Twice a month, we’re compiling the most relevant news stories from diverse sources online, connecting the latest environmental and energy economics research to global current events, real-time public discourse, and policy decisions. Keep reading, and feel free to send us your feedback.
Here are some questions we’re asking and addressing with our research chops this week:
How are policymakers and researchers incorporating environmental justice into their work?
An official from the US Environmental Protection Agency visited Prince George’s County in Maryland last week to announce $12 million for a new technical training center. The center, one of 16 across the United States, will support local communities and organizations in applying for federal funds to launch environmental justice projects. The Biden administration’s focus on environmental justice parallels increasing attention on equity in policy research. “The past several years have made clear that our commitment to equity and to inclusive processes is integral to enabling a healthy environment and thriving economy,” says Resources for the Future (RFF) President and CEO Richard G. Newell in the latest issue of Resources magazine, which was released this week, in time for RFF Founders’ Day. Environmental justice forms the theme of this new issue, with RFF scholars addressing environmental justice in related articles about local air quality, the wastewater implications of climate change, California climate policy, and more. Check out the online edition here.
The European Union has implemented the first carbon border adjustment policy in the world. What will this policy mean for global trade?
The European Union enacted the first phase of its EU Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism last weekend. The policy imposes a fee on imports into the bloc from exporters that impose either no national tax on carbon dioxide emissions or impose their own national tax that’s smaller than the carbon price that the European Union imposes within the bloc. This first phase requires importers of certain goods to report emissions associated with these traded goods; the fee will come into effect in 2026. The policy—and similar policies that other nations may implement in the future—signals a shift in how nations are approaching climate and cross-border trade. In an article in the new issue of Resources magazine, RFF scholars Raymond J. Kopp, Kevin Rennert, and Billy Pizer discuss the motivation for carbon border adjustments and how these policies may affect global trade. “Though the course is complex and without precedent, carbon border adjustments remain as the primary option, given that the preferred course—globally harmonized emissions policies—have continued to prove elusive,” they say.
With the effects of climate change intensifying, how is the federal government helping communities build up their resilience to these effects?
A state of emergency was declared last week for New York City and several nearby municipalities, as heavy rains inundated the area. Flash floods forced closures to subway stations, stranded drivers, and damaged local businesses. Recent support from a new federal loan program may help New York State adapt to extreme weather events like this one. The state, along with six other coastal states and Washington, DC, has received funding from the program for investments in climate-resilience projects. The new loan program is “revolving,” which means that recipients of the loans recapitalize the fund with repayments and payments of interest—giving the program potential freedom from reliance on Congress for funding, says Margaret A. Walls, a senior fellow at RFF. In a new blog post, Walls examines the potential challenges and benefits of the new program. “If initial outcomes look promising, the program could become a staple of resilience financing,” says Walls.
Evergreen Time Machine
RFF research from our archives offers historical background and possible solutions for the challenges in today’s news.
A new [climate] corps could help communities adapt to climate change by building climate-resilient infrastructure, like restored wetlands or green stormwater systems. It could also help mitigate climate change by developing solar and wind energy systems.
Last month: President Joe Biden announced the creation of the American Climate Corps. The program, which is modeled after the New Deal–era Civilian Conservation Corps, will employ over 20,000 young adults to build clean energy and climate-resilient infrastructure and support conservation work across the United States. In 2021, Resources Radio podcast host Kristin Hayes talked with Neil Maher, a professor of history at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University–Newark, about lessons learned from the Civilian Conservation Corps—and how a contemporary climate corps could succeed.
In Focus: Cleaning Up Orphaned and Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells
The US Department of the Interior recently announced nearly $40 million in funding to help Native nations plug and remediate orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells on tribal lands. This funding adds to a separate allocation of $4.7 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for states to address orphaned and abandoned wells. These wells can cause methane emissions, groundwater contamination, and trip and fall hazards, but the scale of these environmental hazards is not well understood. In light of the new funding, RFF Fellow Daniel Raimi shares his thoughts on why it’s important to remedy this nationwide problem.
Though the Inflation Reduction Act and other recent US policies have increased the odds that the United States can achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, challenges remain—especially in sectors of the economy that are difficult to decarbonize. A forthcoming report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine includes contributions from Susan F. Tierney, chair of the RFF Board of Directors; Billy Pizer, RFF’s Vice President for Research and Policy Engagement; and new RFF University Fellows Julia Haggerty and Carlos Martín. The report will address these challenges and offer sector-by-sector recommendations for decarbonizing the US economy. The National Academies will present the report in a webinar at noon on October 17. RSVP to attend the webinar.
The 45V tax credit for the production of clean hydrogen has raised several complicated questions, one of which concerns electricity demand: Will new electricity generators that are built to meet electricity demand from hydrogen producers use fossil fuels, or renewable energy sources? In the final installment in a series of issue briefs on the 45V tax credit, RFF Fellow Aaron Bergman examines two studies that assume all new electricity generators will be clean. “Even if all the new demand will be met by new clean electricity, there will still be changes in emissions, although of a much smaller magnitude than what is seen when the new demand is met in part by fossil fuel generation,” says Bergman. Check out the blog post that provides an overview of the series to learn more about the implementation of the 45V tax credit.
The Inflation Reduction Act provides incentives to add new sources of clean electricity to the US electric grid, but lacks incentives or requirements to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel–fired power plants on the grid. In a recent article on the Common Resources blog, RFF Senior Fellow Karen Palmer and University Fellow Robert N. Stavins discuss this omission in the law, along with complementary efforts from US states and federal agencies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in other ways. “We often pose this dichotomy between either pricing carbon or subsidizing clean energy. That’s a false dichotomy; policies are going to build both ways from both ends,” says Palmer.
The interconnection queue—a waiting list for power plant developers that hope to connect to the US electric grid—and the costs and regulatory reviews that are associated with the queue have increased dramatically in recent years. In the latest episode of the Resources Radio podcast, Will Gorman, a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, discusses why the wait times in the interconnection queue have grown and how a new federal regulation could improve the interconnection queue. While this regulation may not completely resolve lengthy wait times in the queue, the regulation “signifies to the country that the top regulators know that interconnection is a big issue to work on,” says Gorman.
The persistence of higher temperatures throughout the year is an increasing problem for US schools, where the design choices for buildings and school grounds can exacerbate heat impacts. V. Kelly Turner, an associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, discusses the obstacles to mitigating heat in schools and creative ways that school districts can help create an optimal learning environment for students on a recent episode of Resources Radio podcast. “Schools really need to be hubs in which children can get the cooling that they need so that they can learn,” says Turner.
Data: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Chart: CTVC
The United States will need to build a combined two terawatts of electricity generation from wind and solar to meet the nation’s goal of achieving a zero-emissions electric grid by 2035, according to the US Department of Energy. But the interconnection queue—the line in which a power plant developer must wait while regulators study the potential effects of connecting a new project to the US electric grid—has swollen in recent years. Solar energy projects that were waiting in the queue in 2021 would add almost 400 gigawatts of clean electricity to the grid. Will Gorman, a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, joined the latest episode of the Resources Radio podcast to discuss problems with the interconnection queue. “It used to take roughly one and a half years to get through this interconnection process. Today, it takes three years to do so,” says Gorman.