America’s innovators will solve climate change, not regulators

President Joe Biden has pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. He intends to meet this ambitious target through a wave of new federal spending and government programs.

But our best hope for reducing carbon emissions isn’t new government spending. It’s a technological sea change — one that can only come from the private sector.

In fact, the government is slowing progress against climate change by imposing regulations that prevent emissions-lowering technologies from reaching the market. If our leaders really want to save the planet, they need to get out of the way of entrepreneurs who can actually do so.

One would expect the government to embrace technology with the potential to cut carbon pollution. After all, Biden himself has promised to “spur American technological innovations” as part of his climate agenda.

Unfortunately, some of the most promising green tech breakthroughs face severe headwinds as a result of misguided or antiquated federal policies.

One such technology — profiled in “They Say It Can’t Be Done,” a new documentary on the relationship between innovators and regulations — is an artificial tree developed by Arizona State University physicist and engineer Klaus Lackner. These man-made trees contain a special plastic resin that can absorb carbon dioxide and release it when submerged in water. They’re 1,000 times more effective at taking in carbon dioxide from the air than natural trees. Once captured, this carbon dioxide can then be reclaimed and converted into fuel.

Lackner’s design could be scaled to produce units that each remove a metric ton of carbon dioxide daily. The main stumbling block is the lack of clear regulations surrounding carbon capture technologies — specifically the transport and storage of captured carbon.

Until a uniform federal framework exists, the process of bringing this technology to market will remain impossibly complicated and fraught with risk.

Or consider technologies that could reduce the need for large-scale livestock farming. Raising billions of chickens, pigs and cattle requires vast amounts of water, feed and land. The resulting carbon footprint is massive — about 7.1 gigatons of greenhouse gases a year.

Here too, new technologies could help reduce emissions. Researchers are designing cell-cultured meat — chicken, pork and beef produced in the lab rather than the feedlot. This lab-grown protein is safe, healthy and far less carbon-intensive than traditionally farmed meat.

One startup that makes lab-grown meat, Eat Just, recently obtained approval to sell its cell-cultured chicken in Singapore. But it’s still waiting on the green light from U.S. regulators. According to the firm’s founder, it could be another year — or more — before U.S. approval comes through.

For an industry as capital-intensive as cultured meat production, this sluggish approval process can make it impossible for a startup to launch and get its products to market.

High-tech solutions like these are precisely what’s required to protect our planet from the threat of climate change. While it is impossible to say whether lab-grown meat is the future of sustainable food or if artificial trees are the best solution for sequestering atmospheric carbon, an accessible and level regulatory playing field allows the best innovations to thrive.

Too many Americans believe that when it comes to climate change, only the government is up to the task. The fact is, the main barrier to large-scale adoption of sustainable technologies isn’t a lack of government involvement, but too much — or at least the wrong kind.

In order to make good on his promise to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint, the president and his team will need to recognize how government obstructs the development and deployment of technology that can fulfill that promise.

#carbon-capture-technologies, #carbon-sequestration, #column, #cultured-meat, #government, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #greentech, #joe-biden, #opinion, #policy, #sustainable-food, #united-states

The FDA should regulate Instagram’s algorithm as a drug

The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday reported Silicon Valley’s worst-kept secret: Instagram harms teens’ mental health; in fact, its impact is so negative that it introduces suicidal thoughts.

Thirty-two percent of teen girls who feel bad about their bodies report that Instagram makes them feel worse. Of teens with suicidal thoughts, 13% of British and 6% of American users trace those thoughts to Instagram, the WSJ report said. This is Facebook’s internal data. The truth is surely worse.

President Theodore Roosevelt and Congress formed the Food and Drug Administration in 1906 precisely because Big Food and Big Pharma failed to protect the general welfare. As its executives parade at the Met Gala in celebration of the unattainable 0.01% of lifestyles and bodies that we mere mortals will never achieve, Instagram’s unwillingness to do what is right is a clarion call for regulation: The FDA must assert its codified right to regulate the algorithm powering the drug of Instagram.

The FDA should consider algorithms a drug impacting our nation’s mental health: The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act gives the FDA the right to regulate drugs, defining drugs in part as “articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals.” Instagram’s internal data shows its technology is an article that alters our brains. If this effort fails, Congress and President Joe Biden should create a mental health FDA.

Researchers can study what Facebook prioritizes and the impact those decisions have on our minds. How do we know this? Because Facebook is already doing it — they’re just burying the results.

The public needs to understand what Facebook and Instagram’s algorithms prioritize. Our government is equipped to study clinical trials of products that can physically harm the public. Researchers can study what Facebook privileges and the impact those decisions have on our minds. How do we know this? Because Facebook is already doing it — they’re just burying the results.

In November 2020, as Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frenkel report in “An Ugly Truth,” Facebook made an emergency change to its News Feed, putting more emphasis on “News Ecosystem Quality” scores (NEQs). High NEQ sources were trustworthy sources; low were untrustworthy. Facebook altered the algorithm to privilege high NEQ scores. As a result, for five days around the election, users saw a “nicer News Feed” with less fake news and fewer conspiracy theories. But Mark Zuckerberg reversed this change because it led to less engagement and could cause a conservative backlash. The public suffered for it.

Facebook likewise has studied what happens when the algorithm privileges content that is “good for the world” over content that is “bad for the world.” Lo and behold, engagement decreases. Facebook knows that its algorithm has a remarkable impact on the minds of the American public. How can the government let one man decide the standard based on his business imperatives, not the general welfare?

Upton Sinclair memorably uncovered dangerous abuses in “The Jungle,” which led to a public outcry. The free market failed. Consumers needed protection. The 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act for the first time promulgated safety standards, regulating consumable goods impacting our physical health. Today, we need to regulate the algorithms that impact our mental health. Teen depression has risen alarmingly since 2007. Likewise, suicide among those 10 to 24 is up nearly 60% between 2007 and 2018.

It is of course impossible to prove that social media is solely responsible for this increase, but it is absurd to argue it has not contributed. Filter bubbles distort our views and make them more extreme. Bullying online is easier and constant. Regulators must audit the algorithm and question Facebook’s choices.

When it comes to the biggest issue Facebook poses — what the product does to us — regulators have struggled to articulate the problem. Section 230 is correct in its intent and application; the internet cannot function if platforms are liable for every user utterance. And a private company like Facebook loses the trust of its community if it applies arbitrary rules that target users based on their background or political beliefs. Facebook as a company has no explicit duty to uphold the First Amendment, but public perception of its fairness is essential to the brand.

Thus, Zuckerberg has equivocated over the years before belatedly banning Holocaust deniers, Donald Trump, anti-vaccine activists and other bad actors. Deciding what speech is privileged or allowed on its platform, Facebook will always be too slow to react, overcautious and ineffective. Zuckerberg cares only for engagement and growth. Our hearts and minds are caught in the balance.

The most frightening part of “The Ugly Truth,” the passage that got everyone in Silicon Valley talking, was the eponymous memo: Andrew “Boz” Bosworth’s 2016 “The Ugly.”

In the memo, Bosworth, Zuckerberg’s longtime deputy, writes:

So we connect more people. That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs someone a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools. And still we connect people. The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is de facto good.

Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg made Bosworth walk back his statements when employees objected, but to outsiders, the memo represents the unvarnished id of Facebook, the ugly truth. Facebook’s monopoly, its stranglehold on our social and political fabric, its growth at all costs mantra of “connection,” is not de facto good. As Bosworth acknowledges, Facebook causes suicides and allows terrorists to organize. This much power concentrated in the hands of one corporation, run by one man, is a threat to our democracy and way of life.

Critics of FDA regulation of social media will claim this is a Big Brother invasion of our personal liberties. But what is the alternative? Why would it be bad for our government to demand that Facebook accounts to the public its internal calculations? Is it safe for the number of sessions, time spent and revenue growth to be the only results that matters? What about the collective mental health of the country and world?

Refusing to study the problem does not mean it does not exist. In the absence of action, we are left with a single man deciding what is right. What is the price we pay for “connection”? This is not up to Zuckerberg. The FDA should decide.

#column, #facebook, #food-and-drug-administration, #government, #health, #instagram, #joe-biden, #mark-zuckerberg, #opinion, #policy, #section-230, #sheryl-sandberg, #social, #social-media, #the-wall-street-journal

A majority of tech workers support antitrust legislation enforcement

With the arrival of U.S. Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan, breaking up Big Tech has reemerged as a major policy discussion in Washington. The issue seems to be bipartisan, with Republicans and Democrats alike in favor of stemming monopolistic behavior in the tech industry. Of course, the situation on the ground is more nuanced.

One month after the House Judiciary Committee voted to advance five bipartisan bills that would force Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google to split up or walk away from core businesses, Republican committee members introduced new legislation to give Americans legal recourse against online censorship by Big Tech companies. The more conservative-driven policy measures also propose greater transparency into content moderation practices by Big Tech.

This sparring between lawmakers on how to regulate Big Tech is not expected to end anytime soon. But as the U.S. ushers in a new era of digital transformation accelerated by the pandemic, Congress stands firmly united in the belief that Big Tech’s power must be checked to preserve the free market.

As it stands now, small competitors and consumers alike have little choice but to be tethered to Big Tech to participate in today’s modern economic engine. And coming out of the pandemic, the five biggest tech giants are growing at breathtaking speed unseen before in the history of capitalism.

Big Tech companies have come out strongly against regulation that would break up their business operations, suggesting reform would result in the loss of research and development, impractical market fragmentation and higher service costs to consumers.

A survey commissioned by a tech industry trade group funded by Big Tech companies such as Apple, Facebook and Amazon suggests that Americans view tech regulation as a low priority for Congress. Among those listed as top priority for Americans were the economy, public health, climate change and infrastructure. The survey also revealed that Americans are more likely to oppose regulation if it were to affect offerings like free shipping on Amazon Prime products.

Perhaps this poll and the bipartisan sentiment among elected leaders signals that after COVID-19, society has become aware of its dependency on tech giants, for better or worse. For the last 18 months, American workers have adapted to remote work. They utilize programs run by Big Tech companies to communicate with other employees, to run companies, and to buy groceries and essentials. It is unlikely this dynamic will change, as many companies have announced their transition to a fully remote or hybrid work model.

This topic has raised interest among professionals, more specifically those who work in the tech industry, startups and small businesses. We at Fishbowl thought we’d ask professionals — many of whom work in the tech industry — about breaking up tech giants. Fishbowl is a social network for professionals, so conducting surveys on this and other workplace topics is a natural fit.

