An invisible enemy: the battle to save black-footed ferrets from the plague

Every year, from August to November, Travis Livieri becomes nocturnal. The field biologist goes out in his truck in Conata Basin, South Dakota, armed with a spotlight in search of one of the most endangered mammals in North America: the black-footed ferret. When the light catches the reflective green shine of the ferret’s eyes, he waits for the animal to disappear into a burrow and then lays a trap at the entrance.

Once the ferret is trapped, Livieri coaxes it into a long black tube and anaesthetises it before giving it a vaccine shot. Then he takes a blue marker and draws a line from the ferret’s left ear to its right shoulder. About a month later, he returns again at night to the same location to give the ferret its booster, drawing a line from its right ear to its left shoulder. Ferrets marked with an X are safe from the plague.

Although they have been protected by the US Endangered Species Act since it was signed into law in 1973, there are only about 300 black-footed ferrets alive in the wild today, spread across about 20 sites in the western US, Canada and Mexico. Every one of them is descended from just 18 ferrets that were taken into a captive breeding programme in the 1980s, after conservationists failed to keep the last-known population alive in the wild.

Habitat loss and the widespread shooting and poisoning of prairie dogs, a herbivorous rodent that makes up more than 90% of the ferret’s diet, are both threats to the black-footed ferret. But nothing poses a greater existential threat than the bacteria Yersinia pestis – otherwise known as plague.

Yersinia pestis, which killed millions of people across Europe in the middle ages, is the ferrets’ biggest biological enemy, says Livieri, who founded the conservation nonprofit Prairie Wildlife Research in 2001. “Plague is something that can wipe out all the prairie dogs and all the ferrets pretty easily,” he says.

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Joe Biden if president will push allies like Australia to do more on climate, adviser says

Joe Biden will not pull any punches with allies including Australia in seeking to build international momentum for stronger action on the climate crisis, an adviser to the US presidential candidate has said.

If elected in November, Biden will hold heavy emitters such as China accountable for doing more “but he’s also going to push our friends to do more as well”, according to Jake Sullivan, who was the national security adviser to Biden when he was vice-president and is now in the candidate’s inner circle.

In a wide-ranging podcast interview with the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, Sullivan also signalled that Biden would work closely with Australia and other regional allies in responding to the challenges posed by the rise of China.

While Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, is likely to welcome the pledge of US coordination with allies on regional security issues, there may be unease in government ranks about the potential for tough conversations about Australia’s climate policies.

The Coalition government has resisted calls to embrace a target of net-zero emissions by 2050 and it proposes to use Kyoto carryover credits to meet Australia’s 2030 emission reductions pledge. Some Coalition backbenchers still openly dispute climate science.

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Will the Cop26 climate conference be a national embarrassment for Britain? | Robin Russell-Jones

If the government doesn’t get its act together soon, then Cop26, the UN climate change conference due to be held in Glasgow in November next year, could become a national humiliation for the UK and an environmental catastrophe for the rest of humanity.

One likes to imagine that the UK government is taking the climate emergency seriously, but that illusion has been shattered by the appointment of the former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott as a UK trade adviser. Abbott has described global heating as “absolute crap”. One of his first actions after becoming prime minister of Australia was to abolish his own climate change advisory council, followed by a decision to scrap Australia’s carbon tax.

Global heating is starting to run out of control. At a time when the need for concerted international action is greater than ever, the international community is failing to reduce its carbon emissions. The Kyoto protocol was designed to curb global emissions of all greenhouse gases, but annual emissions have actually risen by more than 60% globally compared with 1990, the baseline year for the protocol. More carbon has been emitted as a result of human activity since 1990 than in all previous years since the start of the industrial revolution. By any standards, the Kyoto protocol has proven a spectacular failure, but the fault cannot be laid entirely at the door of the UN.

The main obstacles to progress have been the reluctance of fossil-fuel-dependent nations to change their business model, and the cynical strategy of disinformation launched by the fossil fuel industry, and secretly funded free-market thinktanks, notably the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

Cop26 is probably our last opportunity to turn this situation around, but it won’t happen without a set of game-changing proposals from the organisers. Probably the most critical measure would be to introduce an effective global carbon tax. At the moment we have carbon trading schemes, but these are just a market mechanism for purchasing the right to emit carbon. It is cheaper for industry to pay for its emissions than to invest in greener technologies.

