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Originally published on the NRDC Expert Blog.
By Mitchell Bernard

Today’s unemployment numbers out of Washington affirm what the country’s experiencing on Main Street: a grinding climb from a devastating pandemic that’s taking a continuing toll on the economic security of our people. It’s great news that unemployment is falling. But 9.3 million Americans remain out of work.

President Biden has proposed the right remedy — the American Jobs Plan, a comprehensive package of strategic public investment that weds climate action to equitable recovery and puts people back to work in every community.

This is a bold vision for strong, lasting, and broad-based recovery. It sets the table for a generation of prosperity and progress. It means cleaner, healthier communities, both urban and rural. As the plan makes its way through Congress, it’s time for all of us to rally around it.

The American Jobs Plan is a stirring vote of confidence in the nation’s future. It’s built on the belief that U.S. workers can out-compete anyone in the world when given a fighting chance. That’s what this plan does.

It sets us on the path to 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 — wiping out nearly a third of the dangerous carbon pollution that’s driving the climate crisis — by helping to clean up the nation’s power sector.

It speeds the transition to electric cars and trucks with zero tailpipe emissions, expands sustainable transit options for those who need them most, and reconnects urban neighborhoods divided for decades by misguided highway routes.

It protects our communities from the risks and toxic pollution from more than 3.1 million abandoned oil and gas wells and coal mines, by capping and cleaning up these idled fossil fuel sites as we shift to cleaner, smarter ways to power our future.

And it ends the ongoing and unacceptable exposure to hazardous drinking water in as many as 10 million American homes, by replacing lead pipes and service lines with safe and modern alternatives, while upgrading wastewater, drinking water, and stormwater systems nationwide.

These are essential national priorities. Cleaning up our dirty cars, trucks, and power plants. Capping abandoned wells and mines. Getting the lead out of our drinking water.

Combined with other vital work, such as rebuilding aging bridges, roads, and ports, this investment will create or sustain 15 million jobs over the coming decade, a Georgetown University analysis shows, including 8 million for workers that require only a high school education or less.

These are good-paying jobs for welders, carpenters, truck drivers, electricians, steelworkers, and others, including those who want the collective bargaining opportunities that come from belonging to a union.

The clean energy sector offers multiple advantages: It pays 25 percent more than the average job for some 3 million workers who help to make our homes, cars, and workplaces more efficient; it builds electric and low-emission cars, trucks, and parts; it gets more clean power from the wind and sun; and it modernizes the grid and storage system we depend on for reliable power.

That’s core work in the American Jobs Plan. It’s how we roll up our sleeves and make good on Biden’s pledge to cut the U.S. carbon footprint in half by 2030, so we can stop adding carbon pollution to the atmosphere altogether by 2050.

That’s what the science tells us must happen — at home and abroad — if we’re to avert the worst of a climate crisis that last year alone inflicted more than $95 billion in damage nationwide, while combining with fossil fuel pollution to impose another $820 billion in health-care costs on our people.

Confronting this costly crisis will be the economic play of our lifetime, with clean energy investments set to attract more than $11 trillion in global capital in the space of this generation alone.

The American Jobs Plan will help make the United States a clean energy superpower — and make U.S. companies and workers the winners in the global clean energy sweepstakes.

The plan includes investments to plus-up research and investment in critical new technologies; support innovation to make U.S. factories more efficient; strengthen the domestic supply chain for the next generation of wind, solar, and battery technology; and expand training for workers looking to transition out of fading industries like fossil fuels and into more promising opportunities elsewhere.

Strengthening our economy. Putting our people back to work. Cleaning up toxic pollution that threatens our health. Standing up to the mounting costs and growing dangers of climate change.

These are the pillars of the American Jobs Plan — strategic investment that’s paid for by asking fossil fuel companies, other corporations, and those earning more than $400,000 a year to pay their fair share to support the kind of progress that’s enabled them to thrive. Investing in efficiency, meanwhile, will enable us to do more with less waste in our homes, workplaces and cars, cutting energy costs for our families and businesses.

Small wonder, then, that the plan is supported by nearly two-thirds of the country.

The American Jobs Plan accomplishes one thing more: It addresses what the pandemic has made all the more urgent.

A modern plague that has killed 600,000 people across the United States alone, the coronavirus pandemic has upended the lives of us all. No one is surprised to learn who’s suffered most: primarily the same low-income communities and people of color for whom the pandemic has only worsened long-festering inequities in education and employment opportunities, housing, and health care.

