Show an ad over header. AMP

The case for energy tech investment

Reproduced from Columbia's Center on Global Energy Policy; Note: The budget for FY21 is not yet finalized. Budgets for FY22-FY26 are the author's proposed funding; Chart: Axios Visuals 

A pair of new reports argue for greatly expanding American research and development into climate-friendly energy tech at a time when the political terrain for big spending increases could soon become more fertile.

Why it matters: Joe Biden is vowing a major investment push if elected and the report could influence the scope and specifics of those research, development and demonstration plans.


  • Also, congressional Republicans are generally more open to R&D funding increases than new climate standards and fossil fuel restrictions (though Biden's platform has those too).

Driving the news: A Columbia University energy think tank is out with a detailed proposal for tripling U.S. "innovation" investment over the next five years to $25 billion and restructuring federal oversight.

  • "U.S. research institutions and private firms are capable of absorbing this scale of federal support and translating it into rapid technological progress — delivering economic returns that far outstrip public investments," it states.
  • However, the U.S. has "neglected energy innovation," per the report from Columbia's Center on Global Energy Policy and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
  • The U.S. spends under $9 billion per year on energy innovation, far less than federal investments in advances in health and defense tech, it says.

How it works: The plan delves into specific agencies and program areas that should receive more money. (The chart above is a highly condensed summary.)

  • Overall, it groups the proposal around 10 "technology pillars," such as clean electricity, advanced transportation, industrial decarbonization, and clean agriculture.
  • It also recommends a presidential directive creating a "National Energy Innovation Mission" and setting up a new White House-led task force to coordinate the increased funding.
  • The Washington Examiner has more on the plan and the political landscape here.

Separately, the Bill Gates-led group Breakthrough Energy commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to look at the economic spillover effects of federal R&D investments.

  • Their new analysis examined R&D in health, defense and energy and found substantial economic benefits.
  • "In 2018, public R&D investment directly and indirectly supported more than 1.6 million U.S. jobs, $126 billion in labor income, $197 billion in added economic value, and $39 billion in federal and state tax revenue," it states in calling for higher levels.

Threat level: "Unfortunately, we are falling behind on developing the clean energy technologies we need to get to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century," it warns.

How the Oracle-TikTok deal would work

An agreement between TikTok's Chinese owner ByteDance and Oracle includes a variety of concessions in an effort to make the deal palatable to the Trump administration and security hawks in Congress, according to a source close to the companies.

The big picture: The deal, in the form of a 20-page term sheet agreed to in principle by the companies, would give Oracle unprecedented access and control over user data as well as other measures designed to ensure that Americans' data is protected, according to the source.

Keep reading... Show less

The European Union may soon get its own Magnitsky Act to target human rights abusers

Amid a global assaulton human rights stretching from Belarus to Hong Kong to Yemen, the European Union signaled yesterday that it may act to deter corrupt kleptocrats and state abusers by hitting them where it hurts: their assets.

Driving the news: Europe's chief executive Ursula von der Leyen revealed in her first-ever State of the Union speech that she will bring forth a European Magnitsky Act, a sanctions framework modeled after a U.S. law that restricts malign actors' access to travel and the global financial system.

Keep reading... Show less

Cancer death rates are dropping but Black Americans still face highest risk

Adapted from the National Cancer Institute; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios 

There's some good news in 2020: Cancer death rates have been falling overall, and the gap between racial and ethnic groups has been narrowing.

Yes, but: Decades of systemic racism and the structures developed under it continue to limit the ability of Americans to benefit equally from cancer advances, some medical experts tell Axios, as seen by Black Americans who've had the highest death rate from cancer for 40 years. And the pandemic is expected to exacerbate the problem further.

Keep reading... Show less

WHO: Health care workers account for around 14% of coronavirus cases

Though health workers represent less than 3% of the population in many countries, they account for around 14% coronavirus cases reported to the World Health Organization, the organization announced Thursday.

Why it matters: The WHO called on governments and health care leaders to address threats facing the health and safety of these workers, adding that the pandemic has highlighted how protecting them is needed to ensure a functioning health care system.

Keep reading... Show less

Trump says he will sign executive order on "patriotic education" in rebuke of 1619 project

President Trump said he would sign an executive order on Thursday to "promote patriotic education" through an effort called the 1776 Commission, while denouncing a New York Times' project that investigated the impacts of racial injustice for Black Americans.

The big picture: The 1619 project dug into the personal histories of Black Americans in the U.S. who have faced present-day systematic inequality in housing and farming, as well as how the legacy of slavery altered health care access for Black Americans and fueled the country's early economy.

Keep reading... Show less

Podcast: Amazon exec on the company's Climate Pledge Fund

Amazon on Thursday announced the first companies to receive money from a $2 billion venture capital fund it formed to help combat climate change.

Axios Re:Cap digs into how Amazon hopes the fund will help achieve its goal of being carbon neutral by 2040, and whether the plan is more substance than spin, with Matt Peterson, Amazon's director of new initiatives and corporate development.

Air quality in American West among the worst in the world

The air quality in Portland has become the worst in the world — with Seattle, Los Angeles and Denver also ranking up there with notoriously polluted places like Delhi and Shanghai.

Why it matters: Big-city residents often consider themselves smugly immune to the physical wreckage of calamities like wildfires, floods and hurricanes. The pernicious smoke now blanketing the splendid cities of our nation's Western spine is a reminder that no one is exempt from climate change.

Keep reading... Show less

FBI director confirms "very, very active" Russian efforts to interfere in election

FBI Director Chris Wray on Thursday told Congress the bureau has seen "very active efforts by the Russians to influence our elections in 2020," primarily to "denigrate Vice President Biden and what the Russians see as kind of an anti-Russian establishment."

Why it matters: It confirms previous previous statements from various intelligence officials about Russia's interference activities, which continue with less than 50 days until the election.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories