On the Grid: The Arsenal of Clean Energy 3/18/22

On the Grid: The Arsenal of Clean Energy 3/18/22

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Over the past week, we’ve seen Vladimir Putin’s demagogic populism reach new heights. The Kremlin has further restricted personal rights and freedoms in Russia in an attempt to control the narrative about its unjustified wars. An international coalition has marshaled responses to Russian aggression, with some countries targeting sanctions to wean Europe off Russian oil and gas.

President Biden has made it clear that the United States, with its long history of protecting democratic ideals, deeply opposes Putin’s savage efforts to destroy a sovereign democracy. But defending democracy looks different than it did eighty years ago, during the last large land war in Europe. Today’s On the Grid will highlight how the United States can resurrect its role as the “Arsenal of Democracy” for 2022, as the “Arsenal of Clean Energy.”

Next week, we’re taking a break. But stay tuned, we’ll see you the following week. 

1. The Arsenal of Clean Energy

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From the moment Russian tanks amassed at the Ukrainian border, Europe’s heavy dependence on Russian oil and gas became worryingly apparent. The European Union draws 40% of its natural gas from Russia. Now, as Russia has brazenly stirred war in the region, nations are facing a crisis on two fronts: a large-scale military conflict in the European theater and limited non-Russian energy options. 

This week, Third Way’s Josh Freed, wrote in Politico Magazine how the United States can leverage its long-standing history of defending democracy; by becoming the “Arsenal of Clean Energy” and helping Europe meet the demand for clean, firm energy. 

He presents a thorough plan that the Biden Administration could deploy now:  

  1. The United States must provide a short-term lifeline to Europe, in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG), to ensure their ability to quickly and affordably wean off Russian energy. In the long-term, reliance on any fossil fuel is unsustainable, which is why we must also support Europe’s transition to efficient, lower-carbon energy.
  2. Our allies around the world value the standards of American technology. To ensure we are able to meet this international challenge, we must build out and invest in the export of American clean energy technologies like hydrogen, nuclear, and carbon capture,  through a decade long $10B a year Clean Energy Sovereignty Fund, which will help strengthen American and European supply chains, and economic conditions.  
  3. This would be a massive undertaking and must be steered by the right people in the executive branch. As such, President Biden must create a new position on the White House National Security Council to manage clean energy and the various agencies that will be needed to work together to get things done. Also, President Biden must fill the long-vacant seats on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to accelerate our ability to export one of our greatest decarbonization tools, nuclear energy.

Read Josh’s Twitter thread here

2. 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!

Communications Coordinator: This person will craft and implement communications rollout strategies for clean energy products and research, pitch to and manage relationships with climate and energy press, manage our social media strategy, and support the email and marketing needs of the climate and energy program. You’ll also get to work on this very newsletter! (1 year of experience in communications or clean energy work preferred)

Deputy Director for Innovation and 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. (5+ years of experience in clean energy policy)

3. What We’re Reading

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  • Matt Yglesias in Slow Boring unpacks the politics underneath the climate and clean energy space, offering an honest critique of both climate activists and policymakers in how they approach decarbonization policies. 
  • Gregory Barber writes in Wired that the Russian invasion of Ukraine created another energy hurdle. Advanced nuclear reactors require high assay low enriched uranium (HALEU), and the fuel is largely produced in the Russian Federation. As the US increases its sanctions to force President Putin’s hand and help Europe move toward cleaner forms of energy, the Department of Energy is strategically increasing its supplies as investment and optimism in the industry has increased in the last decade. Recently, Congress appropriated $45 million for HALEU in the FY22 omnibus.
  • Jeff Goodell writes in Rolling Stone how the global economic and political landscape has shifted since Vladimir Putin first took power, much of which is owed to climate change. Could that ultimately play a part in how this all plays out? 


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