August 1, 2022
Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Policy! Today, we look at the recent reexamination of nuclear energy as Europe faces an energy crunch. Sen. Amy Klobuchar confirmed the antitrust bill won’t go to a vote before August recess. And Big Tech has been uncharacteristically quiet in reaction to the Inflation Reduction Act (hint: it’s the taxes).
In the race to decarbonize the world’s energy mix, solar panels, wind turbines and batteries have taken center stage. Nuclear energy — despite already producing half of all carbon-free electricity in the U.S. and 10% of global power — has decidedly fallen out of favor in conversations about the future of energy. But there are signs that’s now changing, and it’s as good a time as ever to reexamine nuclear, whether you’re a policymaker or a tech executive pursuing net zero.
Europe’s energy crisis has brought nuclear to the forefront. With Russian gas deliveries being curtailed, Europe is trying to make up for a looming energy deficit and also meet ambitious climate targets. But countries can’t install solar or wind fast enough to make up for it.
There’s vigorous debate as to whether nuclear is a short-term fix, a long-term solution or any fix at all.
Nuclear is more expensive than many other forms of energy, but it has some unique benefits.
Regardless of what happens in Europe and the U.S., the future of nuclear is brightest in China. The country is the one exception to the rule of exorbitant nuclear energy construction costs, Ramana told me. China is expected to at least double and maybe even triple its nuclear power capacity by 2030. That might not do much for the climate goals of the U.S. or Europe, but it’s good for the climate as a whole: China consumed more coal last year than the rest of the world combined, and its coal energy consumption outpaced that of nuclear by a factor of over 23 to one.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar confirmed what’s become increasingly obvious: Her bill reining in self-preferencing by Big Tech platforms isn’t getting a vote before the August recess. Klobuchar blames the stall on the Democrats’ massive signature measure on health care and energy. Her bill had been facing headwinds for weeks, though, even as supporters have worried that the chances for it to become law will dim significantly as the whirlwind of the midterm elections kicks off.
The SEC added Alibaba to a list of Chinese companies at risk of being delisted from U.S. stock exchanges. Such a move would still be at least three years in the future, but under a recent law, the U.S. is seeking American reviews of Chinese audits if the companies want to continue to trade in the U.S. So far that seems out of reach, though Alibaba is taking moves that would open it up to more Chinese investors, according to Bloomberg.The FDIC told banks they should be keeping an eye out when they work with crypto firms to make sure the latter aren’t suggesting — falsely — that they’re covered by the federal insurance program for traditional deposits. In new guidance statements, the FDIC also said banks "should take appropriate action to address such misrepresentations."
Visa has to face a federal lawsuit in California over allegations the company benefitted from child sexual abuse material on Pornhub. The lawsuit, which is focused on Pornhub parent MindGeek, springs from a video of a 13-year-old that the site allowed to proliferate despite complaints, and that had the girl’s age in the title. The suit alleges that the credit card company knew Pornhub was unserious about stopping child sexual abuse content. Visa did successfully get some of the charges dismissed.
Payments processor First American has agreed to pay $4.9 million to resolve FTC claims it hid fees, auto-renewed subscriptions without disclosure, obscured contract terms and even attempted withdrawals “under different business names to evade stop payment orders.” The agency said much of the activity was aimed at small businesses, especially merchants with limited English proficiency.
S. 2992 could break digital services like Google Search, Amazon Prime, and your phone's security. Americans are feeling the squeeze of record inflation; why do some members of Congress want to set the economy back by an estimated $319 billion?
Big Tech is keeping pretty mum about the Inflation Reduction Act, aka the Democrats’ attempt to pass a decade-defining piece of legislation, including $369 billion in climate spending, in one week. Only Salesforce sent out a message of support when asked by Protocol, despite companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft regularly patting themselves on the back for how much they want to save the planet. A likely complicating factor: that new corporate minimum tax.
TikTok is becoming an increasingly important vector for misinformation. A sizable — and growing — number of people internationally say the app is where they get their news, even amid reports of rampant falsities and deliberate attempts to manipulate the spread of fake news and propaganda through the service.
A Gizmodo investigation revealed more than 30 U.S. data brokers selling access to digital identifiers “from some 2.9 billion profiles of people pegged as ‘actively pregnant’ or ‘shopping for maternity products.’” The report comes as tech continues to create legal hazards for people whose data may reveal they have terminated a pregnancy after the Supreme Court overturned federal abortion rights.
Google is delaying the rollout of cookie-blocking on Chrome yet again, this time until late 2024. Privacy measures on phones and other browsers have increasingly managed to stop or slow the tracking of users by the voracious digital ads industry. Google, as an ad tech giant, though, would need to do so in a way that doesn’t mess up its main line of business — and also doesn’t overly attract scrutiny by competition regulators for screwing over its rivals.
Some policymakers are intent on passing S. 2992—flawed legislation that could undermine free and reliable digital services that families use daily. Without Amazon's guaranteed 2-day shipping, Google search, or phone security, consumers' finances will be squeezed even further.
A Reuters reporter tweeted that Spotify put John Hinckley, who shot and nearly killed President Ronald Reagan in 1981, on her Discover Weekly list. Hinckley has been making music and apparently tweeting since his release earlier this year.
Thanks for reading — see you Wednesday!