Rivian opens its first Charging Outpost, a crunchy not-gas station near Yosemite

Rivian just opened its first EV charging rest stop 24 miles outside of Yosemite National Park, complete with bathrooms, a lounge with a small library, a water refill station, free coffee and (not free) “make your own” trail mix. Only Rivian owners will be able to make use of the five DC fast chargers at the Rivian Yosemite Charging Outpost, but the other amenities are open to anyone.

The Charging Outpost is located in Groveland, California near the park’s west entrance and takes the place of an abandoned gas station. The shop area will be open from 7AM to 7PM, while the bathrooms and chargers will be available 24/7. It’s the first time Rivian has ventured into this kind of infrastructure, building on its growing network of regular charging sites — several of which are situated near Yosemite. The EV maker has 58 Waypoint charging sites, which support any electric vehicle that uses the standard J1772 plug, around the Yosemite Valley, and a Rivian-only Adventure charging site near the park’s east entrance.

Rivian says it has plans for more Charging Outposts “around national parks and other high-traffic areas across the country.” The first such building was designed with the intention of keeping waste to a minimum, and its retaining wall was made using materials from the old parking lot and sidewalk. It’s fitted with solar panels and has a passive cooling design that’s meant to reduce the need for AC or heating.

Beyond Charging Outposts, Rivian plans to eventually have over 3,500 of its Adventure Network DC fast chargers available in 600 sites across the US and Canada, on top of roughly 10,000 Level 2 chargers that will be open to the public.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/rivian-opens-its-first-charging-outpost-a-crunchy-not-gas-station-near-yosemite-152039298.html?src=rss

Environmental groups accuse Amazon of ‘distorting the truth’ in latest clean-energy claim

On Wednesday, Amazon claimed that it reached its goal of sourcing all its power from clean energy sources in the past year. If taken at face value, the announcement would mean it hit the milestone seven years ahead of schedule, which would be a monumental achievement. But environmental experts speaking to The New York Times, including a group of concerned Amazon employees, warn that the company is “misleading the public by distorting the truth.”

The company’s claim of achieving 100 percent clean electricity is based in part on billion-dollar investments in over 500 solar and wind initiatives. The company’s logic is that the energy these projects generate equals the electricity its data centers consume — ergo, even Steven.

But the renewable energy sources it uses for those calculations are fed into a general power grid, not exclusively into Amazon’s operations. Environmental experts caution that the company is using “accounting and marketing to make itself look good,” as The New York Times put it.

“Amazon wants us to think of its data centers as surrounded by wind and solar farms,” the group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice wrote in a statement to The NYT. “[But] the reality is the company is heavily investing in data center expansions fueled by West Virginian coal, Saudi Arabian oil and Canadian fracked gas.”

Green plains filled with large windmills. Blue sky.
Amazon

Clean energy experts say Amazon’s inclusion of renewable energy certificates (RECs) in its calculations can be highly misleading. This is because if any power plants on a grid burn fossil fuels, businesses can’t know that the grid uses only clean energy. The Amazon employee group told The New York Times that, after subtracting the company’s use of RECs in its calculations, its clean-energy investment was “just a fraction of what was publicized.”

“Buying a bunch of RECs doesn’t help anything,” Leah Stokes, associate professor of environmental politics at UC Santa Barbara, told The NYT. “You just have to be investing in real projects.”

To be fair, any movement toward clean energy should be applauded. Amazon still received a “B” grade from the nonprofit CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), which was lower than Google and Microsoft’s “A” but still a passing grade. The problem comes when companies use the smoke and mirrors more often associated with marketing and PR to mislead the public into believing they’re doing more for the environment than they are.

“A company needs to actually outline, what are the sources that you are accounting for in that calculation?” Simon Fischweicher, a CDP director, told The NYT.

With the meteoric rise of AI and the financial pressures to compete in this new gold rush, companies are now reshuffling their decks and finding new ways to meet their climate goals. However, if that shakeup offers less tangible movement and more weasel words and sketchy logic, then that’s creating a new problem on top of their alleged solutions for a genuine crisis.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/environmental-groups-accuse-amazon-of-distorting-the-truth-in-latest-clean-energy-claim-170633705.html?src=rss

Google’s greenhouse gas emissions climbed nearly 50 percent in five years due to AI

Google’s greenhouse gas emissions spiked by nearly 50 percent in the last five years thanks to energy-guzzling data centers required to power artificial intelligence, according to the company’s 2024 Environmental Report released on Tuesday. The report, which Google releases annually, shows the company’s progress towards meeting its self-proclaimed objective of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

Google released 14.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2023, the report states, which was 48 percent higher than in 2019, and 13 percent higher than a year before. “This result is primarily due to increases in data center energy consumption and supply chain emissions,” said Google in the report. “As we further integrate AI into our products, reducing emissions may be challenging due to increasing energy demands associated with the expected increases in our technical infrastructure investment.”

