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The U.S. Is Closer to a Zero-Carbon Grid Than It Seems

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The U.S. has a lot of work to do to draw down carbon emissions. But a new report shows that when it comes to the energy grid, things are actually in better shape than researchers thought it’d be by this point.

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Source: https://earther.gizmodo.com/the-u-s-is-closer-to-a-zero-carbon-grid-than-it-seems-1846682644
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Dharna Noor on Earther, shared by Brian Kahn to Gizmodo

First-Ever Observations From Under Antarctica’s ‘Doomsday Glacier’ Are Bad News

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Glaciers all over Antarctica are in trouble as ice there rapidly melts. There’s no Antarctic glacier whose fate is more consequential for our future than the Thwaites Glacier, and new research shows that things aren’t looking good for it.

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Source: https://earther.gizmodo.com/first-ever-observations-from-under-antarctica-s-doomsd-1846650385
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Dharna Noor on Earther, shared by Brian Kahn to Gizmodo

A startup using a new tech to make hydrogen extracts cash from Bill Gates’ climate tech fund

Four years ago when Zach Jones went to do due diligence on C-Zero, a startup out of Santa Barbara, Calif. commercializing a new approach to producing hydrogen, for the small family office he was working for, he had no idea he’d wind up as the company’s chief executive officer.

Or that the company would wind up raising money from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the billionaire backed investment vehicle focused on financing companies developing technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and some of the world’s largest industrial and oil and gas companies.

At the time, Jones was working for Beryllium Capital, a small investment office out of South Dakota, and had identified a potential investment opportunity in C-Zero, a company commercializing a new way of making hydrogen developed by Eric McFarland, a professor at UCSB.

There was only one problem — McFarland had the research, but didn’t know how to run a company. That’s when Jones stepped in. His firm didn’t make the investment, but when the former Economist science writer took over, the company was able to nab a seed round from PG&E and SoCal Gas, California’s two massive utilities.

The reason for their investments is the same reason Breakthrough Energy Ventures became interested in the young company. Even with renewable energy production coming on line at a breakneck pace, much of the world will still be using fossil fuels for the foreseeable future and the greenhouse gas emissions from that fossil fuel production needs to go to zero.

C-Zero is developing a technology that converts natural gas to hydrogen, a much cleaner source of fuel, and solid carbon as the only waste stream for use in electrical generation, process heating and the production of commodity chemicals like hydrogen and ammonia. 

“Our CTO talks about running a coal mine in reverse,” Jones said.

Night image of an industrial manufacturing plant. Image Credit: Getty Images

The company’s technology is a form of methane pyrolysis, which uses a proprietary chemical catalyst to separate the hydrogen gas from other particles, leaving behind that solid carbon waste. The process, which is neither waste free (there’s that solid carbon) nor renewable (the feedstock is natural gas), is cleaner than current low-cost methods of hydrogen production and far cheaper than the more renewable ways of making hydrogen.

Making renewable hydrogen requires making electricity to send a charge through water to split the liquid into hydrogen and oxygen. And it takes far more energy to pull a hydrogen atom off of an oxygen atom than it does to split that hydrogen from a carbon atom.

“The reason that hydrogen is interesting is that it is a great supplement to intermittent renewables,” said Jones. “It’s really about energy storage… when you look at long duration storage on a daily and seasonal basis… it becomes exorbitantly expensive. Having a chemical fuel is going to be critical part of decarbonizing everything.”

Jones describes the technology as “pre-combustion carbon capture”, and thinks that it could be critical to unlocking the benefits of hydrogen for a range of industrial applications including heavy vehicle fueling, utility power generation, and industrial power for manufacturing.

He’s not alone.

 “Over $100 billion of commodity hydrogen is produced annually,” said Carmichael Roberts, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the new lead investor in C-Zero’s $11.5 million funding. “Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of that production comes from a process called steam methane reforming, which also produces large quantities of CO2. Finding low cost, low emission methods of hydrogen production – such as the one C-Zero has created – will be critical to unlocking the molecule’s potential to decarbonize major segments of the agricultural, chemical, manufacturing and transportation sectors.”

Joining the Bill Gates-backed Breakthrough Energy Ventures in the new round is Eni Next, the investment arm of the Italian oil and gas and power company, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and the hydrogen technology-focused venture firm, AP Ventures.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries already has an application for C-Zero’s technology. The company is in the process of re-powering an existing coal plant to run on a combination of natural gas and hydrogen by 2025. It’s possible that C-Zero’s technology could help get there.

