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Climate

The LNG Lawsuit Everyone Saw Coming

On Biden’s big legal challenge, the Ukraine war, and sea levels

Briefing image.
The WMO Just Issued a Climate ‘Red Alert’
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: The air quality in Birmingham, Alabama, is “moderate” due to smoke from planned fires • Tourists in drought-stricken Barcelona are being asked to conserve water • It’s 103 degrees Fahrenheit in South Sudan. Tomorrow will be even hotter.

THE TOP FIVE

1. 16 states sue Biden administration over LNG pause

Sixteen Republican-led states are suing the Biden administration over its pause on approvals for new liquified natural gas export terminals. The White House announced the pause in January, saying it wanted the Energy Department to first study the effect LNG projects have on the climate. The lawsuit claims this move was illegal and that there should have been a regulatory process giving key stakeholders a voice in the final decision. The U.S. is the biggest exporter of LNG in the world. Gas is “cleaner” to burn than coal, but the emissions footprint of transporting LNG is potentially massive, which is why climate activists celebrated the pause. But the decision was slammed by the fossil fuel industry and some advocates who say gas is “crucial for discouraging coal use in developing nations,” Bloombergexplained, adding: “The White House’s move struck at the heart of the debate over the future of energy.”

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  • 2. White House tells Ukraine to stop targeting Russian oil refineries

    Washington has told Ukraine to stop targeting Russia’s energy infrastructure because its attacks could cause global oil prices to rise and push the Kremlin to retaliate, the Financial Times reported. A military intelligence official told the paper that there have been at least 12 attacks on Russian oil refineries since 2022, nine of which occurred this year. There have also been attacks on terminals and storage infrastructure. “Russia remains one of the world’s most important energy exporters despite western sanctions on its oil and gas sector,” the FT said. Gas prices have risen almost 15% already this year, putting pressure on President Biden leading into the November election.

    3. NASA: Sea levels saw ‘relatively large jump’ last year

    The global average sea level rose by about 0.3 inches between 2022 and 2023, according to NASA. This is a “relatively large jump,” the agency said, driven by climate change and El Niño. Since 1993, the global average sea level has risen by 4 inches and the rate of rise is accelerating. In 1993, sea levels rose by about .07 inches per year.

    NASA

    “Current rates of acceleration mean that we are on track to add another 20 centimeters [nearly 8 inches] of global mean sea level by 2050, doubling the amount of change in the next three decades compared to the previous 100 years and increasing the frequency and impacts of floods across the world,” said Nadya Vinogradova Shiffer, director for the NASA sea level change team and the ocean physics program in Washington.

    4. Countries pledge to double down on nuclear energy expansion

    A group of 35 countries have pledged to “work to fully unlock the potential of nuclear energy” in the quest for energy security and emissions reductions. The relatively vague commitment, cosigned by the U.S., China, Britain, and Saudi Arabia, emerged from the first-ever Nuclear Energy Summit in Brussels yesterday. It says countries will help extend the lives of existing nuclear reactors, construct new ones, and support deployment of advanced reactors. “Generating electricity using nuclear fission remains a divisive issue that cuts across partisan lines,” wrote Nicole Pollack at Heatmap. Some environmental groups see the risk of nuclear disasters as too high, while others see it as a reliable low-carbon energy resource that’s available to us right now. “Without the support of nuclear power, we have no chance to reach our climate targets on time,” said International Energy Agency chief Fatih Birol.

    5. Biden administration to award $6.3 billion for projects to decarbonize heavy industries

    In the coming days, the Biden administration is expected to announce which projects will receive a cut of some $6.3 billion in funding to help decarbonize the U.S. industrial sector, Bloombergreported. Heavy industry contributes nearly one third of the nation’s primary energy-related carbon dioxide, according to the Department of Energy, so slashing emissions here without hurting the economy is a priority. The Industrial Demonstrations Program aims to kickstart the process by focusing on the big emitters, like iron, steel, cement and concrete, chemicals, food and drink, aluminum, and paper products. “We hear every day about industrial companies that are interested in decarbonizing their plants, but the initial costs can be daunting,” Nora Esram, a senior director for research with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy nonprofit, told Bloomberg. “The federal funds are geared to enable them to invest in new technologies to cut emissions while supporting community development.” The announcement could come as soon as Monday.

    THE KICKER

    New York’s JFK airport is getting a large EV charging station that will be open to the public 24/7.

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    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. Read More

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    Politics

    AM Briefing: Earth Day Edition

    On expanding solar access, the American Climate Corps, and union news

    Biden’s Big Earth Day Agenda
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    Current conditions: Torrential rains forced Mauritius to shut down its stock exchange • “Once in a century” flooding hit southern China • In the Northern Hemisphere, the Lyrid meteor shower peaks tonight.

    THE TOP FIVE

    1. Biden kicks off Earth Day with $7 billion for expanding solar access

    Today is Earth Day, but President Biden and his cabinet are celebrating all week long. Senior members of the administration have scheduled a national tour of events and announcements related to the president’s climate and environmental record. It starts with Biden’s visit to Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia, today, where he will announce $7 billion is being awarded to 60 state and local governments, tribes, and national and regional nonprofits through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Solar for All initiative, which aims to support solar in low- to moderate-income communities. The average grant size will be more than $80 million, and the funding will be used to design new programs and bolster existing ones that subsidize the cost of rooftop solar installations, community solar projects, and battery storage.

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    Sparks

    Biden Hands Out $7 Billion to Expand Solar Access

    The Solar For All program is the final piece of the $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

    Solar panel installation.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    The great promise of solar panels — in addition to their being carbon-free — is the democratization of energy. Anyone can produce their own power, typically for less than the going utility rate. The problem is that those who stand to benefit the most from this opportunity haven’t been able to access it.

    That pattern could change, however, with Solar for All, a $7 billion program under the Environmental Protection Agency to support solar in low- to moderate-income communities. On Monday, the Biden administration announced it was awarding the funds to 60 state and local governments, tribes, and national and regional nonprofits, at an average grant size of more than $80 million.

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    Green
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    A Big Week for Batteries

    Texas and California offered intriguing, opposing examples of what batteries can do for the grid.

    A battery.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    While cold winters in the south and hot summers across the country are the most dramatic times for electricity usage — with air conditioners blasting as weary workers return home or inefficient electric heaters strain to keep toes warm from Chattanooga to El Paso before the sun is up — it may be early spring that gives us the most insight into the lower-emitting grid of the future.

    In California, America’s longtime leader in clean energy deployment, the combination of mild temperatures and longer days means that solar power can do most of the heavy lifting. And in Texas — whose uniquely isolated, market-based and permissive grid is fast becoming the source of much of the country’s clean power growth — regulators allow the state’s vast fleet of natural gas power (and some coal) power plants to shut down for maintenance during the mild weather, giving renewables time to shine.

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