The survey ran from July 26-30, 2021, to determine how employees in the field feel about antitrust laws. The survey asked professionals: Do you believe antitrust legislation should be used to break up Big Tech companies like Amazon and Google?

There were 11,579 verified professionals on the Fishbowl app who participated in the survey, and they were given the option to answer either yes or no. The survey was broken down into state and professional industries such as law, consulting, finance, tech, marketing, accounting, human resources, teachers and others.

Here’s what the survey revealed:

Image Credits: Fishbowl

Out of 11,579 professionals, the majority — 6,920 (59.76%) — responded yes to the survey question.

Based on responses, we found that law professionals were the highest group responding in the affirmative to the survey, with 66.67%. Consulting professionals followed with 61.97%, while finance (60.64%) marginally beat out tech (60.03%). Conversely, teachers had the lowest percentage with 53.49%. Human resources (55.65%), accounting (58.51%) and other professional industries (58.83%) trailed behind.

The survey’s data was collected from professionals in 25 U.S. states. The highest percentage responding “yes” was Colorado with 76.83%. In second place was Washington with 73.17%, and Michigan rounded out the top three with 69.70%. Missouri (51.35%) had the lowest percentage of employees responding “yes” to splitting up Big Tech. Following closely behind were Indiana (52.59%) and Massachusetts (52.83%). Overall, the majority of the states involved in the survey agreed that they believed antitrust legislation should indeed break up Big Tech companies.

Tech had the fourth-highest percentage of professionals agreeing that Big Tech companies should be broken up. Some benefits from breaking up Big Tech companies are more opportunities for small businesses — for a tech professional or entrepreneur, this could open up opportunities to launch new products, programs and services. It could also add more jobs for highly skilled professionals. Second, it can reduce data privacy and national security concerns. But some cons of breaking up Big Tech companies include the loss of research and development — large companies provide major funding for artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, wearables, robots and more. Ultimately, breaking up Big Tech companies can also increase service costs for professionals and the overall public.

As policymakers continue to negotiate on how to break up Big Tech, the White House is also making moves. President Joe Biden recently named Khan, a professor at Columbia Law School, as chair of the FTC. A staunch critic of Big Tech, Khan’s main priority is to protect the public from corporate abuse and ensure merger guidelines reflect economic realities and empirical learning and enforcement. Simply put, she reviews mergers with skepticism.

And in July, Biden announced his intention to nominate Jonathan Kanter for chief of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. Kanter is an antitrust lawyer with over 20 years of experience who has been a leading advocate and expert in the effort to promote strong and meaningful antitrust enforcement and competition policy.

With these additional members, it is expected that there will be an aggressive approach to enforcing antitrust laws across industries, leaving it to Congress to ensure that moving forward things are different.

#amazon, #antitrust, #apple, #big-tech, #column, #congress, #facebook, #google, #government, #joe-biden, #lina-khan, #microsoft, #policy, #tc, #white-house

Automakers urge greater government investment to meet Biden’s EV sales target

President Joe Biden is expected to set an ambitious new target for half of all new auto sales in the U.S. to be low- or zero-emission by 2030, a plan that has received tentative support from the Big Three automakers pending what they say will require hefty government support.

General Motors, Ford and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) issued a joint statement Thursday that they had “shared aspiration[s]” to achieve a 40% to 50% share of electric in new vehicle sales by the end of the decade, with the caveat that such a target “can be achieved only with the timely deployment of the full suite of electrification policies committed to by the Administration in the Build Back Better Plan.”

Some of the investments they list include consumer incentives, a national EV charging network “of sufficient density,” funding for R&D and manufacturing and supply chain incentives.

Biden’s target, which will come in the form of an executive order on Thursday, will be nonbinding and entirely voluntary. The target includes vehicles powered by batteries, hydrogen fuel cells or plug-in hybrids.

Executives from the three OEMs, as well as representatives from the United Automobile Workers union, are expected to attend an event on the new target at the White House Thursday. Tesla, it seems, was not invited, according to a tweet from CEO Elon Musk.

Biden will also be calling for new fuel economy standards for passenger and medium- and heavy-duty vehicles through model year 2026, which were rolled back under President Trump’s tenure, according to a White House factsheet released Thursday. The new standards, which will be crafted under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency, should come as no surprise to automakers: They were included in Biden’s so-called “Day One Agenda” and mark a cornerstone of his strategy to combat climate change.

The new standards will likely borrow from those passed by California last year, which were finalized in concert with a coalition of five automakers: BMW AG, Ford, Honda Motor Co., Volkswagen AG, and Volvo AB. Those automakers, in a separate statement Thursday, said they supported the White House’s plan to reduce emissions. However, like the Big Three, they said that “bold action” from the federal government will be needed to achieve emission reductions targets.

The road to 2030

While Biden’s nonbinding order is more of a symbolic one, the targets are likely achievable, Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ executive director of insights said in a statement. She added that automotive industry leaders “have seen the writing on the wall for some time now” regarding electrification, regardless of who has been in the White House.

Thanks to the relatively long product development lead time, many of the major automakers have already announced multibillion-dollar investments in EVs and AVs at least through the middle of the decade. That includes a $35 billion investment through 2025 from GM and $30 billion through the same year from Ford — not to mention similar announcements from Stellantis and many billions earmarked for battery R&D from Volkswagen, and even Volvo Cars’ shift to all-electric by 2030.

These massive numbers follow the automakers’ own sales targets, which are for the most part in line with Biden’s goal.

Fuel economy rules, however, have historically garnered slightly more mixed reactions from automakers. GM, Fiat Chrysler (now Stellantis) and Toyota had previously supported a Trump-era lawsuit that sought to strip California’s authority to set its own emissions standards — but each company eventually made an about-face, leaving the road open for Biden to introduce his own standards this year.

In a very real sense, Biden’s announcement is as much about geopolitics as it is about climate change. He, too, has seen the writing on the wall regarding EVs. His administration notes in the factsheet that “China is increasingly cornering the global supply chain” for EVs and EV battery materials. “By setting clear targets for electric vehicle sale trajectories, these countries are becoming magnets for private investment into their manufacturing sectors — from parts and materials to final assembly.”

While three times as many EVs were registered in the U.S. in 2020 versus 2016, America still lags behind both Europe and China in terms of EV market share, according to the International Energy Agency.

The news has garnered a slew of mixed reactions, with some environmental groups urging more decisive action on the part of the administration. Carol Lee Rawn, senior director of transportation at Ceres, said in a statement that future standards should target a 60% reduction in emissions and a “clear trajectory” to 100% vehicle sales by 2035.

Although the UAW will be joining Biden at the White House on Thursday, President Ray Curry said in a statement that the group is “not focused on hard deadlines or percentages, but on preserving the wages and benefits that have been the heart and soul of the American middle class.”

#automotive, #bmw, #donald-trump, #electric-vehicles, #fiat-chrysler, #ford, #general-motors, #joe-biden, #policy, #stellantis, #transportation, #volkswagen, #volvo-cars

Biden nominates another Big Tech enemy, this time to lead the DOJ’s antitrust division

The Biden administration tripled down on its commitment to reining in powerful tech companies Tuesday, proposing committed Big Tech critic Jonathan Kanter to lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division.

Kanter is a lawyer with a long track record of representing smaller companies like Yelp in antitrust cases against Google. He currently practices law at his own firm, which specializes in advocacy for state and federal antitrust enforcement.

“Throughout his career, Kanter has also been a leading advocate and expert in the effort to promote strong and meaningful antitrust enforcement and competition policy,” the White House press release stated. Progressives celebrated the nomination as a win, though some of Biden’s new antitrust hawks have enjoyed support from both political parties.

The Justice Department already has a major antitrust suit against Google in the works. The lawsuit, filed by Trump’s own Justice Department, accuses the company of “unlawfully maintaining monopolies” through anti-competitive practices in its search and search advertising businesses. If successfully confirmed, Kanter would be positioned to steer the DOJ’s big case against Google.

In a 2016 NYT op-ed, Kanter argued that Google is notorious for relying on an anti-competitive “playbook” to maintain its market dominance. Kanter pointed to Google’s long history of releasing free ad-supported products and eventually restricting competition through “discriminatory and exclusionary practices” in a given corner of the market.

Kanter is just the latest high profile Big Tech critic that’s been elevated to a major regulatory role under Biden. Last month, Biden named fierce Amazon critic Lina Khan as FTC chair upon her confirmation to the agency. In March, Biden named another noted Big Tech critic, Columbia law professor Tim Wu, to the National Economic Council as a special assistant for tech and competition policy.

All signs point to the Biden White House gearing up for a major federal fight with Big Tech. Congress is working on a set of Big Tech bills, but in lieu of — or in tandem with — legislative reform, the White House can flex its own regulatory muscle through the FTC and DOJ.

In new comments to MSNBC, the White House confirmed that it is also “reviewing” Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a potent snippet of law that protects platforms from liability for user-generated content.

#amazon, #biden, #biden-administration, #big-tech, #chair, #columbia, #competition-law, #congress, #department-of-justice, #doj, #federal-trade-commission, #google, #government, #joe-biden, #lawyer, #lina-khan, #msnbc, #section-230, #tc, #tim-wu, #white-house, #yelp

Biden blasts social media after Facebook stonewalls admin over vaccine misinformation

President Biden sitting at a table and speaking while gesturing with his hand.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Pool)

President Joe Biden and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy spent the last several days hammering social media companies for their platforms’ roles in spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

“They’re killing people,” Biden said, when asked about the role of social networks in the spread of misinformation. “Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. They’re killing people.” His comments came after Facebook reportedly stonewalled the White House. For weeks, officials unsuccessfully petitioned Facebook to share details about how it is fighting vaccine misinformation on its platforms, according to a report in The New York Times.

The assault continued on Sunday when Murthy appeared on CNN. “These platforms have to recognize they’ve played a major role in the increase in speed and scale with which misinformation is spreading,” he said. And White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki faulted Facebook last Thursday for the pace of its moderation. “Facebook needs to move more quickly to remove violative posts,” she said. “Posts that will be within their policies’ removal often remain up for days. That’s too long. The information spreads too quickly.”

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#covid-19, #covid-19-vaccine, #facebook, #joe-biden, #policy, #social-media, #vaccine-hesitancy, #vaccine-misinformation

What the growing federal focus on ESG means for private markets

The increasing regulation of ESG (environmental, social, governance) disclosure reporting may have started in the public markets, but will almost certainly have downstream effects for private market actors — for founders, companies and investors.

Since his confirmation as the chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in April, Gary Gensler has made reforming ESG disclosures concerning climate change risk and human capital a top priority. The SEC’s regulatory agenda confirms as much. And Gensler is not alone in his focus on ESG at the federal level.

