On the Grid: Actionable Solutions, This Earth Day 4/22/22

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Today, we celebrate 52 years of advocacy that have fundamentally shifted our relationship with the natural world. But recently, greenwashing and scapegoating have left an ugly stain on the legacy that early activists built, as they climbed out of the sludge and grime left behind by the fossil fuel industry. 

We’ve all seen the Earth Day-branded posts and emails reminding us to conserve water, plant a tree, or even avoid meat for the day. While these are good ideas on their own, individual actions, done once a year, won’t meet the scale of an issue as mammoth as global climate change. We need tangible, long-term solutions.

That’s why, this week, we’re uplifting a diverse set of innovative approaches that will cut carbon pollution. These aren’t one-and-done policies, but strategies that will get us to net-zero emissions by 2050 in the fastest and fairest way possible.  

1. Saving Our Largest Source of Carbon-Free Power

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With an average age of 40 years, America’s initial fleet of nuclear reactors needs upgrades to remain the backbone of the nation’s firm, clean electricity. Rising costs and economic pressures have closed a total of twelve US reactors since 2012, replaced with cheaper, dirtier fossil fuels. Now, with seven additional plants scheduled to be shut down by 2025, we are slowly replacing our largest source of clean electricity with carbon-heavy energy. The Biden-Harris Administration, recognizing the vital role of nuclear energy in our decarbonization goals, is taking steps to preserve American nuclear energy. 

On Tuesday, the Department of Energy announced a $6 billion initiative to save struggling nuclear power plants across the country. Hard hit plant owners and operators will be able to apply for funding through the Civil Nuclear Credit Program (CNC), established under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The program will prioritize plants already slated for retirement, preventing early closures and supporting local communities by protecting thousands of good-paying jobs.  

This announcement reinforces our position on the importance of preserving our existing nuclear fleet while simultaneously deploying and commercializing advanced nuclear technology. 

Watch our video outlining why we need to protect our existing nuclear power plants and ensure their part in a technology-inclusive path towards net-zero. 

2. Show and tell with the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations

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Riding on the momentum of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s passage at the end of 2021, the Department of Energy announced a newly hatched Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED). The five-year program, flush with $21 billion, will manage large-scale demonstration and pilot projects to accelerate the deployment of low-carbon technologies. This will include advanced nuclear energy, carbon capture and storage, and clean hydrogen, among others. 

In our recent joint blog post, we highlight how the office came to be and two sets of organizational recommendations to help ensure the commercialization of emerging clean energy technologies. 

Innovation is an ongoing process. Over the next five years, there will be a whole new slate of innovative clean energy solutions that will need federal funding and support to be demonstrated and deployed. 

Read our full joint blog post here.

3. Pedal to the Metal: Electric Vehicle Batteries and the Critical Minerals Supply Chain

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On Thursday, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a field hearing with a diverse group of witnesses from to discuss the chaos in the global mineral supply chain and the impact on electric vehicles (EVs). 

Electrification of our transportation sector is essential to meet our net-zero emissions goals by 2050. Unfortunately, EV battery cell production is currently less than 10% of projected market demand over the next ten years, and supply chain bottlenecks are stretching every component thinner and thinner. 

While Committee Members and witnesses discussed a wide array of research and funding opportunities to address growing concerns, one thing was abundantly clear: The US has the funding, mineral resources, industrial capability, and talent to build out a secure, fully domestic EV supply chain. Our labor and environmental standards will help position us as leaders in the global EV market. 

Witnesses also highlighted the urgent need to look ahead. By developing a roadmap that anticipates future needs, such as mineral recycling and battery pack recovery, we can start to build out the industrial base needed to incentivize and best support American manufacturers. 

Watch the entirety of the hearing here

4. We’re Hiring

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The clean energy policy conversation is expanding…and so are we! The Climate and Energy Program is looking for people with talent and a passion for climate solutions to fill two new roles on our team. If you’ve got anyone in your mental rolodex who you think might be a fit, please send them our way. And if you wanted to circulate these job postings more broadly with your networks, we wouldn’t mind that either!

Executive Coordinator: This person will manage scheduling, meeting set-up, and meeting and calendar logistics for the Senior Vice-President, as well as provide background research in preparation for meetings and events, plan logistics of online and in-person events, prepare expense reports, and file consultant invoices and reimbursements. (1 year of relevant work experience preferred)

Policy Advisor for Transportation: This person will focus predominantly on policies to decarbonize the aviation sector by conducting original-source research and analysis, and authoring high-impact written reports, memos, and op-eds to better understand and explain the importance of policies, federal funding changes, and technologies that are necessary to eliminate emissions from aviation and provide associated benefits for the US economy, jobs, security, public health, and climate. (1 year of experience in transportation, clean fuels policy, or a relevant field)

Deputy Director for Innovation and Clean Industry: This person will help set policy, advocacy, and product strategy and supervise multiple team members working on issues surrounding energy innovation, carbon management, and industrial decarbonization while overseeing in-depth research and quantitative analysis to better understand and explain our policy goals in specific issue areas that relate to American clean energy innovation, deployment, and competitiveness. (5+ years of experience in clean energy policy)

5. What We’re Reading and Listening To

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  • Gernot Wagner in Bloomberg offers an optimistic perspective on the trend of businesses announcing net-zero commitments, marking a cultural transformation in the private sector’s role in our wider decarbonization efforts. 
  • The Washington Post Editorial Board at discussed how the Biden Administration’s expansion of drilling in the short-term, as a direct response to Russia’s gas price hike, does not contradict its’ broader climate goals. 
  • Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal in the Odd Lots podcast series discussed bottlenecks in the critical mineral supply chain and how that is hampering our transition to electric vehicles. Featured guest, James Frith, a lithium battery expert, unpacked the path forward for lithium-ion technology and the long-term trajectory of battery development in light of the new turmoil in the commodities market.


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