President Biden wants to goose the electric vehicle market by transforming the federal fleet of 645,000 fossil-fueled vehicles with EVs. Not just any EVs, but ones made in America by unionized labor. One problem: nobody who fits that bill makes them. While Tesla cranked out several models totaling nearly half a million EVs in 2020, the company’s workers aren’t unionized. And although it’s been unionized since 1937, General Motors, which sold just 20,754 EVs in 2020, did so with more than 50% foreign-made parts. That doesn’t meet the government-set threshold for a whole car being considered American-made. On the other hand, changing over the federal fleet is likely to take a decade since only about 60,000 of its vehicles are replaced each year. And by the mid-’20s, GM will presumably be turning out millions of EVs if it expects to meets its 2035 zero-emission goal for its entire production run of cars and light trucks. And by then, maybe there will be a union at Tesla. “Do I think GM and Tesla will contort to access a big U.S. government market? Yes I do,” said Scott Sklar, director of sustainable energy at the George Washington University’s Environment & Energy Management Institute. “They follow the money.”
Science News reports that the study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology ties an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) from air pollution. People living in the worst polluted areas were at least 8% more likely to report having the disease, which is progressive and irreversible. The researchers initially obtained data on 115,954 study participants aged 40-69 who had no eye problems when the study got underway in 2006. In follow-ups of 52,602 participants in 2009 and 2012, they found structural changes in retina thickness and/or the number of light receptors present — both indicators of AMD. Officials also gathered statistics on ambient air pollution, traffic, land use, and topography. “Even relatively low exposure to air pollution appears to impact the risk of AMD, suggesting that air pollution is an important modifiable risk factor affecting risk of eye disease for a very large number of people,” said lead author Paul Foster of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. “Here we have identified yet another health risk posed by air pollution, strengthening the evidence that improving the air we breathe should be a key public health priority. Our findings suggest that living in an area with polluted air, particularly fine particulate matter or combustion-related particles that come from road traffic, could contribute to eye disease,” he said. AMD is the leading cause of irreversible blindness among people over 50 in high-income countries, with theaffected population expected to reach 300 million by 2040. Other risk factors for AMD include smoking and genetic make-up.
Dan Gearino, a long-time reporter on clean energy now on staff at Inside Climate News, ridiculed Rep. Lauren Boebert, the second-worst new member of Congress. Before announcing in 2017 that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement, Donald Trump declared, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” Soon after President Biden initiated the rejoining process on his first day in office, Boebert mimicked Trump:
Although they are in the same district, Boebert’s home turf is Rifle, nearly 300 miles from Pueblo, and she apparently hasn’t spent much time there where the majority of voters said no to both Donald Trump and her in November. She obviously doesn’t understand Pueblo. As Gearino writes:
The Pueblo City Council voted in 2017 to commit the city to getting 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2035, which supporters said was part of a broader embrace of clean energy.
The utility Xcel Energy is helping to lead the transition with a plan announced in 2018 to close 660 megawatts at a coal-fired power plant in Pueblo and build 650 megawatts of solar power and 225 megawatts of battery storage projects, all located in the city or close to it.
In the worst storm in nearly a quarter-century, 100 mph winds toppled 15 giant sequoia trees in the Mariposa Grove of Yosemite National Park in California, up from the two authorities had previously announced had fallen. Scott Gediman, a park spokesman, said the damage to the park is in the “millions and millions of dollars.” None of the most iconic trees, like the Grizzly Giant—a 2,700-year-old specimen that is the 25th largest living giant sequoia weighing an estimated 2 million pounds—were brought down by the storm, which also smashed 20 employee homes and cars and visitor cabin,s and caused damage to other park facilities. Sad as the loss of these trees may be, Gediman said, “Yosemite National Park by definition is a wild place. Natural occurrences like fires, floods, rockfalls, and wind events happen. That’s part of the story of the park. We’re thankful that nobody got hurt. It’s our hope we’ll see new trees germinate. It’s part of the ever-changing nature of the park.” Yosemite officials expect to reopen the park on Monday. The storm wasn’t the only affliction taking out giant sequoias recently. In August, lightning-sparked fires burned hundreds of the trees in about 20 groves in Sequoia National Forest.
Sharks are at the top of the food chain, a predator necessary for the health of the oceans’ other species. But a study published in the journal Nature says their number has fallen by nearly three-fourths since the 1970s. Ray populations are also falling. The blame, the authors say, goes mostly to overfishing, and while they’re not there yet, the prospect of some shark species going extinct deeply worries scientists. One of those is Nicholas Dulvy, a professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. “Overfishing of oceanic sharks and rays jeopardizes the health of entire ocean ecosystems as well as food security for some of the world’s poorest countries,” he said. The researchers scrutinized 31 oceanic species of sharks and rays. Of these, the International Union of Conservation of Nature classifies 24 as threatened. Three of them—the oceanic whitetip shark, the scalloped hammerhead shark, and the great hammerhead shark—are listed as critically endangered. This presents a gloomy picture, but scientific data like that included in the study can help shark and ray populations to recover. Indeed, said Sonja Fordham, president of Shark Advocates International, great white sharks are already recovering because of data that influenced a downward adjustment in fishing limits. “Relatively simple safeguards can help to save sharks and rays, but time is running out,” Fordham said. “We urgently need conservation action across the globe to prevent myriad negative consequences and secure a brighter future for these extraordinary, irreplaceable animals.”
A new 92-page report from the Americans for a Clean Energy Grid—Planning for the Future—concludes that the policies controlling the U.S. transmission grid planning and investment are outdated and unable to support the gigantic expansion of clean energy being pushed by climate hawks. With all the electric cars coming and the push for net-zero emissions from the power sector, ACEG isn’t the only critic pondering how the grid will be upgraded to meet the task. The authors, who have been pushing for changes in the grid and policies governing it for years, say the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should implement a new paradigm to lure investors to sink hundreds of billions of dollars into a new grid for the 21st Century. They write:
Numerous studies, as well as the experiences of regional planning entities, demonstrate that more robust interregional infrastructure is needed to ensure system resilience and reliability, and would yield substantial consumer benefits and help ensure affordable rates for customers if built. The combination of an aging transmission system and a changing resource mix heighten the need for proactive planning of regional and inter-regional transmission infrastructure. While a large amount of transmission infrastructure built in the 1960s and 70s is due for replacement, simply rebuilding this infrastructure is inefficient in light of a changing resource mix and shifting demand patterns. By all accounts,wind and solar resources will become a much larger portion of the resource mix in the future, and electrification of transportation and buildings will substantially increase demand. These trends magnify the benefits of building large regional and inter-regional transmission infrastructure to connect resource rich areas with load centers.
“Not only yes, but hell yes,” James Hoecker, FERC chairman from 1997 to 2001, said of the need for major new transmission investment in a Wednesday webinar introducing the report. Beyond the need to absorb the country’s growing share of wind and solar power, the grid will likely “need to double in size to support the electrification of transportation, heat and other industrial processes,” as the nation decarbonizes the U.S. economy. “There is no climate plan that is serious if it does not anticipate a significant regional transmission upgrade,” Pat Wood III, CEO of Hunt Energy Network and FERC chair from 2001 to 2005, said at the event.
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