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Saturday will mark the birthday of the late Janis Joplin, so she'll sing us into the news...
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
A newly unveiled company led by battery and tech industry vets says it's cracked the code that could enable much faster charging of the kind of lithium-ion batteries already used in electric vehicles — providing roughly 120 miles of range in just 5 minutes.
Why it matters: If their tech works as envisioned, the firm GBatteries could help EVs go mainstream by toppling a major barrier to ultra-fast charging: electrode damage that degrades the life expectancy of batteries.
Who they are: Executives include chairman Bart Riley, who co-founded the pioneering battery company A123 Systems; CEO Kostyantyn Khomutov, who has a background in aerospace engineering; and chief engineer Alex Tkachenko, who previously worked with telecom players Nortel and Ericcson.
What's new: The company says they've developed an adapter that could make using charging stations as quick as filling a gas tank. And here's a crucial thing: it doesn't rely on battery chemistry breakthroughs that haven't reached commercial viability.
By the numbers: GBatteries say their adapter that connects fast-charging stations and battery packs could get a standard 60 kilowatt-hour pack with a 238-mile range charged halfway within 5 minutes.
But, but, but: GBatteries is likely several years away from commercial deployment of their system, which does not use the traditional constant current, constant voltage (CCCV) charging methods, but instead relies on high-frequency "pulses."
What they're saying: "There is no doubt that one could definitely do better than the standard CCCV charging protocol through some of these more exotic charging protocols, but the question is how much better could you do," says Venkat Viswanathan, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University.
A who's who of mainstream economists has penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed that calls for taxing carbon emissions, nixing other regulations and returning the tax revenue to consumers with recurring dividend checks, Axios' Amy Harder reports.
Why it matters: The growing consensus among economists that all the money raised with carbon taxes should be returned to Americans is an important marker in Beltway debates over global warming policy.
Where it stands: The 4 living former Federal Reserve chairs, nearly 30 Nobel economists, and all but one former chair of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers have signed a statement laying out their support for a carbon-tax policy.
But, but, but: Despite economic agreement behind a carbon tax, the politics around it have long been toxic in Washington, and elsewhere too.
If PG&E follows through on plans to file for bankruptcy before the end of the month, it will be the biggest utility bankruptcy since 2001 ... which was the first time PG&E filed for bankruptcy, Axios' Courtenay Brown reports.
By the numbers: PG&E's planned filing would be the ninth largest bankruptcy since at least the mid-1980s — falling just below the likes of Lehman Brothers, WorldCom and General Motors.
The Trump administration may be backing away slightly from plans to freeze auto mileage and emissions standards in 2020, according to multiple reports.
What's happening: The administration plans to increase fuel efficiency standards for vehicles by 0.5% a year, Democratic Sen. Tom Carper said yesterday at the confirmation hearing for acting EPA head Andrew Wheeler, Utility Dive writes.
Why it matters: EPA and the Transportation Department are scuttling Obama-era mandates that require the standards to rise through 2025 — rules that were a pillar of former President Obama's climate agenda.
But, but, but: Even if the administration backs off plans to outright freeze the standards, their proposal would still significantly scale-back the Obama-era plans. Here's more from the Reuters piece...
"Most automakers oppose freezing the requirements, but also want relief from Obama-era standards that called for a roughly 5 percent annual reduction in carbon emissions — targets that translate to fuel efficiency requirements for various classes of vehicles."
More from Amy ... A fake letter purportedly written by the CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, said it would require all companies it has a stake in to align their business models with the Paris Climate Agreement.
Buzz: The Yes Men, an activist group long known for pranks like this, sent the fake letter, which Axios and other media outlets received early Wednesday. BlackRock said in a tweet a couple hours later: “Don’t be fooled by imitations.”
Reality check: While BlackRock has big investments across the global economy, including major fossil fuel companies, it can’t unilaterally require companies to change their business models as written by the fake letter — giving us one clear indication something was amiss.
The big picture: BlackRock has been more aggressive in urging all companies, and particularly fossil fuel producers, to more readily acknowledge and disclose the risks climate change and climate regulations pose to their businesses.
Yes, but: BlackRock still has faced criticism from some environmentalists for not being aggressive enough with fossil fuel companies.
The latest: This morning the New York Times has some excerpts from BlackRock's real annual letter to companies that circulated late Wednesday.
Environmental activists for the GND outside of Sen. Chuck Schumer's NY office. Photo: Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Energy Innovation's Robbie Orvis writes for Axios ... Following a year in which U.S. carbon emissions from energy rose after years of declines, GND proponents are calling for a plan to convert 100% of the electricity supply to renewable energy, among other decarbonization initiatives.
The big picture: Although a massive undertaking, this energy transition is technologically feasible and economically beneficial. Some policies that would help kickstart the necessary emissions reductions are already being implemented in the U.S., Germany, China, and others.
How it works: 100% clean energy would require strong federal, regional and state policy.
Be smart: GND would require upfront investment, but could pay dividends in energy savings and job growth.
Read more of Orvis' Axios Expert Voices piece.
Orvis is the director of energy policy design at Energy Innovation.