President Joe Biden issued an executive order encouraging regulators to assess climate-related financial risk. At the end of March, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote on Twitter that “our future livelihoods … depend on the financial sector to build a more sustainable and resilient economy.” Congress is considering measures that would require increased ESG disclosures, including the Improving Corporate Governance Through Diversity Act, the Diversity and Inclusion Data Accountability and Transparency Act and the Climate Risk Disclosure Act.

This renewed federal focus on ESG issues will bolster the SEC’s effort to create disclosure practices for public companies and mutual funds. Regardless of whether these federal policies around ESG come to pass, they reflect a momentum that will almost certainly impact private markets:

  • Firms that want to go public — whether via SPAC, direct listing or traditional IPO — may have to seriously consider board diversity or environmental reporting in conjunction with — or well in advance of — their debuts.
  • Private companies seeking to align with public companies as vendors or partners may be expected to meet specific ESG requirements before the engagement.
  • Startup founders and venture funds raising capital may work to maintain the largest target market by proactively scoping ESG engagements to ensure they meet criteria for investors who may have their own ESG-focused investment requirements.

In his confirmation hearing before the Senate in early March, Gensler said, “Markets — and technology — are always changing. Our rules have to change along with them.”

The federal government is moving to increase regulation around ESG disclosure requirements with the goals of establishing greater transparency and metrics for public companies.

The federal government is moving to increase regulation around ESG disclosure requirements with the goals of establishing greater transparency and metrics for public companies. These requirements are a response to the changing markets — demands from consumers, scrutiny from investors and a general insistence for higher corporate standards from society at large.

Private markets aren’t immune to these forces. Already, three-quarters of investors in a 2020 survey said it was very important to measure the success of sustainability initiatives, but they also said there’s been a lack of clarity on how to define and measure outcomes.

To be sure, private markets are not headed toward full-scale adoption of ESG regulations. They will not be subject to the same reporting or disclosures framework as their public counterparts. Not today, and possibly not for some time.

But we may begin to see private investors, funds and companies adapting to get ahead of ESG regulation and position themselves to effectively operate in a new — albeit adjacent — regulatory environment. In their case, the rules may not change — but the game could.

#column, #congress, #environmentalism, #esg, #federal-government, #government, #greentech, #joe-biden, #opinion, #policy, #private-equity, #senate, #tc, #u-s-securities-and-exchange-commission, #venture-capital

Andreessen Horowitz triples down on blockchain startups with massive $2.2 billion Crypto Fund III

While the cryptocurrency market’s most recent hype wave seems to be dying down after a spectacular rise, Andreessen Horowitz’s crypto arm is reaffirming its commitment to startups building blockchain projects with a hulking new $2.2 billion crypto fund.

It’s the firm’s largest vertical-specific fund ever — by quite a bit.

Andreessen Horowitz’s 2018 crypto fund ushered in $300 million of LP commitments and its second fund, which it closed in April of last year, clocked in at $515 million. The new multi-billion dollar fund not only showcases how institutional backers are growing more comfortable with cryptocurrencies, but also how Andreessen Horowitz’s assets under management have been quickly swelling to compete with other deep-pocketed firms including the ever-prolific Tiger Global.

With this announcement, Andreessen now has some $18.8 billion assets under management.

LPs are likely far less wary to take a chance on crypto after Andreessen Horowitz’s stake in Coinbase equated to some $11.2 billion at the time of the direct listing’s first trades, though the stock has slid back some 30% in recent months as the crypto market has shrunk.

Some of the firm’s other major crypto bets include NBA Top Shot maker Dapper Labs which hit a $7.5 billion valuation this spring. Blockchain infrastructure startup Dfinity raised at a $9.5 billion valuation this past September. Last year, the firm led the Series A of Uniswap, which is poised to be a major player in the Ethereum ecosystem. In addition to equity investments, a16z has also made major bets on the currencies themselves.

An earlier report from Newcomer last month reported a16z was targeting a $2 billion crypto fund and that they had already unloaded some of their crypto holdings before most cryptocurrencies took a major dive in recent weeks.

Crypto Fund III will continue to be managed by GPs Chris Dixon and Katie Haun, but the firm has also begun spinning out a more robust management team around the crypto vertical.

Anthony Albanese, who joined the firm last year from the NYSE, has been appointed COO of the division. Tomicah Tillemann, who previously served as a senior advisor to now-President Joe Biden and as chairman of the Global Blockchain Business Council, will be a16z Crypto’s Global Head of Policy. Rachael Horwitz is also coming aboard as an Operating Partner leading marketing and communications for a16z crypto; leaving Google after a stint as Coinbase’s first VP of Communications as well.

A couple other folks are also coming on in advisory capacity, including entrepreneur Alex Price and a couple others who will likely be a tad helpful in regulatory maneuverings including Bill Hinman, formerly of the SEC, and Brent McIntosh, who recently served as Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs.

#andreessen-horowitz, #blockchain, #blockchains, #chairman, #chris-dixon, #coinbase, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #dapper-labs, #decentralization, #entrepreneur, #ethereum, #finance, #google, #gps, #joe-biden, #joseph-lubin, #katie-haun, #money, #national-basketball-association, #nba, #rachael-horwitz, #tc, #technology, #tiger-global, #u-s-securities-and-exchange-commission, #uniswap

Zero trust unicorn Illumio closes $225M Series F led by Thoma Bravo

Illumio, a self-styled zero trust unicorn, has closed a $225 million Series F funding round at a $2.75 billion valuation. 

The round was led by Thoma Bravo, which recently bought cybersecurity vendor Proofpoint by $12.3 billion, and supported by Franklin Templeton, Hamilton Lane, and Blue Owl Capital. 

The round lands more than two years after Illumio’s Series E funding round in which it raised $65 million, and fueled speculation of an impending IPO. The company’s founder, Andrew Rubin, still isn’t ready to be pressed on whether the company plans to go public, though he told TechCrunch: “If we do our job right, and if we make our customers successful, I’d like to think that would be part of our journey.”

Illumio’s latest funding round is well-timed. Not only does it come amid a huge rise in successful cyberattacks which show that some of the more traditional cybersecurity measures are no longer working, from the SolarWinds hack in early 2020 to the more recent attack on Colonial Pipeline, but it also comes just weeks after President Joe Biden issued an executive order pushing federal agencies to implement significant cybersecurity initiatives, including a zero trust architecture. 

“And just a couple of weeks ago, Anne Neuberger [deputy national security adviser for cybersecurity] put out a memo on White House stationary to all of corporate America saying we’re living through a ransomware pandemic, and here’s six things that we’re imploring you to do,” Rubin says. “One of them was to segment your network.”

Illumio focuses on protecting data centers and cloud networks through something it calls micro-segmentation, which it claims makes it easier to manage and guard against potential breaches, as well as to contain a breach if one occurs. This zero trust approach to security — a concept centered on the belief that businesses should not automatically trust anything inside or outside its perimeters — has never been more important for organizations, according to Illumio. 

“Cyber events are no longer constrained to cyber space,” says Rubin. “That’s why people are finally saying that, after 30 years of relying solely on detection to keep us safe, we cannot rely on it 100% of the time. Zero trust is now becoming the mantra.”

Illumio tells TechCrunch it will use the newly raised funds to make a “huge” investment in its field operations and channel partner network, and to invest in innovation, engineering and its product. 

The late-stage startup, which was founded in 2013 and is based in California, says more than 10% of Fortune 100 companies — including Morgan Stanley, BNP Paribas SA and Salesforce — now use its technology to protect their data centers, networks and other applications. It saw 100% international growth during the pandemic, and says it’s also broadening its customer base across more industries. 

The company has raised more now raised more $550 million from investors include Andreessen Horowitz, General Catalyst and Formation 8.

#america, #andreessen-horowitz, #anne-neuberger, #california, #colonial-pipeline, #computer-security, #computing, #cyberwarfare, #executive, #formation-8, #franklin-templeton, #funding, #general-catalyst, #information-technology, #joe-biden, #morgan-stanley, #network-management, #president, #proofpoint, #salesforce, #security, #solarwinds, #system-administration, #thoma-bravo, #unicorn, #white-house

Facebook’s hand-picked ‘oversight’ panel upholds Trump ban — for now

Facebook’s content decision review body, a quasi-external panel that’s been likened to a ‘Supreme Court of Facebook’ but isn’t staffed by sitting judges, can’t be truly independent of the tech giant which funds it, has no legal legitimacy or democratic accountability, and goes by the much duller official title ‘Oversight Board’ (aka the FOB) — has just made the biggest call of its short life…

Facebook’s hand-picked ‘oversight’ panel has voted against reinstating former U.S. president Donald Trump’s Facebook account.

However it has sought to row the company back from an ‘indefinite’ ban — finding fault with its decision to impose an indefinite restriction, rather than issue a more standard penalty (such as a penalty strike or permanent account closure).

In a press release announcing its decision the board writes:

Given the seriousness of the violations and the ongoing risk of violence, Facebook was justified in suspending Mr. Trump’s accounts on January 6 and extending that suspension on January 7.

However, it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose an ‘indefinite’ suspension.

It is not permissible for Facebook to keep a user off the platform for an undefined period, with no criteria for when or whether the account will be restored.”

The board wants Facebook to revision its decision on Trump’s account within six months — and “decide the appropriate penalty”. So it appears to have succeeded in… kicking the can down the road.

The FOB is due to hold a press conference to discuss its decision shortly so stay tuned for updates.

This story is developing… refresh for updates…

It’s certainly been a very quiet five months on mainstream social media since Trump had his social media ALL CAPS megaphone unceremoniously shut down in the wake of his supporters’ violent storming of the capital.

For more on the background to Trump’s deplatforming do make time for this excellent explainer by TechCrunch’s Taylor Hatmaker. But the short version is that Trump finally appeared to have torched the last of his social media rule-breaking chances after he succeeded in fomenting an actual insurrection on U.S. soil on January 6. Doing so with the help of the massive, mainstream social media platforms whose community standards don’t, as a rule, give a thumbs up to violent insurrection…

#alan-rusbridger, #alex-stamos, #content-moderation, #donald-j-trump, #donald-trump, #facebook, #facebook-oversight-board, #fob, #freedom-of-speech, #hate-speech, #joe-biden, #mark-zuckerberg, #nick-clegg, #oversight-board, #policy, #social, #social-media, #united-states

How the next Patent Office director could shape the patent system

Joe Biden speaks at a rally in Georgia on April 29, 2021.

