Electric vehicles won’t save us — we need to get rid of cars completely

Three pedestals with vehicles on each: a bicycle in first place, an electric car in second, and a truck in third, against a green background with electricity bolts
Electrifying heavy cars like trucks and SUVs causes other issues like air pollution and traffic deaths.

  • World leaders are focusing on electric vehicles to reduce emissions and combat the climate crisis. 
  • But electrifying vehicles is simply not enough — especially given their large production footprint. 
  • To really make a difference, we need smaller cars, less cars, and more transportation alternatives. 
  • Paris Marx is the host of the Tech Won’t Save Us podcast and author of the forthcoming book, Road to Nowhere, about the problems with Silicon Valley’s future of transportation.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author. 

Climate change is happening now. Wildfires are getting worse, flooding more common, hurricanes more powerful, and heat waves more deadly. Yet when world leaders met in Glasgow earlier this month, their proposals still had the world on track for 2.4 degrees Celsius of warming — far above the 1.5-degree target. Governments aren’t doing enough, but they are beginning to take action, and many are focusing on the opportunity offered by electric vehicles.

Transportation accounts for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and more than half of that comes from passenger vehicles. Since taking office in January, the Biden administration has taken steps toward electrification, but also failed to sign onto a pledge announced at COP26 to phase out fossil-fuel vehicles by 2040.

Electric vehicles are one piece of a strategy to slash transport emissions, but they tend to receive far more attention than proposals to cut car use. The electrification of transportation is essential — there is no doubt about that — but just replacing every personal vehicle with a battery-powered equivalent will produce an environmental disaster of its own. Such a strategy also denies us the opportunity to rethink a near-century of misguided auto-oriented city planning.

SUVs make the problem worse

Since the 1990s, SUVs have gone from being a niche vehicle segment to nearly half of new vehicle sales in the United States. When you add in vans and pickup trucks, that number rises to more than 70% of the market. These large vehicles now dominate North American roads, despite the fact that they’re at least twice as likely to kill pedestrians, have contributed to a 30% increase in pedestrian deaths from 2000 to 2019, and make it harder to cut the carbon emitted from transportation.

While fuel economy standards have improved over time, the shift from sedans to SUVs and trucks has partially offset the emissions reductions that should have accompanied those improvements. Plus, when you look at the global picture, SUV sales have also taken off to such a degree that they were the second largest contributor to the increase in global emissions from 2010 to 2018. The commonly stated solution to this problem is not to address the growing size of vehicles or the mass ownership of personal vehicles of any kind, but simply to electrify them. That isn’t good enough.

The focus on tailpipe emissions misses the bigger picture, and at a moment when we can see the complex, global nature of supply chains in our everyday lives, we need to think beyond such a limited framing of electric vehicles’ environmental impact. 

For example, particulate matter created from tire, brake, and road wear, as well as the dust kicked up by cars on the road, does not fuel climate change, but it does create air pollution that’s harmful to human health. In the United States, these pollutants are responsible for about 53,000 premature deaths each year, and heavier electric vehicles like SUVs and trucks could actually generate more particulate matter than lighter, non-electric cars.

Yet while health effects are important, the biggest concern is the minerals that are required to make the batteries that power electric vehicles and the mining that has to happen to extract them. It’s a reality that seriously dirties their green image, and shows the “zero emissions” branding simply isn’t accurate.

The mining behind electric vehicles

Ahead of COP26, the International Energy Agency released its latest World Energy Outlook that estimated achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 will require six times more minerals by mid-century than is necessary today. Yet the majority of those minerals are required for electric vehicles and storage, whose mineral demand is projected to increase by “well over 50 times by 2050” as the demand for batteries to power them grows substantially. As a result, the United States is assessing its own mineral supply chains and working with Canada to expand mining activities to supply battery makers. But all that mining comes with consequences.

In North America, mining activities tend to be located near rural communities or Indigenous lands where the mines face growing opposition over their environmental impacts and the threat they pose to the lives and livelihoods of locals. Canada also isn’t free of such concerns; lithium mines in Quebec have already been responsible for environmental accidents, and Indigenous opposition to mining projects is growing. 

