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Electric Vehicles

Did Elon Musk Just Sack Tesla’s Entire Supercharger Team?

On the latest layoff reports, permitting reform, and coal plants

Did Elon Musk Just Sack Tesla’s Entire Supercharger Team?
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Floods in Saudi Arabia forced some schools to close • Nearly 50 fires were reported in Greece over 24 hours • Tornado alley could see more severe storms this afternoon.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Biden finalizes permitting reform rule

The Biden administration today finalized changes to an old environmental law, a move that could speed up the arduous permitting process for new clean energy projects. The 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that all major federal infrastructure projects undergo an environmental review, but these reviews can run thousands of pages long and take years to finish, explained Heatmap’s Robinson Meyer, adding that “it takes 4.5 years on average to finish an environmental-impact statement.” Through the new Bipartisan Permitting Reform Implementation Rule, Biden seeks to make the process more efficient by:

  • setting one- and two-year deadlines by which agencies must complete environmental reviews
  • introducing page limits for the reviews
  • creating a unified federal review process
  • establishing one lead agency for handling reviews

The new rule says federal agencies must consider a project’s impacts on climate change, as well as environmental justice. It also reverses a 2020 overhaul carried out by former President Trump that the Biden administration called “legally questionable.” Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the changes “will help speed infrastructure and permitting, but without losing sight of the environmental and health benefits we need to protect.”

2. Report: Tesla eliminates entire Supercharger team

Two weeks after announcing it would slash 10% of its global workforce, Tesla appears to be making more cuts. According toThe Information, CEO Elon Musk sent an email to senior staffers last night with the news that several high-level employees would be departing. Among them is Rebecca Tinucci, senior director of EV charging, along with her 500-person Supercharger team. Tinucci led the rollout effort of Tesla’s Supercharger network, positioning it as the predominant charging infrastructure in North America. Daniel Ho, director of vehicle programs and new product initiatives, is also out, and the public policy team is no more.

“Hopefully these actions are making it clear that we need to be absolutely hard core about headcount and cost reduction,” Musk reportedly wrote in the email. “While some on exec staff are taking this seriously, most are not yet doing so.”

“It makes absolutely no sense to lay off the Supercharger team,” said Jameson Dow at Electrek. “Supercharging is an incredible opportunity for Tesla, especially now that everyone else has adopted NACS. … This move, alone, would erode any confidence I had left in Tesla’s CEO – if I still had any.”

3. Major UK mortgage lender will deny home loans over flooding

A prominent mortgage lender in the United Kingdom will no longer offer loans on homes that are at risk of flooding, Bloombergreported. Nationwide Building Society is UK’s the second-biggest mortgage provider, and is worried that flood-prone homes will become uninsurable and therefore unsellable. Weather-related insurance claims have been on the rise in the UK as climate change brings more frequent storms and severe flooding. The last 18 months have been the UK’s wettest on record. A new report finds that harvests of crops like wheat, barley, and oats in the country could drop by a fifth this year due to excessive rainfall.

4. Plastic treaty talks end with no production cap in sight

The latest meeting on a global plastics treaty has come to an end in Canada. While there was some meaningful progress on the draft text of an agreement (which must be finalized by the end of the year), deep divisions remain over whether the final text should include a cap on how much plastic can be manufactured. Environmental groups point out that plastic production has doubled in just 20 years and is set to triple in coming decades. Fossil fuel companies and oil-producing nations, naturally, prefer to promote plastic recycling instead of plastic reduction. As AFPexplained, “plastic production is a significant driver of global warming because most plastic is made from fossil fuels.”

5. G7 nations tentatively agree to phase out coal plants by 2035

Energy and climate ministers from the Group of Seven wealthy nations have agreed to shut down their coal-fired power plants by 2035. The deal is expected to be finalized in Turin, Italy, today. It could afford some wiggle room to countries that remain heavily reliant on coal, allowing them to propose a timeline that is “consistent with keeping a limit of 1.5 Celsius temperature rise within reach.” Still, the move is seen as historic. “To have the G7 nations come around the table and send that signal to the world, that we, the advanced economies of the world, are committing to phasing out coal by the early 2030s is quite incredible,” said the UK’s Minister for Nuclear and Renewables Andrew Bowie. As CNN noted, G7 decisions often “trickle down or influence the wider G20, which includes other big emitters, like China and India, as well as major fossil fuel producers, such as Saudi Arabia and Russia.”

THE KICKER

The land that makes up the Permian Basin, America’s biggest oil field, has subsided by as much as 11 inches since 2015 due to extraction operations.

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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

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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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The Department of Energy is advancing 24 companies in its purchase prize contest. What these companies are getting is more important than $50,000.

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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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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.
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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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