California Will Ban ICE: Michigan Commits to Carbon Neutrality

“The science is clear – climate change is directly impacting our public health, environment, our economy, and our families,” said Governor Whitmer. “This dangerous reality is already causing harm throughout Michigan, with communities of color and low-income Michiganders suffering disproportionately, which is why I’m taking immediate action to protect our state. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to leave them a cleaner, safer and healthier world.

“Through comprehensive and aggressive steps, we will combat the climate crisis by formally setting and relentlessly pursuing a goal of statewide decarbonization by 2050. These bold actions will provide critical protections for our environment, economy, and public health, now and for years to come. It will also position Michigan to attract a new generation of clean energy and energy efficiency jobs.”

Executive Directive 2020-10 formally sets the goal of economic decarbonization in Michigan by 2050. Transitioning to carbon neutrality will mitigate the future harms of climate change and enable Michigan to take full advantage of the ongoing global energy transformation—from the jobs it will generate for our skilled workforce, to the protections it will provide for natural resources, to the savings it will bring to communities and utility customers.

To ensure steady progress toward this goal, and to prevent irreparable harm to Michigan’s ecosystem, residents, and businesses in the interim, the Executive Directive further provides that Michigan will aim to achieve a 28 percent reduction below 1990 levels in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

Additionally, the Department of the Treasury must develop and implement an Energy Transition Impact Project to assist communities in maintaining critical services and ensuring high quality employment for workers while moving toward a more sustainable future when faced with the closure of energy facilities.

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I had a wide ranging interview with Daniel Swain of UCLA on the current wave of west coast wildfires, and other topics.
That video will be coming from Yale soon, but I wanted to dole out some of the choice insights in the meantime.
Meanwhile, more fiery weather on the way.

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Breaking Down Battery Day

September 23, 2020

The Verge:

Here are the main takeaways from Tesla’s 2020 battery day: 

Tabless Batteries Will Improve Tesla’s Range

Tesla plans to manufacture its own “tabless” batteries, which will improve its vehicles’ range and power. The new batteries will be produced in-house, which Musk says will reduce costs and bring the sale price of Tesla electric cars closer to gasoline-powered cars. It’s expected to lower Tesla’s cost per kilowatt hour, a key metric used to measure electric vehicles’ battery packs. The tabless cells (Tesla is removing the tab that connects the cell and what it’s powering), which Tesla is calling the 4860 cells, will make its batteries six times more powerful and increase range by 16 percent. 

Tesla currently sources its batteries from Panasonic, and is likely to keep doing so for some time, but moving battery production in house has been on Musk’s to-do list for some time; in 2018 a shortage of those cells added to production delays. Musk has said the pace of battery production at Panasonic had slowed production of both the Model 3 and the Model Y. 

Model S Plaid will cost $139,990 and be Available in 2021

Musk has been teasing the Plaid powertrain for a while, which will be a step above its Ludicrous model. It will have a range between charges of 520 miles, get from 0-60 mph in under two seconds, and a top speed of 200 mph. The price is listed on Tesla’s website at $139,990. Musk had noted in the past that a Plaid trim level would “cost more than our current offerings,” which it does. It will be available in the Model S in late 2021. 

A New Cathode Plant is Coming … Eventually

Musk said Tesla will build a new cathode plant for its batteries in North America, part of its quest to reduce supply chain costs and simplify cathode production. It’s also making improvements to its process that will make cathodes 76 percent cheaper, and produce zero wastewater. The company also plans to diversify the cathodes it uses, because of low nickel supplies.

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Here’s what happens to top level decision makers after a 30 year war on science.

A member of VP Pence’s virus response team quits and comes forward.

New report from Deloitte meant to curb your enthusiasm for big decarb plans.