That’s because these mines harm the surrounding environment, use excess amounts of water, and create significant amounts of waste, but they also have consequences for workers and nearby communities who often suffer from much higher rates of illness. In some countries, a more organized opposition to mining activities is forming, including groups in Latin America that call it a form of green extractivism where people and ecosystems are sacrificed in the name of the climate crisis. As plans to extract more minerals escalate, the backlash will only grow, both at home and abroad.

We need to reduce car use

Electric vehicles tend to be more environmentally friendly than those powered by gas or diesel, but they still have a significant footprint of their own that primarily occurs in the production stage rather than during their use. As long as an electric vehicle replaces all the trips a conventional vehicle might take, it will typically produce fewer emissions over its lifetime within a few years. But we need to ensure we’re not being misled by industry players that have an incentive to greenwash products that don’t do nearly enough to address the problem.

On top of the issues with mining and large vehicle pollution, continuing to have communities built around the assumption that everyone will drive simply isn’t sustainable. The automotive industry wants us to replace the vehicle fleet with battery-powered alternatives because they’ll make a lot of money in the process, but it’s not the best path for the environment, nor for our communities.

As leaders at COP26 were focused on electric vehicles, a network of mayors and the International Transport Workers’ Federation released a report arguing that public transit use needs to double by 2030 in order to meet emissions targets. Making transit available within a 10-minute walk of people’s homes would not only encourage its use and create tens of millions of jobs, but could begin to transform our relationship to mobility.

There was a moment during the pandemic where it felt that change was not only possible, but was happening in front of our very eyes. Streets were closed to vehicles so people had space to move, and temporary bike lanes were thrown up to encourage cycling. In some cities, those efforts were expanded as the worst of the pandemic lifted so people could leave their cars at home and commit to using bikes or transit. But in other cities, the push to go “back to normal” swept away those spaces, and the SUVs returned.

We should seize this opportunity to challenge the past century of auto-oriented planning and emphasize walking, cycling, and transit use over driving. Not only would people’s quality of life improve, but if we’re serious about taking on the climate crisis, we need to significantly reduce the number of cars and SUVs on the road — regardless of what powers them.

Read the original article on Business Insider

What’s in the infrastructure law? Electric vehicles, clean energy, and public transit are all included in $1 trillion legislation

amtrak joe biden
President Joe Biden greets supporters after arriving on an Amtrak train for a campaign stop in Alliance, Ohio, U.S., September 30, 2020.

  • Joe Biden signed the long-awaited $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law on Monday.
  • The plan includes $550 billion to fund advancements in public transit, clean energy, electric vehicles, and roads and bridges.
  • We took a closer look at key funding areas of the legislation, below. 

President Joe Biden signed into law the long-awaited $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill Monday, aimed at restoring American transportation systems, fighting climate change, and increasing access to high-speed internet service. 

The legislation is estimated to create 1.5 million jobs per year over the next decade, and marks “the single largest investment in repairing and reconstructing our nation’s bridges since the construction of the interstate highway system,” according to the White House

“My fellow Americans, today I want you to know we hear you and we see you,” Biden said. “The bill I’m about to sign into law is proof that, despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans can come together and deliver results.” 

The bill passed the House in a 228-206 vote, with 13 House Republicans joining most Democrats to lend key votes. While its passage marks a decisive legislative victory for the Biden administration, it also puts a hold on a larger social spending and climate bill, as Democratic infighting between moderates and progressives continues over the lofty price tag. 

The final version of the bill, which clocks in at 1,039 pages, includes $550 billion in new spending. Several of its major provisions stand to change the way America commutes, lives, and even breathes while outdoors. Here’s how it breaks down: 

Roads, bridges, and transit safety

The law puts $110 billion toward roads, bridges, and other projects. Those investments will “focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety for all users,” including cyclists and pedestrians,” according to a White House fact sheet. That includes:

  • $40 billion for bridges, which would go toward repairs and replacements
  • $17.5 billion for other “complex,” major projects that aren’t traditionally eligible for funding
  • In addition, the deal would put $11 billion toward “transportation safety programs,” with an emphasis on pedestrians and cyclists

Trains, buses, and ferries (oh my!)

