Umair Haque in Medium:

DeSantis has made Florida economically attractive. At least in the short term. In an Age of Extinction, every penny you can save counts. Now, of course, it hardly takes a genius to see the problem that arises next: without a tax base, good luck having working infrastructure. And so Florida has some of the nation’s worst…from schools, to dams, to drinking water and so forth. But the long run doesn’t matter in this form of negative politics. It’s just about amassing power, now.

As people move to Florida, of course, there’s the threat of demographic change unseating a figure like a demagogue. But that threat’s often a hollow one, because — well, think about why those people moved there in the first place. For the short term gains. So if someone comes along and says, hey, I’m going to raise your taxes, so we can have decent infrastructure, and by the way, I’m going to undo all those book bans…how many votes are they really likely to garner?

This is how negative politics works. The economic short-termism goes hand in hand with the…fascism, more or less. I don’t know what else, really, to call book bans, criminalizing teachers, “don’t say gay,” and all the rest of it. It’s textbook neo-fascism, really, especially when you understand that the, uh, LOL, Nazis, began their attacks on civil society in much the same way.

So. Florida shows us a template of negative politics in the Age of Extinction. It goes like this. Hook people — who are growing poorer, fast, as inflation bites, and real incomes fall — with low, low taxes. Meanwhile, corrode institutions, norms, and values, scapegoat innocents, do the whole fascist shuffle down into the abyss. And trust that by and large, people will look the other way. After all, you’ve made a bargain with them: you’re going to give them those low taxes, and they’re going to let you…do your thing.

Meanwhile, while this dance of folly goes on, nobody’s planning for the inevitable, which is, LOL, in a place like Florida, already happening. Good luck getting insurance on that new home. But what does it matter? Remember, you’re just in it for the short term.

The Intercept:

FLORIDA GOV. RON DESANTIS and his political action committee have received millions of dollars from insurance stakeholders as he has overseen massive giveaways to the insurance industry, according to a new report. Florida homeowners, meanwhile, face ballooning insurance prices and are under increasing economic strain in one of the states hardest hit by climate change.

The governor’s committee and the Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC raked in $3.9 million from the insurance industry since its formation in 2018, according to a report released Wednesday by Hedge Clippers, a campaign organized by the Center for Popular Democracy, “including more than $150,000 in one day from dozens of State Farm agents.” The governor’s inaugural fund was also backed by a combined $125,000 from two property casualty insurers, People’s Trust Insurance and a subsidiary of Heritage Insurance.

“DeSantis is not only failing to hold the insurance industry accountable,” reads the report. “Critically, he is failing to bring down rates for Florida homeowners.” The American Federation of Teachers and Florida Rising, a grassroots voting rights and organizing group, also contributed to the report, titled “How Ron DeSantis Sold Out Florida Homeowners.”

Los Angeles Times:

The most important test for contemporary governors has been the pandemic. Nearly from the outset, DeSantis accepted the unfounded claims by a cadre of unqualified theorists that the proper approach was to focus protection on the most vulnerable population — the elderly — and allow the virus to roam free among everyone else in a quest for “herd immunity.” 

It didn’t work. 

Up-to-date figures place Florida’s COVID death rate of 411 per 100,000 population at 10th worst in the nation; California, with a rate of 259.4, ranks 42nd. If California had Florida’s death rate, its COVID toll would be 161,000, rather than 102,500. Florida has recorded about 88,300 deaths. If it had California’s death rate, about 32,000 Floridians would have been spared.

DeSantis’ defenders point out that Florida has the second-highest percentage of residents 65 and older in the nation. But its death rate is almost twice that of Maine, the state with the oldest demographics, and higher than the nine other states with the highest percentage of residents 65 and older. 

The chief distinction between Florida and those other states is DeSantis. He has waged war on anti-pandemic policies. He has demonized Anthony Fauci, who as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was the nation’s most respected epidemiological expert — though a target of the ignorant far right. There was no reason for DeSantis to do this, except to curry partisan favor with the right wing. 

DeSantis installed a known COVID “crank,” Joseph Ladapo, as his state’s surgeon general. Together they have mounted an attack on COVID vaccines, which are indisputably safe and effective in reducing illness and death from the virus. 

Ladapo has been an advocate of treatments for COVID such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, which have been shown to be useless for the purpose. He was recently reported to have personally altered a scientific study to exaggerate the health risks of COVID vaccines for young men; legitimate scientific data show the risk to be negligible, and lower than the risks from contracting the disease.

