On the Grid: Buy Clean, America! 3/31/23

On the Grid: Buy Clean, America! 3/31/23

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Carbon management – the technologies that will capture carbon during industrial processes or remove it from the air, store it, or turn it into useful products – often gets less attention than other clean energy technologies like renewables, electric vehicles, and even nuclear. This week, however, brought a lot of encouraging news from the carbon management world. 

The Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is developing a new, cheaper, and more efficient way to capture carbon and convert it into a widely-used chemical. General Electric Co., recently successfully demonstrated its’ first direct air capture prototype and announced it is investing tens of millions in the technology, and insurance giant Chubb Ltd. tightened its’ policy requirements, mandating oil and gas producers to cut methane in order to retain coverage. 

Closer to Third Way’s heart, we’re thrilled to share that the White House Council on Environmental Quality has named Third Way’s Dr. Rudra Kapila to its newest task force to guide the permitting and development of Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Sequestration on non-federal lands. Rudra has been a leading voice in carbon management for nearly two decades, and with a background promoting environmental justice, she is an invaluable addition to the task force.  

This week, Third Way and BlueGreen Alliance hosted Buy Clean America. This summit brought together government, industry, NGO, and union leaders to discuss how federal Buy Clean policies can be a powerful tool to cut industrial emissions, strengthen American manufacturing, and give US businesses and workers a competitive edge in the global market. 

As Josh Freed, Senior Vice President for Climate and Energy said, “the countries that move smart and move early are likely to get a significant share of this market and reap the economic benefits.” 

Josh Freed, Senior Vice President for Third Way’s Climate and Energy Team

And the economic benefits that we’re talking about are huge–a study commissioned by Third Way and Breakthrough Energy found that industries like clean steel alone will generate a global market worth $5.4 trillion through 2050. The US is well-positioned to take advantage of this, thanks in no large part to the workers that will be at the forefront, moving markets and themselves upward. 

“This is an opportunity to turn places back on,” White House National Climate Advisor, Ali Zaidi, stated during the Summit. “This is our opportunity to turn those [communities] into engines of economic activity.” 

Ali Zaidi, White House National Climate Advisor 

Investments in America’s industrial and manufacturing sectors aren’t just bringing jobs to communities, they’re restoring Americans’ pride in their work as they build a better future for themselves and their families. As Third Way fellow and former US congressman, Tim Ryan put it, “You can come home, and take your boots off at the end of the day and tell your kid, I'm doing my part.” 

Third Way Fellow and Former Congressman, Tim Ryan (left) and Mike Williams, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress (right) 

You can watch our entire program here. And to catch up on the importance of Buy Clean policies to our economy and our global competitiveness, you can read more in The Well News, from Josh Freed and Jason Walsh, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. 

Over the past year, countries have become keenly aware of the importance of cutting dependence on fossil fuels, and autocratic suppliers, to build energy security. But as they turn towards more affordable, reliable, secure, and clean nuclear energy, those same autocratic actors, namely Russia and China, are lining up to trap countries into a whole new kind of energy dependency. To combat these countries’ influence the US must shape up its civil nuclear export industry. 

Former Congresswoman Elaine Luria and Josh Freed, Senior Vice President for Third Way’s Climate and Energy Program, authored an op-ed in Defense News, making the case that US nuclear exports are not just about cutting carbon emissions, but fundamentally about our national security. We need to build a secure and reliable domestic nuclear supply chain to ensure that Russia and China do not dominate the global civilian nuclear market and exploit force other countries to bend to their will. 

Keeping nuclear energy free of authoritarian interference will take a lot of work. Luckily, we have a few ideas about where to start, like appointing a Civil Nuclear Policy Director in the White House to coordinate a cohesive export strategy across all levels of government and industry. And with major legislation like the International Nuclear Energy Act and the newly introduced ADVANCE Act on the table, we have begun to shape pragmatic solutions to some of our toughest hurdles, like getting advanced nuclear reactors licensed, built, and export ready. 

Over the past year, big policy wins like the Inflation Reduction Act have created momentum to get SAF, a liquid alternative to fossil-based jet fuel, off the ground. If we want to transform this emerging market into a thriving, mature industry, then we need to continue to build on this momentum, encouraging additional investment in production and deployment.

Recent legislation has already begun to lay the foundation for this, but there is still a critical piece missing. In Third Way’s newest report, we outline how the Biden Administration can fill that gap by using its existing authority to implement a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) for aviation. This would send a powerful demand signal to help address many of the financing and investment challenges facing this sector. We’re excited about the prospect of this policy for a lot of reasons, like the potential it has to decarbonize our most carbon-intensive sector. But most of all, we’re excited because of the new economic opportunities that will emerge across the country if we get serious on SAF.

  • Ruy Teixeira in the Liberal Patriot outlines how, despite historical alignment with working-class issues, Democrats have largely lost the support of the American working class. 
  • Matt Yglesias for Bloomberg, addresses concerns about clean energy development negatively impacting landscapes and props up nuclear energy as a solution to both quick decarbonization and limited space. 
  • Akshat Rathi, on Bloomberg’s Zero podcast series, sits down with Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency to discuss the organization’s history as one of the loudest advocates of the global oil industry and its recent shift to becoming one of the most important champions of clean energy.

The Climate and Energy Program live-tweeted the keynotes and panels from yesterday’s Buy Clean America summit, highlighting key discussions on how we can marshall both public and private support to drive cleaner manufacturing practices.


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