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Economy

The DOE Is Putting More Money into Clean Hydrogen

On hydrogen R&D, Shell’s emissions, and giant redwoods

The DOE Is Putting More Money into Clean Hydrogen
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: New wildfires are spreading along Chile’s Pacific Coast • Flooding has killed more than 60 people in Afghanistan over the last three weeks • It will be 70 degrees Fahrenheit today in Indianapolis, Indiana, where signs of spring have emerged 14 days early.

THE TOP FIVE

1. DOE announces $750 million for clean hydrogen R&D

The Department of Energy announced yesterday a $750 million injection into 52 hydrogen research and development projects aimed at bringing down the price of clean hydrogen and making it a viable alternative to fossil fuels. Most of the money will go toward electrolyzers, the devices that use electricity to split hydrogen from oxygen. Being able to produce more of these devices for less money – by improving the supply chains and automating manufacturing, for example – will help bring down the overall cost of clean hydrogen. The funding will also help support fuel cell production, as well as research into “recovery, recycling, and reuse of clean hydrogen materials and components.” This is the first distribution of the $1.5 billion that’s been carved out from the bipartisan infrastructure law for clean hydrogen. The Biden administration has also allotted $7 billion in federal funds to build seven hydrogen hubs across the country, and these new R&D projects will “support the long-term viability” of these hubs, the DOE said.

2. Shell walks back some emissions pledges

Oil giant Shell is watering down its commitment to scale back carbon emissions in the next few years. The company pledged in 2021 to reduce its “net carbon intensity” by 20% by 2030, but has adjusted that to between 15% and 20%, according to its latest energy transition strategy update. The goal of a 45% reduction by 2035 has been scrapped entirely. Net carbon intensity is a bit of a confusing term. Shell defines it as “emissions associated with each unit of energy we sell.” The Financial Times calls it “an accounting treatment that allows Shell to offset the carbon produced by its oil and gas business against its growing sales of lower-carbon products.”

“The change reflects Shell’s move away from supplying renewable power to homes,” wrote Laura Hurst at Bloomberg. Shell also said it aims to “reduce customer emissions” – or Scope 3 emissions – from its oil products by 15% to 20% by 2030. How? By “reducing sales of oil products, such as petrol and diesel, as we support customers as they move to electric mobility and lower-carbon fuels, including natural gas, LNG and biofuels.” The company claims it can still get to net-zero emissions by 2050.

3. EU sues Greece over flood risk mismanagement

The European Commission is suing Greece for failing to manage flood risk. Under the European Green Deal, all EU member states are required to comply with water rules that help ensure, among other things, good management of river basins to help prepare for floods. The commission said that “Greece has so far not reviewed, adopted nor reported its river basin management plans,” and it is therefore referring the country to the EU’s high court. Greece isn’t the only country under pressure: The commission has also sued Bulgaria, Cyprus, Spain, Ireland, Malta, Portugal, and Slovakia for their own reporting failures. But the lawsuit against Greece comes five months after the country experienced historic floods in its Thessaly plain, “devastating crops and livestock and raising questions about the Mediterranean country's ability to deal with an increasingly erratic climate,” explainedReuters.

4. Study: Methane leaks from U.S. oil and gas operations are vastly underestimated

As the race to cut planet-warming methane emissions ramps up, new data is revealing the true scope of the problem. A new study published yesterday in the journal Nature suggests fossil fuel operations in the U.S. may be emitting three times as much methane as previously thought. Energy production is the third largest source of methane emissions because the gas often leaks from oil wells and gas processing plants. But this new study – which examined 1 million measurements from aerial surveys over six major oil- and gas-producing regions in the U.S. – suggests we’ve been underestimating the size of these leaks, making projects like the MethaneSAT even more important. Yesterday the International Energy Agency said methane emissions from the energy sector were still at record highs last year.

5. The U.K. has more giant redwoods than California

Most people associate giant sequoias with the forests of California, but new research finds the trees are far more plentiful in Britain. The giant redwood was introduced to the UK in 1853 and has since thrived. There are an estimated 500,000 sequoias in the UK, compared with 80,000 in California's Sierra Nevada mountains, according to a report by Britain's academy of sciences, the Royal Society. While wildfire and drought threaten California’s redwoods, “in the UK our climate is more temperate, wetter, and so it is actually likely better suited to these trees in the long run,” said Dr Mathias Disney from University College London, one of the authors of the study.

To estimate the UK trees’ biomass, the researchers used laser scanning to measure the height of 97 trees from three locations. Here they are, ranked by size:

Royal Society

THE KICKER

The job board for the Biden administration’s American Climate Corps will officially open next month. As Grist reported, most of the positions are not expected to require experience.

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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

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
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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.
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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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Climate

America Wasn’t Built for This

Why extreme heat messes with infrastructure.

Teton Pass.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

America is melting. Roads are buckling everywhere from Houston to Aurora, Colorado, and in June caused traffic jams in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Last week, a New York City bridge that had opened to let a ship pass got stuck after expanding in the heat, forcing thousands of commuters to detour. The mid-June heat wave led to thousands of flight delays; more recently, even Toronto’s Pearson International Airport warned travelers to brace for heat-related complications. Commuters along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor have been harried by heat-induced delays for weeks.

The train delays have affected an especially large population. The Northeast Corridor is the most trafficked commuter rail system in the country, with over 750,000 daily commuters. In late June, Amtrak notified customers that trains in the corridor could face delays of up to an hour in the coming weeks as heat interfered with tracks and overhead power lines. Since it issued that warning, tens of thousands of people have experienced heat-related delays.

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