Sign In or Create an Account.

By continuing, you agree to the Terms of Service and acknowledge our Privacy Policy


How Jigar Shah Thinks About Risk

Inside episode 13 of Shift Key.

Robinson Meyer and Jigar Shah.
Heatmap Illustration/@bendroz

Jigar Shah might have more control over America’s new wave of industrial policy — not to mention its climate policy — than anyone not named Joe Biden. And he’s not even a Cabinet-level official. As director of the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office, which is akin to its in-house bank, Shah oversees how roughly $400 billion in lending authority will be spent. That money will help finance new EV factories, geothermal wells, carbon capture sites, and more.

On this week’s episode, Rob sits down with Shah to discuss the philosophy that he brings to his role. When financing new projects — many of which are the first of their kind — how does he think about cash flow, about technological innovation, about risk? Robinson Meyer is executive editor of Heatmap News; Jesse Jenkins, an energy systems engineering professor at Princeton, is off this week.

Subscribe to “Shift Key” and find this episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon, or wherever you get your podcasts.

You can also add the show’s RSS feed to your podcast app to follow us directly.

Here is an excerpt from our conversation:

Robinson Meyer: I think one thing you’ve said often is that we have — and you alluded to at the beginning of the conversation — is that we haven’t built manufacturing in this country, basically, for 40 years. I think one note we’ve seen both from the president and from the partisan laws passed by Congress and the president — but also, frankly, from a more bipartisan set of lawmakers — is that there’s a lot of eagerness for that to change. So from your point of view as someone kind of in the weeds every day, what needs to change for the U.S. to build manufacturing and heavy industry domestically again?

Jigar Shah: Well, let’s start by saying that I think that the BIL and IRA that’s passed has been a huge success story, right? We’ve gotten 500 announcements of new factories in the United States. And so, these are communities like the one that I grew up in, that had the seventh largest steel mill in the country that shut down while I was there. And all of the people who went to high school there expected to have a job there, and they don’t. Right? These are folks who are pretty pissed off about the fact that their lot in life, really, was destined to not have family-sustaining jobs for 40 years, right?

And so now we’re giving people hope again that, for folks who have high school educations, that they can actually support their families and do these things, right? So in that perspective, we’re winning, right?

But on the other side, we still have a lot more work to do, right? So when you think about the underlying conventional wisdom, the conventional wisdom is that you’re going to start a factory, China’s going to dump product in the United States and going to put you out of business, right? And so the local bank is saying, prove to me that China’s not going to dump product and put you out of business. Those old habits die hard, right?

Now, the president has put together all sorts of belts and suspenders, but I don’t think that’s clear. I’ll give you an example. So in the EV supply chain — we have an extraordinary amount of lithium in this country. We made the announcements at Thacker Pass and Rhyolite Ridge, as well as recycling for Li-Cycle and Redwood. But we’ve got additional abilities to get lithium over in Arkansas and Salton Sea in California.

And a lot of folks are saying, lithium prices are down 70% from their highs, right? So therefore there’s no way you can make it work right now. Lithium was $5,000 a unit in 2020. Today it’s $20,000 a unit. It was as high as $80,000 — $20,000 is still 4x what it was in 2020. And so there’s a way to make it profitable, but we also have the 30D program where a lot of automakers get incentives to buy locally for domestic content.

And so I feel like there’s just so much in the IRA, that the belts and suspenders approach that the administration took is not something that most people understand. And as a result, a lot of dollars are not moving from the commercial markets. We’ve got to step in and move them.

This episode of Shift Key is sponsored by…

KORE Power provides the commercial, industrial, and utility markets with functional solutions that advance the clean energy transition worldwide. KORE Power's technology and manufacturing capabilities provide direct access to next generation battery cells, energy storage systems that scale to grid+, EV power & infrastructure, and intuitive asset management to unlock energy strategies across a myriad of applications. Explore more at

Watershed’s climate data engine helps companies measure and reduce their emissions, turning the data they already have into an audit-ready carbon footprint backed by the latest climate science. Get the sustainability data you need in weeks, not months. Learn more at

Music for Shift Key is by Adam Kromelow.

Robinson Meyer profile image

Robinson Meyer

Robinson is the founding executive editor of Heatmap. He was previously a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covered climate change, energy, and technology.

Bitcoin becoming the sun.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Categorizing Crusoe Energy is not easy. The startup is a Bitcoin miner and data center operator. It’s a “high-performance” and “carbon-negative” cloud platform provider. It’s a darling of the clean tech world that’s raised nearly $750 million in funding. The company has historically powered its operations with natural gas, but its overall business model actually reduces emissions. Confused yet?

Here are the basics. The company was founded in 2018 to address the problem of natural gas flaring. Natural gas is a byproduct of oil extraction, and if oil field operators have no economical use case for the gas or are unable to transfer it elsewhere, it’s often simply burned. If you, like me, have spent time sourcing stock images of air pollution, you’ve probably seen the pictures of giant flames coming out of tall smokestacks near oil pump jacks and other drilling infrastructure. That’s what flaring natural gas looks like, and it is indeed terrible for the environment. That’s largely because the process fails to fully combust methane, which is the primary component of natural gas and 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period.

Keep reading...Show less

AM Briefing: Displacement Fears

On the Biden administration’s carbon removal investments, the climate refugees of Brazil, and more

Wednesday sunrise.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: More storms and possible tornadoes are forecast to hit Texas and the Plains, where millions of people are still without power • Cyclone Remal, the first tropical storm of the season, killed at least 23 people in India and Bangladesh • Brazilian authorities are investigating up to 800 suspected cases of waterborne illness following unprecedented flooding over the past month.


1. Biden administration invests in carbon removal

The Department of Energy on Tuesday gave $1.2 million to companies competing for a chance to sell carbon removal credits to the federal government. These 24 semifinalists, which were each awarded $50,000, include nine direct air capture projects, seven biomass projects, five enhanced rock weathering projects, and three marine-based projects. Up to 10 of them will be offered federal contracts amounting to $30 million. “The Department of Energy hopes that by selecting 24 companies that have been vetted by government scientists, it’s sending a signal to the private sector that there are at least some projects that are legitimate,” Heatmap’s Emily Pontecorvo writes, referencing struggles in the broader carbon credits marketplace.

Keep reading...Show less

Carbon Removal’s Stamp of Approval

The Department of Energy is advancing 24 companies in its purchase prize contest. What these companies are getting is more important than $50,000.

Heirloom DAC.
Heatmap Illustration/Heirloom Carbon

The Department of Energy is advancing its first-of-a-kind program to stimulate demand for carbon removal by becoming a major buyer. On Tuesday, the agency awarded $50,000 to each of 24 semifinalist companies competing to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere on behalf of the U.S. government. It will eventually spend $30 million to buy carbon removal credits from up to 10 winners.

The nascent carbon removal industry is desperate for customers. At a conference held in New York City last week called Carbon Unbound, startup CEOs brainstormed how to convince more companies to buy carbon removal as part of their sustainability strategies. On the sidelines, attendees lamented to me that there were hardly even any potential buyers at the conference — what a missed opportunity.

Keep reading...Show less