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Why do politicians keep telling us they're 'listening'? | Imogen West-Knights

You have just been elected leader of the Liberal Democrats. Congratulations! Allow me to be the first to say: we always knew it would be you. Like millions of other little children all over the world with posters of Paddy Ashdown above their beds, you had a dream: to one day lead our boys in yellow. But unlike them, your dream came true.

Now, you’ll have noticed that people are very angry at the moment, about all kinds of different things: the coronavirus pandemic, Brexit, racism, climate breakdown, the economy, the Tories, the Labour party. And we want all of those people to vote for your friends and mine, the Lib Dems, at the next general election. So what we need is a statement that implies we’re like, good, but in the most general possible way. OK, hold on, now I think you might love this. What about: “I am listening”? It’s good, isn’t it? Hoof the ball right back into the public’s court. Great stuff. OK, here’s two free drink tokens – enjoy the party, champ.

I’m being a little unfair to Ed Davey here, and in any case, dunking on the Lib Dems is so easy it’s almost distasteful. His speech on winning the leadership contest last week was only the latest in a long line of politicians’ statements promising that their biggest priority was to listen to the electorate. William Hague made needing to listen the centrepiece of his 1998 party conference speech, and Tony Blair did the same at his party conference in 2000.

Listening has felt especially ubiquitous this year. Rory Stewart’s vampiric London mayoral campaign involved asking people to invite him across their thresholds for a chat and a sleepover, an idea that, in the era of social distancing, seems about as contemporary as a sprightly quadrille. Taking listening-as-home-invasion into the pandemic age, Keir Starmer has spent the summer doing Zoom-based listening tours of the country. And in the US a few weeks ago, Joe Biden assured young voters that he would “hear their voices”, too.

It’s not just politicians either. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, brands and institutions rushed to social media to confirm that they too were listening. Sweaty Betty is listening. The University of Hull is listening. PG Tips, with an upturned teacup pressed against your bedroom wall, is listening.

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Aerobatic display over the lake: Country diary, 8 September 1945

8 September 1945 Few entertainments in country life surpass the sight of gulls wheeling slowly and gracefully over Ullswater

The steamer Raven at Howtown, Ullswater. Photograph: BestPix/Alamy Stock Photo

Penrith, September 3

There are few entertainments in country life to surpass sitting under the wooded Dunmallet Hill at the foot of Ullswater, especially on a summer evening. The steamer Raven is at rest at the Pooley pier, the very picture of laziness. In the Castlesteads opening, leading to the second reach, one discerns the scarlet sails of a yacht as it tacks for the homeward run. Small rowing-boats – some conveying anglers to their fishing grounds, others providing intense enjoyment for holiday-making lads and lasses – are like hyphens dotted on the water. Across on the Eusemere side a few bathers disport themselves in Gale Bay, while in the Waterside House meadows the declining sun casts its pinkish rays on the campers’ tents. But above all is the sight of the gulls as they search for supper in Waterfoot Bay, now wheeling slowly and gracefully with eyes alert for small fish, then making a sheer dive into the water to catch something – or miss it.

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Campaigners start legal challenge to UK's $1bn grant to Mozambique gas project

Environmentalists at Friends of the Earth will mount a legal challenge against the government’s decision to offer $1bn in financial support to a major fossil fuel project in Mozambique that they say is “incompatible” with the Paris climate agreement.

The green group will go to the high court this week to seek a judicial review into the government’s decision to use taxpayer money to “worsen the climate emergency” by helping to finance a $20bn gas project on the Mozambican coast.

Friends of the Earth said the government’s export credit agency, UK Export Finance, offered its largest single financial support package without undertaking a transparent assessment of the project’s environmental and social risks, which is a legal requirement.

UKEF has granted loan guarantees and direct funding to British companies bidding for work on fossil fuel projects worth more than £3.5bn since the UK signed up to the Paris climate agreement.