Google’s report spotlights the environmental impact that the explosion of artificial intelligence has had on the planet. Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Meta, Apple and other tech companies plan to pour billions of dollars into AI, but training AI models requires enormous amounts of energy. Using AI features uses significant amounts of energy too. In 2023, researchers at AI startup Hugging Face and Carnegie Mellon University found that generating a single image using artificial intelligence can use as much energy as charging a smartphone. Analysts at Bernstein said that AI would “double the rate of US electricity demand growth and total consumption could outstrip current supply in the next two years,” the Financial Times reported. Last month, Microsoft, which also pledged to go “carbon negative” by the end of this decade, reported that its greenhouse gas emissions had risen nearly 30 percent since 2020 due to the construction of data centers.

Google’s report said that the company’s data centers were using way more water than before to stay cool as a result of expanded AI workloads. Some of those workloads so far have involved Google Search suggesting that people eat rocks and put glue on their pizza to prevent the cheese from falling off, as well as Gemini, the company’s AI-powered chatbot, generating images of ethnically diverse Nazis.

In 2023, Google’s data centers consumed 17 percent more water than the year before. That’s 6.1 billion liters, enough to irrigate approximately 41 golf courses annually in the southwestern United States, according to the company’s strangely kooky measure.

“As our business and industry continue to evolve, we expect our total GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions to rise before dropping toward our absolute emissions reduction target,” Google’s report stated, without explaining what would precipitate the drop. “Predicting the future environmental impact of AI is complex and evolving, and our historical trends likely don’t fully capture AI’s future trajectory. As we deeply integrate AI across our product portfolio, the distinction between AI and other workloads will not be meaningful.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/googles-greenhouse-gas-emissions-climbed-nearly-50-percent-in-five-years-due-to-ai-002646115.html?src=rss

Google’s greenhouse gas emissions climbed nearly 50 percent in five years due to AI

Google’s greenhouse gas emissions spiked by nearly 50 percent in the last five years thanks to energy-guzzling data centers required to power artificial intelligence, according to the company’s 2024 Environmental Report released on Tuesday. The report, which Google releases annually, shows the company’s progress towards meeting its self-proclaimed objective of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

Google released 14.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2023, the report states, which was 48 percent higher than in 2019, and 13 percent higher than a year before. “This result is primarily due to increases in data center energy consumption and supply chain emissions,” said Google in the report. “As we further integrate AI into our products, reducing emissions may be challenging due to increasing energy demands associated with the expected increases in our technical infrastructure investment.”

Google’s report spotlights the environmental impact that the explosion of artificial intelligence has had on the planet. Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Meta, Apple and other tech companies plan to pour billions of dollars into AI, but training AI models requires enormous amounts of energy. Using AI features uses significant amounts of energy too. In 2023, researchers at AI startup Hugging Face and Carnegie Mellon University found that generating a single image using artificial intelligence can use as much energy as charging a smartphone. Analysts at Bernstein said that AI would “double the rate of US electricity demand growth and total consumption could outstrip current supply in the next two years,” the Financial Times reported. Last month, Microsoft, which also pledged to go “carbon negative” by the end of this decade, reported that its greenhouse gas emissions had risen nearly 30 percent since 2020 due to the construction of data centers.

Google’s report said that the company’s data centers were using way more water than before to stay cool as a result of expanded AI workloads. Some of those workloads so far have involved Google Search suggesting that people eat rocks and put glue on their pizza to prevent the cheese from falling off, as well as Gemini, the company’s AI-powered chatbot, generating images of ethnically diverse Nazis.

In 2023, Google’s data centers consumed 17 percent more water than the year before. That’s 6.1 billion liters, enough to irrigate approximately 41 golf courses annually in the southwestern United States, according to the company’s strangely kooky measure.

