On the Grid: Let’s Get to Work 5/6/22

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On Monday night, a leaked opinion draft revealed that a majority of the Supreme Court Justices appear intent on overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark case protecting the constitutional right to abortion. The draft opinion, which was confirmed on May 3 by Chief Justice Roberts as from the Court, has rattled Americans across the political spectrum. 

You can read Third Way’s statement on the enormous implications this decision, which would be the first time the Court ripped away a Constitutional right, would have on women’s health. It also has consequences for policymaking more broadly. Trust in long-standing institutions is decaying, pushed to the breaking point by the naked displays of power and politics from leaders who claimed to be above such actions. As Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) said, this draft decision “rocks her confidence in the court.”  

Why does this matter for clean energy? Because governing is based on trust. We need our policymakers to trust each other and the American people to trust our public officials. When that trust erodes, institutions can’t work, and deals in our country’s best interest–like scaling up clean energy in the US and exporting it and fossil fuels to Europe to help counter Russian aggression–do not get done. When five Republican-appointed Supreme Court Justices “rock the confidence” of Sen. Murkowski, no naif to DC, it’s time to pay close attention. 

1. Will Gov. Newsom Save Diablo Canyon?

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Nuclear reactors have been generating reliable, carbon-free energy across the country for decades. But without sufficient upgrades, many have now reached the end of their lifespan and are actively being decommissioned. 

California may be close to hopping on this bandwagon. Over the last four years, the state has been retiring its last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, citing safety and environmental concerns. Now, in light of potential energy shortages, Governor Newsom is exploring options to keep the plant, which produces 18,000 GWh annually, running past 2025. While Newsom does not oversee the operations at Diablo Canyon, he is encouraging the owner, PG&E, to take advantage of President Biden’s new $6 billion-funded initiative to prevent nuclear plant closures. 

Whether or not the plant can remain operational has re-sparked debate across environmental groups, scientists, and clean energy activists. Nuclear advocates, in particular, are rightfully concerned that the clean energy generated at Diablo Canyon will be replaced by fossil fuels like coal or natural gas, an unfortunately common trend among shuttered nuclear plants. Preserving our fleet of existing nuclear reactors will prevent this regression back to fossil fuels and help us reach our net-zero goal in the fastest and fairest way possible. 

Read our existing memo on the importance of preserving existing nuclear reactors.

2. The (Re)Birth of American Manufacturing 

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Decarbonization within our industrial and manufacturing sectors is an important, if not the most important, tool we have to reduce our carbon emissions and reach net-zero by 2050. Yet, standing among cutting-edge clean energy technologies like advanced nuclear reactors, carbon capture devices, and hydrogen hubs, industrial policy is an often-overlooked solution. 

In a new op-ed, Third Way’s Mary Sagatelova and John Milko outline the vital role of the industrial sector in shrinking our carbon footprint and re-building our economy in the process. 

Our industrial sector manufactures products like cement and steel, and generates almost a quarter of our carbon emissions in the process. These products undergo arduous, energy-intensive processes that are difficult to decarbonize. The Biden Administration not only recognizes the significance of industrial decarbonization but has been employing every tool in its toolbox to accelerate clean manufacturing. This includes instituting a Buy Clean Task Force, introducing a federal procurement standard, and allocating $500 million within the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for clean industry demonstration projects. 

Once an industrial giant on the world stage, American manufacturing has been hollowed out by decades of cost-cutting and outsourcing. These investments, alongside those in the proposed reconciliation package, will drive clean manufacturing, rebuild the American middle class, and strengthen American leadership as global demand for clean manufacturing surges. 

Read more about clean manufacturing and the role of federal investments in supporting decarbonization initiatives.

3. Putting the FUN in Funding!

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Last week, we highlighted our recently released Appropriations Memo, which outlines specific funding recommendations for programs and offices within the Department of Energy. These recommendations from experts within the Third Way Climate and Energy Program are reflective of the Biden Administration’s decarbonization priorities. Funding allocated across these 12 key areas will scale up clean energy technology, support economic opportunities for Americans everywhere, secure our energy independence, and strengthen American leadership on the world stage. 

This week, we are once again shining a spotlight on our appropriations recommendations, but this time through a more creative outlet…memes! 

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Find (and retweet!) our entire Twitter thread 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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  • Trung Phan in Bloomberg unpacks the surprisingly massive carbon footprint of cryptocurrency. Crusoe, a Bitcoin startup, has deployed an initiative to offset gas flaring on oil fields in Wyoming, Colorado, and North Dakota, creating a model for energy-efficient data centers. 
  • Lauren Frayer in NPR reports on the smoldering temperatures across the Indian subcontinent and the country’s growing reliance on coal to offset the heat. The heatwaves, and subsequent struggle to mitigate the power outages, exemplifies the need to transition towards reliable, carbon-free energy. 
  • Michael Lewis, in his podcast series Against the Rules, explores the consequences of an alarming trend within American institutions: expert knowledge is continuously delegitimized or dismissed, and experts themselves are driven out.


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