Enlarge / Joe Biden speaks at a rally in Georgia on April 29, 2021. (credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

In the next few weeks, President Joe Biden is expected to choose a new director for the US Patent and Trademark Office. In recent days, I’ve talked to a dozen people who are deeply involved in the patent system. During these conversations, three names came up over and over again as leading candidates.

One is patent lawyer Ellisen Turner. Over an 18-year career, Turner has represented a wide range of clients, from big tech companies to companies that do little more than collect patent licensing revenue. Included in this latter category is a firm that might sound familiar to long-time Ars readers: Intellectual Ventures. Back in 2014, my colleague Joe Mullin described Intellectual Ventures as the “world’s biggest troll.” Instead of developing products to sell to customers, Intellectual Ventures has mostly focused on accumulating a massive patent portfolio and then threatening to sue companies that refuse to license its patents.

Another leading candidate is Jannie Lau, a patent attorney who spent 11 years as the general counsel (and before that, associate general counsel) at InterDigital. This is another company that makes almost all its money from patent-licensing fees—97 percent in 2020. While some critics have labeled InterDigital a patent troll, a spokesman for the company told me that the label doesn’t fit. He said the firm employs hundreds of engineers who have helped to develop some key technical standards, especially in the wireless industry.

Read 48 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#joe-biden, #patent-trolls, #policy, #uspto

Biden proposes ARPA-H, a health research agency to ‘end cancer’ modeled after DARPA

In a joint address to Congress last night, President Biden updated the nation on vaccination efforts and outlined his administration’s ambitious goals.

Biden’s first 100 days have been characterized by sweeping legislative packages that could lift millions of Americans out of poverty and slow the clock on the climate crisis, but during his first joint address to Congress, the president highlighted another smaller plan that’s no less ambitious: to “end cancer as we know it.”

“I can think of no more worthy investment,” Biden said Wednesday night. “I know of nothing that is more bipartisan…. It’s within our power to do it.”

The comments weren’t out of the blue. Earlier this month, the White House released a budget request for $6.5 billion to launch a new government agency for breakthrough health research. The proposed health agency would be called ARPA-H and would live within the NIH. The initial focus would be on cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s but the agency would also pursue other “transformational innovation” that could remake health research.

The $6.5 billion investment is a piece of the full $51 billion NIH budget. But some critics believe that ARPA-H should sit under the Department of Health and Human Services rather than being nested under NIH. 

ARPA-H would be modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which develops moonshot-like tech for defense applications. DARPA’s goals often sound more like science fiction than science, but the agency contributed to or created a number of now ubiquitous technologies, including a predecessor to GPS and most famously ARPANET, the computer network that grew into the modern internet.

Unlike more conservative, incremental research teams, DARPA aggressively pursues major scientific advances in a way that shares more in common with Silicon Valley than it does with other governmental agencies. Biden believes that using the DARPA model on cutting edge health research would keep the U.S. from lagging behind in biotech.

“China and other countries are closing in fast,” Biden said during the address. “We have to develop and dominate the products and technologies of the future: advanced batteries, biotechnology, computer chips, and clean energy.”

#arpanet, #biden, #biotechnology, #cancer, #congress, #darpa, #diabetes, #government, #health, #joe-biden, #life-sciences, #national-institute-of-health, #national-institutes-of-health, #president, #tc, #united-states, #white-house

Biden proposes gun control reforms to go after ‘ghost guns’ and close loopholes

President Biden has announced a new set of initiatives by which he hopes to curb the gun violence he described as “an epidemic” and “an international embarrassment.” Among other things, the ATF will be closing loopholes in unregulated online sales and so-called “ghost guns,” which can be built or printed with no serial numbers or background checks.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden Thursday afternoon, Biden recounted the many recent mass shootings as horrific tragedies, but pointed out that over a hundred people are shot every day in this country. “This is an epidemic, for God’s sake,” he repeated, “and it has to stop.”

Before outlining his plans for combating the problem, he made sure to address the inevitable Second Amendment objections from people who believe it is a Constitutional right for anyone to own things like assault rifles.

“Nothing I’m about to recommend in any way impinges on the Second Amendment,” Biden said. “From the very beginning, you couldn’t own any weapon you wanted to own. From the very beginning of the Second Amendment existing, certain people weren’t allowed to have weapons.”

Of course federal laws often conflict with state laws on this point, giving rise to surprising sights like heavily armed protestors taking over the Michigan capitol building — quite legally. But the feds do have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Background checks and registration tracking involve federal authorities, and there are loopholes that have appeared or worsened over recent years as online traffic in guns has increased (social networks are notorious for thinly veiled gun trade) and the process of building weapons at home has become easier.

“I have directed ATF to begin work on an updated study of gun trafficking, one that takes into account the fact that modern guns are not simply cast or forged any more, but can be made of plastic, printed on a 3D printer, or sold in self assembly kits,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who took the podium after Biden. “We will ensure that we understand and measure the problem of criminal gun trafficking in a data driven way.”

“Ghost guns” were a hot topic a few years back when several people and organizations, among them Defense Distributed, attempted to popularize 3D-printed pistols and assault rifle components. The high-tech angle made the media bite, though of course traditional gun trafficking in the form of smuggling and in-person sales dwarf the scale of anything these sites and services delivered.

But gun building kits do represent a significant loophole in the ATF’s regulations, which do not require registration or background checks for them. So a person can get 80% of a gun that way, get the other 20% (usually the “receiver,” which component qualifies the assembly as a firearm) by printing or another method, and have a gun with no serial number or registration whatsoever.

Garland has proposed a rule for the ATF to adopt that would change this and a few other things, such as easily purchased modifications for pistols that effectively make them into short-barreled rifles; the new rule would require those conversion kits to be registered. This presumably will follow the confirmation of the ATF’s first director in five years — the position was vacant for the whole last administration — David Chipmen, whom Biden plans to nominate.

Other efforts by the administration include a $5 billion, 8-year investment in community violence intervention programs, a push for “red flag” laws that temporarily bar people in crisis from obtaining guns, and a nudge for Congress to start working on legislation that addresses things the Executive can’t.

#atf, #defense-distributed, #firearms, #ghost-guns, #government, #gun-laws, #guns, #joe-biden, #president-biden, #white-house

Biden infrastructure plan proposes spending $174B to boost America’s EV market

President Joe Biden has earmarked $174 billion from his ambitious infrastructure plan to build out domestic supply chains for electric vehicles, noting the imperative for United States automakers to “compete globally” to win a larger share of the EV market.

The funds are just one part of Biden’s plan, which calls for an ambitious $2 trillion infrastructure investment across multiple sectors. The Fact Sheet for the plan includes six references to China – one of these in reference to the size of the Chinese EV market, which is two-thirds larger than the domestic U.S. market. Chinese manufacturer Foxconn, Apple’s main supplier, said in February it was considering producing EVs at its Wisconsin plants – just weeks after tentatively agreeing to manufacture an EV for startup-turned-SPAC Fisker.

To ensure Americans actually purchase these domestically manufactured EVs, Biden also plans to establish sales rebates and tax incentives for the purchase of American-made EVs, though the size of the credit has not been released. Customers can already cash in a $7,500 federal tax credit for EVs, but it is not available to automakers that have sold more than 200,000 electric cars – people looking to purchase a Tesla, for instance, would not qualify for the credit. It’s unclear whether the new tax credit would raise or abolish the sales limit for automakers.

The plan also proposes using some of the funds to build a national EV charging network of 500,000 stations by 2030. A recent survey from Consumer Reports found that the availability of public charging stations was a major concern deterring people from looking into an EV for their next vehicle purchase.

On the transit side, Biden’s administration said the funds will also go towards replacing 50,000 diesel transit vehicles and electrifying at least 20 percent of school busses, through a new program administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The plan places a huge emphasis on providing good-paying jobs to American workers, but it still has a long way to go. It must be approved by Congress before becoming law.

#automotive, #battery-electric-vehicles, #charging-station, #china, #congress, #consumer-reports, #electric-car, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #environmental-protection-agency, #foxconn, #green-vehicles, #joe-biden, #president, #transport, #transportation, #united-states, #wisconsin

Startups have about $1 trillion worth of reasons to love the Biden infrastructure plan

The sweeping infrastructure package put forward today by President Joe Biden comes with a price tag of roughly $2 trillion (and hefty tax hikes) but gives startups and the broader tech industry about $1 trillion worth of reasons to support it.

Tech companies have spent the past decade or more developing innovations that can be applied to old-world industries like agriculture, construction, energy, education, manufacturing and transportation and logistics. These are industries where structural impediments to technology adoption have only recently been broken down by the advent of incredibly powerful mobile devices.

Now, these industries are at the heart of the President’s plan to build back better, and the hundreds of billions of dollars that are earmarked to make America great again will, either directly or indirectly, be a huge boost to a number of startups and large tech companies whose hardware and software services will enable much of the work the Biden administration wants done.

“The climate-oriented investment in Biden’s new plan would be roughly ten times what came through ARRA,” wrote Shayle Kann, a partner with the investment firm, Energy Impact Partners. “It would present a huge opportunity for a variety of climate tech sectors, ranging from clean electricity to carbon management to vehicle electrification.”

Much of this will look and feel like a Green New Deal, but sold under a package of infrastructure modernization and service upgrades that the country desperately needs.  Indeed, it’s hard to invest in infrastructure without supporting the kind of energy efficiency and renewable development plans that are at the core of the Green New Deal, since efficiency upgrades are just a part of the new way of building and making things.

Over $700 billion of the proposed budget will go to improving resiliency against natural disasters; upgrading critical water, power, and internet infrastructure; and rehabilitating and improving public housing, federal buildings, and aging commercial and residential real estate.

Additionally there’s another roughly $400 billion in spending earmarked for boosting domestic manufacturing of critical components like semiconductors; protecting against future pandemics; and creating regional innovation hubs to promote venture capital investment and startup development intended to “support the growth of entrepreneurship in communities of color and underserved communities.”

Climate resiliency 

Given the steady drumbeat of climate disasters that hit the U.S. over the course of 2020 (and their combined estimated price tag of nearly $100 billion), it’s not surprising that the Biden plan begins with a focus on resiliency.

The first big outlay of cash outlined in the Biden plan would call for $50 billion in financing to improve, protect and invest in underserved communities most at risk from climate disasters through programs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and new initiatives from the Department of Transportation. Most relevant to startups is the push to fund initiatives and technologies that can help prevent or protect against extreme wildfires; rising sea levels and hurricanes; new agriculture resource management; and “climate-smart” technologies.

