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Electric Vehicles

Saudi Aramco’s Big Bet on Combustion Engines

On the future of ICEs, stuck bridges, and patriotic appliances

Saudi Aramco’s Big Bet on Combustion Engines
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Some Greek islands are resorting to desalinating sea water for tourists this summer as reservoirs run dry • Tokyo residents have been warned to avoid physical activity due to a risk of heatstroke • It will be 98 degrees Fahrenheit today in Washington, D.C., where Biden is hosting a NATO summit.


1. Oil giant invests big in internal combustion engines

The world’s largest oil company, Saudi Aramco, recently invested €740 million (about $800 million) in taking a 10% stake in a company that makes internal combustion engines (ICEs), the Financial Timesreported, signalling that the oil giant believes these engines aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The investment in Horse Powertrain is based on a calculation that “as the industry stops designing and developing its own combustion engines, it will start buying them from third parties,” the FT wrote. Aramco’s executive vice president, Yasser Mufti, told the paper he thinks ICEs will see “significant improvements” over the coming years that will make them more sustainable, but didn’t specify what those improvements might be. ICEs, of course, run on fossil fuels and spew greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Saudi Aramco last year bought lubricant brand Valvoline, which will supply all Horse engines with products. As the FT noted, “the venture’s success will depend on whether other carmakers are willing to put their trust in a company born out of their rivals.”

2. Weakened Beryl spawns tornadoes as it moves north

At least seven people are dead and more than 2 million remain without power in Texas after Hurricane Beryl made landfall on the state’s Gulf Coast yesterday. Officials are assessing the economic damage, but large parts of Houston are flooded, with water levels exceeding 10 inches. The streets are littered with branches and downed power lines, and first responders have been dispatched to help stranded residents. Temperatures are climbing in the area, posing even more risk to people without power.

A stranded vehicle on a flooded road in Houston. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

The storm system has been downgraded to a tropical depression but is expected to bring heavy rain and tornado conditions to Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and parts of southern Illinois and Indiana as it tracks northeast this week. Already more than 110 tornado warnings were issued overnight across in eastern Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, which is “the most tornado warnings issued in the U.S. in a single July day since records began in 1986,” according to weather analyst Colin McCarthy.

3. NYC bridge temporarily closed because of extreme heat

The Third Avenue Bridge in New York City was temporarily closed yesterday after sweltering temperatures caused its steel to expand. The 126-year-old bridge, which serves as an artery between the Bronx and Manhattan, swings opened to accommodate water traffic in the Harlem River. Temperatures reached 95 degrees Fahrenheit in the city yesterday, and after the bridge opened, it wouldn’t close. Authorities tried to cool the structure by spraying water on it. Eventually the bridge reopened a few hours later. Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far in NYC, and the heat wave will last through the week.

4. House tees up votes on efficiency standards for household appliances

House Republicans are expected to vote today on two bills aimed at curbing the Department of Energy’s authority to set efficiency standards for home appliances. H.R. 7637, known as the “Refrigerator Freedom Act,” and H.R. 7700, aka the “Stop Unaffordable Dishwasher Standards Act,” would “prohibit the Secretary of Energy from prescribing or enforcing energy conservation standards” that “are not cost-effective or technologically feasible.” The DOE finalized efficiency standards for several appliances over the last few months, aiming to improve their performance, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and save consumers money. It estimated the standards will save Americans $33 billion on utility bills over 30 years. Republican lawmakers claim the new rules will increase the costs of appliances, but others say the savings on utility bills would more than make up for any short-term increase in sticker prices. Most of the energy consumed by homes and commercial buildings goes toward powering appliances.

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  • 5. Colombia sees deforestation drop

    Deforestation in Colombia dropped by 36% last year to a 23-year low, according to the nation’s environment ministry. The government credits its program of paying farmers to conserve nature, as well as peace talks with guerilla groups. But those peace talks have reached a stalemate, and deforestation has increased in 2024. “It's really good news ... but we definitely cannot say that the battle is won," Environment Minister Susana Muhamad said.


    “Each push alert marks the distance we’re closing between the previous range of normal activity and the future that scientists warned us of.”Zoë Schlanger writing in The Atlantic about how we’ll watch the climate crisis unfold through emergency push alerts on our phones.

    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.


    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
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    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.


    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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    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.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    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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    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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