As the dust settles around the Inflation Reduction Act, the political deal-making that made the bill possible is starting to run head-long into difficult economic and geopolitical realities.
One of the IRA’s biggest presumptive wins for the climate was the extension of a $7,500 credit for electric vehicles. That was no small feat, since West Virginia Senator Joe Machin seemed focused on killing it throughout the tortuous months of negotiations leading up to this week.
Since then, the devil in the details has made itself known. In order to secure Manchin’s approval, Democratic leaders made a few compromises.
Electric vehicles sold in the U.S. will only qualify for the credit if:
On its face, the compromise looks reasonable.
The United States enjoys an abundance of reserves of the metals and materials necessary to meet the exploding demand that will come with a mass scale-up of electric vehicle output.
Nevada is bursting with lithium, Idaho’s “cobalt belt” is still largely untapped, and graphite reserves in Alaska have attracted the attention of at least one mining company, with others sure to follow.
The problem is that in today’s world, the great majority of those materials are sourced from a “foreign entity of concern” called China.
American mining corporations have stated clearly that they will face enormous supply chain challenges in ramping up operations to meet demand, with or without Chinese materials coming into the U.S.
And supply chains aside, the U.S. government is at the peak of a decades-long slowdown in permitting mining operations within its borders.
The result is that Chinese inputs in American EVs are seemingly inevitable, throwing the true impact of EV credits in the air while also casting yet another a stone in China’s direction.
The complications with China come at a particularly bad time. Shortly after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan last week, China responded by cutting off climate negotiations with the United States.
It is still unclear exactly why Speaker Pelosi went to Taiwan when she did, but it seems an unlikely coincidence that the visit came on the heels of the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act in the U.S. Congress. That bill is designed to boost U.S. production of microchips and presumably reduce American dependence on Taiwan, where no less than 63% of the world’s microchips are currently produced.
It also contains $80 billion for zero-carbon technologies and climate adaptation, a fact that largely flew under the radar among while attention was focused on the Inflation Reduction Act.
In this case, domestic climate policy may have come at the expense of the world’s most important climate cooperation.
Complicated as it is, the conversation around the economics and politics of American mining still leaves out the climate.
This week, a historic surge of rainfall in Kentucky fell on a landscape scarred by decades of strip-mining, which multiplied the impact of the storm and played a major role in the ensuing torrent of mud and sludge that devastated local communities.
Strip mining is a method that is about as crude as it sounds. Trees, roots, rocks, earth— all are dug up and displaced to reach the desired materials, leaving little in the way to stop a heavy rain fall from turning into a deluge.
This is exactly the type of mining planned to extract lithium from Nevada’s Thacker Pass, where the density of lithium in ore can be as little as two-tenths of one percent. In a year, that would mean 20 to 30 million tons of earth would be moved for the sake of 60,000 tons of lithium, putting the site on par with the combined ecological impact of several entire coal states.
Activists and indigenous groups have vowed to fight the mines, however those alliances are fraying.
Mining is a necessary evil if the near-term goals of the energy transition are going to be met before the biosphere reaches apocalyptic tipping points. But for the lands and communities that will host the transition, those tipping points may well come sooner.
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.
"Cove.tool is a web based platform for analyzing, drawing, engineering, and connecting data for sustainable building design and construction."
"nZero is a 24/7 carbon management platform that gives NGOs, government agencies and organizations the accurate emissions data they need to reach net zero and make smart decisions that benefit the health of the planet. Unlike other carbon management offerings who rely on third-party data and opaque averages, nZero gathers accurate, first-party, contextual data into a comprehensive view, making it ..."
"Remora is an early-stage climate tech startup, t urning 2 mill semi-trucks into carbon removal devices backed by Chris Sacca and Y Combinator. Our device captures the carbon emissions from semi-trucks and we sell the captured carbon dioxide to concrete producers and other end users, helping companies earn new revenue while meeting their climate commitments. To date, 38% of the Fortune ..."
"Cervest is building the world's first open access AI-powered Climate Intelligence platform. We’re a Certified B Corporation with a vision to build a climate intelligent world — one where everyone is able to use Climate Intelligence to adapt with climate change. By making Climate Intelligence open, democratised and transparent we will power a global Climate Intelligent Network™ that drives a chain ..."
