Neel is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Prior to Heatmap, he was a science and climate reporter at Vox, an editorial fellow at Audubon magazine, and an assistant producer at Radiolab, where he helped produce The Other Latif, a series about one detainee's journey to Guantanamo Bay. He is a graduate of the Literary Reportage program at NYU, which helped him turn incoherent scribbles into readable stories, and he grew up (mostly) in Bangalore. He tweets sporadically at @neel_dhan. Read MoreRead More
GM Announces the Return of the Hybrids
On an automaker rerouting, crypto carbon accounting, and more.
Current conditions: The city of Oakland, California opened two emergency shelters for unhoused residents ahead of storms that brought the threat of floods to the state • Dense fog is disrupting flights and trains in Delhi, which is experiencing its coldest January in 13 years • A heat wave in Australia, where it’s currently the summer, is breaking temperature records.
THE TOP FIVE
1. Podesta to become new climate envoy
Senior Biden advisor John Podesta will take over from former Secretary of State John Kerry as the U.S. special envoy for climate change, the White House announced. Kerry, who’s stepping down this spring, was the first person to hold the position; while his role was based at the State Department, Podesta will instead remain at the White House, reports Maxine Joselow in the Washington Post, with his title changing to “senior adviser to the president for international climate policy.”
The appointment marked an expansion of Podesta’s current role implementing Biden’s signature climate law, the Inflation Reduction Act. He’s going to continue that work — which, Joselow writes, probably means he’ll travel less often than Kerry — but will now also be tapped to help Biden manage relationships with foreign powers.
If you’d like some insight into how Podesta thinks about climate change and the IRA, our interview with him from the sidelines of COP 28 in Dubai might be a good place to start.
2. Climate laws begin at home
The IRA and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (better known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, or BIL) are filled with subsidies to help with the clean energy transition. But, as I wrote on the site yesterday, a new study shows that while the share of funds for household improvements in each act is relatively small — about 12% in the IRA and 5.7% in the BIL — the impact those improvements could have on emissions is proportionally huge. Household emissions, the study authors write, could decrease by as much as 40% by 2030.
3. GM’s bringing back hybrids
In the face of dealer protests, GM CEO Marry Barra told investors this week that the automaker would bring back plug-in hybrids. That's a reversal from the company’s stance of just a few years ago, reports David Ferris at E&E News, when GM said it was “all in” on electric vehicles, and is a sign of the difficulties automakers have faced in trying to switch over to EVs.
The announcement comes the same week as new data showing EVs and hybrids made up more than 16% of total light-duty vehicle sales in the U.S. in 2023, up from 12.9% in 2022. Italian luxury automaker Lamborghini also announced that it will start producing hybrid versions of all its models.
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4. Crypto mines face an energy accounting
Next week the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration will start collecting data on the energy use of cryptocurrency mining, reports Justine Calma in The Verge. It’s a win for activists and lawmakers who have long warned of the climate impacts of crypto projects, which are so energy-hungry that they’ve spurred the reopening of some shuttered fossil fuel plants.
“We intend to continue to analyze and write about the energy implications of cryptocurrency mining activities in the United States,” said EIA Administrator Joe DeCarolis in a press release. “We will specifically focus on how the energy demand for cryptocurrency mining is evolving, identify geographic areas of high growth, and quantify the sources of electricity used to meet cryptocurrency mining demand.”
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5. Ford to give away Tesla charger adapters
Ford will send free Tesla charging adapters to owners of its Mustang Mach-E and Ford F-150 Lightning EVs in the U.S. and Canada, announced CEO Jim Farley on X. The adapters will allow Ford owners to access one of the largest and most reliable charging networks in the country. They’re also another nail in the coffin of the Combined Charging Standard or CCS, which Ford and other automakers defaulted to before Ford — followed shortly after by practically every other automaker in the country — announced it would switch to the Tesla plug, which is now known as the North American Charging Standard.
The Sun’s magnetic poles are due to flip starting this year, writes Brian Resnick in Vox. The flip could cause solar storms that disrupt communications satellites, but will also lead to more vivid auroras. So start planning your aurora trips now — just maybe don’t count on having GPS the whole way.