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In a very short time, problematic minerals like cobalt are being designed out of EVs, as performance continues to improve.

The Driven (Australia):

Chinese manufacturer Gotion High-Tech has announced a new battery pack will go into mass production in 2024 that it says will deliver range of up to 1,000kms for a single charge and could last two million kms.

The company says the manganese doped L600 LMFP Astroinno will be able to do 4,000 full cycles at room temperature, and at high temperature will get 1800 cycles and over 1500 cycles of 18-minute fast charging.

These incredibly high cycle numbers mean the battery could essentially last 2 million km before it starts to deteriorate. To put that into context, the average Australian car travels around 15,000 km per year so it would take 130 years worth of average driving to reach 2 million km mark.

Gotion High-Tech says the battery single-cell density is 240Wh/kg and that improvements in pack design have increased overall battery pack energy density to a point where 1000km range pack is possible with the highly durable chemistry.

“Astroinno L600 LMFP battery cell, which has passed all safety tests, has a weight energy density of 240Wh/kg, a volume energy density of 525Wh/L, a cycle life of 4000 times at room temperature, and a cycle life of 1800 times at high temperatures,” said executive president of the international business unit of Gotion High-Tech Dr. Cheng Qian.

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Nuclear, Solar, Wind, Hydro, efficiency, all kicking in at once.

Business Insider:

Finland was dealing with an unusual problem on Wednesday: clean electricity that was so abundant it sent energy prices into the negative.

While much of Europe was facing an energy crisis, the Nordic country reported that its spot energy prices dropped below zero before noon. 

This meant that the average energy price for the day was “slightly” below zero, Jukka Ruusunen, the CEO of Finland’s grid operator, Fingrid, told the Finnish public broadcaster Yle

In practice, it doesn’t appear any ordinary Finns are being paid to consume electricity. People pay a markup on the electricity, and often pay agreed rates for power instead of the raw market price.

The price drop was driven by an unexpected glut of renewable energy and Finns cutting back on energy use because of the crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The news is a remarkable turnaround for a country that only a few months ago told its people to watch their energy consumption.

“Last winter, the only thing people could talk about was where to get more electricity. Now we are thinking hard about how to limit production. We have gone from one extreme to another,” Ruusunen told Yle.

The country faced an energy crisis after it banned energy imports from its neighbor Russia as part of the global backlash after it invaded Ukraine.

But a new nuclear reactor was brought online in April this year and provided a significant new stream of power for Finland’s population, around 5.5 million people.

Olkiluoto 3, the first new nuclear reactor to be opened in Europe in more than 15 years, brought the price of electricity in Finland down by 75%, from 245.98 euros per megawatt-hour in December to 60.55 euros per megawatt-hour in April, according to The National.

The country aims to become carbon neutral by 2035 and has been pushing to introduce renewable energy solutions. Ruusunen told the National that Finland wanted wind to become its primary power source by 2027.

This is also contributing to the drop in energy prices. Excessive meltwater — which has caused flood warnings in several northern European countries — is pushing Finland’s hydroelectric plants into overdrive and giving plentiful electricity.

“During spring floods, there is often this kind of forced production because production cannot be slowed down. Due to the huge amount of water, hydropower often has a poor capacity to regulate in spring,” Ruusunen said.


Ukraine’s defence ministry on Friday said Russia was planning to simulate a major accident at a nuclear power station controlled by pro-Moscow forces to try to thwart a long-planned Ukrainian counteroffensive to retake territory occupied by Russia.

The Zaporizhzhia plant, which lies in an area of Russian-occupied southern Ukraine, is Europe’s biggest nuclear power station and the area has been repeatedly hit by shelling that both sides blame each other for.

The defence ministry’s intelligence directorate said Russian forces would soon shell the plant and then announce a radiation leak. This would force an investigation by international authorities, during which all hostilities would be stopped.

The directorate statement, posted on Telegram, did not provide any proof. It said Russia had disrupted the planned rotation of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, who are based at the plant.

The Vienna-based IAEA, which frequently posts updates on the plant, has made no mention of any disruption.

Will the plucky rebels survive?

Wind, solar and batteries have been so successful under Texas’ minimally regulated, heavily market based grid, that fossil billionaires have had a values clarifying moment, and activated the Death Star.

