A small but growing number of Republicans say the G.O.P. needs a coherent climate strategy and formed a “Conservative Climate Caucus” on Capitol Hill.
An activist investment firm won a shocking victory at Exxon Mobil. But can new directors really put the oil giant on a cleaner path?
Islands like the Bahamas are paying the price for wealthier nations’ emissions — an injustice crying out for a global remedy.
Royal Dutch Shell, though still reliant on profits from fossil fuels, is investing more in renewable energy. Critics say the changes have to come quicker.
President Biden suspended new oil and gas drilling leases on federal lands. A judge in Louisiana ruled those leases could not be temporarily halted.
Regulators have asked residents to start conserving energy after demand hit a June record just one week into the month.
Deb Haaland has advised the president to reinstate former boundaries at Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, and also in a marine area off New England.
President Biden pushed climate action after four years in which Donald Trump rejected cooperation with allies. But leaders failed to set an expiration date for burning coal.
Biden and other Western leaders had tough words for Russia and China after wrapping up a meeting in England, but they had trouble finding common ground on some big issues.
The administration says it will “repeal or replace” the rule that opened up more than half of Tongass National Forest to logging.
The fight over the pipeline will be, at least for now, where Biden’s climate commitment will be judged.
Researchers are starting to investigate the species that drive alpine algal blooms to better understand their causes and effects.
The proposed lease sale is part of the Biden administration’s push to develop 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2030.
The Biden administration says it will consider tougher limits on a deadly air pollutant that disproportionately affects low-income and minority communities.
The global economy’s transition to widespread electrification has increased the demand for longer-lasting and faster-charging batteries across industries including transportation, consumer electronics, medical devices and residential energy storage. While the benefits of this transition are well understood, the reality is that battery innovation hasn’t kept pace with society’s ambitions.
With reports forecasting a 40% chance that the world’s temperature will rise over the next five years beyond the limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius laid out in the Paris climate agreement, it is clear that there’s little time to waste when it comes to creating next-generation batteries, which can easily take another 10 years to fully commercialize.
To meet the increasing pressures to electrify, a completely novel approach to building batteries is the only way to scale rechargeable batteries quickly enough to curb greenhouse-gas emissions globally and avoid the worst-case scenario for the climate crisis.
The challenges to battery innovation
Over the last few decades, battery experts, automakers, Tier 1 suppliers, investors and others looking to electrify have spent billions of dollars globally on creating next-generation batteries by focusing predominantly on battery chemistry. Yet the industry is still grappling with two major fundamental technical challenges that are stunting the proliferation of batteries:
- Energy/power tradeoff: All batteries manufactured today face an energy-to-power tradeoff. Batteries can store more energy or they can charge/discharge more quickly. In terms of electric vehicles, this means no single battery can provide both long range and fast charging.
- Anode-cathode mismatch: Today’s most promising battery technologies maximize the energy density of anodes, the negative electrode of the pair of electrodes that make up every lithium-ion battery cell. However, anodes already have greater energy density than their positive counterpart, the cathode. Cathode energy density needs to eventually match that of the anode in order to get the most energy storage capacity out of a certain battery size. Without breakthroughs in increasing cathode energy density, many of today’s most exciting battery technologies will not be able to deliver on their full potential. As it currently stands, the most commonly used lithium-ion battery cannot meet the needs of the wide-ranging applications of an all-electric future. Many companies have tried to address these demands through new battery chemistries to optimize the high-power-to-energy-density ratio to varying degrees of success, but very few are close to achieving the performance metrics required for mass scale and commercialization.
Ultimately, the winning technologies in the race toward total electrification will be the ones that have the most significant impact on performance, lowered costs and compatibility with existing manufacturing infrastructure.
Are solid-state batteries the holy grail?
Battery researchers have championed the solid-state battery as the holy grail of battery technology due to its ability to achieve high energy density and increased safety. However, until recently, the technology has fallen short in practice.
Solid-state batteries have significantly higher energy density and are potentially safer because they do not use flammable liquid electrolytes. However, the technology is still nascent and has a long way to go to achieve commercialization. The manufacturing process for solid-state batteries has to be improved to lower costs, especially for an automotive industry that aims to achieve aggressive cost reductions as low as $50/kWh in the coming years.