The law invests in both transit infrastructure and Amtrak, President Joe Biden’s beloved form of transit.

  • $39 billion for public transit, which would go toward upgrading and modernizing infrastructure, and increasing accessibility
  • $66 billion for rail, which includes:
    • $22 billion in Amtrak grants
    • $24 billion in grants to help modernize the Northeast Corridor (a politically important route, which even has its own slew of Northeast presidential primaries named after it: the Acela primaries).
    • $12 billion toward intercity rail
    • $5 billion in “rail improvement and safety grants”
    • $3 billion for other safety improvements
  • $2.5 billion for zero-emission buses
  • $2.5 billion for low emission buses
  • $2.5 billion for ferries

Electric vehicles

  • $7.5 billion to create a network of electric vehicle chargers across the country

Water and air

  • $17 billion for port infrastructure 
  • $25 billion for airports, with an emphasis on addressing backlogs and reducing emission in both types of ports
  • “Over $50 billion” in water infrastructure, with an emphasis on building resiliency amidst climate change and cyber attacks
  • $55 billion toward clean drinking water, which includes replacing lead pipes and addressing water contamination

Internet and power

  • $65 billion for high-speed broadband
  • $65 billion for grid modernization, which the White House says is the “single largest investment in clean energy transmission in American history”

Climate change and community

  • $1 billion toward reconstructing and reconceiving infrastructure that physically divides communities, as seen in the fact that “significant portions of the interstate highway system were built through Black neighborhoods”
  • $21 billion toward “environmental remediation,” which will address idle energy sites that are, on the whole, disproportionately closer to Americans of color. The funds mark “the largest investment in addressing the legacy pollution,” per the White House
  • $50 billion to support communities afflicted by the devastating effects of natural disasters like forest fires, floods, droughts, and storms that have been exacerbated by climate change. 

How it’s funded

The biggest chunk of funding to offset the cost of the package, $210 billion, comes from unused COVID-19 relief funds.

The package also utilizes another $87 billion in offsets from proceeds of 5G spectrum auctions, $53 billion from repurposing unspent unemployment insurance funds, $49 billion from delaying the implementation of a Medicare part D rebate rule, and $28 billion from stricter reporting requirements of cryptocurrency transactions.

Other smaller offsets include selling off some of the US’ strategic petroleum reserve, reimposing fees for superfunds, continuing fees on government-sponsored entities (like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae), extending customers user fees, extending the mandatory sequester, and pension smoothing.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Elon Musk sold nearly $7 billion worth of Tesla stock this week – and says he’s incurring higher taxes on purpose

Elon Musk SpaceX Tesla CEO holds hand to face thinking
Elon Musk.

  • Elon Musk sold almost $7 billion worth of Tesla stock this week.
  • The Tesla CEO tweeted that he’s intentionally designed his sales to incur more taxes.
  • If Musk sells 10% of his stock as expected, the disposals could continue for a couple more weeks.

Elon Musk cashed in nearly $7 billion worth of Tesla stock this week, and indicated on Twitter that he’s intentionally incurring higher taxes on the sales.

The Tesla CEO sold about 6.4 million shares in five days, generating about $6.9 billion, Securities and Exchange Commission filings show. The disposals fueled a 15% drop in the electric-vehicle company’s stock price this week, which wiped around $180 billion off its market capitalization.

Musk has sold a lot more of his existing stock than his shares from newly exercised options, even though the shares he already held will be taxed at a higher rate.

“A careful observer would note that my (low basis) share sale rate significantly exceeds my 10b (high basis) option exercise rate, thus closer to tax maximization than minimization,” Musk tweeted on Thursday.