What it basically says is that, if we’re going to do this, we have to get our butts in gear, and it will take a historic, unprecedented effort.
Got it.
That said, today is “Battery Day” – let’s see what it brings. (live at link – at 4:30 EST)

Greentech Media:

U.S. utilities can’t reach their ambitious decarbonization goals unless they reduce their planned reliance on natural gas, find ways to “baseload” solar and wind power with long-duration storage or substitute zero-carbon fuels, and radically expand energy efficiency, demand response and the power and flexibility of customer-owned distributed energy resources. 

So says a new report from Deloitte highlighting the known, yet often underappreciated, challenges faced by utilities across the country promising to zero out their carbon impact by midcentury. “The math doesn’t yet add up,” the report finds, citing “significant gaps” between the decarbonization targets of major utilities and their current plans for retiring fossil-fuel plants. 

That’s not news to those who’ve been closely tracking plans to reach net-zero carbon from major U.S. utilities such as Duke EnergyDominion EnergySouthern Company and Xcel Energy. Each still plans to build new natural-gas power plants in the near term, despite the additional emissions they will cause. And each relies on as-yet-uneconomical technologies, such as long-duration energy storage, net-carbon-neutral fuels to replace fossil natural gas, and carbon capture and storage, to reach the final goal. 

The U.S. electric grid relies on fossil fuels for 63 percent of its generation, and according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, current trends will reduce but not eliminate those emissions by 2050, the report states. 

To fix this, Deloitte suggests a three-stage approach, centered on technologies and approaches that will be cost-effective for the decade they’re targeted for — a vital consideration if decarbonization isn’t to lead to skyrocketing electricity costs and popular backlash. This chart indicates the carbon-abatement values of different technologies compared to replacing coal plants, indicating how utilities might want to stage their deployment over the next 30 years. 

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Bloomberg Green:

Nestled among spruce forests in an Alpine valley in southern Austria, a workshop was the first some two decades ago, to begin manufacturing a green new material that’s now super-sizing wooden buildings and speeding the adoption of a solution to mitigate climate change. 

“We can build very quickly and cleanly with it and that’s the key,” said Marco Huter, a 57-year-old executive surrounded by giant slabs of cross-laminated timber, called CLT, at his KLH Massivholz GmbH factory.

Huter had to double capacity in the midst of coronavirus lockdowns to satisfy booming global demand for the mass timber he produces. Developers are adopting the material to reduce their carbon footprints while also cutting the cost and time needed to construct high rises, he said.

CLT uses a high-tech manufacturing process that turns ordinary wooden planks, often made from the nearby Spruce trees, into structures that can bear thousands of tons of weight. Architects from Australia to Scandinavia and the U.S.have been buying from Huter as they leapfrog each other in a race to construct the world’s tallest wooden skyscraper. Vienna made an entire new city quarter out of CLT. Designers in Japan have planned a 350-meter (1,148-foot) tower.

Huter pointed to a project at 55 Southbank Boulevard in Melbourne, Australia which used his timber to add 10 stories onto a six-floor building, more than doubling its height and living space in less than a year. Because wood weighs just 30% of concrete, CLT is being used to expand scarce space in cities by building higher. Construction time is quicker than pouring concrete on site, resulting in lower labor and equipment costs.

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Looking Again at Geothermal

September 21, 2020

Breakthrough Institute:

US and global expectations for geothermal technology are quite modest today, in part because it’s use has been limited to where geothermal energy can be easily accessed — in the western US and in geologically active countries like Iceland and Indonesia.

That could be changing thanks to recent advances in “Enhanced” Geothermal Systems (EGS). This new technology gives reason to think geothermal’s potential in the US and worldwide is much higher than typically assumed.

But that potential is not a given. If a future with high geothermal capacity is to be realized, EGS requires smart innovation policy to accelerate its deployment and bring down costs.

Geothermal has never truly been a priority for clean energy development in the US. The “forgotten renewable” generated only 0.4% of US electricity in 2019, which accounts for a whopping 20% of geothermal’s entire global electricity production. Outside of a few plants in California and four other western states, there are no existing US geothermal power plants. Despite its unique benefits and lack of emissions, it is relatively expensive and there is scant mention of it as a linchpin of proposed decarbonization plans.

