Ars Technica:

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s office knew of looming natural gas shortages on February 10, days before a deep freeze plunged much of the state into blackouts, according to documents obtained by E&E News and reviewed by Ars.

Abbott’s office first learned of the likely shortfall in a phone call from then-chair of the Public Utility Commission of Texas DeAnne Walker. In the days leading up to the power outages that began on February 15, Walker and the governor’s office spoke 31 more times.

Walker also spoke with regulators, politicians, and utilities dozens of times about the gas curtailments that threatened the state’s electrical grid. The PUC chair’s diary for the days before the outage shows her schedule dominated by concerns over gas curtailments and the impact they would have on electricity generation. Before and during the disaster, she was on more than 100 phone calls with various agencies and utilities regarding gas shortages.

After the blackouts began, Abbott appeared on Fox News to falsely assert that wind turbines were the driving force behind the outages.

Deep in the heart of Texas’ collapsing power gridWind turbines were a factor, but only a small one. Wind in Texas doesn’t produce as much power in the winter, and regulators don’t typically rely on wind turbines to provide significant amounts of power. Instead, regulators anticipated that natural gas and coal power plants would meet demand.

In public, Bill Magness, then-CEO of ERCOT, the state’s electric grid regulator, didn’t seem concerned about the approaching weather. In a virtual meeting on February 9, Magness said, “As those of you in Texas know, we do have a cold front coming this way… Operations has issued an operating condition notice just to make sure everyone is up to speed with their winterization and we’re ready for the several days of pretty frigid temperatures to come our way.” During the two-and-a-half-hour public portion of the meeting, Magness devoted just 40 seconds to the unusual weather.

The first sign of trouble came the next day, when Magness, concerned that supply wouldn’t match demand, asked customers to conserve energy. Later that day, Walker took a call from officials at energy provider Vistra Corporation, which told her that several of its power plants had received notices that natural gas supplies would be curtailed.

Curtailing the flow of gas usually happens when cold weather increases demand or damages infrastructure. In Texas, both happened. The higher demand could be anticipated, but the problems with the natural gas infrastructure, detailed in a US Department of Energy situation report, were particularly troubling. Wellheads were “freezing off,” and gas processing facilities were dropping offline due to the cold weather, sharply reducing production that would feed the region’s pipelines.

Walker noted her call with Vistra in her diary and phone log for February 10-19, which she produced at the behest of the State Senate Committee on Business and Commerce. The document provides a striking blow-by-blow account of what was happening behind the scenes as bitter winter weather brought down Texas’ grid. “I received information from Vistra Corporation that they had received notices of gas curtailments at several power plants. I notified the Governor’s office and Chairman Hancock about the information from Vistra,” she wrote, referring to State Senator Kelly Hancock, chair of the committee.

Also on February 10, Walker followed up with the chair of the Texas Railroad Commission, the regulator that oversees gas pipelines, and the leadership of the Texas House and Senate to inform them of the impending problem. She also spoke with utilities and power companies, as well as their major customers. “I began discussions with representatives of the Texas Industrial Electric Consumers, in an attempt to resolve concerns that the gas curtailment issues could raise with electric generators. I spoke with representative of generators about the impact the gas curtailment would have on generation and began discussions with the various parties to resolve those concerns,” she wrote.

Gas curtailments dominated Walker’s schedule for the next three days.

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Above – the lack of engine gives F-150 giant storage space in the Frunk.

Another feature that I predict will play well with increasingly disaster-struck middle America, the “Bi-directional” feature that would allow the truck to power a home in a blackout.


“If your F-150 Lightning is plugged in when your outage occurs, Intelligent Backup Power will automatically kick in to power your home,” said Ryan O’Gorman, Ford’s energy services lead, in a video briefing prior to the reveal. “When power is restored, the truck automatically reverts to charging its battery.” 

Solar, battery storage and energy services provider Sunrun has partnered with Ford to install the 80-amp Ford Charge Station Pro and home integration system, which comes standard with the extended range battery, to power the Intelligent Backup Power system. While they’re in the neighborhood, Sunrun will also give customers the option of installing a solar and battery system for their home. 


But arguably, this EV’s most significant innovation is its ability to run your entire home during a blackout.

Believe it or not, this battery-powered truck can really power your house when the lights go out, and better still, doing so won’t require a rat’s nest of extension cords or even a portable generator. What Ford calls Intelligent Backup Power enables this all-electric rig to feed power from its enormous battery pack through its hardwired wall charger directly into your home’s electrical system.

