The Weekend Wonk: Deniers Pretend to Turn Back Clock, but Progress Won’t be Stopped
March 17, 2017
So perhaps it is no surprise that Mr. Trump’s first budget took direct aim at basic scientific and medical research.
Still, the extent of the cuts in the proposed budget unveiled early Thursday shocked scientists, researchers and program administrators. The reductions include $5.8 billion, or 18 percent, from the National Institutes of Health, which fund thousands of researchers working on cancer and other diseases, and $900 million, or a little less than 20 percent, from the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which funds the national laboratories, considered among the crown jewels of basic research in the world.
The White House is also proposing to eliminate climate science programs throughout the federal government, including at the Environmental Protection Agency.
“As to climate change, I think the president was fairly straightforward: We’re not spending money on that anymore,” Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said at a White House briefing on Thursday. “We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.”
The budget also calls for eliminating some programs that help bridge the divide between basic research and commercialization. Among the most prominent of these is the Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy, known as ARPA-E, the Energy Department office that funds research in innovative energy technologies with a goal of getting products to market. Its annual appropriation of about $300 million would be eliminated.
James J. Greenberger, the executive director of NAATBatt International, a trade group for the advanced battery industry, said ARPA-E had been of enormous benefit to the industry.
“We’re absolutely stunned by it,” Mr. Greenberger said of the agency’s potential elimination, which he announced to industry leaders gathered at his group’s annual conference in Arizona. “I don’t know what’s going through the administration’s head. It’s almost surreal.”
Tesla is ready to power some grids. And not just in California or Australia.
Last week, Elon Musk wagered he could address South Australia’s energy crisis with 100 megawatts (MW) of batteries installed in 100 days or less—“or it’s free.” The exchange blew up on Twitter and led to phone calls between Musk and leading Australian politicians, including Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. (Ukraine Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroisman later chimed in that he’s interested, too.)
An analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance finds that such a deal wouldn’t only alleviate South Australia’s blackouts, but would be profitable—at an anticipated cost of roughly $169 million (A$220 million). Battery prices are tumbling fast—by almost half just since 2014—and such mega projects are increasingly popping up around the world. More on that below. But first we should clarify Tesla’s pricing details, since there’s been some confusion out there.
There’s been no formal proposal yet, but what’s being discussed in Australia would cost significantly more than many circulating estimates, some as low as $25 million. Here’s what we know so far: Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of Sydney-based software company Atlassian Corp., initially approached Musk about providing 100 MW of power, roughly the size of an electricity shortfall suffered by South Australia in a February blackout. 1 Megawatts measure the amount of power a battery can provide at any given time. Tesla’s battery projects typically supply a four-hour duration for each megawatt, so it’s reasonable to assume that South Australia’s 100 MW project would entail a 400 MWh battery installation. That would make it Australia’s biggest battery capacity project, and one of the biggest on Earth.
In the Twitter exchange, Musk revealed Tesla’s pricing for battery packs: $250 per kilowatt hour when deployed in large projects. It was the first time he had disclosed pack pricing, but Musk was careful to exclude the costs of shipping, installation, and related hardware, which are highly variable. They’re also highly significant, as they can amount to more than half the total bill.
Even so, Tesla’s pricing is a good deal, and in line with where the entire industry is heading in 2017. The total price, according to BNEF estimates, would come to about $422/kWh, or $169 million.
Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions were flat for a third straight year in 2016 even as the global economy grew, according to the International Energy Agency, signaling a continuing decoupling of emissions and economic activity. This was the result of growing renewable power generation, switches from coal to natural gas, improvements in energy efficiency, as well as structural changes in the global economy.
Global emissions from the energy sector stood at 32.1 gigatonnes last year, the same as the previous two years, while the global economy grew 3.1%, according to estimates from the IEA. Carbon dioxide emissions declined in the United States and China, the world’s two-largest energy users and emitters, and were stable in Europe, offsetting increases in most of the rest of the world.
The biggest drop came from the United States, where carbon dioxide emissions fell 3%, or 160 million tonnes, while the economy grew by 1.6%. The decline was driven by a surge in shale gas supplies and more attractive renewable power that displaced coal. Emissions in the United States last year were at their lowest level since 1992, a period during which the economy grew by 80%.
“These three years of flat emissions in a growing global economy signal an emerging trend and that is certainly a cause for optimism, even if it is too soon to say that global emissions have definitely peaked,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director. “They are also a sign that market dynamics and technological improvements matter. This is especially true in the United States, where abundant shale gas supplies have become a cheap power source.”
UPDATE: Norwegian expert Glenn Peters tweets an agreement =