On the Grid: US Response in a Volatile Climate 4/8/22

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This week, the latest report by the UN’s climate research body, the IPCC, highlighted the urgency of pushing for net-zero energy policy. The report warned that the combination of carbon and methane (natural gas) emissions has reached a level where keeping warm to 1.5C is very unlikely. We’ve always emphasized that climate change is similar to a chronic ailment like heart disease or diabetes – it must be constantly managed to be kept in check and lived with – and not an acute crisis that could be resolved once and for all with swift action. 

As part of this, last week we highlighted pathways the US government is considering to advance clean energy and climate resilience. This week, we’ll discuss additional steps the Biden Administration can take to secure our clean energy future, highlighting some key moments from Wednesday’s House Committee on Energy & Commerce hearing, as well as opportunities to build coalitions with our allies abroad. 

1. IPCC’s Roadmap to Global Decarbonization

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The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new report outlining pathways nations can follow to rapidly reduce carbon emissions and build out a diverse fleet of renewable energy technologies. 

Avoiding 1.5ºC of warming–the long-standing benchmark for climate scientists–is becoming increasingly difficult to reach. Curbing carbon emissions quickly and efficiently will require a massive shift to clean energy, the cost of which has fallen significantly according to the IPCC report. 

Wind and solar technologies are very important to getting the emissions reduction we need. But as we’ve long held, other clean technologies like nuclear, hydrogen, carbon capture, and carbon removal will also be essential components of our decarbonization efforts. This new report reinforces our position on the immediate need for innovation, development, and commercialization of diverse technologies like hydrogen and advanced nuclear reactors. Read the full report here

2. Partners Across the Pond

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This week, Third Way Senior Vice President for Climate Josh Freed and Deputy Director Lindsey Walter met with Labour MP Darren Jones, Chair of the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. As a leading member of the UK parliament, Jones is a champion of smart decarbonization policies that have helped make the country a global leader on climate change.

Working with and learning from our global partners is crucial to decarbonization efforts. With this in mind, Jones used his visit to the US to meet with several Congressional members, White House staff, and energy officials to discuss how the UK and US can work more closely together to support the development and deployment of every clean energy resource the world needs. 

Our conversation with Jones made one thing abundantly clear: the “special relationship” between the United States and United Kingdom is as important as ever. The value of this shared leadership on the global clean energy stage cannot be overstated. American exceptionalism has been a long-standing example to the nations looking to import our innovation and values. And our work with the United Kingdom, which shares our values and approach to deploying every technology, from off-shore wind to hydrogen, carbon capture, and nuclear can play a big role in supporting democracies’ energy sovereignty and creating viable paths to net-zero.

3. Bid Adieu to Russian HALEU

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Earlier this week, we released an update to our 2021 HALEU memo, underscoring the importance of developing a domestic high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) supply chain for advanced nuclear power plants in light of rapidly shifting dynamics in the geopolitical landscape. 

HALEU is an essential fuel source for the emerging fleet of advanced nuclear reactors. However, at present, the world’s only viable commercial supplier of HALEU is in Russia. As Russian dictator Vladimir Putin continues to bombard innocent Ukrainians, it is unequivocally clear that the US must move out of Moscow’s shadow and develop American-made alternative sources of HALEU. In our updated memo, we outline key strategic moves the Biden Administration can make to accelerate this: 

  • Assess novel HALEU supply pathways, such as downblending highly enriched uranium with natural uranium, to quickly produce fuel loads. 
  • Pump $300 million into a HALEU program to support domestic infrastructure and downblending projects. 
  • Create a “HALEU bank” through the DOE, ensuring long-term fuel supply and availability. 

Propelling our advanced nuclear industry forward not only bolsters our energy security by guaranteeing an affordable, reliable, and safe energy option, but also generates new jobs for Americans in every region of the country and positions the US as a global leader in the rapidly expanding clean energy economy.

Read more about the current nuclear landscape in our memo here

4. Russian War Crimes Continue

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Over the last few days, as Russia retreats from Kiyv and adjusts its strategy, sickening atrocities have emerged, from Bucha and Bohdanivka to other regions across Ukraine. Meanwhile, the Kremlin continues peddling a disinformation campaign, fervently denying their immoral and horrific war crimes. It is becoming increasingly evident that Vladimir Putin has grossly miscalculated. His hope that Western nations would turn a blind eye to his imperialistic power grab by virtue of their reliance on Russian energy is being proven wrong with each passing day. 

Nations are working unilaterally to switch off the spigot and sever ties with the Russian energy sector entirely. Recognizing the insanity of being stuck in the same volatile fossil fuel feedback loop, world leaders are accelerating decarbonization efforts while supporting each other, and Ukraine, through the transition. This would be helped by the U.S. becoming the Arsenal of Clean Energy, as we proposed in a March memo, which continues to get interest on Capitol Hill and with the Administration.  

Linked here are several non-profits engaging in humanitarian work in Ukraine. 

5. 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)

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)

6. What We’re Reading and Listening To

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  • Manuela Andreoni in the New York Times offers a perspective on the challenges climate advocates in Russia are facing as the war in Ukraine continues and an already authoritarian regime becomes more rigid. 
  • Robinson Meyer in the Atlantic discusses the implications of the newly released IPCC report and the harsh realities around climate goals that work to stem a 1.5ºC temperature increase.
  • Ezra Klein in his podcast series The Ezra Klein Show unpacks the interwoven dynamics of energy and geopolitics with economic historian David Yergin, examining the ongoing conflict between Russia and the West from a unique lens. 


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