum’s speech, green steel, and electric jets

    What Republicans Have Been Saying About Energy at the RNC
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    Current conditions: The Acropolis in Greece was closed yesterday due to excessive heat • The Persian Gulf International Airport recorded a heat index of 149 degrees Fahrenheit • Recent flooding in Brazil exposed a 233-million-year-old dinosaur fossil.

    THE TOP FIVE

    1. Republicans slam Biden energy policy at RNC

    Energy hasn’t dominated the conversation at the Republican National Convention this week, but it’s certainly been a talking point. Last night North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum gave a speech focusing on the topic. “Teddy Roosevelt encouraged America to speak softly and carry a big stick,” Burgum said. “Energy dominance will be the big stick that President Trump will carry.” He accused President Biden of making Russia and Iran “filthy rich” with his energy policies, blamed him for higher electric bills and grid problems, and said “four more years of Joe will usher in an era of Biden brownouts and blackouts.” Oh, and he promised that Trump would “let all of you keep driving your gas-powered cars.” CNN called the speech “Burgum’s audition to be energy secretary.”

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    Technology

    Florida’s Climate Tech Hub Has a Florida Problem

    One of the most vulnerable states in the U.S. wants nothing to do with “climate change.”

    A Florida postcard.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    The Biden administration loves a hub. There are the hydrogen hubs, the direct air capture hubs, and now there are the tech hubs. Established as a part of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, the $10 billion program has so far seeded 12 such hubs across the country. Four of these are focused on clean energy and sustainability, and one is located in the great state of Florida, which recently passed legislation essentially deleting the words “climate change” from state law.

    The South Florida ClimateReady Tech Hub did not, in the end, eliminate climate from its name. But while Governor Ron DeSantis might not approve, the federal government didn’t seem to mind, as the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration awarded the hub $19.5 million to “advance its global leadership in sustainable and resilient infrastructure.”

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