As with most of Biden’s big infrastructure initiatives, there are startups tackling these issues. Companies like Cornea, Emergency Reporting, Zonehaven are trying to solve different facets of the fire problem; while flood prediction and weather monitoring startups are floating up their services too. Big data analytics, monitoring and sensing tools, and robotics are also becoming fixtures on the farm. For the President’s water efficiency and recycling programs, companies like Epic CleanTec, which has developed wastewater recycling technologies for residential and commercial buildings.

Fables of the reconstruction

Energy efficiency and building upgrades represent by far the biggest chunk of the Biden infrastructure package — totaling a whopping $400 billion of the spending package and all devoted to upgrading homes, offices, schools, veteran’s hospitals and federal buildings.

It gives extra credence to the thesis behind new climate-focused funds from Greensoil Proptech Ventures and Fifth Wall Ventures, which is raising a $200 million investment vehicle to focus on energy efficiency and climate tech solutions.

As Fifth Wall’s newest partner Greg Smithies noted last year, there’s a massive opportunity in building retrofits and startup technologies to improve efficiency.

“What excites me about this space is that there’s so much low-hanging fruit. And there’s $260 trillion worth of buildings,” Smithies said last year. “The vast majority of those are nowhere up to modern codes. We’re going to have a much bigger opportunity by focusing on some not-so-sexy stuff.”

Decarbonizing real estate can also make a huge difference in the fight against global climate change in addition to the its ability to improve quality of life and happiness for residents. “Real estate consumes 40% of all energy. The global economy happens indoors,” said Fifth Wall co-founder Brendan Wallace, in a statement. “Real estate will be the biggest spender on climate tech for no other reason than its contribution to the carbon problem.”

The Biden plan calls on Congress to enact new grant programs that award flexible funding to jurisdictions that take concrete steps to eliminate barriers to produce affordable housing. Part of that will include $40 billion to improve the infrastructure of the public housing in America.

It’s a project that startups like BlocPower are already deeply involved in supporting.

“Get the superhero masks and capes out. The Biden Harris Climate announcement is literally a plan to save the American economy and save the planet. This is Avengers Endgame in real life. We can’t undo the last five years… but we can make smart, massive investments in the climate infrastructure of the future,” wrote Donnel Baird, the chief executive and founder of BlocPower. “Committing to electrify 2 million American buildings, moving them entirely off of fossil fuels is exactly that — an investment in America leading theway towards creating a new industry creating American jobs that cannot be outsourced, and beginning to reduce the 30% of greenhouse gas emissiosn that come from buildings.”

As part of the package that directly impacts startups, there’s a proposal for a $27 billion Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator to mobilize private investment, according to the White House. The focus will be on distributed energy resources, retrofits of residential, commercial and municipal buildings; and clean transportation. A focus there will be on disadvantaged communities that haven’t had access to clean energy investments.

Financing the future startup nation

“From the invention of the semiconductor to the creation of the Internet, new engines of economic growth have emerged due to public investments that support research, commercialization, and strong supply chains,” the White House wrote. “President Biden is calling on Congress to make smart investments in research and development, manufacturing and regional economic development, and in workforce development to give our workers and companies the tools and training they need to compete on the global stage.”

To enable that, Biden is proposing another $480 billion in spending to boost research and development — including $50 billion for the National Science Foundation to focus on semiconductors and advanced communications technologies, energ technologies and biotechnology. Another $30 billion is designed to be targeted toward rural development; and finally the $40 billion in upgrading research infrastructure.

There’s also an initiative to create ARPA-C, a climate focused Advanced Research Projects Agency modeled on the DARPA program that gave birth to the Internet. There’s $20 billion heading toward funding climate-focused research and demonstration projects for energy storage, carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, advanced nuclear and rare earth  element separations, floating off shore wind, biofuel/bioproducts, quantum computing and electric vehicles.

The bulk of Biden’s efforts to pour money into manufacturing represents another $300 billion in potential government funding. That’s $30 billion tickets for biopreparedness and pandemic preparedness; another $50 billion in semiconductor manufacturing and research; $46 billion for federal buying power for new advanced nuclear reactors and fuel, cars, ports, pumps and clean materials.

Included in all of this is an emphasis on developing economies fairly and equally across the country — that means $20 billion in regional innovation hubs and a Community Revitalization Fund, which is designed to support innovative, community-led redevelopment efforts and $52 billion in investing in domestic manufacturers — promoting rural manufacturing and clean energy.

Finally for startups there’s a $31 billion available for programs that give small businesses access to credit, venture capital, and R&D dollars. Specifically, the proposal calls for funding for community-based small business incubators and innovation hubs to support growth in communities of color and underserved communites.

Water and power infrastructure 

America’s C- grade infrastructure has problems extending across the length and breadth of the country. It encompasses everything from crumbling roads and bridges to a lack of clean drinking water, failing sewage systems, inadequate recycling facilities, and increasing demands on power generation, transmission and distribution assets that the nation’s electricity grid is unable to meet.

“Across the country, pipes and treatment plants are aging and polluted drinking water is endangering public health. An estimated six to ten million homes still receive drinking water through lead pipes and service lines,” the White House wrote in a statement.

To address this issue, Biden’s calling for an infusion of $45 billion into the Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act grants. While that kind of rip and replace project may not directly impact startups, another $66 billion earmarked for upgrades to drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems and monitoring and managing the presence of contaminants in water will be a huge boon for the vast array of water sensing and filtration startups that have flooded the market in the past decade or more (there’s even an entire incubator dedicated to just water technologies).

The sad fact is that water infrastructure in America has largely failed to keep up in large swaths of the country, necessitating this kind of massive capital infusion.

And what’s true for water is also true increasingly true for power. Outages cost the U.S. economy upwards of $70 billion per year, according to the White House. So when analysts compare those economic losses to a potential $100 billion outlay, the math should be clear. For startups that math equals dollar signs.

Calls to build a more resilient transmission system should be music to the ears of companies like Veir, which is developing a novel technology for improving capacity on transmission lines (a project that the Biden administration explicitly calls out in its plan).

The Biden plan also includes more than money, calling for the creation of a new Grid Deployment Authority within the Department of Energy to better leverage rights-of-way along roads and railways and will support financing tools to develop new high-voltage transmission lines, the White House said.

The administration doesn’t stop there. Energy storage and renewable technologies are going to get a boost through a clutch of tax credits designed to accelerate their deployment. That includes a ten-year extension and phase down of direct-pay investment tax credits and production tax credits. The plan aslo calls for clean energy block grants and calls for the government to purchase nothing but renewable energy all day for federal buildings.

Complimenting this push for clean power and storage will be a surge in funding for waste remediation and cleanup, which is getting a $21 billion boost under Biden.

Companies like Renewell Energy, or various non-profits that are trying to plug abandoned oil wells, can play a role here. There’s also the potential to recover other mineral deposits or reuse the wastewater that comes from these wells. And here, too, investors can find early stage businesses looking for an angle. Part of the money frm the Biden plan will aim to redevelop brownfields and turn them into more sustainable businesses.

That’s where some of the indoor agriculture companies, like Plenty, Bowery Farms, AppHarvest could find additional pots of money to turn unused factory and warehouse space into working farms. Idled factories could also be transformed into hubs for energy storage and community based power generation and distribution facilities, given their position on the grid.

“President Biden’s plan also will spur targeted sustainable, economic development efforts through the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER grant program, Department of Energy retooling grants for idled factories (through the Section 132 program), and dedicated funding to support community-driven environmental justice efforts – such as capacity and project grants to address legacy pollution and the cumulative impacts experienced by frontline and fenceline communities,” the White House wrote.

Key to these redevelopment efforts will be the establishment of pioneer facilities that demonstrate carbon capture retrofits for large steel, cement, and chemical production facilities. But if the Biden Administration wanted to, its departments could go a step further to support lower emission manufacturing technologies like the kind companies including Heliogen, which is using solar power to generate energy for a massive mining operation, or Boston Metal, which is partnering with BMW on developing a lower emission manufacturing process for steel production.

Critical to ensuring that this money gets spent is a $25 billion commitment to finance pre-development activities, that could help smaller project developers, as Rob Day writes in Forbes.

“As I’ve written about elsewhere, local project developers are key to getting sustainability projects built where they will actually do the most good — in the communities hit hardest by both local pollution and climate change impacts. These smaller project developers have lots of expenses they must pay just to get to the point where private-sector infrastructure construction investments can come in,” Day wrote. “Everyone in sustainability policy talks about supporting entrepreneurs, but in reality much of the support is aimed at technology innovators and not these smaller project developers who would be the ones to actually roll out those technology innovations. Infrastructure investors are typically much more reticent to provide capital before projects are construction-ready.”

Building a better Internet

“Broadband internet is the new electricity. It is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning, health care, and to stay connected,” the White House wrote. “Yet, by one definition, more than 30 million Americans live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds. Americans in rural areas and on tribal lands particularly lack adequate access. And, in part because the United States has some of the highest broadband prices among OECD countries, millions of Americans can’t use broadband internet even if the infrastructure exists where they live.”

The $100 billion that the Biden Administration is earmarking for broadband infrastructure includes goals to meet 100 percent high-speed broadband coverage and prioritizes support for networks owned, operated, or faffiliated with local governments, non-profits and cooperatives.

Attendant with the new cash is a shift in regulatory policy that would open up opportunities for municipally-owned or affiliated providers and rural electric co-ops from competing with prive providers and requiring internet providers to be more transparent about their pricing. This increased competition is good for hardware vendors and ultimately could create new businesses for entrepreneurs who want to become ISPs of their own.

Wander is one-such service providing high speed wireless internet in Los Angeles.

“Americans pay too much for the internet – much more than people in many other countries – and the President is committed to working with Congress to find a solution to reduce internet prices for all Americans, increase adoption in both rural and urban areas, hold providers accountable, and save taxpayer money,” the White House wrote.

 

#agriculture, #america, #articles, #biden-administration, #biotechnology, #blocpower, #brendan-wallace, #broadband, #co-founder, #congress, #construction, #cornea, #department-of-transportation, #education, #electricity, #energy, #energy-impact-partners, #fifth-wall-ventures, #forbes, #greg-smithies, #infrastructure, #joe-biden, #kamala-harris, #los-angeles, #manufacturing, #mobile-devices, #national-science-foundation, #oecd, #plenty, #president, #quantum-computing, #real-estate, #semiconductor, #semiconductors, #steel, #supply-chains, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital, #venture-capital-investment, #white-house

Shell’s Gamechanger Accelerator selects three companies for its energy transition accelerator

Yesterday, the European oil and gas major producer Shell announced the latest cohort selected to participate in its Shell GameChanger Accelerator (GCxN), focused on supporting companies developing tech for the transition away from fossil fuels.

