👋 Hello and welcome to the first edition of Energy News Weekly! I’m Kathryn Krawczyk, associate editor at the Energy News Network, and every week I’ll be bringing you a breakdown of a big clean energy story from the past week, as well as a roundup of more news. This week, we discuss congressional Democrats’ investigation into how fossil fuel companies continue to spread climate disinformation.
As the weeks go on, we aim to shape this newsletter to best serve you and all our readers. Let us know what you do and don’t like by replying to this email — we really appreciate it!
House Democrats spent last week trying to hold major fossil fuel companies accountable for spreading climate disinformation — a tall order given that the leaders of those companies didn’t show up.
So instead of questioning oil and gas CEOs, Democrats used a series of hearings last week to unpack their investigation into how the companies are privately contradicting their public climate pledges. In one case, internal memos from ExxonMobil showed how the company pushed to remove any mention of the global Paris climate agreement from an industry statement on climate change. And in another, a Royal Dutch Shell employee sent an email saying that a path to “net zero” carbon emissions “has nothing to do with our business plans.”
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The revelations build on evidence that fossil fuel companies have known about climate change for decades, but pushed to expand anyway. “The problem is that they continue to mislead,” said Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna. Lawmakers also called out the fossil fuel giants for bringing in major profits as consumers’ prices skyrocketed, saying their clean energy investments were “a drop in the bucket” compared to the salary boosts they paid top executives.
Republicans pushed back on Democrats’ accusations, with Rep. Blake Moore of Utah alleging that holding fossil fuel and public relations giants accountable for climate misinformation would curb free speech. But as a new report revealed last week, and as Democrats highlighted in a separate hearing, fossil fuel industry groups have pushed for the adoption of state laws criminalizing protests near energy infrastructure — a direct response to the 2016 Standing Rock protests.
In other clean energy news…
🌞 One in 10 schools now powered by the sun: As K-12 schools struggle with shrinking budgets, switching to solar power has allowed some to raise teachers’ pay and make building improvements. (New York Times)
🗳️ What’s next after Congress’ climate bill: Democratic leaders are determined to pass Sen. Joe Manchin’s permitting reforms in exchange for his support of their major climate bill. The reforms would speed environmental oversight of fossil fuel projects, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are frustrated with the secretive process. (The Hill)
💡 Puerto Rico without power again: Hurricane Fiona knocked out the whole island’s power this weekend. It’s been five years since Hurricane Maria, and “bureaucratic infighting” has prevented progress on hardening the grid since. (NPR, E&E News)
🔦 Power outages on the rise: Power outages will likely only become more common as climate change worsens storms, and as the aging electric grid strains under increased demand from more electric vehicles and appliances. (CNN)
🌊 A shot at floating wind turbines: The Energy Department launched an effort to install thousands of floating offshore wind turbines by 2035, largely along the rocky West coast, in the Great Lakes, and in deeper ocean waters where fixed-bottom turbines won’t work. (Utility Dive)
🔌 Supercharging EV charging: President Biden announced a $900 million investment to begin building 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations across the federal highway system. (New York Times)
💰 More green for green initiatives: The federal climate bill includes funding to create a national green bank, which will help vulnerable and underresourced communities finance new renewable installations and bring in clean energy businesses. (The Guardian)
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