Beyond the lower cost methods used in manufacturing hydrogen, C-Zero may be one of the first companies that could qualify for new tax credits on carbon sequestration established by the IRS in the U.S. earlier this year. Those credits would give qualifying companies $20 per ton of sequestered solid carbon — the exact waste product from C-Zero’s process.

Even as C-Zero begins commercializing its technology it faces some stiff competition from some of the largest chemical companies in the world.

The German chemicals giant BASF has been developing its own flavor of methane pyrolysis for nearly a decade and has begun building test facilities to scale up production of its own clean hydrogen.

And yesterday, two other big European corporations are also joining the hydrogen production game as the French chemicals company Air Liquide announced a joint venture with Siemens Energy to work on hydrogen production.

Jones acknowledges that the company’s technology is only a stopgap solution… for now. In the future, as the world moves to renewable natural gas production from waste, he envisions the potential of a potentially circular hydrogen economy.

In 100 years will this technology be around? If it is it’ll be because we’re using renewable natural gas,” Jones said. There are a lot of steps that need to be traveled to get there, but Jones is confident in the near-term success of the project. 

“There’s always going to be  a need for a very energy dense fuel. Liquid hydrogen is the most energy dense thing that’s out there outside of something that’s nuclear in nature,” he said. “I think that hydrogen is here to stay. At the end of the day the lowest cost of energy that has the lowest cost for avoided CO2 is what’s going to win.”

Techcrunch?d=2mJPEYqXBVI Techcrunch?d=7Q72WNTAKBA Techcrunch?d=yIl2AUoC8zA Techcrunch?i=Zap37u-ah9U:54kW44WR0vo:-BT Techcrunch?i=Zap37u-ah9U:54kW44WR0vo:D7D Techcrunch?d=qj6IDK7rITs

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/02/09/a-startup-using-a-new-tech-to-make-hydrogen-extracts-cash-from-bill-gates-climate-tech-fund/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Jonathan Shieber

Microsoft and 12 others join Amazon’s climate change initiative

23c80700-58c3-11ea-b0ff-ec6628433b64Microsoft and 12 other companies have joined Amazon’s Climate Pledge, which is a commitment to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2040. The project aims to meet the climate goals of the United Nations Paris Agreement a decade early. Signatories also ag…

Source: https://www.engadget.com/microsoft-amazon-climate-pledge-unilever-181555273.html
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Bill Gates just released a plan for US leadership on climate change, including $35B in funding

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Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft and one of the world’s richest men and most prolific philanthropists, has just released a broad new plan on how the U.S. could take the lead in the fight against climate change.

“[We] need to revolutionize the world’s physical economy—and that will take, among other things, a dramatic infusion of ingenuity, funding, and focus from the federal government. No one else has the resources to drive the research we need,” Gates writes. 

With a new Biden administration set to take over the reins of government, the timing for Gates’ suggestions couldn’t be better. The outgoing Trump Administration was singularly opposed to combating climate change, rolling back regulations, withdrawing from international agreements on climate change mitigation and sweeping aside science in favor of specious arguments from the industries that had the most to lose from a recognition of the threats of anthropogenic climate change.

Gates calls for a dramatic $25 billion boost in spending that would bring clean energy research spending to $35 billion a year (in line with medical spending from the government). Gates notes that this could lead to the creation of more than 370,000 jobs while boosting a clean-energy agenda.

Gates noted that Americans spend more on gasoline in a single month than the government spends on climate-related research.

Beyond simply spending more money on research, the Microsoft-made billionaire called for the creation of a network of “National Institutes of Energy Innovation.”

“This is the most important thing the U.S. can do to lead the world in innovations that will solve climate change,” Gates wrote.

Modeled on the National Institutes of Health, the largest financier for biomedical research in the world, Gates called for the Energy Innovation Institutes to comprise separate institutions focusing on specific areas. One would be an Institute of Transportation Decarbonization while others could focus on energy storage, renewables or carbon capture and management, Gates wrote.

Gates also suggested that each organization should be tasked with the commercialization for innovations that come out of the lab. “It’s not enough to develop a new way to store electricity that works in the lab — to have any imapact, it has to be practical and affordable in real-world settings. The best way to ensure that is to encourage scientists to start their research with an end-use in mind.”

