Few species have proved as adaptable as Homo sapiens. From their origin in the Horn of Africa, modern humans extended their reach to the frigid plains of Siberia, the torrid deserts of Australia and the humid jungles of South America, learning to thrive in even the harshest environments.
Now, climate change is challenging humanity’s powers of adaptation, as more intense heat waves, droughts, storms and floods threaten to make parts of the Earth uninhabitable. In the decades to come, rising seas will swallow up low-lying islands in the Pacific. High-powered hurricanes will batter the tropics. And unsurvivable heat waves will imperil South Asia and the Middle East, forcing people to flee to cooler latitudes and higher ground.Over the last 50,000 years, humans managed to conquer every corner of planet Earth. In the 21st century, they will begin to retreat.Climate change is already displacing millions of people. And if countries fail to make sharp cuts to carbon pollution, it will displace hundreds of millions more. By one estimate, climate disasters could uproot upwards of 1 billion people by 2050, raising important questions about how the world will respond.
That brings us to our latest issue: humanity’s new era of climate migration.
We tell the story of two people, both uprooted by Atlantic hurricanes, who have very different experiences emigrating to the mainland United States, which offers no formal protections for climate migrants. We report on the growing trend of Californians leaving the Golden State to escape wildfires. We explore how small farmers in Chile are struggling to pay for water supplies amid an ongoing drought, forcing many to move to cities. And we explain how, in Asia, people displaced by climate disasters are struggling to find safety from extreme weather.
“We can’t deter people fleeing for their lives. They will come. The choice we have is how well we manage their arrival, and how humanely.” —António Guterres
Courtesy of Nexus Media.
Batteries Spark Biden’s Infrastructure & Jobs Promise
President Biden’s infrastructure plan (The American Jobs Plan) aligns recovery stimulus and climate action. This is smart: experts conclude that the green stimulus delivers high returns in job creation. To date, stimulus hasn’t been that green overall globally but the US plan will make a positive difference for our nation and the planet.
To reap the full benefits, it will be important to consider domestic manufacturing as a tool, including for one of the most critical clean energy technologies: batteries. Representative Debbie Dingell highlighted the opportunity that domestic battery production poses when she addressed Biden’s infrastructure and jobs plan. “We can make it work,” said Rep. Dingell. “But we have to be intentional about policy to bring the battery supply chain back to the United States.”
A healthy domestic battery supply chain has many benefits for Biden’s plan to align climate spending with clean energy jobs. The price of batteries has dropped precipitously since 2010 (from $1,000 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to <$150/kWh today) enabling them to become more fundamental to clean energy business models in both electricity and mobility. Biden’s plan outlines significant funding in these battery-dependent sectors: $174 billion to “win the EV market,” $100 billion for grid infrastructure, $180 billion for research and development, and $300 billion for manufacturing and small businesses.
The switch to a clean energy supply is already projected to be a net jobs creator. Princeton’s Net-Zero America study found that energy supply-side jobs will increase in a clean energy and battery-dependent future and employ a larger percentage of the population (0.3 to 3 times more). Conveniently, a large portion of these renewable energy jobs will be in the same locations that the 1.7 million Americans live who face job losses through the pending decline of fossil fuel industries.
Biden’s plan also gives an essential push to vehicle electrification. This is potentially a jobs-rich area and will help to enhance US competitiveness in a low-carbon economy. While it has been highlighted that EV manufacturing is less jobs-intensive than making internal combustion engine (ICE) cars, this is an incomplete story that neglects the jobs in battery manufacturing and vehicle charging infrastructure. A United Auto Workers study found that “this shift is an opportunity to reinvest in US manufacturing. But the opportunity will be lost if EVs or their components are imported or made by low-road suppliers who underpay workers.”
If investment at the scale of the $174 billion allocated to “winning the EV market” is equally divided towards battery manufacturing and vehicle charging infrastructure, we estimate this could create almost 2 million electric vehicle charging infrastructure jobs and 1 million jobs in battery cell manufacturing. If all of these jobs are realized, this is up to 2.3x times the number of jobs that the same investment would, on average, produce if spent on ICE vehicles.
