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Politics

Biden’s Big Earth Day Agenda

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.

There’s a lot more on the schedule for the rest of the week, but here’s an abbreviated version:

Today: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is out West helping break ground on the Brightline West High-Speed Rail Project; Arati Prabhakar, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, is in Maine to announce $123 million in funding for habitat restoration; Energy Secretary Tom Vilsack heads to Pennsylvania to announce funding for clean energy projects.

Later this week: Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland will be in New Orleans to unveil new measures to develop an offshore wind economy; Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm heads to New Mexico to talk about new efforts to support domestic solar and wind manufacturing; and Haaland will cut the ribbon at a new visitors’ center at Delaware’s First State National Historical Park.

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  • 2. American Climate Corps website officially up and running

    The Biden administration launched the jobs board for the American Climate Corps (ACC) today. Nearly 2,000 jobs and training opportunities will be listed on ClimateCorps.gov, which is still in beta form but “will be regularly updated” as new positions become available. In addition, three states – Vermont, New Mexico, and Illinois – are launching their own state-based climate corps programs. The administration also said ACC members will have access to an “apprenticeship readiness curriculum” during their terms, which will train them up on skills needed in the green energy economy.

    3. EPA expected to release final power plant rules

    The EPA’s final power plant emissions regulations are expected this week. CNN reported the administration is considering ditching its “cutting edge” proposal for new natural gas plants to use hydrogen as well as natural gas to generate electricity, which would mean future gas-fired and existing coal-fired power plants would rely on carbon capture and storage to cut their emissions. Other rules governing wastewater and solid combustion waste from coal plants are also expected to be finalized, according toE&E News.

    4. A quick recap of the World Bank and IMF spring meetings

    In case you missed it: The World Bank and IMF spring meetings came to a close on Saturday without any firm plans for mobilizing the funds needed to help developing countries fight climate change – certainly nothing close to the $2.4 trillion that is needed per year to help poorer nations in their energy transitions. The week wasn’t a complete bust. France, Kenya, and Barbados launched a taskforce to explore more creative ways to fill the gap in climate finance, including “taxes on wealthy people, plane tickets, financial transactions, shipping fuel, fossil fuel production, and fossil fuel firms’ windfall profits,” Climate Home News reported. Finance ministers from Brazil and France are pushing for a 2% annual wealth tax on billionaires to help alleviate problems like global hunger and climate change. And 11 rich countries (including the U.S.) pledged a total of $11 billion to boost the World Bank’s lending power.

    5. VW plant in Tennessee votes to join UAW

    A majority of Volkswagen workers at a Tennessee plant voted over the weekend to join the United Auto Workers union. The Chattanooga factory is the first auto plant in the South to unionize, but the UAW hopes it won’t be the last. A Mercedes plant in Alabama is set to vote on UAW membership next month, and the union wants to see more plants unionize over the next two years. Anti-union sentiment runs deep in southern auto plants, but non-union workers typically have lower wages and fewer job protections than unionized workers, so a series of UAW victories could change a lot of lives. It could also be a “shot in the arm” for the union’s campaign to unionize Tesla.

    THE KICKER

    Roughly a third of U.S. adults are interested in cutting back on their meat consumption, according to the nonprofit Food for Climate League.

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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.

    Climate

    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.

    THE TOP FIVE

    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.

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    Technology

    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.

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    Economy

    Tom Steyer Is Baffled By Warren Buffett’s Oil Bets

    “In the case of fossil fuels, he doesn’t seem to recognize how quickly our ability to develop and deploy clean energy is growing — and how cheap that energy is becoming.”

    Tom Steyer and Warren Buffett.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    If you’re looking for a relatively optimistic read on the fight against climate change, Tom Steyer’s new book is out today. Called Cheaper, Better Faster: How We’ll Win the Climate War, it dives into the billionaire’s perspective on the state of the climate crisis and the clean energy solutions helping the world decarbonize. Steyer’s perspective is informed by the many hats he wears — investor, philanthropist, long shot 2020 presidential candidate, Yale man, and co-founder of the investment firm Galvanize Climate Solutions.

    I chatted with Steyer a few weeks ago about his book, his guiding investment principles, and how and why people become environmentalists. Here are three things I found noteworthy:

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