November 1, 2022
Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images
A hearty welcome to November from your Protocol Climate team! Today we’re taking a look at the upcoming midterms, including a hot climate proposition in California that’s dividing Big Tech. But first we have a dive into data centers’ new climate threats. Plus, a look at the Energy Department’s unique critical mineral pilot.
Increasingly extreme weather threatens data centers and one of the things cloud computing customers prioritize most: reliability. While data center operators take today’s climate risks seriously, they may be far too complacent about what the future holds.
There’s a data center reckoning afoot. Amazon Web Services, Google, and Microsoft — dubbed the Big Three in the data center world — have robust risk assessment processes that take into account potential disasters. But most companies aren’t quite so on top of things.
Climate change is throwing a curveball at data centers. Well, technically it’s throwing a curveball at all of us. But the increasing odds of extreme events along with new hazards like rising seas are putting the operations that undergird the internet at risk.
Data centers will have to step up their climate risk assessment game. Luckily, there are steps they can take to do just that, from moving generators and pumps to higher ground to installing flood barriers. Planning for future climate risks when looking at the potential sites for data centers could also pay dividends.
Read more about the fixes data center operators need to be thinking about here.— Lisa Martine Jenkins
What do Gov. Gavin Newsom, teachers unions, the Chamber of Commerce, and a slew of tech billionaires have in common? They all want to kill Proposition 30. The California ballot measure, backed by Lyft and environmentalists, would raise taxes on the wealthy to help subsidize electric vehicles. And it’s led to strange bedfellows ahead of next Tuesday’s vote.
The ballot measure has been more than a year in the making. Last fall, California public transit advocates Stuart Cohen and Denny Zane had just about given up on getting a measure on the ballot that would become Prop. 30.
Now, the measure has become a heated battleground. And, perhaps not surprising for a fight over taxes, it’s gotten ugly, with each side accusing the other of putting moneyed interests before the best interests of the state.
Yet the anti-tech messaging appears to be working. The most recent polling shows support for Prop. 30 at just 41%, down from 63% in July. Next Tuesday will decide the measure’s fate.
Read more about the measure and fight over it here.
— Issie Lapowsky
Valuations have become less hype-driven and more realistic; the amount of time spent on due diligence has increased substantially; and every founder needs to directly, clearly, and concisely answer the question, “Does this project have any real-world utility, and does it create economic value?”
That’s how much the Department of Energy said it’s spending to bolster the domestic critical mineral supply chain in an announcement last week. Those minerals include copper, nickel, lithium, cobalt, rare earth elements, and others. The clean energy transition depends on having enough of them to produce EVs, wind turbines, and solar panels.
Some of these grants come with an interesting wrinkle: The winners will use captured carbon dioxide to improve critical mineral yields, which could lead to net negative mining. (Eat your heart out, net zero.) Here’s how that investment breaks down:
The U.S. is currently lagging far behind China in the critical mineral race. That has it playing a game of catchup using a variety of policy tools.
— Michelle Ma
The future of the EU is (only) EVs. The EU is essentially banning the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035, an agreement that is “without precedent,” according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association.
Blackstone is doubling down on climate tech. The investment giant just bought a majority $14 billion stake in Emerson Electric’s climate tech business.
Coal is making a comeback in China. The country is installing more renewables than any other country. It’s also set to add more coal capacity than any other country — or the rest of the world combined, for that matter.
NASA’s new satellite has found a slew of methane super polluters. The Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation, or EMIT (so witty!), has discovered more than 50 methane “super-emitters.”
Frog versus geothermal plant: An ongoing dispute in Nevada embodies the broader conflicts emerging between clean energy, conservation, and Indigenous rights.
Brazil is making a climate comeback. "Lula's victory means the Amazon stands a chance."
The VC correction is proving once again that valuations are not an indicator of success. While money continues to flow, the crypto winter and VC slowdown have forced even the most committed Web3 venture capitalists (and their investors) to proceed with more caution.
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