"The Tula Foundation is an independent charitable foundation, rooted in British Columbia, but with global interests and outreach. We harness the scientific & technical expertise of our organization and partners, and tackle challenging issues that should matter to everyone."
"8 Rivers innovates widely in adjacent markets in the clean tech space and is best known for inventing a zero-emission power production system, NET Power and the Allam-Fetvedt Cycle, which enables low-cost power production with inherent carbon capture, and 8RH2, our innovative clean hydrogen technology utilizing autothermal reforming to achieve 99% carbon capture. 8 Rivers recently announced a $100M investment from SK Group which accelerates and expands our deployment plans."
"Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization working to create a more healthy, just, and peaceful world. Throughout its history, PSR has provided a strong health-focused voice against the development and use of nuclear weapons. Our other major programmatic focus is climate change—another catastrophic disaster that threatens human health and survival. PSR is a co-founder and ..."
"The Center for EcoTechnology helps people and businesses save energy and reduce waste. We make green make sense. We work with partners throughout the country to address climate change by transforming the way we live and work – for a better community, economy, and environment. For more than 40 years, our innovative non-profit organization has offered practical solutions to save money, increase the ..."
"YourStake.org shows people the social and environmental impact of their investments, and how to improve. We help financial advisors walk people through a sustainable investment journey by providing superior analytics."
"Perpetually powering electric machines with shade-tolerant solar: Optivolt builds the world's leading shade tolerant solar systems to seamlessly power electric devices & machines. Compared to today’s best solar technologies, Optivolt’s full-stack solar products are up to 25X more powerful in shaded and other non-ideal conditions. Optivolt is taking solar where it's never gone before & creating an era of perpetually-powered electric ..."
"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 ..."
"At South Pole, we work with businesses & governments across the globe. We help realize deep decarbonization pathways across industries, based on a thorough understanding of climate risks and opportunities in specific sectors, as well as the highest emission reduction standards. Our Purpose: We act today for a better tomorrow Financing the goals of the Paris climate agreement calls for a fundamental ..."
"Watershed is the enterprise climate platform. Leading companies like Walmart, Stripe , Spotify, Klarna, and Twitter use Watershed's software to measure, reduce, and report their carbon emissions. With its state-of-the-art carbon data engine, in-house climate experts, and marketplace of high-quality decarbonization initiatives, Watershed provides audit-grade emissions data to power business value creation, regulatory compliance, and global climate impact. Watershed’s advisors ..."
"Gridware’s mission is to create a future where suburban wildfires are a thing of the past. We provide a truly full-stack (hardware + firmware + software) solution for real-time monitoring of America's power distribution grid. The system centers around low-cost hardware platforms that are easily and permanently deployed to power poles. The platform detects and predicts faults that ignite wildfires, ..."
"SINAI is a San Francisco-based technology company focused on transforming the way companies price, analyze and reduce carbon emissions around the world. We are passionate about technology and the environment, and our mission is to engage companies and governments to include carbon analysis in their entire operations, transforming the way they interact with their own business, their value chain, and ..."
"LevelTen Energy’s mission is to accelerate the energy transition by facilitating frictionless transactions. As the leading provider of renewable transaction infrastructure, we deliver the cloud-based software, centralized supply, automated analytics, and transaction expertise required to power the renewable energy economy. The LevelTen Platform is the world’s largest online hub for renewable energy buyers, sellers, advisors, asset owners and financiers, and ..."
"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."
"At Waterplan we work in long term water security within the context of climate change adaptation. Waterplan is a fast growing startup in the Climate Tech Space that develops a SaaS platform for companies to manage water availability in their facilities. The platform combines companies' operational data with local water satellite imagery to provide a real-time financial assessment of water ..."
"Vesta is on a mission to remove billions of tons of excess atmospheric carbon dioxide through Coastal Carbon Capture (CCC). CCC is a nature-based carbon dioxide removal method that accelerates the weathering rate of a naturally occurring magnesium iron silicate, olivine, using coastal wave energy. CCC is the practical application of the process known in the scientific literature as Coastal ..."
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