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The Charging Station - Issue 30
Has tragedy become a prerequisite for collective action?
It has been an exciting week for electrification in Texas. Greentown Labs announced Houston as its next location, LinearLabs partnered with the city of Fort Worth on a $70M deal, and Telsa is zeroing in on Austin for its next factory.
“The times they are a-changin’” - Bob Dylan
Let’s dive in.
Preface: This week’s deep-dive takes on a deeply personal issue for a lot of people. I’d like to make clear that the purpose of this post is not to compare or rank in any way the severity of the issues before our society. Instead, I want to share an objective framework for progress using the three most pressing issues I think we face today - all three of which I believe we should tackle with the upmost urgency. Thank you for reading.
Wednesday, March 11th.
Just like most weeknights, Anita and I are having dinner after putting our son to bed when I get an alert on my phone “NBA suspends season indefinitely after player tests positive for COVID-19”.
Monday, May 25th.
Just like most weeknights, Anita and I are laying in bed, catching up on our days while scrolling through social media. But this time, the video of George Floyd being murdered is everywhere.
You may be asking yourself, what do these two events have to do with energy and climate?
Inspired by a recent paper from scientists in Germany empirically exploring the question “do we need disasters to adopt environmental policies?”
I wanted to understand if our collective needs tragedy to ignite real change. I think the overwhelming answer is yes, and not just one disaster but many.
The research in the paper above provides a framework to evaluate collective action problems like racial equality, COVID, and decarbonization. To spur real transformations, we need understanding, localized effects, and bias for action as a result of the first two.
Much like decarbonization, COVID-19 is difficult to understand for the majority of people. While the basic science is pretty clear, we’re still debating the severity of the illness and things like masks as an effective preventive measure. AMC has stated they will not require masks to avoid “being drawn into a political controversy”. (Note: they’ve since changed their policy)
Similarly, alignment on decarbonization as a real need is happening, but which solutions are work and how quickly they’re deployed remain topics of fierce debate.
Next, the public must feel localized effects of not solving the problem facing the collective. Our milage cannot vary based on geography.
The murder of George Floyd appears to have finally tipped the scales of momentum towards long-awaited and long-overdue progress on racial equality in our country. Regrettably, it took multiple tragedies to move us forward, or at least begin the process in earnest.
Now that we are more connected than ever, the effects of these senseless events have localized. These images captured on our cell phones are no longer of strangers but our friends and our family.
How has this played out in decarbonization? Wildfires have raged in Australia and California, killing hundreds. Hurricanes have devastated Houston and Puerto Rico, leaving thousands homeless. Droughts have reduced crop yields in the midwest and abroad, increasing the likelihood of food scarcity.
Unsurprisingly, all of these areas have taken steps to make their region more resilient to the effects of a warming planet and the natural disasters that come with them because they’ve felt the impact.
While it may seem like our world is currently facing threats on many fronts, this framework has left me more hopeful for our future than ever.
For the first time in several years, our society is taking on some of the biggest problems of our generation all during a global pandemic. And while we have many challenges ahead on all three fronts, it now feels as though we are finally embracing the “bias for action” stage that will lead us into a better future.
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Worth Your Time
“Faced with the COVID-19 recession, governments don’t have to compromise economic priorities for the sake of environmental ones. By carefully designing low-carbon stimulus packages, they can address both sets of priorities at once.”
“In our initial reports on Enphase Energy (ENPH) published in 2018, we provided what we believed to be proof that ENPH had used improper deferred revenue accounting to significantly inflate its reported revenue and gross margins. Unfortunately, our warnings fell on deaf ears, and in the almost two years since our initial report, ENPH’s share price has continued to skyrocket as its reported financial performance has
become increasingly disconnected from reality.”
The lack of exits, big wins, and continued successes of clean energy companies have traditionally been one of the biggest knocks against the sector. It appeared Enphase Energy was set to be a shining example on a hill, but if these allegations are true it will deal another blow to the industry.
What I’m Thinking About
This excellent article by Polina Marinova about what she’s learned in her first 90 days since launching her content company.
“Since I started The Profile three years ago, I have never missed a single week. That means that for the last 176 Sundays, readers have been able to trust that this damn newsletter will be in their inbox no matter what’s going on in the world. Even a global pandemic couldn’t stop it.”
“As a wise philosopher named Beyoncé once said, “I don’t like to gamble, but if there is one thing I’m willing to bet on, it’s myself.”
See you next weekend,
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