Originally published on Friday, March 18th, 2022
From one angle, the past two weeks have been a hard road for climate action.
Fossil fuel prices have spiked to unsustainable levels the world over, forcing policymakers to choose between making good on ambitious near-term emissions goals and keeping the lights on.
The United States Supreme Court is considering, for the sake of a law no longer in effect, whether the government’s environmental agency should be able to regulate greenhouse gases at all— and they appear to be leaning ‘no.’
Meanwhile, the drumbeat of cataclysmic IPCC reports carries on.
Then on Monday, Senator Joe Manchin blocked Sarah Bloom Raskin’s nomination to the Federal Reserve board because she supports integrating climate change risk analysis into the Fed’s projections for the US economy. The Senator and beneficiary of a coal brokerage firm deemed her views too “political” for the post.
But seen another way, it’s times like these when the promise of a clean energy future seems more tangible and practicable than ever.
Energy shocks have been around for decades, but this time consumers finally have an alternative to the tyranny of high gas prices in the form of electric cars— and they’ve taken notice. Carbon trading schemes are starting to pay impressive dividends just as increased fossil fuel output will drive demand for credits.
And climate solutions may well prove to be the solution for this week’s top-of-mind issue in economies across the world: inflation.
In his press release opposing Raskin’s nomination, Senator Manchin reasoned that under current economic conditions the Federal Reserve needed to be “hyper-focused” on preventing inflation.
It was a curious argument considering that President Biden essentially made the same point when announcing a ban on Russian energy imports just a week earlier, albeit in favor of clean energy as a means of cutting inflation and emissions.
“In the long run, the way to avoid high gas prices is to speed up – not slow down – our transition to a clean energy future,” the President said in a press release.
That’s because in economic terms, fossil fuels are inflationary while renewable technologies are by definition deflationary.
Fossil fuels generally become more expensive over time as the most accessible reserves are depleted, requiring producers to scour increasingly far flung corners of the globe to meet ever-increasing demand. Beyond that, most of the world’s oil is controlled by OPEC, a cartel that can, and does, withhold supply and raise global energy prices as it pleases.
And of course, the sheer ubiquity of fossil fuels makes them a driver of inflation. In an economy where virtually every industry runs on oil, gas or coal, any sharp price swing for those commodities is bound to be mirrored in the products they help produce.
Indeed, one study recently pinned almost a third of the inflation seen since the beginning of the pandemic on the rising cost of oil.
Renewable energy technologies don’t have these problems (for the most part).
Wind and solar require significant up-front investment, but once they’re installed, their output is, well... renewable. Without the need for constant inputs or elaborate maintenance, clean energy sources have a marginal cost of nearly zero.
This is a large part of the reason why the cost of utility-scale solar energy fell by nearly 80% in the period from 2010-2019, surpassing the expectations of even the most fervent clean energy evangelists at the time. Ever since the first wave of solar farms were brought online, they have churned out electricity (and profits) unimpeded by the high maintenance or refinery processes associated with fossil fuels.
The difference hasn’t been lost on investors, either. As solar projects have proven their economic mettle, debt financing has overtaken equity investments for new solar farms, reflecting a growing sense of confidence among investors who are also happy to take advantage of low interest rates.
To be fair, solar and other renewable technologies aren’t guaranteed to be inflation-proof in the future.
Cobalt is a key component in producing lithium-ion batteries, and the vast majority of the world’s production comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The DRC is just two decades removed from a civil war, and it’s not hard to foresee scenarios where the country’s already-tenuous security situation spirals downward due to, among other things, the outsized effects of climate change that are already bearing down on the country.
That, in turn, could lead to supply disruptions and ensuing price hikes that would hit consumers across the world.
But even here, the emergence of alternative energy storage technologies like gravity storage and molten salt promises to shore up vulnerabilities from foreign extractive ventures tied to lithium-ion batteries.
These promising technologies are still in their infancy, and even a full-scale investment in existing renewables today wouldn’t impact energy prices for months, if not years.
Either way, the chain keeping energy and inflation together won’t be broken until both energy and energy storage can be produced without hard-won minerals from half a world away.
Check out some of the latest featured jobs below. If you don't see anything that speaks to you, you can always go to Climatebase to explore thousands of other opportunities.
EnergyRM is a clean energy fintech company that’s changing how commercial buildings fund and profit from energy efficiency and renewables. At EnergyRM, we believe that decarbonizing buildings, the single biggest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, and investor profits should go hand in hand to accelerate a clean energy future.
At Cogo, we're on a mission to help millions of people and businesses worldwide to understand and reduce their carbon footprint. We've partnered with some of the biggest banks in the world and created a free consumer app and real-time API that can empower people to use their money to shape a future they truly value.
Tapestry is developing computational tools to predict and simulate what might happen on the energy grid — from nanoseconds to decades into the future
One Small Step is a climate tech startup and free behavior-change mobile app that makes it easy and rewarding to adopt a low-impact green lifestyle. Featured by Apple as their App of the Day and with an advisory board of industry leaders from Atlassian, COP26 and Reddit, we’re helping people and communities across the world rapidly achieve net-zero emissions.