The Mozambique support package was announced just over a year after MPs on the environmental audit committee called for an end to government support for polluting projects overseas, saying it “undermines the UK’s climate commitments”.

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Country diary: there’s a telltale musky smell beneath the plum tree

Caistor St Edmund, Norfolk: Badgers have marked out their territory by anointing their droppings with scent from glands under their tails

‘Odour is an important part of badger communication and a community will also set scent on each other.’ Photograph: Mike Bryant/Alamy

The last of the Victoria plums are rotting on the ground. I step around them, avoiding the sticky mess and gorging wasps. The air has a sweet alcoholic tang, like the day after a big party. Peacock butterflies and red admirals flit from fallen fruit, drinking the fermented juices. Docile and plum-drunk, a peacock lands on my hand. Its false eyes blink at me, as the wings, all tatty now, slowly open and shut.

I scavenge a couple of partly edible plums still hanging on the trees, making sure to check for maggots before biting in. Many of the fruit have been affected by the pinkish caterpillar of the plum moth, Grapholita funebrana, which burrows into the flesh to feed around the stone. When sated, they will spin a cocoon hidden away in the bark of the tree, to emerge as a dull greyish brown moth in May next year.

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Managers Of $40 Trillion Make Plans To Decarbonize The World

European New Exchange Technology in Amsterdam is the largest stock exchange in Europe, one of the ... [+] cogs in a global financial system needing to be harnessed to address global issues like climate change.

Amsterdam Municipal Department for the Preservation and Restoration of Historic Buildings and Sites

The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) is a European group of global pension funds and investment managers, totaling over 1,200 members in 16 countries, who control more than $40 trillion in assets (€33 trillion). They have drawn up a plan to cut carbon in their portfolios to net-zero and hope other investors will join them.

The group’s mission is to mobilize capital for a global low-carbon transition and to ensure resiliency of investments and markets in the face of the changes, including the changing climate itself. They provide asset managers with a set of recommended actions, policies, collaborations, measures and methods to help them meet the net-zero goal by 2050 in an effort to address climate change. Their framework was developed with more than 70 funds worldwide.

The European Union aims to be climate-neutral by 2050 – an economy with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. This objective is at the heart of the European Green Deal and in line with the EU’s commitment to global climate action under the Paris Agreement.

Following the Paris Climate Agreement, asset managers have been under increasing pressure to reduce their carbon footprint as their investors focus on sustainability and on the negative effects of climate change. But a lack of consensus on the best path forward has slowed any real action to a crawl.

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The Trillion-Dollar Reason Joe Biden Won’t Ban Fracking

Water tanks, sand tanks, and compressors surround a natural gas well during hydraulic fracturing ... [+] operations on a Chesapeake Energy Corp. drill site in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, in 2010. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

BLOOMBERG NEWS

Electoral and energy realities caught up with Joe Biden last week. On Monday, in a speech in Pittsburgh, the Democratic presidential nominee said “I am not banning fracking. Let me say that again: I am not banning fracking.”

Biden’s declaration has gained lots of attention from the Trump campaign and various media outlets. But his acknowledgment of the importance of hydraulic fracturing is a recognition of practical politics, the critical role that natural gas now plays in the U.S. electric grid, and how the shale revolution has saved consumers at least $1 trillion over the past decade. Those lower energy costs are particularly important to low- and middle-income consumers who are suffering in the pandemic economy, where, according to a recent article in the New York Times NYT , “nearly one in eight households doesn’t have enough to eat.” 

If Biden wants to win the White House, he must win Pennsylvania, a battleground state that Donald Trump won in 2016. A candidate who opposes hydraulic fracturing will have a tough time in Pennsylvania, the second-largest gas producer in America, behind Texas. Pennsylvania now produces about 19 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. For perspective, that’s more than what is now being produced by China (17 Bcf/d) and nearly as much as Iran (24 Bcf/d). Pennsylvania’s oil and gas sector is a big employer and it contributed about $250 million in gas-related fees to the state government last year. 