The American Jobs Plan is designed to address those inequities head-on. It’s tailored to deliver 40 percent of the economic, environmental, and health benefits of this strategic climate and clean energy investment to the same historically disadvantaged communities that bear a disproportionate share of the burden of environmental hazard and harm.

The American Jobs Plan is the grand strategy the country needs — and we need it now. The 2022 federal budget Biden proposed last week includes a down payment on this eight-year investment plan, with early investment to jump-start the progress it’s meant to ensure.

Now, it’s our turn to rally around this hopeful vision of a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous future for a nation united behind the climate action that can power a strong, just, and equitable recovery for every family, in every community, across this land.


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Tesla lowers price of ‘Full Self-Driving’ to $8,000, down from $12,000

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Tesla lowers price of 'Full Self-Driving' to ,000, down from ,000

Tesla has once again lowered the price of its Full Self-Driving software by $4,000, now costing $8,000, down from a previous price of $12,000 in the US.

Prices were also lowered in Canada, where the system used to cost $16,000CAD, and now costs $11,000CAD.

In addition to the price drop, Tesla has eliminated “Enhanced Autopilot” as an option, which previously cost $6,000. For owners who already have enhanced autopilot, the cost to upgrade to FSD is now $2,000, down from $6,000.

Tesla has been doing a lot of price cuts lately, including dropping the price of most of its vehicles by $2,000 just a day ago.

It also cut the price of its FSD subscription service in half, to $99/mo, just a couple weeks ago.

That new subscription price suddenly made FSD’s $12k price seem quite steep, as someone would need to subscribe to FSD for ten whole years before paying $12k in total cost – and that’s not including the time value of money.

So it seemed inevitable that people would lean towards subscriptions, rather than upfront purchases, after that price drop.

Now, to make the prices a little closer, Tesla dropped the price of FSD to $8,000 – or 6 2/3 years worth of subscriptions at $99/mo. A little more reasonable, though still longer than many people own a car (and, again, one should account for the time value of money).

All of these prices are down significantly from the highest price FSD has ever sold for, which was $15k from late 2022 until late 2023 when it dropped the price back to $12k.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly said that as FSD becomes more capable, it should also go up in price to reflect its greater value. Previously, FSD price increases were largely associated with software updates that added new capability to the system.

Musk even went as far as to say that this means Tesla cars with FSD are “appreciating assets,” potentially worth $100-200k due to their value as robotaxis. Though Tesla only uses those values when it’s convenient, considering FSD much less valuable when offering trade-in estimates to owners.

But on a more practical business level, this move to lower FSD prices probably has less to do with the system’s capabilities and more to do with boosting revenue during a difficult time for the company, having just posted bad quarterly delivery numbers and laying off 10% of its workforce. A lower price could incentivize owners to pony up for software which had previously mostly gone up in price, giving Tesla a free cash infusion.

The system’s capabilities have been changing, too. Tesla has been pushing FSD more lately, ever since the release of the “mind-blowing” FSD v12. The new version changes the system significantly on the back-end, finally using machine learning neural nets to analyze Tesla’s vast amounts of driving data to teach cars how to drive themselves.

With Tesla’s confidence in the new system, the company rolled out a free one-month trial of FSD to all Teslas in the US, basically encompassing the month of April.

It has also started calling the system “Supervised Full Self-Driving,” a somewhat self-contradictory name that nevertheless is more accurate given that FSD is still a “Level 2” system that does not ever actually take full responsibility for the dynamic driving task (that only happens with level 3+ systems, like Mercedes’ DRIVE PILOT or Waymo).

Today’s price drop hasn’t been echoed in all other territories. It’s still listed at £6,800 in the UK and 59,600kr in Norway, same as it was before today’s price drop. FSD has generally been somewhat cheaper in Europe than the US after taking into account exchange rates, because it also has more capabilities in the US than in other countries, but after today’s price cuts, it’s actually more expensive in some EU countries (like the UK, where exchange rate puts it at ~$8.4k USD equivalent) than in the US, despite lower capabilities.

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First ever electric semi truck rides into Mexico with SDG&E

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First ever electric semi truck rides into Mexico with SDG&E

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) says the maiden voyage of their Class 8 heavy-duty electric semi marks the first time an electric semi has crossed the border hauling a standard load, marking an important milestone as the two nations move toward a net zero future.

