On the Grid: Expanding the Climate Toolbox 6/28/22

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As you know, Third Way is a multi-issue think tank. Our colleagues on the Social Policy team have long worked on protecting women’s reproductive rights. We wanted to share the organization’s reaction to the Supreme Court action, led by a majority of ultra-conservative, Trump-appointed justices, stripping away a constitutional right with the bang of a gavel. It is the culmination of a relentless campaign by an extremist right to impose the views of a radical minority on the majority of Americans that will upend and put at risk the lives of millions of women. In particular, it will disproportionately impact women of color, those from marginalized and rural communities, and low-income people who cannot easily travel to another state for necessary care. Please read the full statement here

Working with 11 states up and down the East coast, President Biden is launching the Federal-State Offshore Wind Implementation Partnership to significantly boost our offshore wind capacity, deploying enough renewable energy by 2030 to power 10 million homes. 

This is a big deal, and not just because we’re excited to see more affordable, clean energy in our mix, but because it is being done the right way. This move is investing directly into America’s manufacturing and industrial sectors, creating thousands of good-paying jobs, involving labor, and supporting our fractured energy supply chains.  

In the midst of ongoing, multi-faceted threats to our energy and economic security, The White House is taking an “all-of-the-above” approach to strengthen American energy security. This week, we’re highlighting additional ways in which we can continue to lay a diverse, technology-inclusive foundation that will deliver cheaper and cleaner energy to Americans everywhere.

1. Building Arsenal of Clean Energy 

This week, we released the first installment of our new podcast series with Political Climate, The Arsenal of Clean Energy: Strengthening the Bonds of Clean Energy, Innovation, and Sovereignty. The series will explore the ways in which the US can lead the global transition away from petrocratic-controlled fossil fuel markets to affordable, reliable, and safe clean energy while supporting the energy independence goals of our allies. Over the next few months, we will expand on our original memo on the Arsenal of Clean Energy through engaging conversations with experts, offering diverse perspectives on timely world events.

In our first episode, Third Way’s Dr. Ellen Hughes Cromwick, The Conference Board’s Dana Peterson, and Center for American Progress’ Christy Goldfuss, discuss the question of the hour, perhaps even the decade—how can we meet today’s urgent energy demands, tackle the highest rates of inflation in 40 years, and meet our net-zero goal by 2050? 

 Listen to Building the Arsenal of Clean Energy!

2. The Low-Down on Downblending

Over the past few months, we have sounded the alarm on the issue of nuclear fuel availability. With US advanced nuclear technology steadily approaching demonstration, we continue to depend on Russia for the required fuel source, high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU). 

Thankfully, we have some options, like downblending highly-enriched uranium (HEU) into HALEU. In a new blogpost, Josh Freed, Senior Vice President for Third Way’s Climate and Energy Program, Senior Fellow for Nuclear Policy Alan Ahn and Nuclear Energy Policy Advisor Ryan Norman outline how targeted federal investments can support a temporary downblending strategy to convert small amounts of our HEU stockpile to meet the early HALEU needs of our first advanced reactor projects. 

While downblending is a crucial step to ensure that the deployment of US advanced nuclear reactors remains on schedule and in sync with our broader climate goals, building the capacity to domestically enrich and produce HALEU must remain a priority. Expanding our advanced nuclear capabilities will guarantee safe, reliable, clean energy across every corner of the country, but it will broaden economic opportunities for Americans and bolster US competitiveness on an increasingly tumultuous world stage. 

Read the blog post to learn more about the role downblending HEU can play in our immediate advanced nuclear future.

3. The Climate “Swiss Army Knife”

A longtime climate advocate, Bill Gates has gained notoriety for supporting diverse initiatives to reduce global carbon emissions. 

Gates is shining a light on a single, versatile clean fuel at our disposal–hydrogen energy–or, as he coined it, the “Swiss Army Knife of Decarbonization.” Clean hydrogen has the capability to drive down emissions by replacing fossil fuels across hard-to-abate industrial processes like steelmaking, safely storing electrical power for months at a time, and acting as an alternative fuel source in the pollution-heavy transportation sector. 

Now, the challenge ahead of us is not figuring out how to make clean hydrogen, there are already several ways to do that, but rather, how do we drive down the cost quickly and sufficiently enough to make it a viable alternative option for a variety of different industries?

Bill Gates’s climate coalition, Breakthrough Energy, supports this initiative by coordinating funding to innovative programs working on clean hydrogen commercialization and helping coordinate collaboration between private businesses and government. There is no singular answer to climate change, but if we hope to reach our net-zero emissions goals, clean hydrogen energy must be part of the solution. 

4. What We’re Reading and Listening To

  • Mary Annaïse Heglar, in Frontline, writes on the racist foundations of climate change denial, drawing a parallel to the white supremacy that has underpinned recent shootings across the country.  
  • Shannon Osaka, in Grist, discusses the challenges that climate activists have faced since Biden’s ascension to office, the disillusionment common in climate activism, and the role of protests in moving policy. 
  • Sabrina Tavernise, co-host of the New York Times The Daily podcast series, sat down with Coral Davenport, a New York Times correspondent covering energy and environmental policy, to discuss the West Virginia v. EPA Supreme Court case and the implications of the ruling on the federal governments’ ability to regulate greenhouse gasses from power plants and the broader threat a decision against EPA poses to reaching our climate goals.


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