The Climate Vault approach is one of the simplest ways to achieve net zero. Rather than trying to estimate the carbon reductions created by planting trees or distributing clean cookstoves, we can measure exactly how much carbon pollution we’re preventing, ton by ton. At Climate Vault, we do this by purchasing carbon permits from cap-and-trade compliance markets and vaulting them so emitters can’t use them. Because the number of permits is capped, this decreases the amount of global carbon dioxide pollution allowed by government regulators.
Rewiring America is a growing nonprofit, working to launch a movement that electrifies everything, starting with our 121 million households. Through accurate, accessible, and actionable data and storytelling tools that power smart, inclusive advocacy and market-transforming partnerships, Rewiring America aims to achieve national emissions goals, improve our health, lower monthly bills, and create millions of clean energy jobs.
Slipstream creates, tests, delivers and scales the next generation of energy efficiency and renewable energy programs that move us farther, faster toward a clean energy economy through the development of renewable energy semiconductor.
Evergreen Climate Innovations, formerly Clean Energy Trust, provides catalytic capital and support to entrepreneurs and startups that bring impactful climate technologies to market. The nonprofit pioneered its 501c Investment Fund to align philanthropic and corporate contributions to deliver environmental, economic, and social impact. Evergreen advances and expands access to innovation across the Greater Midwest and cultivates an ecosystem of investors, donors, and collaborators.
Carbon Gap is a climate not-for-profit focused on eliminating the carbon dioxide that’s already heating up the planet. We exist to drive essential climate action by making Europe a leader in carbon removal, working with governments, scientists, NGOs, and businesses to unlock policy support for the full spectrum of carbon removal techniques, storing carbon safely in trees, soils, oceans, rocks, and the built environment.
Rheaply is a B2B SaaS resource management technology to scale reuse and the circular economy within organizations, helping lower procurement and storage costs and reduce waste.
The Cool Down (TCD) is a well-funded content+commerce startup on a mission to help more Americans feel invested in and connected to the cleaner, cooler future that's being built all around them every day. The company is led by Dave Finocchio, co-founder and long-time CEO of Bleacher Report, and Anna Robertson, an award-winning executive, producer, and innovator at Disney, ABC and Yahoo.
Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 1986. We envision a verdant Los Angeles River that supports vulnerable communities in climate adaptation.
Pachama is a mission-driven company looking to restore nature to help address climate change. Pachama brings the latest technology in remote sensing and AI to the world of forest carbon in order to enable forest conservation and restoration to scale. Pachama’s core technology harnesses satellite imaging with artificial intelligence to measure carbon captured in forests.
The Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) is a member-supported 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that develops, promotes, and implements advanced transportation technologies, vehicles, and fuels that reduce environmental pollution and fossil fuel dependency. CTE is a passionate, progressive workplace open to employee-driven ideas and opportunities. CTE is headquartered in Atlanta, GA with offices in Berkeley, Los Angeles, and St. Paul.
One Click LCA is our world-leading and rapidly growing life-cycle assessment software for the construction industry.
Flux is commercializing the first total-cost of ownership electric vehicle lease. The more you drive, the more you save. We plan to leverage EV's lower operating costs to drive greater adoption for all consumers by lowering barriers to entry.
Heirloom is on a mission to restore balance to our atmosphere. We are removing 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2035, using natural processes to engineer the world's most cost-effective Direct Air Capture solution. Naturally occurring minerals - alongside forests, soils, and the ocean - are one of our planet's most vital carbon sinks. Over geological timescales, carbon dioxide in the air and water chemically bind to these minerals and permanently turn to stone. Our technology enhances this natural process, called carbon mineralization, to help minerals absorb CO2 from the ambient air in days, rather than years. By combining the best of engineering and nature, we can offer the most cost-effective and scalable Direct Air Capture solution in the world.
We’re an early-stage startup that cares passionately about solving the climate crisis. We believe that forests are the most effective, safe, and scalable carbon drawdown solution. Our mission is to accelerate restoration of 3 billion acres of degraded lands to their native ecosystems, activating the most massive carbon drawdown effort on the planet. We help partners secure diverse native seed supply, tackle freshwater shortages with solar-powered desalination, design sustainable business plans, access high quality training, and more.
Equilibrium Energy is a well-funded, Series A clean energy startup backed by some of the most prominent institutional investors in climate. We are building a digital native power company operating at the intersection of grid variability, market volatility, economic optimization, commercial structuring, and risk management, across the end-to-end power value chain. Our mission is to accelerate our collective path to climate, energy, and societal equilibriums. Our goal is to become one of the next-generation, digital-native, end-to-end global clean power companies that reshapes the energy industry.
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Sunday, August 24th, 2022: In our climate news column, "This Week in Climate", we look at the IRA’s impact on electric vehicles, and how they are making waves in the hills of Nevada and halls of power in Beijing.
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