When the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law in August 2022, policy analysts predicted that the incentives it provided for renewable energy deployment, home electrification and EV adoption would put the U.S. on track to reach at least two thirds of its 2030 emissions reduction target. Twelve months later, we can now start to track how well the nation is progressing towards those predictions.
In terms of unlocking private capital and kickstarting new clean energy projects, the IRA is profoundly exceeding expectations, already creating tens of billions of dollars in new investments in what has been dubbed a U.S. “manufacturing renaissance.” But according to Oliver Kerr, North America lead for market analytics company Aurora Energy Research, a national energy transformation requires integration as well as manufacturing. Climate Now spoke with Oliver about the impact of the IRA on renewable energy growth, as well as the policy reforms and grid infrastructure updates that are still needed to ensure that public and private investments being made in clean energy manufacturing will translate to 100% fossil free U.S. electricity in the coming decade.
One of the most controversial parts of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act – the most ambitious climate spending bill in history – was the large pot of federal dollars that could now subsidize the nascent Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) industry. The bill provides for the expansion of the 45Q tax credit, which now allocates up to $85 per metric ton of CO2 that is captured from a point source of emissions like power plants or factories, and then is injected deep underground for permanent storage. At this price point, the IRA provides – for the first time ever – a viable revenue stream for most CCS projects.
Proponents of CCS argue that CO2 reductions will need to happen faster than the world can dismantle its dependence on fossil fuels and thus investment in carbon management technologies need to start now. Opponents say that investments in CCS divert funding from lower cost decarbonization efforts, thus slowing net carbon reductions, and that they incentivize polluting industries to continue their operations.
In this episode, Climate Now has brought together four experts to examine the arguments both for and against CCS. Join us and our guests Charles F. Harvey (MIT), Kurt House (KoBold Metals), Sue Hovorka (UT Austin) and George Peridas (LLNL) for a moderated discussion about what role – if any – CCS should play in the path to global net zero.
The Nobel-prize winning discovery of how to create synthetic ammonia has been called the “most momentous technical advance in history,” and for good reason. Today about half of the food consumed worldwide comes from the increased harvest yields resulting from ammonia-based fertilizers. We could not sustain the global population without it.
While ammonia production is critical to modern day global food security, and will need to increase to support a growing population, it is also extremely energy- and emissions-intensive. Ammonia produces twice as much CO2 per metric ton of product than steel, 4 times as much as cement, and accounts for ~2% of global emissions.
Talus Renewables is among a growing number of companies working to change that by creating fossil-fuel free “green ammonia,” and they are the first to have deployed their product in the market. The company provides modular, small-scale ammonia production facilities that can be shipped to remote growing regions and allow farms or groups of farms to produce their own fertilizer using clean energy. Climate Now sat down with Talus Renewables co-founder, Hiro Iwanaga, to discuss how this production system reduces complex supply chain and transportation costs as well as emissions, and how it is helping improve global food security and sustainable agriculture at the same time.
In 2021, 40 billion tonnes of manmade CO2 were released globally. But global greenhouse gas emissions for that year are described as 55 billion tonnes in CO2-equivalent (or CO2e). What’s the difference?
CO2 represents around 75% of greenhouse gases emitted by human activities, by weight. But by warming potential, it is much less. Other greenhouse gases (primarily methane, nitrous oxides and fluorinated gases) have much stronger warming effects in the atmosphere, and also remain in the atmosphere for vastly different periods of time. So how can we compare the warming impact of different emissions? By using CO2e.
The Biden Administration in the U.S. has set a goal of achieving a net-zero emissions economy by 2050, which among other things means that U.S. households, and the appliances and machines that run within them, will need to be powered almost entirely by carbon-free electricity. A practical implication of that goal is that about 1 billion machines in homes across the nation will need to be replaced or converted from fossil-powered to electric within the next 3 decades. It sounds like a lot – but is it?
A recent report from the nonprofit Rewiring America examined how quickly high-efficiency, electric technologies – like heat pumps, EV vehicles and induction stoves – are replacing sales of their fossil-powered counterparts, and compared that to what needs to happen this year, next year, and over the next five years to ensure that American homes are on track to decarbonize. So are we on track? What needs to happen in the near-term to ensure we reach our mid-century decarbonization goals? And what are the most impactful upgrades that people can make to their homes to support the decarbonization movement? Rewiring America’s Director of Research Cora Wyent and Head of Market Transformation Stephen Pantano sat down with Climate Now to break it down.
Electric vs Gas-Powered Emissions
Adopting green transportation and transitioning to a 100% electric fleet requires a momentous cultural, technological, and infrastructure overhaul of the entire global automotive industry. If we are going to undertake such a task, we have to know that it will bring significant results in reducing emissions. So what is the real impact of going electric?