The other substantial challenge to implementing solid-state technology is the limitation of total energy density that can be stored in the cathodes per unit of volume. The obvious solution to this dilemma would be to have batteries with thicker cathodes. However, a thicker cathode would reduce the mechanical and thermal stability of the battery. That instability leads to delamination (a mode of failure where a material fractures into layers), cracks and separation — all of which cause premature battery failure. In addition, thicker cathodes limit diffusion and decrease power. The result is that there is a practical limit to the thickness of cathodes, which restricts the power of anodes.
New takes on materials with silicon
In most cases, companies that are developing silicon-based batteries are mixing up to 30% silicon with graphite to boost energy density. The batteries made by Sila Nanotechnologies are an illustrative example of using a silicon mix to increase energy density. Another approach is to use 100% pure silicon anodes, which are limited by very thin electrodes and high production costs, to generate even higher energy density, like Amprius’ approach.
While silicon provides considerably greater energy density, there is a significant drawback that has limited its adoption until now: The material undergoes volume expansion and shrinkage while charging and discharging, limiting battery life and performance. This leads to degradation issues that manufacturers need to solve before commercial adoption. Despite those challenges, some silicon-based batteries are already being deployed commercially, including in the automotive sector, where Tesla leads in silicon adoption for EVs.
The imperative for electrification requires a new focus on battery design
Advances to battery architecture and cell design show significant promise for unlocking improvements with existing and emerging battery chemistries.
Probably the most notable from a mainstream perspective is Tesla’s “biscuit tin” battery cell that the company unveiled at its 2020 Battery Day. It’s still using lithium-ion chemistry, but the company removed the tabs in the cell that act as the positive and negative connection points between the anode and cathode and the battery casing, and instead use a shingled design within the cell. This change in design helps reduce manufacturing costs while boosting driving range and removes many of the thermal barriers that a cell can encounter when fast-charging with DC electricity.
Transitioning away from a traditional 2D electrode structure to a 3D structure is another approach that is gaining traction in the industry. The 3D structure yields high energy and high power performance in both the anode and cathode for every battery chemistry.
Although still in the R&D and testing phases, 3D electrodes have achieved two times higher accessible capacity, 50% less charging time and 150% longer lifetime for high-performance products at market-competitive prices. Therefore, in order to advance battery capabilities to unlock the full potential of energy storage for a range of applications, it is critical to develop solutions that emphasize altering the physical structure of batteries.
Winning the battery race
It’s not just performance improvements that will win the battery race, but perfecting production and cost reduction as well. To capture a considerable share of the ballooning battery market that is projected to reach $279.7 billion by 2027, countries around the world must find ways to achieve low-cost battery manufacturing at scale. Prioritizing “drop-in” solutions and innovative production methods that can be incorporated with existing assembly lines and materials will be key.
The Biden administration’s American Jobs Plan highlights the importance of domestic battery production to the country’s goal of being a leader in electrification while meeting ambitious carbon reduction targets. Commitments like these will play a key role in establishing who can maintain a critical competitive edge in the battery space and take the largest share of the $162 billion global EV market.
Ultimately, the winning technologies in the race toward total electrification will be the ones that have the most significant impact on performance, lowered costs and compatibility with existing manufacturing infrastructure. By taking a holistic approach and focusing more on innovating cell design while also fine-tuning leading chemistries, we can achieve the next steps in battery performance and rapid commercialization that the world desperately needs.
Yes, planting new trees can help. But intact wild areas are much better. The world needs to treat warming and biodiversity loss as two parts of the same problem, a new report warns.
The chances of pushing climate legislation through Congress, a long shot from the beginning, now appear even more uncertain.
The energy giant’s stunning loss was the work of a tiny hedge fund that believes investing for social good is also good for the bottom line.
The good will President Biden brings on his first trip abroad papers over lingering doubts about U.S. reliability and the cost that Europe will be expected to pay.
When it comes to sustainable livestock production and agriculture, measurement is the first — and sometimes most elusive — step in the process of turning our food system from a carbon emitter into a carbon sink.