“As our business and industry continue to evolve, we expect our total GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions to rise before dropping toward our absolute emissions reduction target,” Google’s report stated, without explaining what would precipitate the drop. “Predicting the future environmental impact of AI is complex and evolving, and our historical trends likely don’t fully capture AI’s future trajectory. As we deeply integrate AI across our product portfolio, the distinction between AI and other workloads will not be meaningful.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/googles-greenhouse-gas-emissions-climbed-nearly-50-percent-in-five-years-due-to-ai-002646115.html?src=rss

Google invests in Taiwanese solar company to boost green energy

Google is investing in a Taiwanese solar company with plans to build a 1 gigawatt (GW) pipeline of sustainable energy in the region. The company is placing a stake in New Green Power (NGP), part of BlackRock’s investment portfolio, for the project. The move could help Google and Taiwan move closer to their climate goals while stabilizing green energy production in one of the most crucial semiconductor hubs of our new AI-infused world.

Google already has a significant presence in Taiwan, including a data center. According to Amanda Peterson Corio, Google’s global head of data center energy, fossil fuels currently generate nearly 85 percent of Taiwan’s power grid. “To help overcome these obstacles, companies can play a pivotal role in finding new strategies to grow the supply of available renewable energy sources and promoting emerging technologies that enable the full decarbonization of regional electricity systems,” she wrote.

Google expects to use up to 300 megawatts of solar capacity to power its data centers in Taiwan. In addition, Peterson Corio says the company “may offer a portion of this clean energy capacity to [its] semiconductor suppliers and manufacturers in the region.” She said that would help its partners meet their green energy goals and reduce indirect (Scope 3) emissions from Google’s supply chain partners.

“A significant share of our Scope 3 footprint can be traced back to the electricity grids that power our suppliers and users, which is why broad decarbonization — and partnerships like this — continue to be core to our net-zero goal,” Peterson Corio wrote.

Regulators haven’t yet approved the deal. Google hasn’t said how much it’s investing in NGP.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/google-invests-in-taiwanese-solar-company-to-boost-green-energy-171231205.html?src=rss

China is plowing $11 billion into a solar, wind and coal energy project

A Chinese state-owned power company is splashing out 80 billion yuan ($11 billion) on an energy base that will generate electricity from solar, wind and coal sources. China Three Gorges Renewables Group, a subsidiary of the country’s largest hydropower company, plans to build a plant with a 16-gigawatt capacity and a five-gigawatt storage facility, Bloomberg reports.

This is part of China’s aim to build 455 gigawatts worth of renewable energy projects in the desert by 2030. This plant is being constructed in Inner Mongolia, which will get 135 gigawatts of the total planned output.

The China Three Gorges Corporation is looking to diversify its energy sources as building large hydro dams is becoming less feasible. According to Three Gorges, wind and solar generation from the plant will depend on grid accessibility. The coal plant is set to start operations in three years.

It’s somewhat disappointing that the new plant will have a coal power element, though it's not fully surprising given the way China has bristled at renewable energy commitments during climate summit talks with other countries. As Bloomberg notes, China has been struggling to put all of its clean energy into the power grid. It often relies on coal when renewable sources like solar and wind aren’t available.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/china-is-plowing-11-billion-into-a-solar-wind-and-coal-energy-project-120007712.html?src=rss

Amazon says it’s cut down on those plastic air pillows in packages

You know those little plastic air bags in your more fragile Amazon purchases that make perfect popping noise makers when you crush them? Amazon says it's reduced its usage of them and plans to completely eliminate using them by the end of the year.

The ecommerce behemoth announced on its news blog that it has reduced the use of plastic air pillows by 95 percent and switched to crumbled paper filler instead. Amazon also says it plans to use paper filler for “nearly all” of its customer deliveries on Prime Day.

The company says its decision to phase out the use of plastic air cushions at its distribution centers aims to eliminate unnecessary waste and focus more on using recycled materials.

Plastic pollution has always been a concern when it comes to our environment but it has dramatically increased as a result of Amazon’s meteoric rise especially during the COVID pandemic. The nonprofit ocean conservation group Oceana released a study in 2021 showing that Amazon produced 599 million pounds of plastic waste in 2020. The group also estimated that the waste produced from plastic air pillows alone “would circle the Earth more than 600 times.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/amazon-says-its-cut-down-on-those-plastic-air-pillows-in-packages-222953642.html?src=rss

Climate protestors clash with police outside Tesla’s German gigafactory

Climate protestors in Germany broke through police barricades on Friday, amid clashes between activists and law enforcement. The protestors either made it onto (according to protestors) or near (according to local police) the grounds of a Tesla gigafactory in Grünheide, Germany, near Berlin. It’s part of a planned five-day demonstration ahead of a local government vote next week to determine whether Tesla’s plant can expand.