Finally, Gates called for the institutes to be located around the country — just like the Department of Energy or the NASA have laboratories and research facilities spread around the country.

In addition to the research facilities and spending boosts, Gates called for a program of tax incentives and energy standards that could make markets for more clean-energy tools.

There are already pieces of legislation making their way through Congress like the the Clean Energy Innovation and Jobs Act and the American Energy Innovation Act that could help the federal government move toward a more nimble and focused setup, Gates acknowledged. But both of these laws have stalled. 

Gates’ climate plan comes as more than 40 major U.S. companies penned an open letter to the incoming Biden Administration to do more to address climate change.

“Our communities and our economy are enduring not only a devastating pandemic but also the rising costs of climate change,” the companies wrote. “Record wildfires, flooding, hurricanes and other extreme weather are upending lives and livelihoods. And science makes clear that future generations will face far greater environmental, economic and health impacts unless we act now.”

And yesterday, the medical journal Lancet released a sweeping survey documenting the health impacts associated with environmental catastrophes, pollution and climate change.

Heat waves, air pollution and extreme weather increasingly damage human health, the report said. As National Public Radio reported, the report makes an explicit connection between death, disease and burning fossil fuels.

“Many carbon-intensive practices and policies lead to poor air quality, poor food quality, and poor housing quality, which disproportionately harm the health of disadvantaged populations,” the authors of The Lancet analysis wrote.

Even in a divided government, there’s much the Biden administration can do to make a significant dent in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

As TechCrunch reported, a large portion of any infrastructure-related stimulus could contain significant spending on climate change mitigation-related technologies.

“A lot of the really consequential climate-related stuff that’s going to come out in the [near term] … won’t actually be related to renewables,” an advisor to the President-elect said.

However, if the Democrats manage to wrest control of the Senate from Republican leadership in the aftermath of the January 2021 runoff elections in Georgia, then the possibility of a more muscular climate agenda — one that could incorporate Gates’ suggestions — could be on the table.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/12/03/bill-gates-just-released-a-plan-for-us-leadership-on-climate-change-including-35b-in-funding/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Jonathan Shieber

From Zelda to Civ to Frostpunk—can climate change be fun?

  • In case you thought climate catastrophe was a new thing for video games, remember Wind Waker kicks off due to the Great Flood, right?

For decades now, video games have concerned themselves with the end of things. From the bombed-out nuclear wasteland of Washington, DC in Fallout 3 to the flooded Hyrule of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, popular games have explored the concept of the apocalypse with both goofy humor and stark seriousness, often revealing unpleasant truths in the process. So perhaps it’s no surprise that as the all-too-real climate change crisis continues to creep towards a breaking point—even as the ongoing public health disaster known as COVID-19 eclipses it in the public imagination—video game developers are taking steps to systematize the ways that rising sea levels or other ecological catastrophes might overwhelm us in the coming years.

While many of these climate changed-focused games focus on depicting the dire future that experts predict if we refuse to radically alter our behavior patterns, others are a bit more traditional in their approach. And some notable game-makers like Firaxis Games (Civilization) and 11-Bit Studios (This War of Mine) are drawing inspiration from climate-change to craft ludic dilemmas that force players to make radical decisions in the face of overwhelming odds. In other words: if these studios can’t necessarily make living through the apocalypse as fun as it sounds, they can at least make it interesting.

The picturesque environments of <em>Civ6</em> were about to experience some hardships.

The picturesque environments of Civ6 were about to experience some hardships.

A game that can do both

To be fair, climate scientists have understood for years now that video games have a unique ability to communicate the stakes and severity of this global crisis to a mass audience. Historically, many of these games fit well-within the strategy genre, and developers have tried different approaches to lure players in. For example, the commercial game Fate of the World often overwhelms new players with the heft of its interlocking systems: make a few bad decisions early on, and you’ll quickly find yourself hurtling towards a bad ending. All you can do then is apply the lessons learned to a future playthrough. On the other hand, educational fare like the underwater exploration sim Beyond Blue lean more towards accessibility. By focusing on the specific effects of climate change—in this case, the destruction of the Earth’s oceans—the game can communicate the costs of a warming climate to a wider audience.

Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Source: https://arstechnica.com/?p=1679548
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Ars Staff