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Electric Vehicles

Here Come the EPA’s New Tailpipe Rules

On car pollution limits, a big energy conference, and ‘kitten season’

Here Come the EPA’s New Tailpipe Rules
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Freeze warnings are in place across many states in the south east • Troplical Cyclone Megan made landfall in Australia • A neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro reportedly recorded a temperature of 144 degrees Fahrenheit as Brazil swelters in an extreme heat wave.

THE TOP FIVE

1. EPA’s new tailpipe emissions rules expected this week

The Environmental Protection Agency this week is expected to officially announce new tailpipe emissions rules that will dramatically reshape the transportation sector over the coming years. If carmakers are to meet the EPA’s new rules, electric vehicles would need to make up a much larger share of car and light truck sales by 2030 than they do now. Last year EVs accounted for about one-tenth of sales. The end goal is to see that rise to two-thirds by 2032, but the nearer-term targets have shifted in response to anger and pressure from carmakers and the United Auto Workers union who argued EVs remain too costly and that the transition should be more gradual. Transportation is America’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, and the Biden administration sees reducing this pollution as instrumental to the U.S. fulfilling its Paris Agreement commitment of cutting emissions in half by 2030.

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  • 2. ‘Super Bowl of energy’ conference kicks off in Houston

    One of the world’s biggest oil and gas conferences is happening in Houston this week. More than 7,000 people will attend CERAWeek – which has earned the nickname the “Super Bowl of energy” – where industry executives will hear from major producers about market outlooks. The main focus is expected to be energy security, Reutersreported, but “climate concerns are reflected in the conference sessions on carbon sequestration technology and hydrogen fuels, which have become two of the oil industry's favorite means of addressing global warming.” Natural gas – and President Biden’s pause on new LNG export projects – will be high on the agenda. The Houston Chroniclereported that geothermal is also a “hot topic.” And several sessions will focus on the role of nuclear power going forward. Last Energy, a company that builds micro-scale nuclear power plants, apparently plans to hang one of its “nuclear islands” from a crane outside the venue.

    3. South Sudan closes all schools, braces for extreme heat wave

    South Sudan has shuttered all schools “indefinitely” and told parents to keep kids indoors ahead of a two-week heat wave expected to bring temperatures as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit. The east African country is no stranger to heat, but temperatures have rarely exceeded 104 degrees Fahrenheit, according toThe Associated Press. “This extreme weather condition poses serious health hazards to children, particularly young learners and adults with underlying health conditions,” said the Ministry of Health. “During the closure of the schools, parents are advised to stop their children from playing outdoors.” South Sudan is one of the five most climate-vulnerable countries in the world, according to the UN Environment Programme, and has over the years seen temperatures rise and floods become more common.

    4. Ocean temperatures break records for full year

    Global sea surface temperatures have been at record highs for at least 365 days now, the Financial Timesreported. On Wednesday of last week ocean temperatures set a new all-time high at 21.2 degrees celsius, or 70.16 degrees Fahrenheit. “This exceptional heat has bleak implications,” the FT said. Some ecosystems, including coral reefs, are already showing signs of devastation. And scientists are increasingly worried about a strong upcoming Atlantic hurricane season. On a macro level, there’s “a lot of concern” that a key ocean current conveyor belt known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) could slow due to an influx of fresh meltwater, “with unknown consequences for habitable conditions on Earth.”

    5. China begins construction on major clean energy transmission line

    China has reportedly broken ground on an ultra-high-voltage transmission line that will span 664 miles and help the country integrate growing amounts of clean energy. China is the world’s biggest greenhouse-gas emitter, but the country is rapidly expanding its renewable capacity: Last year it installed more new solar panels than the total built by any other country, and its wind installation climbed, as well. Solar installations are expected to rise another 7% this year. But the grid has struggled to keep up. The new $3.9 billion transmission project will serve three provinces, be fed by solar and wind power, and store energy in mountain reservoirs, Bloombergreported.

    THE KICKER

    “Kitten season” – the warmer months when cats are most fertile and begin to reproduce – is starting earlier and lasting longer as the climate warms, putting added pressure on animal rescue shelters.

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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.

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    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

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