June 30, 2022
Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images
Happy Thursday to all who enjoy curtailing the administrative state. The Supreme Court has issued a major ruling on the government’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases. We’ll be looking at what tech can do to fill the void as well as Frontier’s big carbon removal purchase. Join us as we try to make climate lemonade.
Striking down the right to abortion may be the Supreme Court's highest-profile decision this term. But on Thursday, the court handed down an equally massive verdict on the federal government's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
In the case of West Virginia v. EPA, the court curtailed the agency's ability to regulate greenhouse gases from power plants under the Clean Air Act. While the tech industry alone isn’t going to suddenly fill the role of the regulatory state, the case will force the industry to focus on just how serious it is about saving the planet.
The tech industry has some decisions to make. The industry has made a big to-do about its climate plans. But the best way to meet lofty net-zero goals in the coming decades are strong regulations that curtail carbon pollution at the source.
A piecemeal approach to reducing carbon emissions simply won’t work, especially for the tech industry’s biggest source of emissions.
But the tech industry has an important tool to fix things: its clout in Washington, D.C. And the industry could use that leverage to force lawmakers to act, now that regulators’ hands are tied.
Tech can also put pressure on states and utilities. Those are places where the decarbonization, uh, hits the power line. (OK, it doesn’t roll off the tongue quite like “rubber meets the road,” but we’re working with what we got.) And tech titans could throw their weight around as big power purchasers.
There’s no doubt the Supreme Court’s decision is a huge blow to cleaning up the grid now, let alone getting it to President Joe Biden’s 2035 target of 100% carbon-free electricity. But tech companies, for better or worse, can still be major players in cleaning up the grid for their own and the climate’s sake.
— Brian Kahn
Big Tech’s big carbon dioxide removal fund made its first, uh, big purchase. On Wednesday, Frontier — which works on behalf of Alphabet, McKinsey, Meta, Shopify and Stripe — announced it had contracts with five companies that will suck nearly 2,000 tons of carbon out of thin air.
The purchases show Frontier is seeking a range of solutions. The five companies it’s buying services from remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using a handful of techniques.
The price point is currently high. Very high. This tranche of CDR services is costing Frontier anywhere from $500 to $1,800 per ton.
Frontier has $925 million to play with between now and 2030. The current purchase — on behalf of Stripe — is just $2.4 million in services. Another $5.4 million is on the table for these companies if they also reach technical milestones. If you’re the proprietor of a burgeoning carbon removal startup and missed this round, worry not. Frontier’s next RFP will go up in August.
Read more about the purchases here.
— Brian Kahn
The competitive edge of digital solutions: For the last 50 years, SAP has worked closely with our customers to solve some of the world’s most intricate problems. We have also seen, and have been a part of, rapid accelerations in technology in response. Across industries, certain paths have emerged to help businesses manage the unexpected challenges over the last few years.
Intersect Power, a company that develops renewable power plants, received a $750 million growth equity investment led by TPG Rise Climate. The influx of cash will help more than triple the company’s current renewable portfolio.
Electric Hydrogen, a startup that does exactly what its name indicates, secured $198 million in its latest series B equity and venture debt funding round, led by Fifth Wall Climate Tech.
The nuclear fusion startup Zap Energy raised $160 million in series C funding led by Lowercarbon Capital. The company made headlines recently when it said that it is closing in on testing a system that could ultimately generate more electricity than it consumes. (That’s the fusion dream!)
The climate tech company Amogy, which is focused on converting ammonia to fuel for heavy industries like shipping, raised $46 million in its latest funding round, led by South Korea’s SK Innovation.
The U.K.-based green supply chain startup Circulor raised $25 million in its series B funding round to fund its expansion, especially into the U.S. The Westly Group — an early investor in Tesla — led the round.
The startup Tenet, which offers loans to offset the upfront cost of EVs, raked in $18 million in seed funding led by Human Capital and Giant Ventures.
Vibrant Planet, a public-benefit startup developing what is essentially an operating system for forest management, raised $17 million in its seed funding round led by both the Ecosystem Integrity Fund and the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust.
The startup Epoch Biodesign is developing enzymes to devour plastic waste, and it raised $11 million in seed funding led by Lowercarbon Capital.
Synop, which is trying to revolutionize how commercial EV fleets are managed, raised $10 million in a seed funding round led by Obvious Ventures.
The car company Stellantis invested $52 million in the mining company Vulcan Energy Resources, which is testing more sustainable forms of direct lithium extraction. This makes the carmaker Vulcan’s second-largest shareholder, with an 8% stake.
— Lisa Martine Jenkins
A European deal to phase out the combustion engine inches toward the finish line. Members of the European Union endorsed the move this week, though still more talks on the 2035 phase-out remain.
The original carbon-free transport gets some cargo capacity. Using bikes to transport goods and passengers isn’t a new phenomenon, but the “humble little boxes on wheels” are increasing in popularity.
Even Big Oil wants to get on TikTok. Shell is hiring a channel manager. Does this mean TikTok is officially over?
Shooting rockets of tourists into space is bad for the climate. That’s the finding of a new study, which looked at soot and its impact on the planet. Who would’ve thunk it?
Stockholm is getting tricked-out electric ferries. The new boats can whisk passengers along at nearly 35 mph and have a range of 50 miles.
But, seriously. Sweden gets it. The Scandinavian country is undergoing a “green revolution” as it builds out renewables and cleans up notoriously hard-to-decarbonize heavy industry. It’s not all puppies and rainbows, though.— Lisa Martine Jenkins and Brian Kahn
The competitive edge of digital solutions: When companies invest in maintaining their “green ledger” with the same commitment they have to their financial ledgers, they will be able to connect their environmental, social, and financial data holistically so they can steer their business towards sustainability. At the end of the day, what gets measured, gets managed.
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