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Politics

Biden Presses Pause on LNG Export Approvals

On the White House's big announcement, scorched Colombia, and rhino IVF

Biden Presses Pause on LNG Export Approvals
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Spain experienced its warmest January day ever recorded • Huge parts of the U.S. are blanketed in dense fog • California is bracing for another atmospheric river that could bring heavy rain.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Biden confirms delay on LNG export approvals

The Biden administration confirmed this morning that it is pausing approvals of contentious liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminals until the climate impacts of such projects can be better understood. The New York Timesbroke the news earlier this week but the White House didn't comment until today. Any review by the Department of Energy of LNG environmental impacts would take time, and likely delay the approvals for the new terminals until after the 2024 election.

2. Largest US solar and battery storage system up and running

The largest solar power and battery storage project in the U.S. officially came online this week. The Edwards & Sanborn facility has 2 million solar panels and 120,720 storage batteries, and stretches across 4,600 acres of California’s Mojave Desert. It can generate 875 megawatts from solar, and has 3,287 megawatt-hours of energy storage. Canary Media’s Eric Wesoff called projects like these “bright spots in the U.S. renewable energy landscape,” and explained that “as solar makes up a bigger and bigger share of grid power, battery storage is needed to soak up surplus daytime energy and make it available for use later in the day.”

Mortenson

3. Scorched Colombia calls for help

Colombia is asking for help from the international community as it battles wildfires that have scorched more than 16,300 acres of land. Hot and dry conditions mean more than 87% of the country is at “maximum risk” for fires, according to AFP. Some towns have seen temperatures upwards of 105 degrees Fahrenheit this week, and at least 62 municipalities are facing water shortages. In the nation’s capital of Bogota, residents are choking on smoke. President Gustavo Petro declared a “situation of disaster and calamity” and pleaded for assistance from countries that have “enormous experience” fighting fires, including the U.S. The conditions fueling the fires have been linked to the El Niño weather pattern, but Petro noted the role of climate change, as well, and called on “every mayor, every governor and the national government” to prioritize water supplies.

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  • 4. UK power giant Drax eyes US expansion into carbon capture

    Americans are likely to start hearing a lot more about a company called Drax. The British power plant operator is “beefing up its presence” in the U.S., reported the Times of London, starting with a new Houston-based subsidiary and plan to build out two biomass power plants that can capture and store carbon. Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, or BECCS, is when biomass like wood is burned to generate electricity, and the resulting emissions are captured and stored. It’s “the only carbon dioxide removal technique that can also provide energy,” the International Energy Agency explained, and “plays an important role in decarbonising sectors such as heavy industry, aviation and trucking.” But critics worry the practice encourages deforestation and that the capturing and storing part of the equation is unproven. Drax, it seems, wants a taste of those sweet, sweet, U.S. green tax credits: The company aims to remove at least 6 million tons of carbon dioxide every year, and would reportedly be eligible for tax breaks of $85 per ton of carbon captured.

    5. Renewables heavyweight NextEra says IRA is here to stay

    Donald Trump has threatened to gut President Biden’s Inflation Reduction (IRA) Act should he win back the White House in November, but the CEO of the biggest renewable energy developer in the U.S. isn’t worried. NextEra boss John Ketchum told analysts this week that it’s “really hard to overturn existing law … no matter what the political winds are.” The company saw record orders for renewables and battery storage for the second year in a row in 2023, the Financial Times reported, and raked in annual net profits of $7.3 billion, up from $4.2 billion in 2022. It expects to have 63 megawatts of renewable energy projects in operation by 2026, which is “more than all but nine countries in the world,” the FT added.

    Ketchum said: “In the 21 years I’ve been at the company, as we’ve changed administrations and as we’ve seen changes in Congress, we’ve never seen a change or repeal of tax credits – no matter what form they’ve taken.”

    THE KICKER

    “I think with this achievement, we are very confident that we will be able to create northern white rhinos in the same manner and that we will be able to save the species.” –Scientist Susanne Holtze, commenting on the world’s first IVF rhino pregnancy

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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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