So DSM, a science-based company that focuses on agriculture and other parts of our food systems, and Blonk, a data analytics for sustainability consultancy, developed Sustell, a combination software and practical service for ranchers to understand and improve the sustainability of their operations.
While sustainable and regenerative agriculture doesn’t have a universally agreed-upon definition, it usually involves changing land management practices to sequester more carbon in the soil, using more environmentally friendly animal feeds and reducing fossil fuel usage of tractors and other farm equipment among many other changes. The goal is to reduce the 7.1 gigatonnes of CO2 released into the atmosphere, about 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions, created by the livestock industry.
“There’s this tremendous need for accurate footprinting of animal production down to the individual farm level,” said David Nickell, vice president of sustainability and business solutions at DSM. “And each farm, of course, is very different. And you have to have a system which is able to use actual farm data, and to get an accurate picture of that particular farm.”
The system analyzes the environmental impact of a farm’s activity on 19 different categories, including climate change, resource use, water scarcity, runoff and ozone depletion. Farmers provide data on their daily operations, including feed composition and use, manure management practices, animal mortality, the electricity system and the other infrastructure, transportation logistics and mitigation technologies employed, like scrubbers or excess heat circulation systems, and sometimes packaging to the software.
Blonk’s environmental footprint technology then produces a life cycle assessment of the farm, an analysis of the environmental impact of rearing an animal from inception to when it exits the farm gate. DSM and Blonk have created Sustell modules for most land farm animals, including chickens, pigs and dairy and egg production, and plans to extend it to cover beef and aquaculture.
“What is really key is that we were able to build on this momentum of methodologies and standards that have been developed,” said Hans Blonk, CEO of Blonk Consultants and Blonk Sustainability Tools.
Blonk was able to combine agriculture environmental standards from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, European Commission and many others in one place to create the vast library of background data needed for the software to produce useful and actionable insights.
“Customers at the moment really want to understand what they’re doing,” Nickell said. “They want to understand their baseline [footprint] and rank them. Understand what’s good, and what’s not so good. Customers want to understand how they rate compared to peer benchmarking, whether it’s a country or an industry benchmark.”
Once the Sustell software gives farmers clarity on the emissions on their farms, they can then identify where improvements need to be made and DSM helps implement ways of reducing those emissions, creating an end-to-end service for customers and hopefully a positive impact on the planet.
“Practical interventions make change happen,” Nickell said. “We’ve invested in technologies which reduce the footprint of animal products production. The service is measurement and marry that up with bringing solutions, which make a difference. That’s the complete solution to making this much-needed change happen.”
But in order for Sustell to create that change, it needs to be adopted widely and the learnings need to be shared between competitors. Right now, DSM and, in some ways, the capitalist system, isn’t set up for that.
According to Nickell, DSM is first focusing Sustell on big integrated livestock companies. This is a common challenge with new innovative environmental technologies that can be adopted by big farming conglomerates or co-ops with money and resources to spend, while smaller family farms get left behind. But Nickell hopes that Sustell can scale to work with smaller farms, as well.
The second issue is around data sharing. While Nickell was very clear that Sustell will be following all applicable data privacy and ownership rules — and that’s usually a good thing — in order to really create meaningful environmental change, transparency is actually key. Competitors need to share the best ways for reducing emissions so everyone can adopt them and save the planet, but many companies are very data protective.
“I think maybe that [data sharing] develops in time,” Nickell said. “I don’t think we’re there yet. Maybe it will get to that level as more and more customers are transparent on their footprint and their reporting.”
To slow global warming, we need to electrify vast parts of our economy and power it with clean energy.
Global emissions dropped last year, but the decline wasn’t nearly enough to halt the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The Line 3 pipeline would carry oil from Canada across Minnesota, crossing sensitive waterways as well as tribal lands. On Monday, protesters gathered to try to stop construction.
The federal government often gives less help to Black disaster survivors than their white neighbors. That’s a challenge for President Biden, who has vowed to fight both inequality and climate change.
The U.S. has fallen way behind Europe partly because of an old shipping law and opposition from homeowners and fishing groups.