As part of our decarbonizing transportation series, we sat down and did the math. We looked at the net carbon dioxide emissions of an EV over its lifecycle versus lifecycle emissions of a gas-powered vehicle to find out just what the climate benefit of going electric could be.
Since humans began settling down and building civilizations 10,000 years ago, the Earth’s climate has been relatively stable. But before that, the climate was more unstable – unpredictable – and humans were nomads, forced to follow the good climate for food and shelter. Today, the global average temperature is higher than it has ever been since the beginning of civilization. What does this mean for the future of human civilization? Could this mean a return to instability? Can we make civilization resilient to such dramatic changes in climate that we have never before experienced as a society?
Dr. Spencer Glendon of Probable Futures joins Climate Now to speak about his work to change how we think about, talk about, and plan for the future of society.
A 2022 study by Yale University found that two thirds of Americans (67%) rarely or never talk about climate change, and rarely or never hear people they know talking about it either. Despite the existential threat that it poses, one third of Americans (32%) only hear about global warming in the media a few times a year – or less!
Are these statistics shocking? Or does it matter that people don’t talk much about climate change? How important is public awareness and public discussion in the fight to address climate change? How much does public opinion shape climate policy, or drive individuals to reduce their own climate impacts? And, if climate communication IS important, how do we get more conversations started?
To mark Climate Now’s 100th episode, we partnered with Network for Business Sustainability (NBS) to take an introspective look at the role of science communication: how does talking about climate change help address it? We are joined by three experts who look at communication in different ways: David Fenton, Founder of Fenton Communications, a social change communications firm, Leah Thomas, Founder of Intersectional Environmentalist – a climate justice collective known for its reach in environmental storytelling through social media, and Dr. Elke Weber, Professor in Energy and the Environment and in Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. Together, we examine why communicating about climate change is hard, why we need to do it anyway, and what strategies, tools and events have the biggest impact in increasing awareness of the climate crisis and motivation to develop solutions.
with Rob Hanson
Renewable natural gas (RNG), made from the decomposition of organic waste like livestock manure, is not necessarily net-zero if it’s burned to run a turbine or drive a car. But what if the RNG is not burned, but is rather pyrolyzed, breaking it down into hydrogen and another product called “carbon black,” an essential component of car tires, among other things? Then the hydrogen can be used and the carbon black can be sold in solid form instead of releasing the carbon into the atmosphere. From its Nebraska-based plant, Monolith converts renewable methane into both green hydrogen and carbon black using the world’s largest plasma torch (more about that in the episode). Now they are developing a commercial clean hydrogen operation, which they will use to create ammonia to sell for fertilizer.
Join us for our conversation with Monolith co-founder and CEO Rob Hanson to learn about methane pyrolysis, the markets for carbon-negative industrial products, and how the Inflation Reduction Act is supporting green (or clean) hydrogen production processes (like Monolith’s) in the United States.
w/ Doug Miller
More than one third of the world’s 2,000 largest publicly traded companies have made some kind of net-zero commitment, and the list is growing quickly. A critical part of those corporate plans will be securing cleanly sourced electricity for their energy needs, but that requires that there is enough fossil-free electricity available on the grid for every company that prefers to use it. In 2021, renewable energy and nuclear power, combined, accounted for only about 37% of global electricity production. How can a company ensure that their electricity comes from among those fossil-free sources? And how can companies encourage the growth of clean electrical capacity, so that it will meet the growing demand of consumers?
These kinds of questions are exactly what Doug Miller, Deputy Director of Market & Policy Innovation at the Clean Energy Buyers Institute (CEBI), aims to answer. CEBI is a non-profit organization that collaborates with policy makers, leading philanthropies, and energy market stakeholders to identify and expedite the implementation of clean energy market solutions. They have also worked closely with the World Resources Institute (WRI), who designed the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the most commonly used standards for companies to assess their carbon emissions impact. Doug joined Climate Now to explain what those standards are, why they are evolving, and some of the innovative tools that CEBI has identified that could be incorporated into the GHG Protocol to help both national electricity grids and the companies that use them achieve their decarbonization goals faster.
- Many companies are setting goals to use more (or 100%) clean energy – what obstacles stand in the way of connecting clean energy projects with the companies that want them?
- What are Energy Attribute Certificates (EACs), and how can they be used to help decarbonize the grid?
- The World Resource Institute’s Greenhouse Gas Protocol is a first stop for many companies to assess their carbon emissions, and is currently accepting public comments for its next update. How is this tool working now? What needs to be improved?