Supporting innovation and investment in batteries is a critical, high leverage acupuncture point to provide momentum to the transition. However, making sure that many of the 1–2 million battery cell manufacturing jobs that are incentivized through Biden’s plan are US-based will be no easy task. China owns more than 80% of the existing world battery manufacturing capacity and dominates the material supply lines. Other places such as the EU and India are also scaling up their battery ambitions and see batteries as not just crucial to climate change, but as reinforcing national security and global competitiveness. Fortunately, the United States can build on its strengths to improve its domestic battery supply chain.
Strength 1: Vehicle Demand
Vehicle OEMs prefer to manufacture vehicles close to market demand and ICE vehicle makers, such as GM, are becoming adept at converting ICE vehicle production to EV manufacturing. The US thirst for private vehicles and e-bus demand expansion under the American Jobs plan, provides an opportunity for domestic manufacturers both of vehicles and batteries. While state tax exemptions and incentives have been successful in wooing battery manufacturers to specific locations, we can support domestic manufacturing by moving beyond these.
The federal government can provide direct support for the competitiveness of US battery manufacturing. Direct support could come in many forms such as procurement, subsidizing the costs of environmental compliance or leveraging existing public-private finance programs (such as the Energy Loan Programs office). Government finance will be especially important to support new battery-focused business models that may encounter warranty innovation needs, such as those arising from power flow or potential battery recycling and reuse applications (e.g., grid resilience or long-duration storage applications).
Strength 2: Potential for Supply Chain Security: Mining and Recycling
Unlike Asia and Europe, the United States has 17% of known global lithium reserves within its borders. Lithium, a critical battery component, is increasingly being called “white petroleum”, and demand for it is expected to more than triple by 2025. Our nation has an opportunity to rapidly develop the technologies to extract it and scale both the production and processing of this resource.
The United States can further improve its supply chain security and competitiveness by rapidly ramping up recycling efforts. By 2030 the mass of end-of-life lithium-ion batteries is poised to reach 2 million tons globally. Fortunately, under President Trump, the US DOE launched the ReCell Center at Argonne National Laboratory, which is focused on transforming battery recycling.
Cost-saving opportunities exist for domestic manufacturing OEMs to find supply chain synergies by co-locating mining, manufacturing, and recycling, as well as decreasing reliance on imported materials. The government can support these activities by scaling reuse and recycling R&D funding as well as creating standards for battery labeling and data tracking and sharing in EVs.
Strength 3: Innovation Ecosystem
The United States can leverage and reshore its greatest asset: its innovative potential. Our nation already has a foothold due to the strength of its universities, national labs and R&D programs such as ARPA-E and the DOE loan Program, corporate R&D ambition and investing, and a sophisticated venture capital ecosystem. Together these assets have produced advanced lithium or solid state technology startups such as Sila Nanotechnologies, Solid Power, SES, Sion Power, Ionic Materials, Enovix, QuantumScape, as well as some leaders in other technologies such as Natron Energy and Form Energy.
The US innovation system also is leading in the ways batteries offer decarbonized and distributed resilience and renewable integration value to the grid, with start-ups such as Swell, Yotta, and SimpliPhi innovating in this space. Diverse and yet-to be identified markets for future applications and integrated design opportunities that rely on better batteries will develop and mature, such as long-duration storage and carbon-free flight. Other nations, such as India, are supporting competitive domestic battery manufacturing. By scaling funding and incentives for energy storage technologies that perform better on diverse characteristics (e.g., cycle life, energy density, charge rate, safety, and material sustainability) we can leverage the United States’ innovation strength to find competitive advantages in a global market.
California Develops Proposal to Achieve Clean Vehicle Future
With transportation now the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S., the state that created car culture is now driving toward eliminating tailpipe pollution.
California, a global leader in electric vehicle deployment and policy innovation, presented plans today for the next round of its Advanced Clean Cars program. It will require all new vehicles to be electric-drive by 2035. Consistent with the state’s overall climate goals, the proposal would require increased sales of battery electric, fuel cell, or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to reach 60% of sales by 2030 and 100% of sales by 2035.
California also reaffirmed its commitment to work with the EPA and stakeholders in the development of the next round of a harmonized, federal greenhouse gas emissions program for model years 2027 and beyond. Given the numerous pledges by automakers to transition to electric vehicles, federal policymakers should join with California and set standards that will put our nation on the path to 100% zero-emitting sales by 2035.
