• Big banks invested $224B in fracking companies despite it being a really bad financial decision.
  • IBM Research releases its annual 5 in 5 predictions, and this year they’re about sustainability.
  • The UK’s largest green energy provider, Bulb, is making its official US debut in Texas.
  • Arcadia Power is committed to making clean energy work for the planet and your bank account — all without changing your utility company. Sign up to receive your $20 Amazon Gift Card.

Fracking fiasco

Major banks have continued to pour money into fracking companies in recent years despite numerous warnings that the sector is financially unsustainable — on top of the environmental, health, and climate impacts of the dirty industry, according to a new report by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and Oil Change International.

The study reveals that Wells Fargo is the biggest banker of US frackers since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2016, and JPMorgan Chase comes in a close second. Together, they provide almost 40% of financing.

The 51 US fracking-focused companies analyzed in this report received $224 billion in financing since the Paris Agreement was adopted, and US banks dominated. Combined with Citi and Bank of America, these four major Wall Street banks provided over half of financing for US fracking-focused companies since 2016. 

The fracking industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, with dozens of bankruptcies so far this year, but its troubles long predate COVID. The fracking companies analyzed have $120 billion in debt set to mature from 2021 to 2025, much of which now seems unlikely to ever be repaid. In fact, 72% of the bonds issued by these companies were rated non-investment grade when brought to market, compared to only 17% of US bonds issued economy-wide.

Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth, a grassroots citizens’ group fighting to bring an end to unconventional natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania, said:

Continuing to prop up an industry that was failing even before the pandemic hit means more devastation that will be on the backs of Pennsylvanians to clean up.

IBM’s 5 in 5

IBM Research has announced its annual 5 in 5: Five ways technology will change our lives within five years. This year’s futurist list focused on the question, “How can we use technology to reinvent materials design and discovery to find more sustainable solutions to everyday problems?”

This year’s IBM 5 in 5, timed to coincide with the first-ever virtual UN General Assembly, showcases the ways IBM’s research community is applying technologies like AI, quantum and high-performance computing to scale scientific thinking and accelerate discovery to find more sustainable solutions to these challenges. IBM identified the following five core areas in the next five years:

Accelerating discovery to capture and transform CO2’s harmful emissions to mitigate climate change, rethinking batteries and energy storage, finding more sustainable ways to grow crops to feed our surging population, and develop new materials that will help create better antivirals and more sustainable electronic devices.

This year’s 5 in 5 supports a larger IBM initiative that launched today around the Urgency of Science, about the critical need to implement scientific thinking at all scales. IBM is encouraging those who believe in the benefits of science to share messages in support of the #urgencyofscience.

Bulb’s official Texas debut

UK renewable energy company Bulb is making its official US debut in Texas after being the UK’s largest green energy provider.

Bulb has been one of the fastest-growing companies in the UK for the past two years, reflecting a growing demand for renewable energy. When Bulb started, 1% of the UK energy market was renewable. That figure is now 10%.

With its entry into the Texas market, Bulb aims to make energy simpler for Texans with lower and fairer prices, transparency, and excellent service.

Texas is one of the most complex energy markets in the country. Some providers offer as many as 30 different plans. One result of this is that 1 in 5 Texas households switch their energy provider each year. Bulb will provide one plan. It will also add 25 new Texas jobs by 2022.

Hayden Wood, cofounder and CEO of Bulb, said:

Texas has always been an energy leader. Now it’s becoming the model for renewable energy, as the country’s top producer of wind energy and a growing solar hub. However, Texan households have not been guaranteed affordable green energy and great service. That’s why we’re looking forward to learning from and supporting people here while providing them with 100% homegrown renewable energy at better prices.

Photo: Les Stone/Reuters

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