April 7, 2022
Good day, climate compatriots. Neither snow nor rain nor heat can keep your faithful Protocol Climate team from delivering today’s newsletter. Of course, that’s the beauty of the internet, isn’t it? The Postal Service also delivers no matter the weather, but how its mail carriers will get packages to your mailbox is the subject of increasing rancor. Join us as we explore why the USPS refuses to electrify its fleet, and why basically everyone is mad about it.
Congress is mad at the Postal Service. The Environmental Protection Agency is mad at the Postal Service. Climate people are mad at the Postal Service. The drama puts the “Real Housewives” to shame. What’s getting everyone up in arms is the USPS’ steadfast refusal to completely electrify its new fleet of mail trucks.
And unfortunately for the climate, basically nobody can force it to (save the courts, which, we’ll get there). The Postal Service is an independent agency, and there’s only so much that either the executive or legislative branches can do to make it go electric. So what’s an administration aiming to electrify its federal fleet by 2035 to do?
To figure out what’s happening and what’s next, I spoke with two witnesses from a recent House Oversight Committee hearing about the USPS’ big electrification drama: Jill Naamane, acting director of the Government Accountability Office’s physical infrastructure team, and Joseph Britton, executive director of the Zero Emission Transportation Association. Turns out the electric USPS dream isn’t dead yet.
Electrifying the Postal Service is a huge freaking deal. The existing 217,000 mostly ancient USPS trucks make up the largest share of the federal government’s civilian vehicle fleet. And the Postal Service has a plan to replace them. Just not with EVs.
But the USPS has been stubborn, especially about the upfront costs of EVs. At Tuesday’s hearing, the USPS repeatedly cited the sticker shock and the “organizational and financial constraints” as reasons to not replace its entire fleet with EVs.
Naamane has questions about the USPS’ logic. In an effort to answer those questions, the GAO — which is the government’s main watchdog — is evaluating the USPS’ decision to primarily purchase gas-powered vehicles.
The USPS is holding strong, but the struggle is far from over. The USPS could just cave to pressure (and reality), redo its analysis and come to the blindingly obvious conclusion that EVs make the most financial sense.
You can find all sorts of things on Pinterest: mood boards for boho-chic living rooms; Trader Joe’s recipe hacks; countless crochet patterns. One thing you can’t find: climate denial.
The platform announced on Wednesday that it’s stamping out climate denial and misinformation in both ads and content. It’s also planning to remove "harmful, false or misleading" content during extreme weather events, which tend to be hotbeds for misinformation that could potentially be deadly.
The thought of Pinterest being a hotbed of climate denial is, admittedly, rather comical. (Say a prayer for all the climate deniers looking for 10 examples of “live, laugh, love” quotes written on reclaimed wood, I guess?) But there are a few interesting things about the platform’s decision. For one, good. Climate denial and misinformation have played a major role in slowing climate action to a barely visible crawl. Any effort to quash it is a plus for science and an informed democracy.
But more importantly, it also opens the door for activists to crank up the pressure on other social networks that have more, shall we say, open policies on climate denial. Facebook has attached fact-checking labels to climate misinformation. That’s nice and all, except for the fact that it misses half of it. YouTube no longer allows users to monetize videos featuring climate misinformation, but your crank uncle can still find plenty of videos out there about chemtrails heating up the planet to post to Facebook. And Twitter? Well, LOL.
Anyway, respect to you, Pinterest. Next time I’m looking for alternatives to wrapping paper, I know where I’ll be searching.— Brian Kahn (email | twitter)
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There’s a new nine-figure climate fund in town. Voyager Ventures announced it’s raised $100 million to invest in companies working on early-stage climate tech.
Paris-based Sweep, which helps large companies with carbon management, raised $73 million in a series B round led by Coatue.
ClimeCo wants to help companies buy offsets and clean up hard-to-decarbonize sectors. It just raised $50 million in an investment round led by Warburg Pincus.
Blue Current, a solid-state battery company, got a $30 million infusion of cash courtesy of Koch Strategic Platforms. (Yes, that Koch. It loves solving climate change now, apparently.)
e-Zinc, which builds zinc-air batteries geared toward long-duration energy storage, announced on Thursday that it raised $25 million in series A funding led by Toyota Ventures, Anzu Partners, BDC Capital and Eni Next.
Brilliant Planet got $12 million in series A funding from the likes of Union Square Ventures and Toyota Ventures to suck carbon from the air with algae.
Emitwise pulled in $10 million in series A funding. The company will use it to beef up its “AI-driven carbon accounting software.”
Battery manufacturing intelligence startup Liminal raised $8 million in its series A round, because apparently it’s battery startup funding week.
— Lisa Martine Jenkins and Brian Kahn
NASA unveiled a few new Earth observation tricks. The venerable space agency is using its eyes in the sky to track forests and groundwater. Creepy or comforting? You decide.
Boston’s school buses are going electric by 2030. Maybe the Postal Service should take some notes.
The White House’s environmental justice screening tool is open source, on GitHub and in beta mode. Here’s how it’s going.
The aging grid is catching up to us. An Associated Press analysis found power outages from severe weather roughly doubled in the last 20 years, from about 50 per year nationwide to more than 100. Better keep some candles handy.
A tiny toad threatens to take down a giant geothermal project. The temporary protection of the Dixie Valley toad will add a hurdle for two geothermal plants near Reno, Nevada.
DeLorean is making an EV concept car. Great Scott!
“Bring your own thermostat” is the new BYOB. Google Nest, Voltus and Resideo are introducing a program that could help reduce electricity demand at peak times on the PJM Interconnection, the largest grid operator in the U.S.
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Thanks for reading! As ever, you can send any and all feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next week, and have a great weekend in the interim!