Wired flagged social media videos showing activists, many of whom have been camping out in treehouses in nearby forest encampments, running toward a Tesla building on the site. In addition, the German newspaper Welt said at least one person participating was injured. Police reportedly police used pepper spray and batons to try to thwart the crowd, and there were at least some arrests.

A spokesperson for one of the groups participating in the protests told Wired that they broke the police barriers and stormed the Tesla grounds. “Eight hundred people have entered the premises of the gigafactory,” Lucia Mende of Disrupt Tesla said. However, local police posted on X (Musk’s social media platform) that the activists only reached a field facing the site. “We have been able to prevent them from entering so far,” they posted.

GRUENHEIDE, GERMANY - MAY 10: Police confront environmental activists in a forest near the Tesla Gigafactory electric car factory on May 10, 2024 near Gruenheide, Germany. Activists have come from across Germany to demand a stop to plans by Tesla to expand the factory, which would involve cutting down at least 50 hectares of trees. Some locals also support the protest, citing stress to local groundwater reserves from the factory. (Photo by Axel Schmidt/Getty Images)
Axel Schmidt via Getty Images

At least at first glance, it’s easy to wonder why activists are pouring so much energy into fighting Tesla. After all, despite Musk’s increasingly unhinged right-wing conspiracy-mongering and Nazi-catering on X, other automakers pushing gas-guzzling cars seem like more appropriate targets (not to mention the fossil fuel companies spending big bucks on anti-climate-reform disinformation). However, several factors make the issues at the heart of the protests less simplistic.

A (nonbinding) vote in February showed Grünheide residents opposed the expansion by almost a two-to-one ratio. If for no other reason, the local government having a chance to brush aside the overwhelming will of the voters in the name of capitalism is enough to raise the eyebrows of anyone who balks at minority rule.

Wired notes the area is also one of the most water-scarce in Germany, and residents worry the gigafactory will drain the resource, leaving much less for the humans who live there. The plant could also pollute local water supplies.

Those fears appear to have merit: The plant is licensed to use 1.4 million cubic meters of water annually, and a separate Wired report from Tuesday noted that’s enough to supply for a large town. As for the contamination fears, Tesla was fined in 2019 by the EPA for several hazardous waste violations at a California factory. The company paid a grand total of $31,000 to settle. (Tesla had a market cap of almost $76 billion in 2019.)

But some of the groups protesting have concerns that go much farther than those more immediate issues affecting the locals, instead taking issue with the entire electric vehicle movement. “Companies like Tesla are there to save the car industry, they’re not there to save the climate,” Esther Kamm, spokesperson for Turn Off the Tap on Tesla told Wired.

Another activist, who only gave Wired the name Mara, described the factory as the result of “green capitalism.” She views the EV movement as little more than a theatrical performance in the name of profit. “This has been completely thought up by such companies to have more growth, even in times of an environmental crisis,” she said.

I wouldn’t exactly say flipping the bird to the EV movement is a “workable” solution to the very real and pressing climate crisis. Regardless of your thoughts on the matter, the world needs to move quickly to fend off climate change’s most ravaging effects, and the scientific consensus is that the planned shift to EVs will need to play a central role.

Tesla reportedly told its employees at the factory to work from home on Friday, shutting down the plants for the planned protests. As for Friday’s protests, Welt reports that the situation had calmed by afternoon — at least for now.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/climate-protestors-clash-with-police-outside-teslas-german-gigafactory-175726961.html?src=rss

The world’s largest direct carbon capture plant just went online

Swiss start-up Climeworks has done it again. The company just opened the world’s largest carbon capture plant in Iceland, dwarfing its own record of how much CO2 it can pull from the air. The company’s previous record-holding carbon capture plant, Orca, sucks around 4,000 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere per year, but the new plant can handle nearly ten times that, as reported by The Washington Post.

The plant’s called Mammoth and boasts 72 industrial fans that can pull 36,000 tons of CO2 from the air each year. Just like with Orca, the CO2 isn’t recycled. It’s stored underground and eventually trapped in stone, permanently (within reason) removing it from the environment. The plant’s actually located on a dormant volcano, so it’ll make a great hideout for a James Bond villain should it ever cease operations.

The location was chosen for its proximity to the Hellisheidi geothermal energy plant, which is used to power the facility's fans and heat chemical filters to extract CO2 with water vapor. After extraction, the CO2 is separated from the steam, compressed and dissolved in water. Finally, it’s pumped 2,300 feet underground into volcanic basalt. This compound reacts with the magnesium, calcium and iron in the rock to form crystals, which become solid reservoirs of CO2. It’s pretty nifty technology.

