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Politics

The Biden Administration Surpassed its Clean Energy Permitting Goal

On new projects on public lands, lamppost EV chargers, and green steel

The Biden Administration Surpassed its Clean Energy Permitting Goal
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Devastating flood waters are still rising near the Russia-Kazakhstan border • Severe drought in the Colombian capital of Bogota triggered water rationing measures • Coachella attendees are advised to pack a parka this weekend.

THE TOP FIVE

1. A quick roundup of environmental news from the Biden administration

The last 24 hours saw a flurry of announcements from the White House on environmental initiatives. Here is a quick summary:

  • Gigawatts – The Biden administration has surpassed its goal of permitting at least 25 gigawatts of clean energy projects on public lands by 2025. The Interior Department has permitted about 29 GW (enough to power 12 million homes) and the Bureau of Land Management has permitted 7 GW since 2021. Permits for an additional 32 GW are being processed. The administration also finalized the BLM’s Renewable Energy Rule, which aims to spur renewable energy developments by reducing fees (like acreage rents and capacity fees) for wind and solar projects by 80%, as well as making the application process easier.
  • Grants – The administration awarded grants worth $830 million to 80 projects in 37 states aimed at helping bolster the nation’s transportation infrastructure in the face of climate change. Examples of initiatives getting funding include $56 million for Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to replace an 86-year-old bridge; $60 million for the Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota to improve a key reservation road; and $24 million for Davis, California, to install cool pavement technologies to ease extreme heat in the urban environment. The full list is here.
  • Green spaces – This one hasn’t yet been confirmed, but is being widely reported based on sources familiar with the plans: Biden is expected to expand the boundaries of two California national monuments, the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, to protect biodiversity and increase access to green spaces for low-income communities. Conservation groups and Native American tribes have called for the move. The total expansion will amount to about 130,000 additional acres of protected land.

2. Major cities set to install lamppost EV chargers

New York City startup Voltpost unveiled its new commercial lamppost EV charger yesterday, which could go a long way toward improving the lives of city-dwelling EV owners. The devices are retrofitted onto existing lampposts, and can be installed in under two hours for a “fraction of the cost with no construction, trenching or extensive permitting processes,” the company said in a press release. Voltpost chargers can come with either two or four charging ports and there’s an app that lets users see and reserve chargers and pay for electricity used. The company said it’s working on projects in major metropolitan areas including New York, Chicago, and Detroit. Here’s a picture of a Voltpost in NYC:

Voltpost

3. Report says carbon capture won’t save coal-based steel

A new analysis on the future of sustainable steelmaking finds “key technologies for transforming the global steel industry will be commercially available this decade.” The report, from nonprofit Agora Industry, is optimistic about the expansion potential for direct reduced iron-based steelmaking (DRI), which can be done with hydrogen, but doesn’t have good things to say about carbon capture and storage (CCS). It says retrofitting blast furnaces with CCS is risky because “it leaves high residual emissions, requires significant CO2 transport and storage infrastructure, needs to take high upstream methane emissions from coal mines into account and will become less and less commercially attractive as hydrogen costs decline and CO2 prices rise.”

As Heatmap’s Emily Pontecorvo reported recently, the steel industry contributes about 8% of global energy-related emissions, and experts are unimpressed with the sector’s carbon capture plans overall. One industry insider called a recent carbon capture initiative from one of America’s biggest steelmakers “deeply unserious.”

4. Kentucky governor vetoes bill that would make it harder to shutter fossil fuel power plants

The governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear (D), vetoed a Republican-backed bill that would have slowed down the process of closing fossil fuel plants in the state. S.B. 349 would have required all coal-, gas-, and oil-fired plant closure requests to be put to a new 18-member commission at least one year before filing an official request with the state’s utility regulator. The bill’s primary sponsor, Republican Sen. Robby Mills, told the Kentucky Lantern the goal was to make sure “we’re not losing capacity too soon.” As E&E Newsreported, GOP lawmakers say they will override the veto with a majority vote. In 2022, nearly 70% of Kentucky’s utility-scale electricity generation was coal-fired, according to the Energy Information Administration.

5. Dengue cases spike in Puerto Rico

A public health emergency has been declared in Puerto Rico, where dengue cases are spiking. Nearly 550 cases of the mosquito-borne illness have been recorded in the territory so far this year, marking a 140% year-over-year increase, Gristreported. Dengue is on the rise across large parts of the world in part because of climate change. “Warmer winters, hotter summers, and particularly milder springs and falls are allowing these mosquitoes to move into new areas and higher elevations that have historically been too harsh for their survival,” Grist explained. This week Peru’s government announced that dengue-related deaths have more than tripled in the country. Dengue is often asymptomatic but can cause severe illness and death in some people, with infants and pregnant women being more vulnerable.

THE KICKER

U.S. coffee boutique Bluestone Lane will start selling “beanless coffee” made from roasted upcycled ingredients including date seeds, sunflower, and caffeine from tea. Its makers say the blend has “everything you expect from your cup — minus the planet impact.”

Atomo Coffee


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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.

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