Screw that free market capitalism stuff. This is about our money. Get me the Texas legislature on the line. All of them.

Houston Chronicle (paywall):

Texas’ oil and gas empire has struck back, convincing state senators to launch a last-ditch effort to annihilate the clean energy industry and grant natural gas producers a near monopoly on generating electricity.

With Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s approval, state Sen. Charles Schwertner allowed Republican colleagues to add regressive amendments to a must-pass bill, amendments that would shut down many existing wind and solar facilities and make new clean energy projects nearly impossible.

The pro-climate change party’s use of the nuclear option surprised insiders who thought Schwertner and lawmakers in the Texas House had negotiated a reasonably pro-fossil fuel package of laws governing the electric grid. But the compromise did not satisfy oil and gas billionaires who give generously to the GOP.

The Texas Legislature only meets in regular session for 140 days every two years, so lawmakers and lobbyists have been in a mad rush since January to meet the May 28 deadline to pass new laws. Fossil fuel lobbyists and their allies started the session strong, convincing lawmakers to introduce dozens of bills to kneecap clean energy and guarantee Texas’ reliance on natural gas for generations.

Destroying the clean energy business would raise Texans’ electricity bills because wind and solar energy are the least expensive methods of generating electricity. They have saved customers $31.5 billion in wholesale electricity costs over the past 12 years, the Texas Consumers Association reported.

Wall Street Journal:

In the state capitol in Austin, Republicans are targeting wind and solar power with a slate of bills that would clamp down on renewable projects by, among other things, adding additional environmental requirements and excluding them from a state tax break.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who effectively controls the legislative agenda, has vowed that lawmakers won’t leave Austin this month without approving legislation that would spur the construction and maintenance of conventional power plants, calling renewable energy a “luxury.” 

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It’s bad.
Answering the question “Are we screwed?”

Florida, Louisiana, Texas, California – Climate-driven Insurance squeeze spreading across America.
Insurance companies have been on the leading edge of climate concerns since the 70s. Fun fact: I called in, and got thru, to Rush Limbaugh back around 1998 or so, and told him about those concerns, and that the clash between Insurers and oil companies was going to get interesting.
I was unfortunately, too optimistic about the courage of Insurers and their Boards, but, inevitably, markets are forcing action.


Wall Street Journal:

State Farm is stopping the sale of new home-insurance policies in California effective Saturday, because of wildfire risk and rapid inflation in construction costs.

The move by one of California’s biggest insurers is a blow to the state’s efforts for years to maintain a vibrant market for homeowners in the wildfire-prone state. Nationally, inflation has been a serious problem for home and car insurers since last year, and many have posted underwriting losses as they continue to seek regulatory approvals for rate increases that they say they need for catching up with the surging costs.

State Farm is the nation’s biggest car and home insurer by premium volume. It said it “made this decision due to historic increases in construction costs outpacing inflation, rapidly growing catastrophe exposure, and a challenging reinsurance market.” It posted the statement on its website and referred questions to trade groups.

The insurer’s move doesn’t affect existing home-insurance policyholders, whose policies will remain in effect, according to the statement and a representative of the state Department of Insurance.

The insurer said it would also quit accepting new applications for business policies, but it would continue selling new personal auto policies.

Worried about wildfire exposure and frustrated by state regulations, insurers in California have cut back on their homeowner businesses. Mostly, those cutbacks and restrictions apply in wildfire-prone areas of the state, or to individual properties that lack fire-resiliency features, such as fire-resistant building materials and techniques, and cleared-back brush.

In its statement, State Farm said it takes “seriously our responsibility to manage risk.” It said it was “necessary to take these actions now to improve the company’s financial strength. We will continue to evaluate our approach based on changing market conditions.”

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I posted on a flurry of chatter, including a piece in Science, about the prospects for geologic hydrogen in commercially viable quantities. Entrepeneurs are on it, see below.
USGS has produced a good backgrounder.

US Geological Survey:

Scientists have known for some time that hydrogen also occurs naturally, generated through geologic processes. Tapping into natural sources would eliminate the problem that dogs manufactured hydrogen, because it wouldn’t release those large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. There’s just one problem: there’s little scientific information available about how much hydrogen is out there, or where it might be found.