There are several competing theories around why Musk is selling stock. The executive noted months ago that he held stock options that expire in 2022, and that he planned to sell shares to cover the cost of exercising them and paying the resulting taxes.

However, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO launched a Twitter poll last weekend asking whether he should sell 10% of his stock, and vowed to abide by the result, which turned out to be positive. He cited pressure from lawmakers who are pursuing a “billionaire tax” as his motivation for the poll.

Meanwhile, Michael Burry of “The Big Short” fame suggested this week that Musk might need to sell stock to pay off personal debts, as the executive held loans against 88 million Tesla shares, as of June 30.

Musk still holds 166 million shares, or about 17% of Tesla’s outstanding shares. If he follows through on his commitment to sell about 17 million shares in total, and maintains his current rate of selling, his disposals might continue for a couple more weeks.

Read the original article on Business Insider

What’s in the infrastructure bill? Electric vehicles, clean energy, and public transit are all included in $1 trillion policy

amtrak joe biden
President Joe Biden greets supporters after arriving on an Amtrak train for a campaign stop in Alliance, Ohio, U.S., September 30, 2020.

  • The House passed the long-awaited $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill on Friday.
  • The plan includes $550 billion to fund advancements in public transit, clean energy, electric vehicles, and roads and bridges.
  • We took a closer look at key funding areas of the legislation, below.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The House passed the long-awaited $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill on Friday, aimed at restoring American transportation systems, fighting climate change, and increasing access to high-speed internet service.

The legislation is estimated to create 1.5 million jobs per year over the next decade, and marks “the single largest investment in repairing and reconstructing our nation’s bridges since the construction of the interstate highway system,” according to the White House.

“Tonight, we took a monumental step forward as a nation,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “Generations from now, people will look back and know this is when America won the economic competition for the 21st Century.”

The bill passed in a 228-206 vote, with 13 House Republicans joining most Democrats to lend key votes. While its passage marks a decisive legislative victory for the Biden administration, it also puts a hold on a larger social spending and climate bill, as Democratic infighting between moderates and progressives continues over the lofty price tag.

The final version of the bill, which clocks in at 1,039 pages, includes $550 billion in new spending. Here’s how it breaks down:

Roads, bridges, and transit safety

The deal puts $110 billion toward roads, bridges, and other projects. Those investments will “focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety for all users,” including cyclists and pedestrians,” according to a White House fact sheet. That includes:

  • $40 billion for bridges, which would go toward repairs and replacements
  • $17.5 billion for other “complex,” major projects that aren’t traditionally eligible for funding
  • In addition, the deal would put $11 billion toward “transportation safety programs,” with an emphasis on pedestrians and cyclists

Trains, buses, and ferries (oh my!)

The deal invests in both transit infrastructure and Amtrak, President Joe Biden’s beloved form of transit.

  • $39 billion for public transit, which would go toward upgrading and modernizing infrastructure, and increasing accessibility
  • $66 billion for rail, which includes:
    • $22 billion in Amtrak grants
    • $24 billion in grants to help modernize the Northeast Corridor (a politically important route, which even has its own slew of Northeast presidential primaries named after it: the Acela primaries).
    • $12 billion toward intercity rail
    • $5 billion in “rail improvement and safety grants”
    • $3 billion for other safety improvements
  • $2.5 billion for zero-emission buses
  • $2.5 billion for low emission buses
  • $2.5 billion for ferries

Electric vehicles

  • $7.5 billion to create a network of electric vehicle chargers across the country

Water and air

  • $17 billion for port infrastructure
  • $25 billion for airports, with an emphasis on addressing backlogs and reducing emission in both types of ports
  • “Over $50 billion” in water infrastructure, with an emphasis on building resiliency amidst climate change and cyber attacks
  • $55 billion toward clean drinking water, which includes replacing lead pipes and addressing water contamination

Internet and power

  • $65 billion for high-speed broadband
  • $65 billion for grid modernization, which the White House says is the “single largest investment in clean energy transmission in American history”

Climate change and community

  • $1 billion toward reconstructing and reconceiving infrastructure that physically divides communities, as seen in the fact that “significant portions of the interstate highway system were built through Black neighborhoods”
  • $21 billion toward “environmental remediation,” which will address idle energy sites that are, on the whole, disproportionately closer to Americans of color. The funds mark “the largest investment in addressing the legacy pollution,” per the White House
  • $50 billion to support communities afflicted by the devastating effects of natural disasters like forest fires, floods, droughts, and storms that have been exacerbated by climate change.

