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Electric Vehicles

Tesla Is Reportedly Making Big Layoffs This Week

On Musk’s workforce cuts, Appliance Week, and flooding in Russia

Tesla Is Reportedly Making Big Layoffs This Week
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Temperatures in Sapporo, Japan, surpassed 77 degrees Fahrenheit today, earlier than ever before • Gale-force winds are blasting Britain • The weather is looking greatfor the Boston Marathon.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Tesla reportedly lays off 10% of global workforce

Tesla has reportedly laid off “more than 10%” of its global workforce, according to Jameson Dow at Electrek. In an internal company-wide email, CEO Elon Musk said “this will enable us to be lean, innovative and hungry for the next growth phase cycle.” The exact headcount isn’t clear but Dow calculates a 10% cut would bring the number of workers newly out of a job to about 14,000. The news wasn’t unexpected – employees had been whispering about potential layoffs for a few weeks, and their angst was fueled by the announcement last Thursday that Cybertruck production shifts at Tesla’s Gigafactory in Texas would be shortened, starting today. Dow notes the layoffs will hurt morale, “which is a shame, because we do need Tesla to keep pushing things forward, and to keep attracting the best and brightest.”

2. House Republicans pivot from appliances to Iran crisis

House Republicans canceled a plan to put forward six new bills related to household appliances and energy standards this week and will focus instead on responding to rising tensions between Iran and Israel. The bills were going to be a “coordinated legislative offensive on the Department of Energy’s efficiency standards,” reportedE&E News. It’s not clear if or when the bills will be heard.

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3. Biden administration increases fees for oil and gas drilling on public lands

In case you missed it: The Biden administration late last week moved to hike fees for drilling for oil and gas on public lands. The New York Times explained it nicely: “The nation’s largest property owner, the federal government, effectively charges rent to oil and gas companies that exploit public land for private profit.” Now it is hiking its rates. The new rules, which could take effect in 60 days, raise royalty rates, lease rents, minimum auction bids, as well as “bonding rates,” which are upfront payments “to cover the cost of plugging abandoned oil and gas wells,” Reutersreported. The new minimum lease bonds will be $150,000 per lease, up from $10,000. Royalty rates will rise from 12.5% to 16.67%. The government estimates the rules would increase costs for fossil fuel companies by about $1.5 billion through 2031. Some of the money will go toward cleaning up old abandoned oil and gas wells.

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  • 4. Intense flooding prompts more evacuations in Russia, Kazakhstan

    Flooding continues along the Russia-Kazakhstan border, where huge amounts of snowmelt from the Ural Mountains, coupled with heavy rain, overwhelmed the Ob-Irtysh river system, the world’s seventh largest. The Tobol River, which is usually frozen this time of year, rose by 9 inches in just four hours this morning. More than 125,000 people have been evacuated since the flooding began earlier this month. Flooding is common for the region in the spring, but this year has been particularly bad. Experts say the soil was already saturated before winter, and higher-than usual snowfall followed by a burst of warm weather made for ideal flood conditions. Maria Shahgedanova, a professor of climatic science at Reading University, said extreme flooding is likely to become more common because climate change is causing heavier snowfall in the area. “We’re looking at a 7% increase in (snow) precipitation where there is one degree temperature change,” she said.

    5. New pilot project to test highway that charges EVs on the go

    Indiana has broken ground on a pilot project that will allow electric vehicles to charge wirelessly as they drive down the highway. The technology was developed by Purdue University and is being put to the test on a quarter-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 52 in West Lafayette, Indiana, Inside Climate Newsreported. It will charge cars as they travel up to speeds of 65 miles per hour. “If you have a cellphone and you place it on a charger, there is what’s called magnetic fields that are coming up from the charger into that phone,” said Steve Pekarek, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue. “We’re doing something similar.” Cars would have to be equipped with special receivers to be compatible with the wireless charging, so even when the system is up and running next summer it won’t yet benefit existing EV drivers. “This is a simple solution,” Pekarek said. “There are complicated parts of it, and that we leave to the vehicle manufacturers.” The state’s Department of Transportation hopes the project will help in the quest to ease range anxiety for would-be EV buyers, and electrify long-haul trucking.

    THE KICKER

    Researchers say they’ve found a way to make the common pain-reliever acetaminophen (aka Tylenol) from compounds found in wood, instead of from chemicals derived from crude oil.


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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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