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Sparks

Marc Benioff and Bill Gates Are Feuding About Trees

Trees are wonderful, but Gates is probably right.

Marc Benioff.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

This got me:

The background here is that Bill Gates recently said trees are “less proven” as reliable carbon offsets and it’s “complete nonsense” to think planting trees could single-handedly solve climate change. Both are accurate statements. He also said, “Are we the science people or are we the idiots?” which Marc Benioff, the tech billionaire who’s trying to plant a trillion trees, might have taken personally.

As Alan Buis wrote in a 2019 NASA feature, while existing trees do indeed sequester incredible amounts of carbon, planting trees on the scale needed to negate the impacts of fossil fuels will take billions of acres of more land than the forested area that exists on our planet. Besides which those trees will take a century or more to mature.

Benioff is right to want to protect trees, but focusing on trees instead of a reduction in fossil fuels is exactly the kind of red herring Republicans and oil executives have been pushing for years. Plus, tree-based carbon offsets are often fake.

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Neel Dhanesha profile image

Neel Dhanesha

Neel is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Prior to Heatmap, he was a science and climate reporter at Vox, an editorial fellow at Audubon magazine, and an assistant producer at Radiolab, where he helped produce The Other Latif, a series about one detainee's journey to Guantanamo Bay. He is a graduate of the Literary Reportage program at NYU, which helped him turn incoherent scribbles into readable stories, and he grew up (mostly) in Bangalore. He tweets sporadically at @neel_dhan. Read More

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Sparks

The White House Has Some Transmission News Too

As if one set of energy policy announcements wasn’t enough.

Power lines.
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The Environmental Protection Agency’s power plant rules were not the only big energy policy announcement from the Biden administration Thursday. The White House also announced a bevy of initiatives and projects meant to bolster infrastructure throughout the country.

Transmission arguably sits at the absolute center of the Biden administration’s climate policy. Without investments to move new renewable power from where it’s sunny or windy but desolate and remote to where it’s still and cloudy but densely populated, the Inflation Reduction Act is unlikely to meet its emissions reduction potential. While the most important transmission policy changes will likely come from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission next month, and possibly permitting reform legislation under consideration in Congress, the White House and Department of Energy are doing what they can with tens of billions of dollars allotted in both the IRA and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and their power over environmental regulations.

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Sparks

Biden’s $7 Billion Solar Bonanza

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

Solar panel installation.
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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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Offshore wind.
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Things are looking down again for New York’s embattled offshore wind industry.

The state is abandoning all three of the offshore wind projects it awarded conditional contracts to last October, after failing to secure final agreements with any of the developers, Politico reported Friday.

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