How it’s funded

The biggest chunk of proposed funding to offset the cost of the bill, $210 billion, comes from unused COVID-19 relief funds.

The bill proposes another $87 billion in offsets from proceeds of 5G spectrum auctions, $53 billion from repurposing unspent unemployment insurance funds, $49 billion from delaying the implementation of a Medicare part D rebate rule, and $28 billion from stricter reporting requirements of cryptocurrency transactions.

Other smaller proposed offsets in the bill include selling off some of the US’ strategic petroleum reserve, reimposing fees for superfunds, continuing fees on government-sponsored entities (like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae), extending customers user fees, extending the mandatory sequester, and pension smoothing,

Read the original article on Business Insider

Elon Musk teased Warren Buffett for being so much poorer than him – and suggested the investor buy Tesla stock to catch up

Warren Buffett and Elon Musk
Warren Buffett (left) and Elon Musk (right).

  • Elon Musk joked that Warren Buffett should buy Tesla stock if he wants to get richer.
  • The Tesla and SpaceX chief’s net worth is more than double the size of the investor’s fortune.
  • Musk and Buffett have clashed before, on issues such as the importance of brands.

Elon Musk teased Warren Buffett for being poorer than him in a recent tweet, suggesting the investor should buy a stake in his electric-vehicle company if he wants to catch up.

“Maybe Buffett should invest in Tesla haha,” Musk said. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO commands a net worth of $236 billion, or more than double the Berkshire Hathaway CEO’s $103 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Musk tweeted in response to a Twitter thread highlighting that he was worth more than Buffett and Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates combined. He probably doesn’t expect Buffett to become a Tesla shareholder, as the 91-year-old famously looks for bargains and sticks to businesses he understands. Tesla’s market capitalization has ballooned almost 10-fold since the start of 2020, and the company has made big bets on artificial intelligence and bitcoin.

The Tesla chief has butted heads with the investor before, most recently when he dismissed Berkshire’s proposal to build 10 natural-gas power plants across Texas in preparation for the state’s next power crisis.

While Musk has quoted Buffett in the past, he’s admitted that he’s not the investor’s “biggest fan.” He’s described allocating capital across Berkshire as “kind of a boring job,” and questioned Buffett’s “kindly grandfather” persona.

Notably, the Tesla chief labeled Buffett’s idea of economic moats – or enduring competitive advantages such as a beloved brand or patented technology – as “lame” on an earnings call in 2018. He argued that a company’s pace of innovation is the key determinant of its competitiveness instead.

Buffett defended the concept at Berkshire’s annual shareholder meeting that year. He pointed to Geico’s low costs, and customers’ loyalty to brands such as Coca-Cola and Snickers, as examples of powerful moats that keep rivals at bay.

“Elon may turn things upside down in some areas,” the investor said. “I don’t think he’d want to take us on in candy,” he quipped, referring to Berkshire-owned See’s Candies.

“I’m starting a candy company, and it’s going to be amazing,” Musk jokingly tweeted in response. In contrast, Buffett signaled that he won’t be competing with Musk in the car business.

“I don’t really have the same urge to produce automobiles that he apparently has to produce candy,” he said in a CNBC interview in 2018.

Buffett has previously praised Musk as a “remarkable guy,” but suggested he has “room for improvement” and should be more selective about what he tweets.