A seminal 2019 Department of Energy report on geothermal, GeoVision: Harnessing the Heat Beneath our Feet, suggests there might be as much as 120 gigawatts of US geothermal electricity potential by 2050 in a best-case scenario — certainly major growth over today’s ~2.5GW, but far short of technologies like nuclear or solar on a ~1500GW and growing grid.

But this modest estimate fails to consider just how large the potential is for EGS costs to decline. Thanks mostly to the shale revolution’s breakthroughs on drilling with diamond drill bits and directional drilling, we have gotten much better at drilling deep holes cheaply, making geothermal more widely feasible for development. (Ironically, those breakthroughs in the natural gas sector were first discovered from early geothermal research.) One estimate quantifies the increase in access at around 1300 times what used to be available only using conventional geothermal extraction techniques. In the United States, most of this energy is west of the Rocky Mountains (shown below).

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I ate, I think, 4 of these things last week. I go in streaks.
If you’re on the road and looking for a less compromised meal, it’s a good choice.

Apparently the lockdown has encouraged a lot families to experiment with meatless meats


The prevalence of plant-based burgers in grocery stores across the US has produced a surprisingly new trend: the majority of sales of the plant-based Impossible Burger come at the expense of animal-derived meat. That data comes from Chicago-based analytics company, Numerator. Impossible Foods’ sales now position it as one of America’s fastest-growing brands and the leading driver of growth in the overall plant-based food category.

There’s one important stat that stands out among them all in this trend toward replacing meats with plant-based foods: 9 out of 10 people who buy Impossible Burger regularly eat animal-derived foods.

“There’s a greater concern for food safety; there’s been a lot more attention to how meat is produced in the media. People are trying to figure out safer ways to find what they’re looking for, and plant-based meat provides not only a great increase in food safety, but also in environmental sustainability,” Matt Ball, a senior communications specialist at the Good Food Institute, told Forbes.

Chicago-based analytics company Numerator analyzed consumer buying habits of the Impossible Burger in the most recent 13-week period. Here are the stats.

  • 21 cents for every dollar spent on Impossible Burger at brick-and-mortar grocery stores is incremental to the entire meat category (which includes plant- and animal-based meat) — in other words, Impossible Burger gets consumers to spend 21% more on all categories of meat.
  • 78 cents per dollar comes from consumers who are shifting their purchases to Impossible Burger from other categories of plant- and animal-based meat.
  • 92% of Impossible Burger sales come directly at the expense of animal-derived meats — thus, Impossible Burger is displacing animal-derived foods for 72% of total purchases.

Part of this surge has to do with changing consumer lifestyle habits during COVID-19. Global consumer research shows that the home continues to be the focus for living, working, and shopping, despite restrictions lifting. Consumers’ personal situations are influencing attitudes and behavior, including levels of comfort venturing out. They are shopping mindfully and cost-consciously, with demand for local, sustainable, and value brands rising.

In essence, health, safety, and finances continue to impact consumers’ attitudes and behavior, and those qualities are reflected in Impossible Burger sales. Before the pandemic, the Impossible Burger was available in fewer than 150 grocery stores. Impossible Foods’ retail growth comes particularly from Americans trying Impossible Burger for the first time; the percentage of first-time customers has doubled each month since April. In the past 6 months, Impossible Burger sales have increased 77-fold and are now available at 11,000 retail locations in all 50 states, including Kroger, Trader Joe’s, and Walmart. Starting this month, Impossible Burger is rolling out at nearly 1,500 Target stores nationwide.

“Three out of four Americans now live within 10 miles of a grocery store where they can buy Impossible Burger. And when people cook it at home, they start telling friends and family about it,” Impossible Foods Senior Vice President for Sales Dan Greene said. “Our retail surge has become a powerful flywheel for long-term growth.”

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