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You really appreciate the beauty that's all around you

Pebble Mine nixed, Willow drilling okayed, remembering Will Steffen


Today’s Hill Heat is presented by @RadicalGraffiti. It’s Wednesday, folks. I’m gonna just give you some news today, all right?

The Biden Administration is rolling out big decisions on controversial mining and drilling projects:

  • The Environmental Protection Agency used its Clean Water Act veto authority to nix the copper-and-gold Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, for its unacceptable threats to salmon habitat

  • Lisa Friedman reports that the administration plans to approve ConocoPhillips’ insane Willow oil drilling project in the no-longer-permafrost of Alaska

Bill McKibben on Willow:

How insane is this project? ConocoPhillips has said it may need to freeze the rapidly thawing ground with massive chillers in order to drill for the oil that will drive that melt even higher.

Another big project in the pipeline is the Rio Tinto-BHP Resolution copper mine planned for the sacred lands of Oak Flat, Arizona.

The European Union has released its Green Deal Industrial Plan for the Net-Zero Age. The U.S.-centric perspective is that this is a protectionist response to the domestic industrial incentives in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act. Or that it’s a protectionist response to China’s industrial policy. Or one can call it a response to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. And EU President Ursula von der Leyen certainly has been complaining about the United States, China, and Russia. But Europe has long had industrial policy as part of its governing toolkit, and the plan’s renewable production targets, investment streamlining, and job-training programs are consistent with previous climate efforts. It’s nice to see global competition on helping civilization survive!

THE COLOR OF MONEY: The Swedish-Swiss electronics giant ABB1 has secured another $355 million in investor funding for its electric-vehicle charging unit, ABB e-mobility; the investors are General Atlantic’s climate fund BeyondNetZero, Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management’s Just Climate fund, the Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC (Government of Singapore Investment Corporation), and Porsche Automobil Holding SE. Just Climate also announced investments in two other Swedish companies: H2 Green Steel, which is planning to construct a decarbonized steel plant by 2030; and Meva Energy, which plans to produce “renewable” fuel from IKEA sawdust.

This morning, the anti-clean-water, pro-highway-expansion Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) helms the first House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing under GOP control, with an organizational meeting followed by an all-white-male panel about the transportation supply chain. Coincidentally, Graves is also a white man!

Also this morning, Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) are chairing a pointedly bipartisan hearing on the Farm Bill’s trade and agricultural titles with administration officials; this is an all-female panel! USDA officials Alexis Taylor and Jenny Moffit and USAID official Sarah Charles are the witnesses.


Climate scientist Johan Rockström, one of Steffen’s many long-time scintific collaborators, told the Guardian’s Graham Readfern:

“Such a loss for humanity. There is no better friend and colleague for humanity and a livable planet.”

John Finnigan, Pep Canadell, and Steve Lade share their memories as well.

I’ll close with these words from Steffen himself:

Climbing is like science. To get up a hard rock or ice climb, just like when you’re solving a problem in the carbon cycle, you have to be ultra-focused, you have to make holistic decisions and you have to be absolutely aware of your surroundings. When you come off a big climb, you really appreciate the beauty of what’s around you. That’s the buzz you get in science when you solve a big problem and suddenly see how it all fits together.

Hearings on the Hill:

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1 In 1988, two 19th-century industrial giants—Sweden’s Allmänna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolaget and Switzerland’s Brown, Boveri & Cie—merged to form ASEA Brown Boveri, now ABB.

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