Read more: Warren Buffett expert Robert Hagstrom breaks down the 3 key elements of the investor’s ‘ultimate money mind’ – and explains why he won’t rush to make another elephant-sized acquisition

Read the original article on Business Insider

Wind turbine techs get paid $27 per hour to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the economy – and the profession is growing fast

Rope access technicians carry out maintenance service on wind turbine blades
  • Wind-turbine technicians are the workers who service the very top of towering wind farms.
  • The median wage is $27 per hour, and most jobs don’t require a four-year degree.
  • Employment is projected to increase 68% from 2020 to 2030 – significantly faster than other sectors.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

There are more than 65,000 land-based wind turbines across the US, according to the American Wind Energy Association, and more are coming online each year.

Each of the wind turbines that dots the landscape of a wind farm is generally made of a tower, blades, and a central unit called a nacelle. All three elements require specialists to install and maintain them throughout the life of a turbine.

The nacelles have the most going on, since that is the housing for the generator, gearbox, brakes, and circuitry that convert the mechanical energy into electricity to send down to the power grid.

A technician stands in the turbine nacelle of a wind turbine

In order to make repairs, wind techs typically have to climb as high as 300 feet up the narrow tube of the tower to the nacelle while hauling up all the tools, computers, and safety gear needed to get the job done. While some tasks require climbing outside the nacelle, most routine work is done within the enclosure.

Other crews are used to inspect, repair, or clean the fiberglass blades, which requires workers to rappel down from the nacelle to complete the job while dangling hundreds of feet above the ground.

The median wage for wind techs is $27 per hour, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which works out to about $56,000 per year – about 33% higher than the national median earnings of $42,000.

A community college or technical degree is typically enough to qualify for the job, and many employers provide a year or more of on-the-job training. Most techs will need to understand electrical, hydraulic, braking, mechanical, and computers systems, as well as have first aid and rescue training.

A rope access technician carries out maintenance service on a wind turbine blade

With 6,900 workers in 2020, the field is small but one of the fastest growing in the entire economy, with BLS projections expecting a 68% increase in new jobs by 2030. That’s nearly nine times faster than the projection for all other occupations tracked by the agency.

Beyond claustrophobia and acrophobia, a few things might dissuade someone from racing to find a wind-tech job.

For one thing, the schedule can be grueling. Most wind farms are located in remote areas, so travel times to job sites can take a long time. Plus, bad weather or other unpredictable events can knock out a turbine at any time of the day or night, and repairs need to happen as quickly as possible.

A rope access technicians stands on top of a wind turbine

More importantly, the Labor Department says wind techs have one of the highest rates of injury and illness of all occupations. In particular, a 2017 study found that falls in the energy sector are quite common (though just a few are fatal) as are strains, sprains, and overexertion.

As the world shifts from carbon to renewable power sources, it will increasingly rely on workers like wind techs to do the high-risk jobs that keep the modern economy moving.

If you are a wind tech or a worker who has a job you consider high risk, please get in touch with Dominick Reuter via email. Responses to this story will be kept confidential.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Wind-turbine technicians have one of the fastest growing jobs in the country – but it’s not for the faint of heart

Rope access technicians carry out maintenance service on wind turbine blades
  • Wind-turbine technicians are the workers who service the very top of towering wind farms.
  • The median wage is $27 per hour, and most jobs don’t require a four-year degree.
  • Employment is projected to increase 68% from 2020 to 2030 – significantly faster than other sectors.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

There are more than 65,000 land-based wind turbines across the US, according to the American Wind Energy Association, and more are coming online each year.

Each of the wind turbines that dots the landscape of a wind farm is generally made of a tower, blades, and a central unit called a nacelle. All three elements require specialists to install and maintain them throughout the life of a turbine.

The nacelles have the most going on, since that is the housing for the generator, gearbox, brakes, and circuitry that convert the mechanical energy into electricity to send down to the power grid.

A technician stands in the turbine nacelle of a wind turbine

In order to make repairs, wind techs typically have to climb as high as 300 feet up the narrow tube of the tower to the nacelle while hauling up all the tools, computers, and safety gear needed to get the job done. And if a blade needs repair, the techs have to rappel down from the nacelle to complete the job while dangling hundreds of feet above the ground.

