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Climate

GM Announces the Return of the Hybrids

On an automaker rerouting, crypto carbon accounting, and more.

Briefing image.

AM Briefing: Return of the hyrids.

Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

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.”

    A crypto mining rig.luza studios/Getty Images

    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 KICKER

    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.

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    Neel Dhanesha

    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 More

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    Politics

    Trump, Haley, and the Climate Primary That Wasn’t

    Things could’ve been different in South Carolina.

    Nikki Haley and Donald Trump.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images, Library of Congress

    As a climate-concerned citizen, one of the most discouraging things about Donald Trump’s all-but-inevitable confirmation as the 2024 Republican presidential nominee has been thinking about parallel universes.

    I don’t just mean the ones where the conservative Supreme Court has a shocking change of heart and disqualifies him from the presidential ballot, or where Nikki Haley, against all odds, manages to win her home state primary on Saturday and carry the momentum forward to clinch the Republican nomination. I’m talking about an even greater fantasy: A world in which Trump doesn’t dominate the news cycle, in which South Carolina conservatives have a real debate about the energy transition, and in which the climate conversation hasn’t been set back years by culture war-mongering and MAGAism.

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    Podcast

    Transcript: Is Biden’s Climate Law Actually Working?

    The full conversation from Shift Key, episode three.

    The Shift Key logo.
    Transcript: The Messy Truth of America’s Natural Gas Exports
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    This is a transcript of episode three of Shift Key: Is Biden's Climate Law Actually Working?

    ROBINSON MEYER: Hi, I'm Rob Meyer. I'm the founding executive editor of Heatmap News and you are listening to Shift Key, a new podcast about climate change and the shift away from fossil fuels from Heatmap. My co-host Jesse Jenkins will join us in a second and we'll get on with the show. But first a word from our sponsor.

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    The Ukraine War Blew Up the World’s Energy Economy

    And the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act is surprisingly well-designed to deal with the fallout.

    An oil derrick, Vladimir Putin, and Ukraine destruction.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    It’s an open secret in U.S. climate policy circles that the Inflation Reduction Act got its name for purely political reasons. It’s a climate bill, after all. Calling it “Inflation Reduction Act” was just the marketing term to help sell it to a skeptical public more worried about rising prices than temperatures in August 2022.

    Temperatures have only risen since, while inflation is down, and the Inflation Reduction Act had nothing to do with either. But to see why the name was more than appropriate only takes going back a further six months.

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