As you might suspect, electric cars store positively enormous amounts of energy in their batteries. After all, it takes a lot of juice to move a multi-ton vehicle at interstate speeds for hundreds of miles. When it goes on sale next year, the new Lightning will offer two battery pack sizes, the smaller of which should provide 230 miles of range and the bigger one about 300. Ford hasn’t said how large these electron reservoirs are, but we’re estimating they’ll clock in at roughly 110 and 150 kWh, respectively.

The F-150 Lightning can provide up to 9.6 kW of power output. According to Ford, that’s more than enough to fully power a house at any one time, and considering the size of the battery, it could do that for at least three days (based on a daily average of 30 kWh). The automaker says you can make that power last for up to 10 days if you ration the electricity accordingly. Kind of like hypermiling for your home.

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F-150 Reveal Video

May 20, 2021

Will this be the game-changer it needs to be? The price and performance are impressive, but I’m thinking the capability for acting as a home battery is going to be a big deal.

UPDATE: see at bottom, Ford CEO says they already have 20,000 orders since last night.


There was some lofty rhetoric when Ford and the United Auto Workers union revealed the all-electric F-150 Lighting pickup in Dearborn, Mich., on Wednesday.

A solemn voiceover declared it “an electric truck that can match the ambitions of this nation.” 

Ford CEO Jim Farley made a simpler case: “It hauls ass and tows like a beast.”

Ford is touting the much-anticipated vehicle as not just a pickup, but a mobile power plant — with a price tag designed to draw mainstream attention.

The Lightning has a starting price of just under $40,000, lower than what was widely expected, making it roughly competitive with gas-powered pickups (which currently average more than $50,000). 

When you factor in a federal tax credit, which Ford qualifies for and Tesla no longer does, it’s the cheapest electric pickup confirmed so far. 

Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at car data company Edmunds, calls that price “compelling,” noting that Ford has the advantage of “economies of scale that most companies — particularly smaller, newer entrants to this space — can only dream of.”

The F-150 Lightning will have a range of 230 or 300 miles, depending on the battery choice, and can add 54 miles of range for every 10 minutes on a fast charger. Those are not eye-popping figures — other automakers are making more ambitious promises for their battery-powered pickups.

But in addition to touting towing capacity, speedy acceleration and other on-road essentials, Ford is emphasizing what the Lightning can do at a standstill — namely, run a worksite or power a home during an emergency.

Eleven built-in outlets allow drivers to run multiple power tools at a work site or kitchen appliances at a campsite. (The new hybrid F-150 offers a similar feature). 

And when it’s plugged in at home and the power goes out, the Lightning can automatically send electricity back into your home, keeping the lights on for days, Ford says. That potential selling point that may be particularly appealing just months after devastating storms in Texas caused prolonged blackouts, which CEO Jim Farley explicitly referenced during the unveiling.

This kind of bidirectional flow of power has always been a hypothetical advantage of electric vehicles — when they aren’t actively driving, they’re giant, charged-up batteries. But for most current electric vehicle owners, it’s not easy to access that energy.

Ford isn’t the only automaker who wants to change that. Hyundai and Kia are also marketing bidirectional charging as a feature of their new electric vehicles.

More NPR:

“There’s a lot at stake here, not just for Ford, but really for the country,” says Darren Palmer, Ford’s head of battery electric vehicles. “This could be the point when people really notice electric [vehicles].” 

Ford’s not the only one hoping there’s a big pool of would-be buyers who aren’t interested in a Tesla or a Nissan Leaf but would happily spring for an electric version of their favorite pickup. 

“That vehicle is going to come in and fill a void. And if it’s affordable, I mean, it’s going to be a game changer,” says Shelley Francis, co-founder of EVHybridNoire, a network of diverse electric vehicle enthusiasts.

“It’s the No. 1-selling vehicle in the country just across the board; it’s also the No. 1-selling vehicle among African American communities,” she says. “Then when you think about rural communities … there’s an opportunity for this community to be part of this conversation.” 

Below, Ford CEO on CNBC this morning, orders already strong:

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Above, CNBC report. Below, Rachel Maddow on why this is a big effing deal.

New York Times:

Private equity has a place at the table, and so do Oprah and Jay-Z. Food giants like Nestlé are scrambling to get a foot in the door. There are implications for the climate. There are even geopolitical rumblings.