However, it’s not the end-all solution to climate change. It’s barely a blip. For the world to achieve "carbon neutrality" by 2050, "we should be removing something like six to 16 billion tons of CO2 per year from the air," said Climeworks founder Jan Wurzbacher, according to reporting by CBS News.

Therein lies the problem. This facility, the largest of its kind by a wide margin, can capture up to 36,000 tons of CO2 from the air each year, but that’s just 0.0006 percent of what’s needed to meet the minimum annual removal threshold as indicated by Wurzbacher. There are other plants, of course, but all of them combined don’t make a serious dent in what’s required to pull us from the brink.

To that end, Wurzbacher has pleaded with other companies to take up the cause. He says that Climeworks has a goal of surpassing millions of tons captured per year by 2030 and a billion by 2050. The company’s chief technology officer, Carlos Haertel, told 60 Minutes that scaling up the process globally is possible, but requires political will to rally behind the initiative.

The Biden administration recently committed $4 billion to jumpstart the industry here in the states and earmarked $1.2 billion for a pair of large-scale projects. The US Department of Energy also started a program called Carbon Negative Shot, with a goal of fostering the development of budget-friendly carbon capture technology.

The method of carbon capture deployed by Climeworks is just one of many approaches. These processes range from stacks of limestone blocks that absorb CO2 like a sponge to giant hot air balloons that freeze and trap the chemical compound. Restoring forests is another option, which is something companies like Apple and Goldman Sachs have experimented with. Which one is best? All of them together deployed at global scale. Whatever it takes. Climate change isn’t fooling around.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-worlds-largest-direct-carbon-capture-plant-just-went-online-172447811.html?src=rss

Research indicates that carbon dioxide removal plans will not be enough to meet Paris treaty goals

New research conducted by the University of East Anglia (UEA) suggests that current carbon removal plans will not be enough to comply with Paris treaty goals to limit global warming to 1.5C, as reported in a study published by Nature. Scientists came to this conclusion by measuring the “emissions gap” between various national climate protection plans and what is actually needed to reach that goal.

This first-of-its-kind study found a gap of up to 3.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) between current global plans to remove carbon from the atmosphere and what’s needed by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. These impacts include heatwaves, floods, droughts, melting ice and sea level rise.

Since 2010, the United Nations environmental organization UNEP has taken similar measurements of this emissions gap. UEA’s research, which focuses primarily on CO2 removal, indicates that climate policy requires a more ambitious scope if we are to, well, survive as a species.

This means a more nuanced and robust approach that still keeps current carbon removal practices in place, but with a renewed focus on cutting emissions, renewable energy and minimizing deforestation. There are also novel carbon removal options that many nations have been slow to discuss, let alone implement.

These include advanced air filters systems and enhanced rock weathering. The latter is a technique in which carbon is removed from the atmosphere and stored in rocks. These techniques account for the removal of just 0.002 billion tons of C02 per year, compared to 3 billion tons through conventional options. The research indicates that these novel options must become more prevalent in the coming years to help meet that 1.5C threshold.

“The calculation should certainly be refined,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. William Lamb, of the MCC Applied Sustainability Science working group. “This much is clear: without a rapid reduction in emissions towards zero, across all sectors, the 1.5C limit will not be met under any circumstances.”

Co-author Dr. Naomi Vaughan, of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA, added that “countries need more awareness, ambition and action on scaling up carbon dioxide removal methods together with deep emissions reductions to achieve the aspirations of the Paris Agreement."

To that end, even if every country sticks to promises regarding carbon removal targets, the amount of carbon removed would likely increase by a maximum of 0.5 billion tons by 2030 and 1.9 billion tons by 2050. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that it would take a removal increase of 5.1 billion tons to avoid the worst effects of climate change. So, yeah, there’s that gap of 3.2 billion tons.

We aren’t doomed, at least not yet anyways. The IPCC suggests an alternative scenario in which the world’s governments work together to reduce global energy demand, hastened by “politically initiated behavior.” In this scenario, carbon removal would increase by 2.5 billion tons by 2050 and alternative methods would help tighten the emissions gap to just 400 million tons. So we basically have to shift our entire society from one of self interest to one of global cooperation. It never hurts to dream and, hey, maybe AI will swoop in and save us

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/research-indicates-that-carbon-dioxide-removal-plans-will-not-be-enough-to-meet-paris-treaty-goals-161113129.html?src=rss