The three companies will have access to technical resources through Shell that can serve to aid in their commercialization.

“GCxN’s fourth cohort will help prove that electrochemistry technologies can replace carbon-intensive legacy processes. As renewable energy costs continue to drop, cross-industry initiatives and partnerships will prove that it’s possible to cost-effectively scale these technology applications and achieve real-world impact,” said Haibin Xu, Shell’s GCxN program manager.

Shell’s acceleartor provides startups selected for the program with up to $250,000 in non-dilutive financing. Participants are nominated by network partners coming from incubators, accelerators, and universities and then are subjected to a screening process by Shell and NREL. 

Graduates of the program have raised $52 million in the three prevoius batches and have added 51 new jobs to the green economy, according to a statement.

Each of the new companies in the cohort are focused on creating ways to reduce carbon emissions in sectors that are carbon intensive and hard to transition to more sustainable practices, according to a statement. 

So without further ado, here’s the latest batch of startups backed by Shell:

  • Air Company — This Brooklyn-based business is turning carbon dioxide into alcohols, spirits, fragrances, sanitizers and products for consumer industries. It eventually wants to get into the synthetic fuel business. 
  • Ionomr Innovations — Green hydrogen production, hydrogen fuel cells and carbon capture technologies require ion-exchange membranes and polymers, and this Vancouver-based company wants to make those components cheaper and more environmentally friendly.  
  • Versogen Hailing from President Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware, the company formerly known as W7 energy is producing high performance hydroxide exchange membranes to drive down the cost of fuel cells. 

“Almost every aspect of our modern lives depends on certain materials and fuels, but with great consequence. For example, the American manufacturing industry is on-track to become the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions within the next ten years,” said Katie Richardson, GCxN program manager at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in a statement. “The selected GCxN startups are restructuring essential building blocks to reduce the carbon impact of essential goods and services.” 


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How the Biden administration is approaching crypto regulations

It’s hard to imagine a worse scenario than the one left behind by former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. 

The draconian regulatory proposals were Mnuchin’s own personal vendetta, according to Bitcoin veterans like Square Crypto developer Matt Corallo and Coin Center director Jerry Brito, and it’s too soon to say whether incoming Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will approve the proposed know-your-customer standards or reject them. 

Given the chaos created by the Trump administration, bitcoin fans are anxiously optimistic about how regulators will approach the cryptocurrency space during President Joe Biden’s administration.   

Mnuchin at the very end had an alarmist view about the illicit use of cryptocurrency that wasn’t shared by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. It doesn’t seem that Janet Yellen has that same view,” Brito said. “Her view seems to be very standard.”

Namely, Yellen believes there are both positive and negative ways to use cryptocurrency. She’s expressed a desire to strengthen regulations that prevent illicit usage like terror financing. She may set the tone for government bodies like the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). 

“The SEC, OCC and CFTC are choosing people that are very crypto knowledgeable,” Brito added. “That could tell you they are getting deep knowledge to regulate it heavily or, more likely, it’s now seen as an important part of the economy and finance.”

Although it’s still early in the transition, it appears the Biden administration will nominate former Ripple advisor and former U.S. Treasury Department official Michael Barr to head the OCC. In the short term, Trump’s SEC appointee, Commissioner Hester Pierce, will continue her notoriously crypto-friendly approach to the securities market. But the Biden administration is reportedly considering former CFTC chairman Gary Gensler to soon lead the SEC.

“The new SEC Chairman Gary Gensler has been pretty outspoken with his views on Facebook’s project Libra, as well as Ripple. It’s his opinion that those are securities and should be regulated by the SEC,” said attorney Hailey Lennon, a crypto-focused partner at Anderson Kill law firm. “In the next year or two, I hope some of the litigation we are seeing and new leadership in the SEC, will result in greater clarity so that down the road there are less enforcement actions. Clarity will help companies to know what to avoid.”

Meanwhile, Reuters reported the White House is expected to nominate Georgetown University professor Chris Brummer to lead the CFTC. Brummer was previously President Obama’s pick, but never got confirmed by the Senate due to political gridlocks. It’s still unclear who will be nominated in 2021 for key roles related to curbing terror financing, such as the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). 

“I think we might start seeing more regulation coming from FinCEN and OFAC. There have been some settlements with crypto companies and OFAC has been adding wallet addresses to the SDN [sanctions] list,” Lennon said. “Even if we see more positive things coming from the OCC, SEC and CFTC, it will be balanced a bit with more regulations related to know-your-customer and anti-money laundering, more general supervision of the source of funds and sanctions screening.”

Sanctions are the hot topic of 2021. Throughout 2020, the Iranian government published statements indicating it intends to use cryptocurrency, including bitcoin but not limited to it, to circumnavigate banking sanctionsEmigres from Iran and other countries have used bitcoin to do exactly this.

So far, the Biden administration hasn’t offered any indication it might lift sanctions. To the contrary, on February 18, the Treasury published a statement that the payment processor BitPay was penalized for allowing users to transact with citizens in sanctions jurisdictions like Iran, Cuba and Ukraine. Regulators’ approach to cryptocurrency, which many Iranian-Americans also use both internationally and domestically, will reflect whether the White House prefers a hawkish or dovish approach to diplomacy in the Middle East. 

Perianne Boring, founder of an advocacy group called the Chamber of Digital Commerce, said “the new administration and leadership have signaled a critical perspective” of the broader cryptocurrency space. As such, Boring said she hopes industry leaders will continue to engage with lawmakers to “lay the foundation for America’s leadership role” in global crypto markets. 

She said American crypto startups are competing in global arenas, against startups based in nations with more progressive laws as nations strive to foster the “next Silicon Valley.” Other nations are encouraging crypto companies, especially domestic crypto mining industries. Many technologists believe it behooves American leaders to defend dollar dominance by cultivating innovation in this tech sector. After all, many of the leading stablecoins are still denominated in American dollars. 

“The Biden-Harris administration and Congress must make clear that addressing digital asset and blockchain policies are a priority,” Boring said. “The Biden-Harris administration should be focused now on growing the economy back to full employment and robust quarterly and annual economic growth.”

Brito said he’s especially curious to see new appointees for OFAC and FinCEN, since they’ll be Yellen’s right and left hand in her approach to sanctions and regulations. He agreed with Lennon and Boring, all of whom believe new legal norms are in the pipeline. However stringent, or pro-business, the coming verdicts may be, at least Biden has yet to rage tweet about hating bitcoin, the way Trump did. 

“It’s still that period where everyone is getting their sea legs and trying to understand what their priorities are,” Brito said of the Biden administration. “Once they start either putting forth policy or reacting to the things that happen, that’s when we’ll really know where they stand.”   

#biden-administration, #bitcoin, #column, #cryptocurrency, #government, #joe-biden

GM, LG Chem studying the feasibility of a second battery cell plant in the U.S.

General Motors is exploring building a second U.S. battery cell manufacturing plant with its joint-venture partner Seoul, South Korea-based LG Chem.

If the plant moves forward, it would be the latest in a series of investments aimed at building out the auto giant’s portfolio of electric vehicles. The company’s joint venture with LG, Ultium Cells LLC, is already at work constructing a $2.3 billion battery cell manufacturing facility in Lordstown, Ohio.

The companies hope to have a decision on the factory in the first half of 2021, GM spokesman Dan Flores told TechCrunch. He declined to specify possible locations for the site but Tennessee is high on the list, according to reporting from the Wall Street Journal.

GM has set ambitious targets for decarbonizing its operations and pledged steep investments to get there. Through 2025 alone the company said it would bring thirty EV models across its brands to the global market and spend $27 billion on electrification and automated technology—a 35% increase from 2020 spending. By the mid-2030s, GM said its fleet will be all-EV.

“Clearly, with our commitment to an all-electric future, we will need a lot of battery cells,” Flores said.

He declined to comment on the ongoing shortage of battery cells, which has affected EV manufacturers Tesla and Nikola. President Joe Biden issued an executive order at the end of February instructing federal agencies to identify risks in the supply chains for batteries, semiconductors, and other critical items, including where supply chains are dependent on “competitor nations.”

GM CEO Mary Barra said in a virtual investor presentation last week that the battery shortage is one reason the company is investing in its own battery cell manufacturing. She alluded to plans to grow the company’s battery cell manufacturing operations but did not go into specifics.

“There’s more coming than we’ve announced already,” she said.

#automotive, #ceo, #electric-mobility, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #engines, #ev, #executive, #general-motors, #joe-biden, #lg, #lg-chem, #lithium-ion-batteries, #mary-barra, #mobility, #nikola, #ohio, #president, #semiconductors, #seoul, #south-korea, #supply-chains, #tc, #tennessee, #tesla, #the-wall-street-journal, #united-states

Biden pushes EV chargers as six utilities plan a unified network

An older man in a suit speaks at a podium in front of a portrait of the Great Emancipator.

Enlarge / Joe Biden speaks at the White House on March 2, 2021. (credit: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden has made the shift to electric vehicles an early focus of his administration. Days after his inauguration, he vowed to replace hundreds of thousands of federal civilian vehicles with electric versions. On Tuesday, Biden held a virtual meeting with CEOs from companies building charging infrastructure. The administration has set a goal to build more than 500,000 new electric vehicle charging stations by 2030.

Also on Tuesday, a coalition of six electric utilities announced a new initiative that will help Biden achieve his goal. The companies are planning to build a “seamless network of charging stations” in and around the American South. The group plans to build chargers near major highways in every southern state, stretching as far west as Texas and as far north as Indiana, Ohio, and Virginia.

(credit: American Electric Power)

This is not a joint venture. Each utility will build and run its own charging stations. But the goal is to make them appear to the customer as a unified network.

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#cars, #electric-vehicles, #joe-biden

#Gastbeitrag – Aufbruch in eine neue Zeit: Was bedeutet Joe Biden für die Startup-Szene?


Mit dem Amtsantritt von Joe Biden im Januar wurde in den USA  ein neues Kapitel aufgeschlagen. Auch wenn damit zu rechnen ist, dass die “America First”-Politik uns noch lange begleiten wird, erkennt Gastautor Oliver Hanisch vielversprechende Signale für die Startup-Szene.

Besseres Investitionsklima

Die neue US-Administration steht für mich für Verlässlichkeit und Stabilität. Das ist für Unternehmen, Investoren, Startups und die Märkte im Allgemeinen sehr wichtig. Es regieren nicht Aktionismus und Impuls-Entscheidungen, sondern Weitsicht und die kontinuierliche Verfolgung von mittel- und langfristigen Zielen.