The unlikely focus of this excitement is Oatly, producer of a milk substitute made from oats that can be poured on cereal or foamed for a cappuccino. Oatly, a Swedish company, will sell shares to the public for the first time this week in an offering that could value it at $10 billion and exemplify the changes in consumer preferences that are reshaping the food business.

It’s no longer enough for food to taste good and be healthy. More people want to make sure that their ketchup, cookies or mac and cheese are not helping to melt the polar ice caps. Food production is a leading contributor to climate change, especially when animals are involved. (Cows belch methane, a potent greenhouse gas.) Milk substitutes made from soybeans, cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, hemp, rice and oats have proliferated in response to soaring demand.

“We have a bold vision for a food system that’s better for people and the planet,” Oatly declared in its prospectus for the offering. The company’s shares are expected to start trading in New York on May 20.

To justify its frothy valuation, Oatly has to convince investors that it can dominate a market where there is already a lot of competition and where big food conglomerates are just beginning to deploy their formidable resources. Nestlé, the world’s biggest producer of packaged food, unveiled its own milk alternative this month, made from peas.

Oatly cultivates an upstart image with packaging art and a logo — Oatly! — that looks hand-drawn. It advertises that it is “like milk but made for humans.” But the company is more than 25 years old and is backed by some serious money.

The majority shareholder is a partnership between an entity owned by the Chinese government and Verlinvest, a Belgian firm that invests some of the wealth of the families that control the Anheuser-Busch InBev beer empire. Blackstone, the giant private equity firm, owns a little less than 8 percent in Oatly.

The interest of heavyweight investors is confirmation that vegan food has gone mainstream, but it could also make it harder for Oatly to maintain its anti-establishment image. The company faced a backlash from some fans after Blackstone led a $200 million investment in Oatly last year. Stephen A. Schwarzman, Blackstone’s chief executive, was a steadfast supporter of former President Donald J. Trump, who has maintained that climate change is a hoax.

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A BLT battery. First comes the bread — the lithium metal anode — followed by lettuce — a coating of graphite. Next, a layer of tomatoes — the first electrolyte — and a layer of bacon — the second electrolyte. Finish it off with another layer of tomatoes and the last piece of bread — the cathode. Credit: Lisa Burrows/Harvard SEAS

Think of a battery sandwich.
A Bamwich? Hold the Mayo.

Harvard Gazette:

Long-lasting, quick-charging batteries are essential to the expansion of the electric vehicle market, but today’s lithium-ion batteries fall short of what’s needed — they’re too heavy, too expensive and take too long to charge.

For decades, researchers have tried to harness the potential of solid-state, lithium-metal batteries, which hold substantially more energy in the same volume and charge in a fraction of the time compared to traditional lithium-ion batteries.

“A lithium-metal battery is considered the holy grail for battery chemistry because of its high capacity and energy density,” said Xin Li, associate professor of materials science at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). “But the stability of these batteries has always been poor.”

Now, Li and his team have designed a stable, lithium-metal, solid-state battery that can be charged and discharged at least 10,000 times — far more cycles than have been previously demonstrated — at a high current density. The researchers paired the new design with a commercial high energy density cathode material.

This battery technology could increase the lifetime of electric vehicles to that of the gasoline cars — 10 to 15 years — without the need to replace the battery. With its high current density, the battery could pave the way for electric vehicles that can fully charge within 10 to 20 minutes.

The research is published in Nature.

“Our research shows that the solid-state battery could be fundamentally different from the commercial liquid electrolyte lithium-ion battery,” said Li. “By studying their fundamental thermodynamics, we can unlock superior performance and harness their abundant opportunities.”

The big challenge with lithium-metal batteries has always been chemistry. Lithium batteries move lithium ions from the cathode to the anode during charging. When the anode is made of lithium metal, needle-like structures called dendrites form on the surface. These structures grow like roots into the electrolyte and pierce the barrier separating the anode and cathode, causing the battery to short or even catch fire.

To overcome this challenge, Li and his team designed a multilayer battery that sandwiches different materials of varying stabilities between the anode and cathode. This multilayer, multimaterial battery prevents the penetration of lithium dendrites not by stopping them altogether but rather by controlling and containing them.

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Rep Andrew Clyde (R -Ga) helps colleagues barricade a door against capitol rioters on January 6

Following reports and video of Rep Andrew Clyde’s remarks about the Capitol riots of January 6, Tom Williams, Photog for Roll Call, tweeted this:

So, doing a little checking, I googled Rep. Clyde’s position on climate change. You’ll be shocked at what I found.

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