After all, California is not alone. More than 100 national, state, and city governments have now committed to 100% emissions-free transport – collectively representing nearly one-fifth of global transport demand.
Why Are Zero-Emission Vehicles Needed?
The science is increasingly clear: jurisdictions must rapidly switch to clean, zero-emissions mobility in order to stave off the worst impacts from climate change — including more massive wildfires, intense hurricanes and hotter heat waves. Analysis also shows that to address unhealthy air quality, jurisdictions will also need zero-emission vehicle solutions to reduce smog and toxic air pollution.
It will require historic levels of investments to make the U.S. a leader in EV manufacturing, battery production, and charging station deployment. But the benefits of doing so are immense. Recent analysis by NRDC — together with Shulock Consulting — demonstrated those consumer benefits, public health savings, and climate benefits outweigh the transition costs by nearly seven to one for California. New research by the University of California, Energy Innovation, and GridLab looking at an even more rapid transition across the U.S. found that households would see $2.7 trillion in consumer savings through 2050 (or an average of $1,000 per household every year). These net savings were driven in large part by the enormous fuel savings by switching to electricity.
What Does a Transition to Pollution-Free Cars and Trucks Look Like?
It’s clear that the auto industry is undergoing a historic transition globally to electric vehicles. The main drivers are equal parts technology advancement, competitive pressure, as well as public and government demand for zero-emission mobility in the world’s largest markets including the European Union, China, and the U.S.
Automakers are seeing the writing on the wall and vying to be leaders in the transition or risk having their market share displaced by competitors, including new EV entrants. General Motors set a goal of having 40% of its models be pure EVs by 2025 on the path to going all electric by 2035. Many other automakers are driving in the same direction. All told, 100 pure electric models are expected by the end of 2024, according to Consumer Reports.
A transition in the U.S. would likely follow the path in other jurisdictions with high sales. Norway has already beaten California by over a decade and is now at 75% sale levels of EVs. Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, and France are at 32%, 25%, 14%, and 11% sales respectively, compared to California’s current 8% sales level — the highest among all U.S. states. So rapid increases — with the right set of requirements, complementary policies, and market drivers — are possible. Interestingly, the analysis by California Air Resources Board showed that an even higher target — above 60% sales by 2030 — is possible if automakers were more aggressive in their rollout schedule of electric-drive models as shown below.
The Plug-In Hybrid Option Remains
While headlines may focus on pure electric drive vehicle like battery electrics, California is allowing for plug-in hybrid electric technologies to continue playing a role in the market. In the fine print, the Air Resources Board did not discount the role of highly-capable plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (think of an even more capable Chevy Volt) that run first in an all-electric mode powered by the electricity grid, followed by switching over to using gasoline as a conventional hybrid. Up to 20% of the new fleet in 2035, based on the requirements, could remain as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). However, those PHEVs would need to, by 2026, have at least 50 miles of all-electric range will be used after 2025. For most drivers, this all-electric range is sufficient to cover more than 70% of their daily miles. So, while the proposal isn’t doing away with reliance on internal combustion technologies, it gets tantalizingly close to a 100% zero emission future from the tailpipe by 2035.
Leading the Way
Today, there are already 14 states that have adopted all or part of California’s advanced clean cars program, with numerous other states also consider adopting. Today’s proposal provides a model for states wanting to reduce climate pollution, improve public health, and ultimately transportation costs. We’ll be watching whether the automakers that are pledging to transition to an electric fleet and are promising to address climate change are aligning their policy position with their public commitments. We’ll be working to ensure that these electric vehicle goals are not just achieved in the Golden State, but achieved nationally. The clear, open road is before us; let’s move forward!
Are Big Changes Coming to the Tesla Referral Program? $23,000,000 Says Yes.
According to our friends at Electrek, Tesla is planning a major revision to their referral program. An earlier version of the referral program allowed referrers to earn substantial prizes such as Tesla wall chargers and even a free (or discounted) Tesla Roadster. But due to the costs involved, Tesla revised the program in 2018, reducing the value of the referral prizes. With the current Tesla referral program, an existing Tesla owner can refer a new buyer to Tesla and when that person completes his or her purchase of a Tesla vehicle, both the buyer and referrer get a bonus. The current bonus is “1,000 free miles of Supercharging.” This actually translates to 400 kWh of supercharger credit, which must be used within six months of activation (otherwise the miles expire).
