Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Climate change needs Operation Warp Speed

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In the gloomy the first days of the pandemic, a vaccine seemed terribly far away. Historically, the average time to develop a new vaccine was 10 years old– far too long for our current emergency. But then something happened that turned things around: serious government action.

The White House and Congress created Operation Warp Speed ​​and began spending some $ 18 billion on it. The federal government has cleared huge, multibillion-dollar pre-orders for vaccines, and with such a large guaranteed market, pharmaceuticals have shifted into high gear. The government also threw its logistical know-how to the infernal challenge of vaccine distribution. Scientifically, of course, we were prepared and lucky. Genetic sequencing was advanced and rapid, and scientists cooperated globally. But it was the critical push from governments (the United States and others) that propelled the fastest vaccine mobilization in history.

It is also an object lesson for our troubled times: when you face a crisis that threatens the world, there is no substitute for government leadership.

It is worth thinking about it, because we surrounded by existential threats. Mainly, climate change. The scale of the problem is enormous.

So the answer is: Operation Warp Speed ​​for the climate.

The US government should do all it can to accelerate the rapid and massive deployment of all forms of renewable energy. This includes those we already know how to build – such as solar and wind power – but also emerging experimental sources such as geothermal and small-scale nuclear power, and advanced forms of energy storage or transmission. It’s not like the feds did nothing on renewable energies; solar energy tax credits are part of the reason why adoption is rising and the price is falling. But compared to the terrifying scale of the problem, the spending has been a dramatic change. Over the past 40 years, the United States has spent 37% more on R&D for fossil fuels than for renewables.

A Climate Warp Speed ​​campaign should reverse this relationship. Hell, 10X! More importantly, the government should become a big buyer of renewable energy. The federal government’s purchase of vaccines is what drove pharmaceutical companies to act so quickly with Covid-19. “They’re not just going to make a bunch of vaccines that will sit on a shelf and that no one is going to buy,” notes Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Georgetown Center for Global Health Science and Security. The virus created the demand; the federal government created the market.

With renewables, the US government could commit to purchasing as much clean energy as businesses can produce. One thing that slows down peak deployments is that selling energy – contracting with many different states, cities, or companies – is often a frosty and complicated affair, notes Tim Latimer, CEO of Fervo Energy, a developer of Fervo Energy. geothermal energy. By being a huge, unique buyer of first resort, the federal government could eliminate the complexity.

“If the government just said, look, we will buy the first batch“All of a sudden, scientists are doing what they do best, which is focusing on science and building it with certainty,” says Latimer. “It would only catalyze all kinds of new business.”

the We can offer much more than cash. We have the logistics. A Speed ​​of Climate Distortion could use the organizational dynamism of our government and military to bring clean energy to all federal buildings across the country. They could also cut red tape. (They did this during Operation Warp Speed ​​for the vaccine component companies.) In fact, the Trump administration made a mistake in not showing much importance. enough to increase vaccine supply. Emergencies must be urgent.

Carbon sequestration also requires Warp-Speed ​​treatment. Startups and laboratories have devised prototypical equipment to clean carbon from the atmosphere. But it’s a thorny engineering challenge that requires quick assistance. In the long run, there may well be a robust market for the extracted carbon, transformed into fuel or building materials. But in the short term, that’s just an expensive heap of extracted carbon. So the federal government should buy it.

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