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1 big thing: Hydrogen player warns Biden on tax credit

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

An energy and metals giant says it will halt its U.S. hydrogen investments unless the Biden administration changes implementation of a new production tax credit.

Why it matters: If Fortescue follows through, large "green" industrial projects in swing states could be in doubt months before election day.

Driving the news: Fortescue executive chair Andrew Forrest told Axios that "projects we have across North America will stop" without alterations to regulations for the Inflation Reduction Act's hydrogen tax credit.

  • It wants to tone down provisions that require plants to use new renewable energy sources and eventually track power by the hour.

Among Fortescue's many U.S. investments in progress: a $550 million hydrogen plant under construction in Arizona, a federally backed hydrogen facility in Washington state and a new auto manufacturing site in Detroit.

  • Without changes to the hydrogen credit rules, projects may "get suspended" over what Forrest called a "slimy, sideways attack on 'green' hydrogen."

What's next: The Australian commodities magnate hopes to discuss the credit with White House climate czar John Podesta — and any other politician who will help.

Unlock the whole story — and a steady diet of scoops and smart analysis — by talking to our sales team about Axios Pro: Energy Policy.

2. China's clean tech in focus ahead of U.S. meeting

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New data on Chinese "clean" energy dominance highlights the stakes as climate diplomats from the world's two largest economies are set to face off.

Why it matters: Biden aides fear China's export of cheap solar, electric vehicles, and more could blunt the economic impact of U.S. climate policies.

The latest: The International Energy Agency just dropped a report on solar PV, wind, batteries, hydrogen electrolyzers, and heat pumps.

Clean manufacturing accounted for 4% of global GDP growth and almost 10% of investment growth.

The intrigue: China remains the preeminent force, though its lead slipped last year.

State of play: U.S. manufacturing is growing, aided by the 2022 climate law.

  • However, Biden officials like Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen bristle at subsidized Chinese products flooding markets — and are weighing new trade actions.
  • John Podesta, the top U.S. climate diplomat, recently said China's "non-market" practices have "distorted" clean tech markets.

Catch up quick: Liu Zhenmin, China's climate envoy, last week criticized U.S. and EU efforts to stem his nation's dominance.

What we're watching: Podesta and Liu are slated to meet in D.C. later this month.

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3. April extends globe's hot streak to 11 months

Line chart showing how 2024 global surface air temperature anomalies have far exceeded 1940-2023 anomalies compared to the preindustrial average. The anomaly was +1.66°C in January 2024, +1.77°C in February 2024 and +1.60°C in April 2024.
Data: ERA5; Chart: Axios Visuals

The globe recorded its hottest April on record, extending its record hot streak to 11 straight months, according to new data.

Why it matters: Temperatures on land and in the sea are having major impacts on people around the world, including the ongoing, deadly heat in Southeast Asia.

  • Due mainly to a combination of an El Niño event and human-caused climate change, plus an unknown X-factor, this global heat streak has raised fears of breaching the Paris targets earlier than expected.
  • It has also raised uncomfortable questions about scientists' understanding of warming rates.

Zoom in: Last month, global average surface temperatures were 1.6°C (2.88°F) above the preindustrial average, according to preliminary data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service in Europe.

The intrigue: This year marked the first time that the 12-month running mean eclipsed the 1.5°C target.

What's next: It is very likely that 2024 will wind up as either the hottest or second-hottest year on record, but that second-place finish is looking increasingly plausible.

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4. Severe storms, intense tornadoes threaten U.S.

Storm risk forecast for May 6, showing a large area of moderate risk in Oklahoma and Kansas. Photo: Pivotal Weather

A significant severe storm outbreak is forecast for the Plains, Central U.S. and Ohio River Valley during the Monday to Wednesday time frame.

Threat level: Today's storms could spawn "multiple intense, long-track tornadoes, very large to giant hail, and severe/dangerous winds," the NWS warns.

  • Forecasters stated in an online discussion that this afternoon into the night features a "high-end environment" for powerful, long-lasting tornadoes in southern Kansas and areas from Oklahoma City northward.
  • The storms will result from cooler, much drier air moving in from the west and clashing with a fast-moving flow of warm, moist air flowing north from the Gulf of Mexico.
  • A dip in the jet stream will aid in the outbreak as well, by forcing air to rise over the region, sparking storms.

Context: The likely outbreak follows a busy April, during which more than 300 tornadoes were reported across the country.

  • Scientists are studying ties between tornado outbreaks and climate change, as atmospheric instability increases over time, but wind shear decreases. Evidence suggests that larger outbreaks, but fewer of them, could result.
  • The Storm Prediction Center, has issued a "moderate risk" outlook for central Oklahoma and southern Kansas today, which is a level 4 out of 5 on its danger scale.
  • This includes Oklahoma City, Norman, Oklahoma, and Wichita, Kansas. A broader area of "enhanced risk," which is a level 3 out of 5, includes Tulsa, Oklahoma, Topeka and Lawrence, Kansas, and Lincoln, Nebraska.

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5. Microsoft's big new removal deal — with caveats in tow

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Microsoft and Stockholm Exergi this morning announced a deal that would potentially see the Swedish firm provide 3.3 million tons worth of carbon removal over 10 years starting in 2028.

Why it matters: The companies claimed it "represents the world's largest permanent removals deal to date."

State of play: Removal certificates would be generated via Stockholm Exergi's planned bio-energy with carbon capture and storage plant in Sweden.

  • A Stockholm Exergi biomass-fed combined heat and power plant would have CO2 capture installed.
  • Meanwhile, the process is viewed as carbon-negative because biomass feedstocks absorb CO2 when grown.

Yes, but: Stockholm Exergi has not made a final investment decision.

  • The announcement notes they're seeking government aid and more removal buyers for the project.

The bottom line: It's a potentially big deal.

6. On my screen: urban carbon removal potential

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Cities could play a big role in drawing down atmospheric CO2 while boosting residents' health.

Why it matters: Carbon removal tech — if really scaled — would complement emissions cuts to help limit temperature rise.

What they did: A new peer-reviewed paper in Nature Cities surveys several methods.

  • They include biogenic construction materials; use of biochar in soils; greater use of carbon-sucking vegetation; and "decentralized" direct air capture that can be coupled with buildings' HVAC systems.

The big picture: A "portfolio" of options together could eventually remove up to 1 gigaton of CO2 per year.

  • "This would be equivalent to approximately 3% of global urban emissions in 2020," write researchers with Germany's Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change.

The intrigue: Cities can be especially fertile for removal solutions.

  • City leaders' proximity to citizens and stakeholders, and concentration of knowledge and financial resources, could create tailwinds, the authors argue.
  • And over 1,000 cities worldwide have committed to "net zero" in decades ahead.

Reality check: Uncertainties and financial barriers abound, they write, citing material cost variability, need for updated building codes, workforce needs and much more.

What's next: They call for more research to fill knowledge gaps.

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🙏 Thanks to Chris Speckhard and Javier E. David for edits to today's edition, along with the brilliant Axios Visuals team.