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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.


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.


    “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.

    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.


    Is Sodium-Ion the Next Big Battery?

    U.S. manufacturers are racing to get into the game while they still can.

    Sodium-ion batteries.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images, Peak Energy, Natron Energy

    In the weird, wide world of energy storage, lithium-ion batteries may appear to be an unshakeably dominant technology. Costs have declined about 97% over the past three decades, grid-scale battery storage is forecast to grow faster than wind or solar in the U.S. in the coming decade, and the global lithium-ion supply chain is far outpacing demand, according to BloombergNEF.

    That supply chain, however, is dominated by Chinese manufacturing. According to the International Energy Agency, China controls well over half the world’s lithium processing, nearly 85% of global battery cell production capacity, and the lion’s share of actual lithium-ion battery production. Any country creating products using lithium-ion batteries, including the U.S., is at this point dependent on Chinese imports.

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    Electric Vehicles

    AM Briefing: Tesla’s Delay

    On Musk’s latest move, Arctic shipping, and China’s natural disasters

    Tesla Is Delaying the Robotaxi Reveal
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    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.


    1. Biden administration announces $1.7 billion to convert auto plants into EV factories

    The Biden administration announced yesterday that the Energy Department will pour $1.7 billion into helping U.S. automakers convert shuttered or struggling manufacturing facilities into EV factories. The money will go to factories in eight states (including swing states Michigan and Pennsylvania) and recipients include Stellantis, Volvo, GM, and Harley-Davidson. Most of the funding comes from the Inflation Reduction Act and it could create nearly 3,000 new jobs and save 15,000 union positions at risk of elimination, the Energy Department said. “Agencies across the federal government are rushing to award the rest of their climate cash before the end of Biden’s first term,” The Washington Post reported.

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    What the Conventional Wisdom Gets Wrong About Trump and the IRA

    Anything decarbonization-related is on the chopping block.

    Donald Trump holding the IRA.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    The Biden administration has shoveled money from the Inflation Reduction Act out the door as fast as possible this year, touting the many benefits all that cash has brought to Republican congressional districts. Many — in Washington, at think tanks and non-profits, among developers — have found in this a reason to be calm about the law’s fate. But this is incorrect. The IRA’s future as a climate law is in a far more precarious place than the Beltway conventional wisdom has so far suggested.

    Shortly after the changing of the guard in Congress and the White House, policymakers will begin discussing whether to extend the Trump-era tax cuts, which expire at the end of 2025. If they opt to do so, they’ll try to find a way to pay for it — and if Republicans win big in the November elections, as recent polling and Democratic fretting suggests could happen, the IRA will be an easy target.

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