Sign In or Create an Account.

By continuing, you agree to the Terms of Service and acknowledge our Privacy Policy

Economy

Biden’s Big Energy Moves

On the EPA’s power plant rules, the White House’s transmission boost, and a new BYD pickup.

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

Current conditions: Heavy rains this spring have reinvigorated the drought-stricken wetlands at Spain’s Doñana National Park • Severe thunderstorms are taking shape above the central and southern U.S. • Flooding in Kenya kills at least 32 people and displaces over 40,000.

THE TOP FIVE

1. EPA releases final power plant rules

The Environmental Protection Agency finalized its power plant emissions limits on Thursday, imposing the first federal standards on carbon pollution from the electricity sector since the Obama administration’s unsuccessful 2015 Clean Power Plan. “The rules require that newly built natural gas plants that are designed to help meet the grid’s daily, minimum needs, will have to slash their carbon emissions by 90% by 2032, an amount that can only be achieved with the use of carbon capture equipment,” Heatmap’s Emily Pontecorvo reports. The EPA will also severely limit carbon emissions from coal plants based on when they’re supposed to retire — a potential “death blow” to the already embattled industry, The New York Times reports — and from other new gas plants based on how much of the time they’re expected to run. Though the final rule exempts existing gas plants from the carbon capture requirements (at least for now), it could force utilities to rethink plans to rely heavily on new gas plants over the coming years as they move away from coal. The EPA expects the regulations to keep almost 1.4 billion metric tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere through 2047 — assuming they survive the inevitable legal challenges.

2. Biden administration boosts transmission

The Department of Energy also unveiled on Thursday a few initiatives to expand the electric grid. “While the most important transmission policy changes will likely come from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission next month, and possibly permitting reform legislation under consideration in Congress, the White House and Department of Energy are doing what they can with tens of billions of dollars allotted in both the IRA and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and their power over environmental regulations,” Heatmap’s Matthew Zeitlin writes. The DOE announced up to $331 million in funding for the $1 billion Southwest Intertie Project-North transmission project. The agency also said it was establishing a Coordinated Interagency Transmission Authorization and Permits program to streamline the regulatory process for federal projects. And it introduced a plan to expedite environmental reviews for upgrades to existing transmission lines.

3. American Lung Association releases grim air quality report

More than one-third of people in the United States now live in places with unhealthy levels of air pollution, according to the American Lung Association’s 2024 State of the Air report. The number of people exposed to harmful amounts of ozone and particulate matter has risen to 131.2 million, an increase of 11.7 million from 2023. And more people are experiencing days with “very unhealthy” or “hazardous” air quality than the country has seen in decades. The report cited the worsening heat, drought, and wildfires caused by climate change, along with heightened federal air quality standards for fine particle pollution, to explain this year’s higher numbers. “Climate change is causing more dangerous air pollution. … We must do more to ensure everyone has clean air,” said Harold Wimmer, President and CEO of the American Lung Association, in a statement.

California once again dominated the list of counties with the worst air quality, with San Bernardino County ranking highest for ozone, and Kern and Mono counties coming in first for short-term and year-round ozone pollution, respectively.

4. The electric grid is overburdened by climate change

Climate change is driving an uptick in weather-related power outages, a new report from Climate Central finds. Weather was responsible for 80% of major U.S. power outages between 2000 and 2023. Thanks to climate change straining the country’s aging electric grid, the U.S. saw roughly twice as many weather-related outages over the last decade compared with 2000–2009. Severe weather, winter storms, and tropical storms were the most common culprits, followed by extreme heat and wildfires. “We’re seeing that the warming is having a direct impact on severe weather,” Jen Brady, a report author and senior data analyst at Climate Central, told The Guardian. “The conditions that our infrastructure was built to handle are much different [now] than what they were.”

5. New York doubles down on offshore wind

New York is looking to bounce back from a dismal week for offshore wind with an accelerated timeline to secure contracts for new projects. Following the recent demise of all three of the conditional offshore wind contracts the state awarded to offshore wind developers last October, the office of Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a request for information for New York’s next offshore wind solicitation, which is now expected to take place this summer. Hochul’s office also advanced plans to distribute $200 million among offshore wind infrastructure and manufacturing facilities under a $500 million state program aimed at developing the state’s offshore wind supply chain. “New York is solidifying its leadership role in the offshore wind industry,” Hochul said in a statement.

THE KICKER

Chinese automaker BYD is expected to debut its first electrified pickup truck, “Shark,” today at the Beijing Auto Show:

BYD SharkBYD

Nicole Pollack profile image

Nicole Pollack

Nicole Pollack is a freelance environmental journalist who writes about energy, agriculture, and climate change. She is based in Northeast Ohio.

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.

Keep reading...Show less
Yellow
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.

Keep reading...Show less
Yellow
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:

Keep reading...Show less
Blue