The value of this perk varies, depending on the cost of Supercharging where you live or travel. But the national average cost of Supercharging in the United States is 28 cents per kWh, which means this 400 kWh credit is worth around $112.00 in the US. But this relatively small dollar figure adds up. According to Electrek, free supercharging has cost Tesla about $23,000,000 so far this year. So in order to cut expenses, the company is apparently considering an overhaul of the program.
A new Model 3 owner supercharges her Model 3 for the first time. Photo by Chris Boylan
Instead of allowing journalists and social media influencers to post their referral codes online for anyone to use, the referral code will be built into the Tesla app, and both the prospective buyer and the referrer will need to identify their referral relationship in the app in order for it to be processed. A test drive may also be required in order to complete the referral, though this could be tricky for buyers in certain markets (those who have no local Tesla store). A source at the company says that the Tesla app itself will soon have value to those who do not yet own a Tesla, so it will make sense for them to download the app before they actually buy a car.
The current Tesla referral program also offers incentive for Tesla owners to refer their friends to buy a Tesla solar power system. In this case, the referred buyer gets a $100 bonus and the referrer gets a $400 bonus once the system has been installed. In the current referral system, referring owners can also earn a Tesla Powerwall home battery if they refer 10 or more solar power system sales. It is not clear if this portion of the referral program will remain after the system is revised.
We have no official confirmation yet from Tesla as to when this may occur, but we’ll share more when we know more. So stay tuned.
Read more about the Tesla Referral Program.
Progressive Candidate Alexandra Hunt Has A Bold Vision For Philadelphia
Since the 2018 midterms, it seems like progressives have been a nearly unstoppable force in Congress. Alexandra Hunt is positioning herself to be one of the next victories, this time in Philadelphia’s 3rd district. A former public health researcher, she is hoping to stand out in a time when public health has taken a front seat due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the issue of fracking, Alexandra’s campaign told me that “the public is rightfully concerned about fracking,” and stressed the growing evidence pointing toward environmental issues related to the oil-extraction process. Hydraulic fracking, or just fracking for short, is the practice of pumping an often toxic fracking fluid into the ground to create small cracks for natural gas withdrawal. Existing in its modern form since the ’50s, the practice of fracking has skyrocketed in use throughout the United States, including Philadelphia. Hunt supports a federal ban on fracking, and is in favor of creating green energy jobs to take its place. It’s worth mentioning that Hunt’s support of the Green New Deal plays into labor dynamics as well. One of the main foci of the plan would be addressing expected job loss in fossil fuel industries. Ensuring a fair transition to a green economy is a top goal of Green New Deal proponents and climate-advocacy groups.
Hunt is also a supporter of Unions. Recently, Democrats in the House and Senate have been pushing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would repeal anti-union “right-to-work” laws along with strengthening union protections. Hunt’s campaign made clear that she would support further efforts to protect workers’ rights to strike along with other measures to bolster US labor rights. One of these proposals is strengthening the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Passed during the ’30s, the NLRA was undoubtedly a turning point for unionization in the States — the act protected workers’ rights to unionize. Notably, much of the NLRA was undermined by the subsequent passing of the Taft–Hartley Act in 1947, which led to many of the aforementioned “right-to-work laws.”
On the issue of coronavirus, Hunt’s work as a clinical data manager has shaped her views on public health, and the US’ handling of the pandemic. Hunt’s campaign criticized one of the earlier COVID relief bills (CARES) for not adequately extending to vulnerable communities. The latest COVID relief bill passed more direct stimulus checks, along with direct aid to local communities and childcare benefits. Hunt supports these measures, along with further packages until the end of the pandemic. Hunt is also an avid supporter of Medicare For All, and in a TikTok credited lack of universal healthcare as a main reason for running for Congress.
Hunt’s campaign for Congress is definitely a long-shot, taking on the establishment-backed incumbent, Dwight Evans (not to be confused with the Red Sox right-fielder). Hunt is relying completely on individual contributions and rejects corporate funding for her campaign, which has only become more difficult since the pandemic due to limited ability to canvas. If Hunt will be able to deliver a victory in 2022, however, it would secure another progressive victory in an overwhelmingly conservative Congress.
Featured image: Alexandra Hunt
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