Economy

Methane law shows gridlocked D.C. the business case for climate

By David Callaway, Callaway Climate Insights

Here’s the forecast for the rest of June: Flaming hot. Meteorologist Scott Duncan tweeted Sunday afternoon: “Some of the hottest places on Planet Earth will be found in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and Western Canada. The intensity of heat this far north is simply outrageous.”

One of the few positives to come out of Washington D.C. this week on climate change, amid the furor over President Biden’s infrastructure bill, is the reinstatement of Obama-era limits on methane gas emissions by fossil fuel companies.

The return of the limits, which President Trump had rescinded, have now passed both the House and Senate and will soon be signed back into law. Not because lawmakers suddenly agree on methane, which is many times more dangerous to the atmosphere than CO₂, but because it made business sense — and was for the most part supported by fossil fuel companies.

Those companies who want to see natural gas used as an alternative to coal and oil are realizing that they first need to find cleaner ways to produce it, especially if they want to export it to more countries with stricter environmental regulations.

The move should set a powerful example to lawmakers as they fight over Biden’s infrastructure bill, particularly the clean energy standard portion that would gradually substitute clean energy such as wind and solar — and gas — for oil in use by the national electricity grid over 10 years.

Whatever happens on Capitol Hill, the business case for adapting cheaper clean alternatives will drive usage far more than any legislation will. At some point, likely soon, we’ll wonder why this was ever a sticking point.

More insights below. . . .

Monday’s subscriber insights: In shock, Miami and Florida contemplate the damages of rising seas

. . . . While the numbers are smaller, the photos from the Miami condo collapse evoked the tragic smoking rubble of 9/11 two decades ago. This time it wasn’t terrorists, but some wonder what effect the rising seas coming for South Florida might have caused. Read more here. . . .

. . . . India oil and gas giant Reliance Industries committed $10 billion to renewable energy strategies this week, taking a lead position in a country — and on a continent — that is far behind in climate commitments. For all the progress on global warming in Europe, little matters without Asia on board. Read more here. . . .

Editor’s picks: Incentives for greener farming, and Renault jumps into EV battery ring

Senate seeks to boost greener farming practices

The Senate has approved a measure to encourage greater use of farming and forestry practices that prevent greenhouse gas emissions and remove planet-warming CO₂ from the atmosphere, the Associated Press reports. The bill authorizes the Dept. of Agriculture to establish a program to help farmers, ranchers and private landowners earn payments through private markets for planting off-season cover crops, reducing tillage and taking other steps to lock up carbon in soils and trees, according to the report. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who is the Agriculture Committee chair and also the bill’s sponsor, said, “Solving the climate crisis is a critical challenge for all of us … and we are taking landmark steps toward supporting agriculture and forestry leadership in addressing this. The measure passed last week with a 92-8 vote and now goes to the House, which is considering a similar proposal.

Renault gets into the EV battery race

Renault says it’s signed “two major partnerships” for the design and production of electric vehicle batteries. The French carmaker said in a statement that it is partnering with China’s Envision AESC, which is set to develop a gigafactory in northern France. Renault said the factory would have a capacity of 9 gigawatt hours by the year 2024 and aim to grow to 24 GWh by the year 2030, CNBC reported. Renault said Envision AESC would invest as much as €2 billion ($2.38 billion) “to produce the latest technology, cost-competitive, low-carbon and safe batteries for electric models.” Renault also announced it will take a 20% stake in French firm Verkor, which aims to build its first gigafactory in 2023 and focus on battery cells and modules.

Japan’s MS&AD exiting coal underwriting and investment

MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings, one of Japan’s largest non-life insurers, announced a series of initiatives to advance its net-zero strategies, including introducing a new policy to exit underwriting and investment in new coal-fired power plants, ESG Today reports. MS&AD’s announcement follows a new goal set by the company last month to reach net-zero CO₂  emissions by 2050. According to the report, MS&AD said that in addition to its new coal policy, its initiatives to reduce CO₂ emissions by society include supporting the development of clean and renewable energy sources, and the adoption of environmentally friendly vehicles.

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