The median wage for wind techs is $27 per hour, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which works out to about $56,000 per year – about 33% higher than the national median earnings of $42,000.

A community college or technical degree is typically enough to qualify for the job, and many employers provide a year or more of on-the-job training. Most techs will need to understand electrical, hydraulic, braking, mechanical, and computers systems, as well as have first aid and rescue training.

A rope access technician carries out maintenance service on a wind turbine blade

With 6,900 workers in 2020, the field is small but one of the fastest growing in the entire economy, with BLS projections expecting a 68% increase in new jobs by 2030. That’s nearly nine times faster than the projection for all other occupations tracked by the agency.

Beyond claustrophobia and acrophobia, a few things might dissuade someone from racing to find a wind-tech job.

For one thing, the schedule can be grueling. Most wind farms are located in remote areas, so travel times to job sites can take a long time. Plus, bad weather or other unpredictable events can knock out a turbine at any time of the day or night, and repairs need to happen as quickly as possible.

A rope access technicians stands on top of a wind turbine

More importantly, the Labor Department says wind techs have one of the highest rates of injury and illness of all occupations. In particular, a 2017 study found that falls in the energy sector are quite common (though just a few are fatal) as are strains, sprains, and overexertion.

As the world shifts from carbon to renewable power sources, it will increasingly rely on workers like wind techs to do the high-risk jobs that keep the modern economy moving.

If you are a wind tech or a worker who has a job you consider high risk, please get in touch with Dominick Reuter via email. Responses to this story will be kept confidential.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Without aggressive funding in clean-energy and climate solutions, the world we know could perish

Several wind turbines are shown above a field of solar panels against a cloud-free sky.
Investors can make this happen, if they want to.

  • What investors choose to fund will shape major transitions to clean energy and net-zero targets.
  • Investors want more data to better assess climate-related risks and opportunities.
  • Underwriting policies and advocacy can also help investors apply pressure to the fossil-fuel industry.
  • Subscribe to our weekly newsletter, Insider Sustainability.

Investors and finance professionals know what they put their money in can often be influential on a global scale. A growing number of them are realizing how their funds can also help lead the global transition away from fossil fuels.

In a multipanel discussion at Climate Week NYC on Wednesday, several investors and finance professionals highlighted the industrywide work needed to prevent catastrophic conditions described in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Investors and financiers determine which clean-energy companies and projects receive capital through where they choose to invest money and provide resources. They also evaluate and determine risk, known as underwriting. The divestment movement actively encourages financial-services companies to sell their fossil-fuel assets while bringing attention to how they fund and insure industries that produce most of the world’s carbon emissions.

Divestment among investors slowed in 2020, with more investors seeking to collaborate with companies they own and other investment firms in implementing more sustainable operations and carbon-emissions targets. This includes organizations like the United Nation’s Net-Zero Banking Alliance or the investor-led Climate Action 100+.

“It’s not something that any one asset owner or asset manager or even corporation can do on their own. It’s going to require a collective effort,” said Michael Cappucci, managing director of compliance and sustainable investing at Harvard Management Company.

At the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest public state pension fund in the US also known as CalPERS, funding efforts to mitigate the climate crisis have become an especially urgent issue.

“As I see the smoke from the wildfires drifting across my garden, I know the people battling those fires are CalPERS members; they’re firefighters, the first responders,” said Anne Simpson, managing investment director for CalPERS’ board governance and sustainability. “The question of risk isn’t theoretical or far away. It’s here, right now, as Fatboy Slim would say. And we need to be scaling our action in response.”

Cappucci said a big challenge is the gap in data and methodologies needed for companies like Harvard Management to effectively neutralize its carbon emissions, also known as “net-zero.” Cappucci’s firm has actively reached out to other firms and organizations for assistance.

Simpson said markets need more information on climate-crisis risks, including the true price of carbon, total emissions, and fossil-fuel subsidies. Encouragingly, both the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation – which sets the rules for accounting standards for public companies – are looking at the increasingly popular framework for climate-related financial information established by the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures.

