🌱 The Grumpy Optimists #102
Should big oil be able to give themselves a license to operate? I'd say no.
Happy Monday. 👋
Welcome back to another episode of The Grumpy Optimists. Unfortunately, I missed last week's episode due to what now turns out to be covid. Three days in bed and we’re back for another episode and a recap of all things climate from the last two weeks.
This week I’m looking at the controversy around an oil company buying a direct air capture firm and effectively giving them a license to operate, how UK electricity pricing works (it’s actually interesting and has graphs, don’t worry) and how sign language is becoming climate-friendly.
Let’s crack on, shall we?
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👀 Articles to read
🛢️Occidental oil company buy carbon air capture firm. Last week, Occidental Petroleum announced it’s acquiring carbon air capture technology company Carbon Engineering Ltd for $1.1 billion to develop a series of DAC sites. Oh, and $500 million came from the US government. This has drawn some controversy with the CEO of Occidental previously saying that DAC “gives our industry a licence to continue to operate for the 60, 70, 80 years that I think it’s going to be very much needed.” There’s a lot of nuance to the conversation and the pros and cons have been outlined by the folks at Climate Drift much better than I can, plus they used great memes.
⚡ UK’s largest community-owned solar panel project get’s the green light. The 120-acre solar farm will generate 30 megawatts of renewable energy, enough to power 8,400 homes and importantly includes and benefits local residents as shareholders.
⚖️ A legislative climate landmark. Montana court rules in favour of young people who sued the state's endorsement of fossil fuels. The ruling sided with the 16 young individuals who alleged that the state's endorsement of fossil fuels violated their right to a clean environment. The verdict is hailed as one of the strongest court decisions on climate change and could set the precedent for action against fossil-fuel pollution throughout the country.
💡 Unpacking the UK energy market and its costs. Hannah Ritchie, Deputy Editor & Lead Researcher at Our World in Data has unpacked why electricity prices are set by the most expensive source that needs to be turned on and why natural gas dictates UK energy prices. This is genuinely a really interesting article that helped me understand the intricacies of energy pricing.
💤 Melatonin can help prevent food waste. Melatonin, a hormone known for regulating sleep, is unexpectedly useful for preserving produce during transportation by minimising chilling injuries. Studies found that there could be up to a 42% reduction in damage when melatonin is applied to fresh products. It’s not going to change the world, but it’s a pretty cool application of a safe way to prevent the millions of tonnes of food waste we create.
🏡 UK homes set renewable energy records. Households in the UK set records in the first half of the year with more solar panels and heat pumps installed than ever before with 17,000 households installing solar and 3,000 installing heat pumps. However, that’s some way off the UK's target of 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028. What is cool though is that small-scale renewable energy installations in the UK now total 4 GW, surpassing the capacity of a nuclear power plant and almost doubling that of Europe's largest gas power plant.
🇺🇸 Carbon removal gets its biggest customer yet. The US government is launching a first-of-its-kind program to pay for carbon dioxide removals and accelerate the development of carbon removal technology. Even if we cut our emissions, we’ll still rely on close to 1bn tonnes of carbon removal by 2050, but like the Occidental purchase of Carbon Engineering, it does pose the question again of whether it allows polluters to continue to pollute.
🌱 The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in the US pays off for climate and climate tech. The IRA was signed in August 2022 and has since allocated $400 billion for clean energy projects in the US. The funds have gone towards everything from electric vehicles and charging to carbon capture and renewable energy investments creating 86,000 jobs in the process. That meant good news for climate tech startups and created the environment for private investment to push decarbonisation further. Interesting side note, red states are benefiting more than blue states on IRA funding.
🛫 How AI is helping airlines cut the impact of contrails. Google, American Airlines, and Breakthrough Energy joined forces for a study that managed to decrease the warming impact of contrails by 54%. Using AI technology, the project aimed to minimise contrail formation by altering the flight paths of over 70 test flights. It's worth noting that while technology isn't a panacea for all our issues, and the need to reduce air travel remains paramount, these small changes are undoubtedly a positive development.
📈 Big consultancy calls for more decarbonisation. McKinsey, one of the biggest consultancies in the world is calling for action on decarbonising energy in Europe. The firm suggests that Europe needs to triple its pace of deploying renewable energy to promote an energy transition that balances affordability, security and growth. It’s not just eco zealots that realise we need to decarbonise, big business agrees it makes sense and that’s a win.
✋🏻 Sign language gets climate-friendly. Scientists and British Sign Language (BSL) users have collaborated to create new signs for over 400 environmental terms from greenhouse gases to climate change. The goal of the project is to increase the accessibility of climate and biodiversity science for the deaf community.
👀 Random things worth seeing
Pierre Poilievre, the Canadian Conservative leader cancels his anti-carbon pricing rally because of wildfires fueled by climate change. Pretty ironic really.
This week's episode was written after sweating out any remaining bit of covid I had in my system while running in a very hot London, followed by sitting in front of a fan and listening to Nature Guy on YouTube. That’s all from me for another week, thanks for listening to my thoughts and an attempt to summarise positive news on a planet that’s quite literally burning up.
George, the Grumpy Optimist 💚