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Biden’s statement is also a recognition of the tectonic shift in America’s energy fortunes that is due to the shale revolution. Over the past 15 years, the United States has seen the biggest increase in energy production in world history. Between 2005 and 2019, natural gas production nearly doubled and oil production more than doubled. The result, according to the 2020 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, was a combined increase in oil and natural gas production of about 34 exajoules. That’s an enormous quantity of energy. (In its latest edition, BP has begun using SI units instead of imperial units.)

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Ben Jennings: fear of a blue planet – cartoon

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Original author: Ben Jennings
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Highlights Of Joe Biden’s Energy Plan

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a "Build Back ... [+] Better" Clean Energy event on July 14, 2020 at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has laid out an ambitious energy plan. His campaign has released nine key elements of Biden’s plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice.

Here are the nine key elements, with some commentary by me below each one.

1). Take executive action on Day 1 to not just reverse all of the damage Trump has done, but go further and faster.

This involves reinstating some Obama-era policies that President Trump rolled back, like methane limits on oil and gas operations. In some areas it would exceed Obama’s policies by eventually requiring all new light- and medium-duty vehicles to be zero emission vehicles. There would also be new restrictions on oil and gas leases on public lands and waters.

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Extinction Rebellion calls move to class it as organised crime group 'ridiculous'

Climate group criticises move by UK government as Labour condemns newspaper protest

Extinction Rebellion demonstrators outside Buckingham Palace on Saturday. Photograph: Hollie Adams/Getty Images

Extinction Rebellion has described government moves to treat the climate crisis protest movement as an organised crime group as “ridiculous”.

The group said associating it with the state’s definition of a crime gang as “characterised by violence or the threat of violence and by the use of bribery and corruption” was an insult to the thousands of ordinary citizens who supported its cause.

On Sunday the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, condemned an Extinction Rebellion protest that disrupted the distribution of national newspapers.

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New Electric Cars Perform Wonders In Towns, Rural Roads, But Run Out Of Puff On Highways

Young girl with electric car without power in the battery is looking for help

getty

Electric car sales are accelerating in Europe, led by the well-off who buy pricey Teslas TSLA and Audis. But as “cheaper” versions hit the market, consumers are in for a shock because the latest products are really city-cars and are hopeless on the highway.

Some experts say this should persuade car manufacturers to produce a cheap and cheerful electric runabout – call it a golf cart with windows – to spur electric acceptance. Others say no way to that, electric cars are in their infancy and by, say, 2025 will be competitive on price and range and why not add gasoline “range extenders” to electric cars now with poor long-range performance.

Meanwhile manufacturers are heading down the wrong track, trying to replicate all the attributes of an internal combustion engine vehicle. This works well at the expensive end of the market because the high cost of batteries can be easily absorbed. But “cheaper” electric cars – and in Europe we’re talking average prices of around $40,000 after tax – buyers will find they’ve bought a fantastic rural and urban car, but the battery is not able to deliver acceptable long-range performance on the highway.

This means long journeys which would take say, 5 hours in an ICE vehicle, would take twice as long in a “cheaper” electric car which can only run for about 80 to 100 miles at high speed before exhausting itself. The added time is accounted for by up to an hour for recharging up to 80% of capacity, always assuming charger availability, charger functionality, or consumer payment compatibility. An ICE car or SUV would need only one, 10-minute stop for gas, if that.

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Enough with 'local' and 'organic'. We'll begin to eat well when we farm well | James Rebanks

As a farmer, I’m supposed to hate vegans and environmental activists, but that’s nonsense. Even when I don’t agree with everything they say, I share their wish to make the world a better place and their concern about the state it’s in today. In an age of increasingly apocalyptic news about the natural world, we are frequently warned that the things we are buying and eating are driving ecological collapse. Sensible and thoughtful people everywhere are asking the same question: what should I eat?

It is a good question and an important one that speaks of a growing public awareness of our footprint on Earth and our wish to do less harm, individually and collectively. But as a farmer I know that that question masks another, far deeper one, that we must all ask ourselves: how should we farm?

