July 21, 2022
Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images
It’s Thursday, and President Joe Biden still hasn’t declared a climate emergency. It would unlock great powers (which would come with great responsibility). So today, we’re exploring what tools Biden does have to address the climate crisis and how the tech industry could fit in. Plus, a wild idea of carbon-sucking trains. Hop aboard!
If you’ve even glanced at the news this week, climate change? Looks pretty bad! Like an emergency, even. Yet President Joe Biden hasn’t broken the glass on what could be his last best shot at salvaging his climate agenda and cutting emissions: declaring a climate emergency.
Declaring an emergency could have far-reaching ramifications for the tech industry. (And society, of course!) A broadly structured climate emergency declaration could open the door to compelling manufacturers to prioritize making climate-protecting tech, from solar panels to EVs. And the federal government — which has the goal of cutting federal carbon emissions 65% by 2030 — could be a major buyer through a few avenues.
Bringing Big Tech to the table could pay dividends. Tech giants love to tout their climate plans. If Biden declares a climate emergency, it could put those plans front and center — and reveal how committed tech companies are to implementing them.
There's already precedent for this: The Biden administration and a number of tech companies are members of the First Movers Coalition, which is trying to bring down the cost of carbon dioxide removal, green steel and other still-costly technologies and materials by committing hundreds of millions to purchase them.
The administration has signaled it’s not a matter of if it will declare an emergency; it’s a matter of when and to what extent. But, Su said, there’s every reason to "move as fast as possible, especially before midterms so we can see some progress." Speeding things up is probably good for the climate, too.— Brian Kahn (email | twitter)
Trains: They’re not just the setting for a dystopian class war battle royale after the Earth turns into a popsicle. A new study proposes using them to remove carbon from the atmosphere by attaching specialized rail cars so we don’t end up in a dystopia of our own making.
There are a couple of big knocks on DAC: It’s costly and energy-intensive due to the need for fans to pull air in and the heat required to pull carbon dioxide out of filters once they’re full.
Freight and passenger rail may offer a solution. Trains are already zipping — or in freight’s case, chugging — around the world. CO2Rail believes that attaching rail cars outfitted with DAC technology could be a way to clean up emissions.
But before you get too excited, consider this: There isn’t a single DAC train car currently roaming rails anywhere on Earth. CO2Rail says its first prototype could hit the rails by next year, and it’s competing in Elon Musk’s XPrize for CDR, so there’s no shortage of confidence. The peer-reviewed paper certainly adds some credibility to the project, but let’s not count our DAC chickens before they hatch. Otherwise, we may end up with a world worse than the one in “Snowpiercer.”
— Brian Kahn
The emissions that make up a full greenhouse gas footprint can emanate from outside the four walls of your own manufacturing operations, like in the case of PepsiCo, where 93% of emissions come from its value chain.
The VC fund Fifth Wall raised $500 million for the debut of its climate fund, which will invest in projects specifically aimed at decarbonizing the real estate sector, such as smart buildings and energy storage.
Terra CO2 Technology is striving to replace a widely used type of cement with a lower-carbon alternative derived from silicate rock; the startup raked in $46 million in its series A funding round to help it make the low-carbon concrete material a reality, led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures and LenX.
The sustainable housing tech company Intelligent Cityraised $17 million in series A funding, which came from investors including BDC Capital’s Cleantech Practice, Greensoil PropTech Ventures, UIT Growth Equity GP and Fulmer & Company.
Electrified Thermal Solutions, which is developing thermal batteries that store heat for industrial processes, raised $4.5 million in its seed financing round, co-led by Clean Energy Ventures and Starlight Ventures.
The German green hydrogen developer Sunfiregot funding from Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, though neither company disclosed how much.
Some IPO news: The solar farm company SolarMax Technology, which is based in California and operates in China, filed for an IPO of up to $30 million to be listed on Nasdaq. SolarMax previously filed to go public in December 2018, but then withdrew.— Lisa Martine Jenkins (email | twitter)
Heat pump summer continues. In the midst of a scorching heat wave, it’s clear that Europe is unprepared for the high temperatures the climate crisis is bringing, let alone what’s to come. But there are tech solutions for that — and we already have them.
Speaking of scorching: Data centers in the U.K. are getting so hot that their cooling systems are failing.
More Russia gas woes for Europe: Putin says Russia will fulfill its natural gas commitments, but he also warned of future disruptions. A prolonged outage could lead to energy rationing, dealing a huge blow to European economies.
Breaking: Crypto mining is bad for the climate, consuming massive amounts of electricity. Unfortunately for the U.S., mines are only getting bigger.
VC goes down, climate tech goes up. While the rest of the startup world is contracting, climate tech deals are bucking the trend, inking deals at a record pace.
China is still hooked on coal. The country promised it would strictly control coal power capacity, but it’s still increasing its approvals of new coal plants, according to a new Greenpeace report.
Adam Neumann’s at it again. Here’s a fun look at the WeWork founder’s crypto-climate scheme that he claims will solve the climate crisis. No joke: It’s called the Goddess Nature Token.— Michelle Ma (email | twitter)
Thanks for reading! As ever, you can send any and all feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next week!