Das führt zu Planungssicherheit und einem einem positiven Investitionsklima. Der Standards & Poor’s 500-Index umfasst, die 500 größten, börsennotierten US-Unternehmen. Er stieg seit der US-Wahl im November um 14,3 Prozent. Solch einen Anstieg hat es noch nie gegeben!

Politische Stabilität und steigende Aktienkurse erhöhen die Bereitschaft von Business Angels und Risikokapitalgebern, in Startups zu investieren. Dass das eine eng mit dem anderen verbunden ist, hat uns bereits die Finanzkrise gelehrt.

Investitionen in Infrastruktur & Nachhaltigkeit

Im Wahlkampf gab Biden bereits seine ehrgeizigen Umwelt- und Klimapläne bekannt. Als eine seiner ersten Amtshandlungen trat er, folgerichtig, auch dem Pariser Klimavertrag wieder bei. Die Verbesserung und Modernisierung der amerikanischen Infrastruktur spielt bei Bidens Zielen auch eine wesentliche Rolle.

Viel Geld wird also in die Entwicklung und den Einsatz von Innovationen im Umfeld von Infrastruktur, Nachhaltigkeit und Energieeffizienz fließen. Hier ist Deutschland in vielen Bereichen sehr gut aufgestellt. Das bietet spannende Möglichkeiten, für deutsche Startups und andere Unternehmen, neu entstehende Chancen in den USA wahrzunehmen.

Gelockerte Einreise- und Visabestimmungen

Die Visa-Bestimmungen für ausländische Arbeitnehmer*innen wurden in den letzten Jahren in den vereinigten Staaten zunehmend verschärft. Unter der neuen Führung sollten diese voraussichtlich nun wieder etwas gelockert werden: Je unkomplizierter die Einreise ist, umso einfacher wird es auch für Startups aus Deutschland und der ganzen Welt, im amerikanischen Markt Fuß zu fassen.

Außerdem wird es auch wieder mehr Austausch und Zusammenarbeit geben, wenn sich die Politik zueinander wieder freundlicher gestaltet. Startups und Innovations-Hubs, wie wir, die Campus Founders, es einer sind, leben davon.

Und man darf nicht vergessen, dass speziell auch für die USA Gründungen von Einwanderern und Ausländern eine extrem wichtige Rolle spielen. 40 % der Fortune 500 Unternehmen wurden von Migranten oder deren Kindern gegründet. Und bei Startup-Gründungen in New York und im Silicon Valley ist dieser Anteil noch deutlich höher. Diese Vielfalt sollte der Maßstab für uns alle sein.

Es braucht mutige Entscheidungen

Wir halten fest: Optimismus ist angesagt! Es sieht danach aus, dass die neue US-Regierung gut für die Startup-Szene ist, hüben wie drüben.

Trotzdem ist mein Appell, die Aufmerksamkeit weiterhin auf Deutschland zu richten: Eine neue Studie zeigt, dass der Digitalisierungsschub in Deutschland ausbleibt und wir dabei sind, die Digitalisierung und damit auch die Chance, die sich durch die Pandemie ergeben hat, ein weiteres mal zu verschlafen.

Startups sollten jetzt unbedingt die Chancen nutzen und weiter für digitale Innovationen sorgen.

Dies gilt auch für die vielen Familienunternehmen, Mittelständler und Konzerne. Öffnet euch weiter und bietet Schnittstellen für Startups und Kollaboration an. Wir brauchen jetzt innovative Köpfe und mutige Entscheidungen.

Über den Autor
Oliver Hanisch ist Unternehmer, Business Angel und CEO der Campus Founders. Er gilt als Experte rund um Startups und Startup-Ökosysteme und ist gefragter Advisor, Mentor, und Investor. Oliver Hanisch gründete und verkaufte zahlreiche Startups und Unternehmen. In seinen 14 Jahren im Silicon Valley war er u.a. Mitgründer des German Accelerator. Seit 2019 leitet er die Campus Founders und bildet werteorientiert die nächste Generation von verantwortungsvollen Gründer*innen und Innovator*innen aus. Mit seinen Aktivitäten fördert er das Startup- und Innovations-Ökosystem in Heilbronn-Franken, laut Wirtschaftswoche einer der dynamischsten Regionen Deutschlands.

Foto (oben): Stratos Brilakis / Shutterstock.com

#aktuell, #america-first, #gastbeitrag, #joe-biden

Huawei’s CEO wants to talk to Joe Biden

During a small gathering of journalists in China, Ren Zhengfei made his first public remarks since Joe Biden was inaugurated at the 46th President of the United States. The Huawei CEO struck a hopeful tone for those gathered around the table, in comments reported by CNBC among others.

“I would welcome such phone calls and the message is around joint development and shared success,” the executive said, noting a readiness to speak with the new administration in translated remarks. “The U.S. wants to have economic growth and China wants to have economic growth as well.”

Huawei’s future in the U.S. has been a major question mark hanging over the new administration. Under Trump, a number of high profile Chinese companies were added to the Commerce Department’s so-called “entity list” to various effects. Huawei has been among the hardest hit by the moves.

In addition to blocking sales in the world’s third-largest smartphone market, the company has been unable to work with key U.S. companies, including Google. That, in turn, has blocked access to key technologies, including the Android ecosystem and left Huawei scrambling. The company’s support among consumers has increased within China, but the move has been a big blow to the smartphone maker’s bottom line.

The incoming Biden administration has mostly been quiet on the matter. Though, facing mounting criticism from Republican lawmaker, Commerce Secretary nominee Gina Raimondo has since added that, “I currently have no reason to believe that entities on those lists should not be there. If confirmed, I look forward to a briefing on these entities and others of concern.”

While there haven’t been many positive signs for Huawei thus far, the company’s Chief understandably would prefer to make nice with the new administration.

“If Huawei’s production capacity can be expanded, that would mean more opportunities for U.S. companies to supply too,” Ren said in the translated comments. “I believe that’s going to be mutually beneficially. I believe that (the) new administration would bear in mind such business interests as they are about to decide their new policy.”

 

#china, #hardware, #huawei, #joe-biden, #policy

Biden vows to electrify the federal government’s 600,000-vehicle fleet

WASHINGTON, DC: President Joe Biden speaks before signing an executive order related to American manufacturing in the South Court Auditorium of the White House complex on January 25, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / WASHINGTON, DC: President Joe Biden speaks before signing an executive order related to American manufacturing in the South Court Auditorium of the White House complex on January 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. (credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The federal government owns more than 600,000 civilian vehicles—trucks, vans, and passenger vehicles—with a large large majority running on gasoline or diesel fuel. On Monday, Joe Biden vowed to change that.

“The federal government owns an enormous fleet of vehicles, which we’re gonna to replace with clean electric vehicles made right here in America,” Biden said at a press conference to announce a new “Buy American” initiative.

This won’t be easy. In 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, the federal government owned fewer than 3,000 battery electric vehicles—less than one half of one percent of the federal vehicle fleet.

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#barack-obama, #battery-electric-vehicles, #cars, #donald-trump, #joe-biden, #policy, #science

President Joe Biden commits to replacing entire federal fleet with electric vehicles

President Joe Biden said Monday the U.S. government would replace the entire federal fleet of cars, trucks and SUVs with electric vehicles manufactured in the United States, a commitment tied to a broader campaign promise to create 1 million new jobs in the American auto industry and supply chains.

The commitment, if it bears out, could give a boost to U.S. automakers, particularly those that have diverse portfolios that include passenger cars, commercial vans and light trucks.

Biden made the comments prior to signing the Made in America executive order, which places stricter rules on the federal government’s procurement practices. The government has existing “buy American” rules, which states that a certain amount of a product must be made in the U.S. for a purchase to qualify for a federal contract.

Biden said this order closes loopholes and aims to increase purchases of products made in the United States. The executive order increases that product threshold and the price preference for domestic goods — meaning the difference in price from which the government can buy a product for a non-U.S. supplier. It also updates the process for how the government decides if a product was sufficiently made in America.

In the midst of his speech, Biden said the buy American directive would extend to the federal government’s massive fleet of vehicles.

“The federal government also owns an enormous fleet of vehicles, which we’re going to replace with clean electric vehicles made right here in America, by American workers, creating millions of jobs — a million auto worker jobs.”

The opportunity is a large one. The U.S. government had more than 645,000 vehicles in its fleet in 2019, the most recent data available from the General Services Agency. Of those, about 224,000 are passenger vehicles and more than 412,000 are trucks.

“GSA is committed to exploring opportunities to leverage the purchasing and leasing power of the federal government to address the climate crisis, including greening the federal fleet,” a GSA spokesperson told TechCrunch in an emailed statement. “GSA currently manages over 224,000 passenger vehicles in its fleet to support the Federal Government’s mission. By leveraging clean energy vehicle technologies, GSA will support the President’s climate goals, while working with the American automotive manufacturing industry to ensure that these next generation vehicles are built in America by American workers.”

The directive won’t be easy to fulfill. Many of these federal vehicles are leased, which could slow the transition depending on the contract lengths. There are other obstacles, including charging infrastructure and supply. And while it doesn’t appear to be a requirement, Biden has publicly stated numerous times — including Monday — that he supports union automotive jobs.

Tesla is considered the dominant U.S. manufacturer of electric vehicles. However, the company’s lack of union workers and the higher cost of its vehicles — even the less expensive Model 3 — could be a barrier.

Ford and GM might not have a vast supply of electric vehicles at the moment, but they do have union shops and both automakers are investing heavily to expand their EV offerings.

GM launched a new business unit earlier this month to offer commercial customers an ecosystem of electric and connected products as part of the company’s $27 billion bid to become a leading electric automaker. The new business, called BrightDrop, will begin with two main products: an electric van called the EV600 with an estimate range of 250 miles and a pod-like electric pallet dubbed EP1.

GM has said it plans to bring 30 new electric vehicles to a global market through 2025. More than two-thirds of those launches will be available in North America and every one of GM’s brands, including Cadillac, GMC, Chevrolet and Buick, will be represented, according to the automaker.

Meanwhile, Ford revealed in November a configurable all-electric cargo van called the E-Transit as part of its $11.5 billion investment in electrification. Ford has largely focused its electrification efforts on the consumer market, notably the Mustang Mach-E. The E-Transit, which will be built at its Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Missouri, is aimed at the commercial sector.

There are a growing number of newer EV entrants as well, including Rivian, Lordstown Motors and Fisker. Rivian is expected to begin producing and delivering its electric pickup truck in July, followed by its all-electric SUV. Rivian is also developing and assembling electric vans for Amazon.