The state’s insurance regulator endorsed proposals that could reshape the real estate market, the latest sign of climate shocks hitting the economy.
The annual summer monsoon in South Asia begins this month. A new study points to more destructive storms.
Behind closed doors, shipbuilders and miners can speak on behalf of governments while regulating an industry that pollutes as much as all of America’s coal plants.
The administration suspended leases that were auctioned in the waning days of the Trump White House. But a 2017 law requires another sale.
Oil and gas giants are selling off their most-polluting operations to small private companies. Most manage to escape public scrutiny.
Diversifying beyond oil and gas will benefit everyone.
The decision effectively blocks oil and gas drilling in one of the largest tracts of undeveloped wilderness in the United States.
Sweeping new research found that heat-related deaths in warm seasons were boosted by climate change by an average of 37 percent.
The world’s northernmost tracking base, on a Norwegian island, plays a crucial role in supporting research on climate change.
The Czech Republic has sued Poland over a lignite coal mine it says violates European environmental laws. Poles say it’s crucial for jobs and the local economy.
A surprising mix of environmentalists, pension fund managers and big money investors have scored startling victories against oil and coal, opening new battle fronts in the climate fight.
Environmental activists had high hopes when he entered office, but have found his record mixed.
The airline industry might not be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for decades because most solutions are not yet viable.
Over the past month the Biden administration has defended three significant oil and gas projects, raising concerns among environmentalists that climate policy is being undermined
The tension between climate goals and lifting Exxon Mobil’s profits could make it difficult for activists to make progress.
In recent years, states have used the Clean Water Act to block pipelines and other fossil fuel projects. The Trump administration tried to curb that power.
The administration says the country must pivot away from fossil fuels but backed a project set to produce more than 100,000 barrels of oil each day for 30 years.
A company spokesman called the decision “disappointing” and said Shell expected to appeal, but the ruling could add pressure on the energy industry to accelerate its move away from fossil fuels.
The oil company will hold a contested election for four board seats at its annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday.
The idea of building wind farms along the Pacific coast has long been dismissed as impractical. But the administration says it’s feasible.
At the outset of hurricane and wildfire season, the Biden administration is doubling to $1 billion a fund that helps communities prepare for disasters.
Emitwise, a startup that claims its AI platform can measure greenhouse gas emissions from companies and their supply chains, has added to its seed funding round by $3.2 million, bringing its total seed funding raised to $6.6 million. ArcTern Ventures led the $3.2m raise. Also participating were Angel investors including Peter Harrison, the CEO of Schroders; Magnus Rausing; and Saltwater (Uber Co-Founder Ryan Graves’ investment firm). Other investors include True Ventures, Social Impact Capital, Lightbird Ventures, and others.
The company claims its platform will automate carbon accounting across a supply chain; identify emissions hotspots; integrate with ERP systems; and complies with auditing and disclosure systems like CDP, GHG and TCFD.
Mauro Cozzi, Emitwise Co-Founder and CEO, said in a statement: “With leaders set to ratchet up global climate ambition at the upcoming COP26 climate summit, there’s never been more certainty amongst corporates and investors: carbon equals cost and risk. A net zero-aligned model is a proxy for profit, efficiency and resilience and we’re committed to helping firms realize the major economic upsides of the transformation.”
Marc Faucher, ArcTern Ventures, said: “Enterprises face mounting pressure from customers, investors, and regulators to disclose accurate environmental data. Emitwise gives a clear line of sight to supply chain carbon which is critical for instilling effective mitigation strategies and incentives. Here at ArcTern Ventures, we believe Emitwise’s software platform is a game-changer that sets new standards in universal carbon footprint reporting.”
Emitwise competes to some extent with other startups in this space including Watersheds and Plan A, which also recently raised a round of funding.
He wants to require power companies to replace fossil fuels with clean energy. It’s a broadly popular idea but its path in Congress is perilous.
A warming planet holds potential risks for home prices, investments, banking and other aspects of the global economy, the government said.
The Biden administration is expected to press for deeper cuts in South Korea’s greenhouse gas emissions when President Moon Jae-in visits Washington on Friday.