Yes, that question is relevant to each of us, even if we don’t work on the land. What we choose to eat isn’t just a personal choice. The things we pick from the shelves as we shop (and how much we pay for them) add up to a world-shaping message that is broadcast across the fields and determines what farmers choose to grow and how they must do it. So let’s ask ourselves, and farmers, to produce food that makes ecological sense. The question “what should I eat?” is looking down the wrong end of the telescope.

So, how should we farm? A sustainable and good farming landscape needs to do many things. It needs to feed us all affordably, to keep soil healthy, to provide micro-habitats such as hedgerows and field trees – and even protect what is left of precious habitats such as peat bogs, rivers, wetlands and woodland. If a farming landscape does all this well already, then it is perhaps enough for us to talk about it being “sustainable”. In practice, however, few places are like this, so we need to be way more ambitious.

We need to ask for “regenerative” agriculture, which means boosting soil health and encouraging biodiversity by working with natural processes as we grow food. More often than not, this means using grazing animals in “mixed” farming systems. Livestock, if well managed, repair soil, trample or eat crop residues and waste, provide fertiliser and control weeds. It means our uplands becoming patchworks of native habitats – meadows and pastures, woodland and bogs – and our lowlands working as rotational mosaics of fields.

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Is The Energy Transition Really Accelerating?

Agios Dimitrios, Kozani in Northern Greece. View of the Agios Dimitrios power station near the ... [+] northern Greek town of Kozani. Agios Dimitrios Power Station is the largest lignite power plant in the country, generating a capacity of 1600MW. May 2020 (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

NurPhoto via Getty Images

Shortly after the global COVID-19 pandemic really took hold early this year, the energy and environment-focused news media became suddenly filled with boosterism stories about the supposedly accelerating Energy Transition. These stories all pushed the thesis that pandemic and its resulting bust in oil prices would somehow accelerate the flow of capital into renewables and electric vehicles (EVs) to the detriment of fossil fuels.

This all seemed to be a bit counter-intuitive to me for a couple of compelling reasons. The first reason has to do with the fact that renewables and EVs have experienced rapid growth in this century due in large part to massive subsidies and mandates provided by local, state and national governments. That’s not a value judgment on this kind of subsidy, by the way, but it seems important that everyone opining on this topic recognize the key role that such subsidies and mandates have played in the growth of these alternative fuel sources. With many of those governments falling to a state of near-bankruptcy or actual bankruptcy due to the pandemic, it becomes difficult to imagine that the past level of subsidization can continue to be funded.

The second big factor is understanding how corporations make decisions on allocation of capital to their various projects. These companies exist to engage in specific lines of business in order to make a profit, and base their capital decisions based on business judgments, not on the altruistic goals of the environmentalist lobby. A couple of good examples dampening the sentiments for an accelerating energy transition come in the form of reports released this week, the first from Oxford University and the second by the U.N.’s International Energy Agency.

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The Oxford report centers on the fact that most utility companies are not supporting the “accelerating energy transition” narrative because the vast majority of them are continuing to build new plants fired by fossil fuels like natural gas and coal. An embargoed advance summary of the report showed up in my email in-box on August 27 with this breathlessly worded headline: “Utility companies undermining global transition to net-zero emissions.”

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Are We On The Cusp Of A Global Energy Crisis?

Goehring and Rozencwajg believe that we are on the cusp of a global energy crisis because of the depletion of U.S. tight oil plays.

“We are on the cusp of a global energy crisis…Global energy markets in general and oil markets in particular are slipping into a structural deficit as we speak. We believe that energy will be the most important investment theme of the next several years and the biggest unintended consequence of the coronavirus.”

—Goehring and Rozencwajg, July 2020

I doubt that they are right but their logic is sound.

U.S. tight oil accounted for 83% of growth in world production over the decade 2009 to 2019 (Figure 1). Deep water and oil sands were the other growth area at 23% while conventional production declined 9% over the same period.

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More than 600 arrests made at Extinction Rebellion protests in London

More than 600 people have been arrested during five days of climate crisis protests in central London, police have said.

Environmental campaign group Extinction Rebellion (XR) reignited its efforts to highlight the dangers of climate crisis this month after they were largely placed on hold by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a series of daily actions, protesters have marched on Parliament Square, blocked roads, staged sit-ins and glued themselves to the ground.