Biden’s call to transform the fleet supports statements he made throughout his campaign. Biden pledged to “use all the levers of the federal government,” including purchasing power, R&D, tax, trade, and investment policies to position the U.S. to be the global leader in the manufacture of electric vehicles and their input materials and parts.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #government, #joe-biden, #tc, #tesla, #transportation

The biggest step the Biden administration took on climate yesterday wasn’t rejoining the Paris Agreement

While the Biden Administration is being celebrated for its decision to rejoin the Paris Agreement in one of its first executive orders after President Joe Biden was sworn in, it wasn’t the biggest step the administration took to advance its climate agenda.

Instead it was a move to get to the basics of monitoring and accounting, of metrics and dashboards. While companies track their revenues and expenses and monitor for all sorts of risks, impacts from climate change and emissions aren’t tracked in the same way. Now, in the same way there are general principals for accounting for finance, there will be principals for accounting for the impact of climate through what’s called the social cost of carbon.

Among the flurry of paperwork coming from Biden’s desk were Executive Orders calling for a review of Trump era rule-making around the environment and the reinstitution of strict standards for fuel economy, methane emissions, appliance and building efficiency, and overall emissions. But even these steps are likely to pale in significance to the fifth section of the ninth executive order to be announced by the new White House.

That’s the section addressing the accounting for the benefits of reducing climate pollution. Until now, the U.S. government hasn’t had a framework for accounting for what it calls the “full costs of greenhouse gas emissions” by taking “global damages into account”.

All of this is part of a broad commitment to let data and science inform policymaking across government, according to the Biden Administration.

Biden writes:

“It is, therefore, the policy of my Administration to listen to the science; to improve public health and protect our environment; to ensure access to clean air and water; to limit exposure to dangerous chemicals and pesticides; to hold polluters accountable, including those who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities; to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; to bolster resilience to the impacts of climate change; to restore and expand our national treasures and monuments; and to prioritize both environmental justice and the creation of the well-paying union jobs necessary to deliver on these goals.”

The specific section of the order addressing accounting and accountability calls for a working group to come up with three metrics: the social cost of carbon (SCC), the social cost of nitrous oxide (SCN) and the social cost of methane (SCM) that will be used to estimate the monetized damages associated with increases in greenhouse gas emissions.

As the executive order notes, “[an] accurate social cost is essential for agencies to accurately determine the social benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions when conducting cost-benefit analyses of regulatory and other actions.” What the Administration is doing is attempting to provide a financial figure for the damages wrought by greenhouse gas emissions in terms of rising interest rates, and the destroyed farmland and infrastructure caused by natural disasters linked to global climate change.

These kinds of benchmarks aren’t flashy, but they are concrete ways to determine accountability. That accountability will become critical as the country takes steps to meet the targets set in the Paris Agreement. It also gives companies looking to address their emissions footprints an economic framework to point to as they talk to their investors and the public.

The initiative will include top leadership like the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, the director of the Office of Management and Budget and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (a position that Biden elevated to a cabinet level post).

Representatives from each of the major federal agencies overseeing the economy, national health, and the environment will be members of the working group along with the representatives or the National Climate Advisor and the Director of the National Economic Council.

While the rule-making is proceeding at the federal level, some startups are already developing services to help businesses monitor their emissions output.

These are companies like CarbonChainPersefoni, and SINAI Technologies. And their work compliments non-profits like CDP, which works with companies to assess carbon emissions.

Biden’s plan will have the various agencies and departments working quickly. The administration expects an interim SCC, SCN, and SCM within the next 30 days, which agencies will use when monetizing the value of changes in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from regulations and agency actions. The President wants final metrics will be published by January of next year.

The executive order also restored protections to national parks and lands that had been opened to oil and gas exploration and commercial activity under the Trump Administration and blocked the development of the Keystone Pipeline, which would have brought oil from Canadian tar sands into and through the U.S.

“The Keystone XL pipeline disserves the U.S. national interest. The United States and the world face a climate crisis. That crisis must be met with action on a scale and at a speed commensurate with the need to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory. At home, we will combat the crisis with an ambitious plan to build back better, designed to both reduce harmful emissions and create good clean-energy jobs,” according to the text of the Executive Order. “The United States must be in a position to exercise vigorous climate leadership in order to achieve a significant increase in global climate action and put the world on a sustainable climate pathway. Leaving the Key`12stone XL pipeline permit in place would not be consistent with my Administration’s economic and climate imperatives.”

#articles, #biden-administration, #carbonchain, #chair, #director, #executive, #greenhouse-gas, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #joe-biden, #office-of-management-and-budget, #oil, #persefoni, #president, #sinai-technologies, #tc, #trump, #trump-administration, #u-s-government, #united-states, #white-house

Amazon offers Biden resources for Covid-19 vaccine rollout

Following Joseph Biden’s swearing in as the 46th President of the United States, Amazon is offering help in the administration’s stated goals for rolling out the Covid-19 vaccine. In a letter provided to TechCrunch, Worldwide Consumer CEO Dave Clark congratulates Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, while promising, “to assist you in reaching your goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in the first 100 days of your administration.”

The note references a pledge set by Biden in while introducing members of pandemic team during a press conference in December of last year. “My first 100 days won’t end the Covid-19 virus. I can’t promise that,” the then-President-elect said. “But we did not get in this mess quickly, we’re not going to get out of it quickly, it’s going to take some time. But I’m absolutely convinced that in 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better.”

More recently, Covid-19 task force member epidemiologist Michael Osterholm called the goal “aspirational […] but doable,” adding that it would take time to ramp up.

In his letter, Clark details Amazon’s response to the virus, as many warehouse and other workers were employed throughout as essential workers. Included in the resources on offer are deals with health care providers who can administer vaccines on-site.

“We have an agreement in place with a licensed third-party occupational health care provider to administer vaccines on-site at our Amazon facilities,” Clark writes. “We are prepared to move quickly once vaccines are available. Additionally, we are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration’s vaccination efforts. Our scale allows us to make a meaningful impact immediately in the fight against COVID-19, and we stand ready to assist you in this effort.”

#amazon, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #health, #joe-biden, #policy

Michelle Obama calls on Silicon Valley to permanently ban Trump and prevent platform abuse by future leaders

In a new statement issued by former First Lady Michelle Obama, she calls on Silicon Valley specifically to address its role in the violent insurrection attempt by pro-Trump rioters at the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday. Obama’s statement also calls out the obviously biased treatment that the primarily white pro-Trump fanatics faced by law enforcement relative to that received by mostly peaceful BLM supporters during their lawful demonstrations (as opposed to Wednesday’s criminal activity), but it includes a specific redress for the tech industry’s leaders and platform operators.

“Now is the time for companies to stop enabling this monstrous behavior – and go even further than they have already by permanently banning this man from their platforms and putting in place policies to prevent their technology from being used by the nation’s leaders to fuel insurrection,” Obama wrote in her statement, which she shared on Twitter and on Facebook.

The call for action goes beyond what most social platforms have done already: Facebook has banned Trump, but though it describes the term of the suspension as “indefinite,” it left open the possibility for a restoration of his accounts in as little as two weeks’ time once Joe Biden has officially assumed the presidency. Twitter, meanwhile, initially removed three tweets it found offended its rules by inciting violence, and then locked Trump’s account pending his deletion of the same. Earlier on Thursday, Twitter confirmed that Trump had removed these, and that his account would subsequently be restored twelve hours after their deletion. Twitch has also disabled Trump’s channel at least until the end of his term, while Shopify has removed Trump’s official merchandise stores from its platform.

No social platform thus far has permanently banned Trump, so far as TechCrunch is aware, which is what Obama is calling for in her statement. And while both Twitter and Facebook have discussed how Trump’s recent behavior have violated their policies regarding use of their platform, neither have yet provided any detailed information regarding how they’ll address any potential similar behavior from other world leaders going forward. In other words, we don’t yet know what would be different (if anything) should another Trump-styled megalomaniac take office and use available social channels in a similar manner.

Obama is hardly the only political figure to call for action from social media platforms around “sustained misuse of their platforms to sow discord and violence,” as Senator Mark Warner put it in a statement on Wednesday. Likely once the dust clears from this week’s events, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, et al. will face renewed scrutiny from lawmakers and public interest groups around any corrective action they’re taking.

#articles, #capitol-riot, #deception, #donald-trump, #joe-biden, #law-enforcement, #mark-warner, #michelle-obama, #qanon, #shopify, #social-media, #social-media-platforms, #tc, #trump, #twitch, #twitter

Twitter’s POTUS account will reportedly be reset to zero followers when Biden takes over

In this country, we have a longstanding peaceful transfer of power for the executive office, even in the wake of the hardest-fought elections. Certain circumstances have led many to question whether the tradition will continue come January 20. Despite his very vocal protestations, however, the current president has agreed to step aside, should all of his legal maneuvers fall short (something that seems all but a certainty at this point).

There is, of course, nothing in the Constitution that offers guidance the peaceful transition of passwords — strangely, the forefathers of this country didn’t possess the foresight to predict Twitter . The service has already outlined what happens to Trump’s account when he leaves office. Namely, he loses the protections that come with being a political figure.

CEO Jack Dorsey noted this at last month’s congressional hearings, stating, “If an account suddenly is not a world leader anymore, that particular policy goes away.” But what of the incoming president? What will the transition look like for Biden? And what happens if Trump doesn’t willingly give up the official @Potus account as has also been suggested?

He hasn’t exactly been eager to accept the results of this election and he’s not the sort to willingly give up a platform — particularly one with 33 million followers (admittedly a fraction of Trump’s main account).

Nick Pacilio, of Twitter’s Communications, Government & News team, offered TechCrunch the following statement, on the matter: “Twitter has been in ongoing discussions with the Biden transition team on a number of aspects related to White House account transfers.”

The company, perhaps understandably, didn’t answer the question directly, but working with the incoming team is a simple enough way to circumvent any issues transferring more than one dozen accounts, as The Wall Street Journal notes. As has been reported, existing tweets will be deleted and the incoming administration will start from scratch — a net positive for the Biden team, given the…polarizing nature of the previous president’s feed.

According to Biden’s digital director, the POTUS and White House accounts will also reset to zero followers, marking a change over the Obama to Trump transition. Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account has already lost one prominent follower. Earlier this week, CEO Jack Dorsey unfollowed the president, along with other prominent politicians, including Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

#apps, #biden, #donald-trump, #joe-biden, #policy, #potus, #social, #trump, #twitter