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Technology

Microsoft’s Major Carbon Removal Deal

On curbing AI emissions, flood resilience, and offshore wind

Microsoft’s Major Carbon Removal Deal
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Extreme heat in Southern California is causing cars to break down on the highway • Flooding in northeastern India killed nine rare one-horned rhinos • Residents in Mount Vernon, Indiana, are waking up to debris and devastation from a violent tornado spawned by the remnants of Hurricane Beryl.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Microsoft and Oxy agree to largest-ever DAC credits deal

Tech giant Microsoft has agreed to the “single largest purchase” of direct air capture carbon credits, buying 500,000 metric tons of credits from Occidental Petroleum’s (aka Oxy) 1PointFive DAC subsidiary. The deal is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and will help Microsoft confront its growing emissions problem as demand for energy-intensive artificial intelligence grows. Microsoft’s emissions grew by 30% in 2023 compared to 2020. Google’s emissions are also rising, up 13% last year compared to the year before. Both companies pin the blame on the growth of AI. As Bloomberg noted, DAC “is expensive, energy-intensive and not yet proven at industrial scale.” Occidental clinched a similar (but smaller) deal with Amazon last year.

2. New FEMA rule will improve infrastructure flood resilience

The Biden administration yesterday finalized a rule aimed at protecting federal infrastructure from flooding exacerbated by climate change. The federal flood risk management standard, first proposed in 2015, will require public structures funded by FEMA be built above the projected flood level for their location, or be moved to a different location entirely. The hope is to “put a stop to the cycle of response and recovery, and rinse and repeat,” said Deanne Criswell, the FEMA administrator. FEMA will cover the cost of implementing the changes. The rule will come into effect on September 9.

3. Texas power outages persist as temperatures rise

Frustration is growing in Texas, where nearly 2 million people are still without power after Hurricane Beryl tore through the state Monday as a category 1 storm. The power outages mean many residents are without access to air conditioning as a heat wave pushes temperatures into the 90s. At least 16 hospitals were relying on generators to keep the lights on yesterday, according toThe Associated Press. Making matters worse, flooding from the storm caused a “domestic wastewater” spill in downtown Houston, where residents were told to boil water before consuming it. A report published in April found that power outages from extreme weather events are rising in the U.S., with Texas being the worst-affected state.

Climate Central

4. Report: Offshore wind capacity won’t meet Biden’s goal

New analysis from the American Clean Power Association found that U.S. offshore wind capacity will fall short of President Biden’s goal of 30 gigawatts by 2030. There are currently 56 GW of capacity under development across 37 leases, the report finds, but just 14 GW will be deployed by 2030. However, things will speed up quickly, and it’ll take just three years for capacity to hit 30 GW in 2033, and another two to hit 40 GW in 2035.

5. Climate change-denying senator James Inhofe dies

Former Republican senator James Inhofe, “the capital’s most vociferous denier of climate change,” died Tuesday at age 89. Inhofe served five terms in the Senate starting in the 1990s before retiring in January last year. He began vocally downplaying scientific evidence of climate change in 2003. His campaigns received generous donations from fossil fuel interests. In 2012, Inhofe authored a book called The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future. In a 2015 stunt, he brought a snowball into the Senate in an attempt to prove that man-made global warming was not real. He opposed efforts to cap greenhouse gas emissions and once called the Environmental Protection Agency a “Gestapo bureaucracy.” He later went on to play a key role in transforming the EPA under former President Trump.

The late Sen. Inhofe during his 2015 snowball stunt.YouTube/C-SPAN

THE KICKER

Global temperatures seem to be falling slightly now, after more than a year of unrelenting new record monthly highs.

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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.

Politics

The Contradictions of Trump 2.0

What kind of climate policy will we get this time?

A MAGA hat hanging on a windmill.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Tonight, for the third time, Donald Trump will accept the Republican Party’s nomination for president. But this time, for the first time ever, Trump is also on track to outright win the presidential election he is involved in. He has opened a two-point lead in polling averages, but some polls show a more decisive margin in swing states; no Democrat has been in a worse position in the polls, at this point in the election, since the beginning of the century. Even Trump’s decisions — his selection of JD Vance as his vice president, for instance — suggests that Trump is planning to win.

And so it is time to begin thinking in earnest about what a Trump presidency might mean for decarbonization and the energy transition. For the next several months, Heatmap’s journalists will cover — with rigor, fairness, and perspicacity — that question. (They already have.)

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Politics

The Us vs. Them of Energy

You can turn even the wonkiest policy into a culture war issue if you try hard enough.

JD Vance.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

“We need a leader,” said JD Vance as he accepted the Republican nomination for vice president, “who rejects Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s Green New Scam and fights to bring back our great American factories.” The election, he said, is “about the auto worker in Michigan, wondering why out-of-touch politicians are destroying their jobs,” and “the energy worker in Pennsylvania and Ohio who doesn’t understand why Joe Biden is willing to buy energy from tinpot dictators across the world, when he could buy it from his own citizens right here in our own country.”

This is the tale Vance tells about energy and climate — one of contempt and betrayal, elitists sacrificing hard-working blue-collar Americans on the altar of their alien schemes. On the surface it may sound like it’s about jobs and economics, but it’s really about the eternal culture war that divides us from them.

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Politics

AM Briefing: A Quick RNC Energy Recap

On Doug Burgum’s speech, green steel, and electric jets

What Republicans Have Been Saying About Energy at the RNC
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: The Acropolis in Greece was closed yesterday due to excessive heat • The Persian Gulf International Airport recorded a heat index of 149 degrees Fahrenheit • Recent flooding in Brazil exposed a 233-million-year-old dinosaur fossil.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Republicans slam Biden energy policy at RNC

Energy hasn’t dominated the conversation at the Republican National Convention this week, but it’s certainly been a talking point. Last night North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum gave a speech focusing on the topic. “Teddy Roosevelt encouraged America to speak softly and carry a big stick,” Burgum said. “Energy dominance will be the big stick that President Trump will carry.” He accused President Biden of making Russia and Iran “filthy rich” with his energy policies, blamed him for higher electric bills and grid problems, and said “four more years of Joe will usher in an era of Biden brownouts and blackouts.” Oh, and he promised that Trump would “let all of you keep driving your gas-powered cars.” CNN called the speech “Burgum’s audition to be energy secretary.”

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