The protests led the Metropolitan police to impose conditions on where demonstrations could take place, while protesters were warned they risked a large fine if they failed to comply with coronavirus rules banning gatherings of more than 30 people.

Scotland Yard also said on Saturday that 20 people had been reported for consideration of a £10,000 fixed penalty notice (FPN) for holding regulation-breaching gatherings representing a range of different causes.

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Greta Thunberg says Venice documentary shows her real self

A documentary following Greta Thunberg and her journey from Swedish schoolgirl to global climate activist accurately portrays her as a “shy nerd”, the teenager said as the film premiered at the Venice film festival.

Director Nathan Grossman recorded Thunberg’s everyday life for a year, chronicling her rise to fame from the beginning of her school strike outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018 to her trips around the world demanding that political leaders take action to fight the climate crisis.

When he began filming, Grossman had no idea that Thunberg, who was 15 when she started her protest, would quickly become the figurehead for the global climate crisis campaign.

“I think we have seen a lot of her in the news media, she has been doing so many interviews and I wanted to bring the viewer closer to her, how does it feel to go from nothing to become this very famous climate activist,” Grossman told Reuters in an interview on Saturday.

“I was also thinking like, ‘Jesus, everything is going so quickly. What a weird kind of rush … this is’, in a sense that we are standing here with the pope and just eight, nine months ago she started the school strike,” he said.

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California Hydrogen Station Race Winners: First Element, Equilon And Iwatani

First Element built South Pasadena hydrogen station, August 2020. Air Products compressed hydrogen ... [+] tanker is offloading hydrogen while a fuel cell vehicle is preparing to fuel.

David Blekhman via Forbes

With 45 hydrogen stations in operation, California continues to lead the way in hydrogen infrastructure development in the United States and this gap will only widen with 36 more stations to be built shortly with the help from the California Energy Commission (CEC) and Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Funds. The latter is contributing $5 million. This is the first large California investment in the hydrogen infrastructure since the previous solicitation in 2015.

In its announcement on September 4, the CEC identified three big hydrogen race winners. The top winner, First Element Fuel, Inc., will build 21 station in the first batch with the $15.5 million contribution from the CEC Clean Transportation

Program and $5 million mentioned above. It has an option of completing the second and third batch of 28 more stations. First Element Fuel, Inc. plans to contribute $98.5 million of matching funds to the construction of all 49 stations. This would roughly estimate to $3.1 million per station.

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The second winner is Equilon Enterprises LLC (dba Shell Oil Products US), which will construct eight stations with an option for 43 more. The state funds provide $7.6 million and Equilon Enterprises LLC plans to contribute $40.5 million for all 51 station. These stations are approximately proposed at $1.6 million each.

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California Hydrogen Station Race Winners: First Element, Equilon And Iwatani

First Element built South Pasadena hydrogen station, August 2020. Air Products compressed hydrogen ... [+] tanker is offloading hydrogen while a fuel cell vehicle is preparing to fuel.

David Blekhman via Forbes

With 45 hydrogen stations in operation, California continues to lead the way in hydrogen infrastructure development in the United States and this gap will only widen with 36 more stations to be built shortly with the help from the California Energy Commission (CEC) and Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Funds. The latter is contributing $5 million. This is the first large California investment in the hydrogen infrastructure since the previous solicitation in 2015.

In its announcement on September 4, the CEC identified three big hydrogen race winners. The top winner, First Element Fuel, Inc., will build 21 station in the first batch with the $15.5 million contribution from the CEC Clean Transportation

Program and $5 million mentioned above. It has an option of completing the second and third batch of 28 more stations. First Element Fuel, Inc. plans to contribute $98.5 million of matching funds to the construction of all 49 stations. This would roughly estimate to $3.1 million per station.

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The second winner is Equilon Enterprises LLC (dba Shell Oil Products US), which will construct eight stations with an option for 43 more. The state funds provide $7.6 million and Equilon Enterprises LLC plans to contribute $40.5 million for all 51 station. These stations are approximately proposed at $1.6 million each.

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