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 is government action shaping the global mix of energy sources?
The International Energy Agency predicted last week that global demand for fossil fuels will peak near 2030. The agency noted in its annual World Energy Outlook that both the ongoing war in Ukraine and government policies that fund or incentivize clean energy technologies contribute to their expectation that demand for fossil fuels will begin to fall. The agency highlights the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in the United States as an example of one such clean energy policy, which provides around $369 billion to combat climate change, partly through tax incentives for firms that produce low-carbon energy. Deciding who meets this requirement, however, poses several challenges for the federal government. In a recent blog post, RFF researchers Aaron Bergman, Brian C. Prest, and Karen Palmer examine how the US Department of the Treasury will choose to determine eligibility for the IRA tax credit that supports the production of clean hydrogen fuel—particularly when considering the electricity consumed by the electrolyzers that are used in producing hydrogen. “These choices will be of vital importance for the competitiveness of green hydrogen, because the subsidy is available only if the emissions associated with the consumed electricity are extremely clean,” they say.
How can government funding and research support the growth of the hydrogen fuel industry?
New research from scientists at the National University of Singapore has shown that natural light can improve the efficiency of the chemical reaction that creates hydrogen. Other research from scientists at Osaka University in Japan has identified a method to store hydrogen fuel more effectively. These types of innovations could contribute to efforts to decarbonize the hydrogen fuel industry, which has been touted for its potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the difficult-to-decarbonize industrial sector. To help realize this potential, the US Department of Energy (DOE) has committed $8 billion in funding for the creation of regional hydrogen economies, known as “hydrogen hubs,” and requested public feedback on the program. In a new blog post, RFF scholars Lucie Bioret, Alan Krupnick, and Aaron Bergman examine the comments that were submitted by one of the primary groups of respondents—hydrogen end users—and how well a recent funding opportunity announcement from DOE addresses those comments. “With the funding opportunity announcement from DOE and congressional legislation, some of the concerns from end users surely have been addressed,” they say. “Time will tell if these efforts can assure the viability of future hubs and the success of this program.”
How can nature-based strategies, best practices with land use and forestry, and related government policies help reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
Wildfires in California accounted for 23 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. The record-breaking wildfires that year effectively nullified 18 years of emissions reductions from other industrial sectors in California. The threat of wildfires has been exacerbated by drought conditions; rising temperatures; and US forestry practices, which historically have prioritized fire suppression and allowed flammable organic materials to accumulate. In an article from the latest issue of Resources magazine, which broadly explores how nature-based forestry and agriculture can help achieve climate goals, RFF Senior Fellow James Boyd identifies controlled burns and forest thinning (methods known as fuels management) as tools that can reduce wildfire risk. “With the extent and severity of wildfires increasing, cost-effective wildfire management and forest stewardship are national priorities,” says Boyd. “Fuels management can protect communities and forest resources but is not without risks and often is politically controversial.”
In Focus: Renewable Energy Growth in 2022
In the newest installment of RFF’s In Focus video series, RFF Fellow Daniel Shawhan shares insights on what has driven the growth in renewable energy sources, as noted in the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook report this year, and what governments can do to speed the adoption of clean energy technologies.
The 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as the Conference of the Parties, or COP27, begins next week in Egypt. Resources for the Future is hosting a trio of RFF Live events during the conference, convening global experts to discuss international trade and industrial decarbonization (November 11), the current state and future of US climate policy (November 14), and how to advance climate goals during an energy crisis (November 14). In addition, members of the RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment will participate in an event about climate communication and narratives of the climate crisis in the media (November 11). Learn more about the events.
An upcoming webinar hosted by the RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment will explore a new nation-level index for risks associated with climate change. The index ranks 145 nations on factors that include hazards, exposure, and vulnerability. RSVP for the event here.
A new report coauthored by RFF Fellow Daniel Raimi and Research Analyst Sophie Pesek offers several interpretations of a provision in the Inflation Reduction Act that encourages clean energy projects in what the law terms “energy communities,” which are regions that are expected to be most heavily affected by the transition away from fossil fuels. “The purpose of developing our own definition is mainly to show that federal resources could be more precisely targeted,” says Pesek.
In a recent working paper, RFF University Fellow Kailin Kroetz and coauthors introduce a new modeling approach that could aid the development of protected landscape corridors for migratory animal species. “If one section or area of a potential migratory corridor is unable to support species movement,” say the authors, “the migration through that route will not be successful.” The paper is one in a series of working papers published by the VALUABLES Consortium, a collaboration between RFF and NASA that measures how satellite information can benefit people and the environment.
A new explainer from RFF Research Associate Molly Robertson discusses elements of the energy transition that could affect consumer electricity costs and describes potential economic and policy levers that could mitigate these costs. “There are long-term benefits to investing in enhanced infrastructure and new technology,” says Robertson. “Policy and public spending can offset … up-front costs, particularly for low-income households.”
🎨 Climate in the Culture 🎵
In Dinosaurs, a new novel from Lydia Millet, an heir to an oil fortune begins a new life in Phoenix, Arizona, after walking across the country from New York City. The heir, a man named Gil, seeks to temper embarrassment about his wealth by engaging with his neighbors and volunteering in Phoenix. Early on, Gil also becomes preoccupied with the birds in Phoenix, which he repeatedly discovers dead in the desert. Millet, who works with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in an interview about the novel that “the extinction of species is always the thing that frightens me most in the world … And, of course, it’s closely linked to climate—you can’t really extricate them from each other.”