To get a sense of the amount of hydrogen gas that the Earth may be storing, USGS research geologist Geoffrey Ellis enlisted the help of his Energy Resources Program colleague Sarah Gelman to develop a global resource model. Before they could use a model to estimate the amount of hydrogen available, they had to advance scientific understanding about the behavior of hydrogen in the subsurface. The pair used existing knowledge of analogues such as natural gas to fill the gaps in existing knowledge and develop their hydrogen model. 

“Using a conservative range of input values, the model predicts a mean volume of hydrogen that could supply the projected global hydrogen demand for thousands of years,” Ellis said. 

However, he quickly cautions, “We have to be very careful in interpreting this number, though.  Based on what we know about the distribution of petroleum and other gases in the subsurface, most of this hydrogen is probably inaccessible.” 

In other words, hydrogen supplies are too deeply buried, or too far offshore, or in accumulations that are too small, making it highly unlikely they could ever be economically recovered.

The good news is, if even a small fraction of this estimated volume could be recovered, there would likely be enough hydrogen across all the global deposits to last for hundreds of years. Ellis is convinced that the amount of hydrogen in the Earth’s interior could potentially constitute a primary energy resource. 

“The key,” he said, “is to understand if hydrogen exists in significant accumulations that can be economically accessed, and if so, how to find these resources.”

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Washington Post:

Nearly any material can be used to turn the energy in air humidity into electricity, scientists found in a discovery that could lead to continuously producing clean energy with little pollution.

The research, published in a paper in Advanced Materials, builds on 2020 work that first showed energy could be pulled from the moisture in the air using material harvested from bacteria. The new study shows nearly any material can be used, like wood or silicon, as long as it can be smashed into small particles and remade with microscopic pores. But there are many questions about how to scale the product.

“What we have invented, you can imagine it’s like a small-scale, man-made cloud,” said Jun Yao, a professor of engineering at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the senior author of the study. “This is really a very easily accessible, enormous source of continuous clean electricity. Imagine having clean electricity available wherever you go.”

That could include a forest, while hiking on a mountain, in a desert, in a rural village or on the road.

The air-powered generator, known as an “Air-gen,” would offer continuous clean electricity since it uses the energy from humidity, which is always present, rather than depending on the sun or wind. Unlike solar panels or wind turbines, which need specific environments to thrive, Air-gens could conceivably go anywhere, Yao said.

Less humidity, though, would mean less energy could be harvested, he added. Winters, with dryer air, would produce less energy than summers.

The device, the size of a fingernail and thinner than a single hair, is dotted with tiny holes known as nanopores. The holes have a diameter smaller than 100 nanometers, or less than a thousandth of the width of a strand of human hair.

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Yale Climate Connections:

What does gallows humor have to do with climate activism? In a new book, Aaron Sachs, a professor at Cornell University and author of several highly regarded books on environmental history, argues that environmentalists could accomplish more by embracing dark comedy — and learning to laugh at themselves.

Sarah Wesseler spoke with Sachs about “Stay Cool: Why Dark Comedy Matters in the Fight Against Climate Change.” The interview has been edited and condensed.

Sarah Wesseler: In “Stay Cool,” you write that gallows humor has helped people in different societies cope with extraordinary circumstances. Can you walk me through some of this history and describe how it relates to climate change?

Aaron Sachs: There’s a long history of people using dark comedy as a coping strategy or even a survival strategy. I focused on Jews and African Americans in the book, but there are lots of examples from virtually every group of people suffering from oppression.

The most shocking one to many people is the Holocaust. There were lots of jokes being passed around in concentration camps. It’s often assumed that no one would be able to laugh under those circumstances, but it’s very well-documented that people did. They even organized cabarets and variety shows and circuses within concentration camps.

One of the jokes in the book comes from Treblinka, where a group of friends used to say to each other, “Hey, you shouldn’t eat so much, because we’re the ones who are going to have to carry your body out of here!” Which was very dark because there was basically nothing to eat anyway. But it’s an example of gallows humor that built solidarity and endurance, resilience. That group of friends could at least smile at each other, shake their heads, and brace themselves for the rest of the day.

So how does this apply to climate change? The short answer is that we’re all under the dark cloud of climate change and many of us are really demoralized, almost to the point of immobilization. I was certainly feeling that way; I know a lot of people who feel that way. And that was one of the big reasons for writing this book.

Comedy is really good at bumping people into a different frame of mind, in part because it’s so strange and unpredictable. It can help us get over that sense of depression and maybe even help us improvise our way out of a really difficult situation.

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