This Week in Cleantech is a new, weekly podcast covering the most impactful stories in cleantech and climate in 15 minutes or less. Produced by Renewable Energy World and Tigercomm, This Week in Cleantech will air every Friday in the Factor This! podcast feed wherever you get your podcasts.
This week’s episode features Washington Post business reporter Evan Halper who shares insights from his reporting on forced labor concerns linked to electric vehicle supply chains.
European Union policymakers want to recycle dead lithium-ion batteries from EVs and other electronics to alleviate concerns about finding the metals needed for batteries. The EU now has rules to increase battery recycling, which will significantly reduce mining that is harmful to the environment.
Manufacturers are now required to recycle waste batteries to make new materials, with ambitious targets for metals recovery as well. There’s reason to not be overly ambitious with this– experts are worried the policy could lead to premature battery recycling. But it does have the potential to make a huge global impact– it won’t only impact the EU’s supply chain but also globally.
The switch to EVs alone will require the ability to recycle an enormous amount of these materials in relatively short order, and that means the industry must start scaling up capacity now. This can push the battery industry toward more sustainable practices, especially if other countries follow suit.
The Inflation Reduction Act was passed without Republican support, and now Republicans are proposing new climate legislation. A bipartisan effort aims to measure greenhouse gas pollution from specific U.S. products, potentially leading to tariffs on carbon-intensive goods from other countries.
This is seen as a win-win among legislation supporters: It would incentivize global decarbonization while pressuring high-pollution countries to clean up their manufacturing. Europe was nervous the IRA would impact global trade, so next month, the EU is implementing a carbon tax at its borders. This marks a shift in climate-trade dynamics.
This is something of an answer for folks who bemoan that climate progress in the US is pointless if other countries don’t decarbonize. The truth is that the U.S. holds enormous influence on trading partners, and policies like this can make a huge difference.
In terms of a future carbon tariff for the U.S., the PROVE IT Act would require the Dept. of Energy to study the U.S. industry’s carbon pollution. There are worries about this though– like whether this would fly with the World Trade Organization or potential geopolitical conflicts.
Concrete is everywhere, but it’s a major contributor to carbon pollution – responsible for 8% of the world’s CO2 pollution –because of its main ingredient: cement. The story notes that, according to London-based think tank Chatham House “To bring the cement industry in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change, its annual emissions would need to drop by at least 16% by 2030, even as cement production is slated to increase.”
Enter startup Prometheus Materials: Inspired by coral and seashell formations, they are transforming algae into cement. Prometheus is gearing up to secure venture funding, between $15 and $35 million, and they’re planning to build a 35,000-square-foot factory. Then they’ll need to demonstrate that it’s as reliable as standard concrete.
Prometheus has a strategic game plan: they want to collaborate with large cement producers and use a licensing strategy to reach $75 million in revenue by 2027. Their end goal is to create bio-concrete products, like blocks, panels, and pavers. So far, it looks like their main challenges are raising funds for factory construction and convincing concrete producers to adopt their bio-cement.
This piece uncovers a story about Exxon’s two-faced stance on climate change. In 2015, Exxon stated its support for the Paris Climate Agreement and CEO Rex Tillerson publicly portrayed a moderate stance. But behind the scenes, Exxon was working to downplay climate change concerns and undermine scientific findings.
Exxon now faces multiple lawsuits that accuse them of deception over climate change, including one from Hawaii’s Maui County where wildfires killed more than 100 people last month.
This story highlights the importance of transparency and corporate accountability. Darren Woods, who became CEO of Exxon in 2017, said they have committed to spend $17 billion over five years on emissions-reducing technologies, in areas including carbon capture, biofuels and lithium mining. Woods has not invested in renewable energy, arguing it’s a low-return business outside Exxon’s expertise.
Exxon currently plans to continue spending $25 billion annually in capital expenditures through 2027, mostly on oil and gas production.
This is a roller coaster ride of a story. The U.S. restricts imports of Xinjiang-made parts due to coerced labor concerns. But Tesla has been silent about forced labor in Xinjiang, China, where they source materials for their EVs.
But it’s not just Tesla. The Washington Post did some digging and found Xinjiang-linked suppliers in big players like Ford and Volkswagen as well. However, the auto industry seems to have found some ways around the ban on partnerships with major Chinese military suppliers.
Ethical hiccups like this could hinder our efforts to combat climate change.
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This Week in Cleantech is hosted by Renewable Energy World senior content director John Engel and Tigercomm president Mike Casey. The show is produced by Brian Mendes with research support from Alex Petersen and Clare Quirin.