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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

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. Read More

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Are Pollsters Getting Climate Change Wrong?

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Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Torrential rains forced Mauritius to shut down its stock exchange • “Once in a century” flooding hit southern China • In the Northern Hemisphere, the Lyrid meteor shower peaks tonight.

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1. Biden kicks off Earth Day with $7 billion for expanding solar access

Today is Earth Day, but President Biden and his cabinet are celebrating all week long. Senior members of the administration have scheduled a national tour of events and announcements related to the president’s climate and environmental record. It starts with Biden’s visit to Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia, today, where he will announce $7 billion is being awarded to 60 state and local governments, tribes, and national and regional nonprofits through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Solar for All initiative, which aims to support solar in low- to moderate-income communities. The average grant size will be more than $80 million, and the funding will be used to design new programs and bolster existing ones that subsidize the cost of rooftop solar installations, community solar projects, and battery storage.

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Biden’s $7 Billion Solar Bonanza

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Solar panel installation.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

The great promise of solar panels — in addition to their being carbon-free — is the democratization of energy. Anyone can produce their own power, typically for less than the going utility rate. The problem is that those who stand to benefit the most from this opportunity haven’t been able to access it.

That pattern could change, however, with Solar for All, a $7 billion program under the Environmental Protection Agency to support solar in low- to moderate-income communities. On Monday, the Biden administration announced it was awarding the funds to 60 state and local governments, tribes, and national and regional nonprofits, at an average grant size of more than $80 million.

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