The UK-based insurance firm Aviva’s plan to become net-zero by 2040 includes shifts in its operations, supply chain, asset ownership, as well as factoring in the sustainability commitments of its investments. Aviva has also pledged to stop selling insurance for companies making more than 5% of their revenue from thermal coal or unconventional fossil fuels by the end of this year. The insurer will also sell its assets from companies that make more than 5% of their revenue from coal by the end of 2022. “That’s really trying to make that initial stand as explicit as possible,” said Jason Storah, CEO of Aviva Canada. “We really want to work and engage with other companies.” Coal and fossil-fuel companies can continue to be underwritten or owned by Aviva if they sign up for clearly tracked targets to lower their emissions.

Still, Simpson said investors need to do more than advocate energy efficiency and change from fossil-fuel suppliers and producers; their work extends to the companies and industries that consume them as well. “That means transformation of manufacturing, automakers, steel, cement, across agriculture, transport, utilities, the way we get around, the way we make things, the things we eat, the way we connect with each other.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Democrats’ climate investments would create 7.7 million new jobs and add nearly $1 trillion to the economy by 2031, report says

Hawaii solar power
Hawaii is a national leader in rooftop solar power, and the state has an ambitious goal of using only renewable energy by 2045.

  • Democrats are drafting a $3.5 trillion dollar infrastructure plan that includes $150 billion for clean energy initiatives.
  • A new analysis found that, if adopted, it would create 7.7 million new jobs and add nearly $1 trillion to the US economy.
  • The program would financially incentivize utilities to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As part of their $3.5 trillion infrastructure proposal, Democrats want to invest in green energy. In addition to fighting the climate crisis, that investment could create millions of new jobs and boost economic growth by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade, according to analysis first reported by CNN on Thursday.

The Clean Electricity Payment Program (CEPP), which makes up $150 billion of the plan, could deliver many of the economic gains that could define President Joe Biden’s presidential legacy.

It would create 7.7 million jobs and add $907 billion to the US economy by 2031, according to a report from the consulting firm Analysis Group. The report was commissioned by Evergreen Action and the Natural Resources Defense Council, two environmental groups that have pushed for increased use of renewable energy.

Details on the blockbuster spending package have emerged over the last few days as House committees finalize key elements of the bill. The plan has been championed by Biden as an investment in American families and a boost to the economic recovery.

Speaking on Tuesday of the devastation brought by Hurricane Ida, Biden said the climate crisis is a “code red” situation.

This massive investment in the future of green energy would theoretically pay for itself by raising $154 billion in tax revenue from utilities for federal, state, and local governments.

Incentivize a gradual shift to renewable energy

The Democrats’ plan would first use grants to incentivize electric utilities that lean more on renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and nuclear power, but it would penalize companies that are unsuccessful in boosting their clean-energy usage.

By using an incentive-based approach, companies are pushed to slowly transition to renewable energy sources to help Biden achieve his goal of getting the US to roughly half of 2005’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Grants and penalties would run from 2023 to 2030 if the program wins approval.

Tax credits mean utilities can’t gouge customers

Part of the reasoning behind a federal incentive for utilities that use renewable energy is to keep costs low for the customers who pay monthly utility bills. Without that incentive, electric companies could pass along the cost of transitioning away from fossil fuels on to Americans.

In addition to lower bills, steady jobs help keep Americans spending in the national economy, 70% of which relies on consumer spending to function healthily.

Jobs in construction, retail, and manufacturing

CEPP is projected to add 125,000 new jobs per year early in its life cycle and eventually support 1.7 million jobs each year by 2030.

“These are new jobs; jobs that otherwise would not exist absent the CEPP,” Pavel Darling, one of the report’s authors, told CNN. The program would boost job growth in the construction, retail, and manufacturing sectors, according to the report.

Biden has repeatedly touted clean energy projects as a boon for the economy, pairing the labor-market recovery with the need to fight the climate crisis.

“When I think of climate change, I think of jobs,” Biden said during an April 28 address to Congress. “There is simply no reason why the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing.”

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