The electric semi truck – one of 11 Peterbilt 579EV Class 8 trucks bought by San Diego-based Bali Express last year – made its first trip to Mexico carrying an unspecified load of goods through the Port of Entry at Otay Mesa, which connects Southern California to the city of Tijuana, Mexico.

Bali Express’ electric trucks will utilize SDG&E’s recently activated HD charging infrastructure to provide “reliable and affordable” electric freight options for medium and heavy-duty EVs crossing the US/Mexico border.

The SDG&E-powered chargers were partially funded through a $200,000 grant from the California Energy Commission’s Clean Transportation Program. That program has put more than $1 billion to alternative fuel and vehicle technology projects designed to improve public health while bringing both environmental and economic benefits to communities throughout the state.

Those sentiments were echoed by San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. “The historic crossing of this electric freight truck symbolizes San Diego’s commitment to innovation, cross-border cooperation and our binational community,” said Gloria, in a statement. “We’re not just reducing emissions, we’re building a cleaner future for people living near our border, and leading the way in international trade and environmental responsibility.”

Meanwhile, Executive Director of SDG&E Caroline Winn called the new charging corridor, “an example of how collaboration can create new and innovative ways to rethink how to move transportation systems toward electrification.”

The Peterbilt 579EV trucks have an 82,000 lb. GCWR and is powered by the same 670 hp Meritor 14Xe “epowertrain” used in the PACCAR Kenworth t680e that debuted back in 2022. That system integrates electric motors and drive axles into a single unit, making it easy for manufacturers to electrify their fleets by maintaining existing (re: ICE) axle mounting hardware.

The big Petes have approx. 150 miles of range and are capable of fully charging their massive, 400 kWh batteries in about 3 hours.

Electrek’s Take

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and Bali Express have announced the maiden voyage to Mexico of a U.S. Class 8 heavy-duty electric truckload; image by Bali Express, via Mexico Now.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has approved a landmark plan to end the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035. And, while California is just one state, it’s important to remember that, as California’s fleets go, so too go the fleets of Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Washington State, and others.

If we’re lucky, the whole country will be electric-only well before then.

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Liebherr electric excavator reaches million ton milestone, scores more orders

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Liebherr electric excavator reaches million ton milestone, scores more orders

This massive Liebherr electric excavator reached a major operational milestone earlier this month when it moved its one millionth tonne of dirt. And now, its buyers want more!

That’s right, gang – since we first covered the converted mining excavator back in January it’s been hard at work. And now, after its initial 90 day “break-in” period operating at partial capacity while the site team familiarized themselves with the new tech, it’s operating at full speed at Fortescue’s Christmas Creek mine in Western Australia.

The Liebherr is working so well, in fact, that Fortescue is planning on order two more examples of the mighty electric earth-mover.

“This is such an exciting milestone for Fortescue and our decarbonisation journey. Importantly, we’ve been able to achieve this while maintaining our high safety standards,” says Fortescue Metals CEO, Dino Otranto. “We will have two additional electric excavators commissioned by the end of April. Once we decarbonize our entire fleet, around 95 million liters of diesel will be removed from our operations every year, or more than a quarter of a million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.”

Big work needs big power

Liebherr and Fortescue repower R 9400 excavator to electric configuration
The repowered Liebherr R 9400 E excavator at Fortescue’s Christmas Creek mine; via Liebherr.

Moving more than a million tons of earth and rock takes a lot of energy. To keep its batteries topped off, the re-powered Liebherr R 9400 E electric excavator operates off blend of renewable solar power and a 6.6 kV substation pumping electrons through more than two kilometers of high voltage trailing cable.

Eventually, though, Fortescue plans to power its equipment completely from sustainable sources. “In line with our commitment to eliminate emissions across our mining operations,” reads the company’s statement. “The intention is that all electrified mining equipment will eventually be 100 per cent powered by renewable electricity.”

Electrek’s Take

Because Liebherr takes a modular approach to building its larger mining equipment, repowering a diesel-drive excavator like the R 9400 can be completed in a matter of weeks; courtesy Liebherr.

Covering an electric pilot program is always fun, but all too often the results of these initial experiments aren’t publicized – or else, don’t directly lead to sales. To their credit, Liebherr is lucky to have a customer in Fortescue that’s willing to put their cards on the table here, trumpeting the re-powered excavator’s success and even announcing its plans to order two more electric machines publicly.

They won’t have to wait long, either. Because Liebherr takes a modular approach to building its larger mining equipment, a diesel-drive excavator like the R 9400 can be completely re-powered to electric in a matter of weeks.

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