EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 26/05/2020

Foreign Affairs – Hamdi Malik / Iraq can now wrest its sovereignty from Iran

  • Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq’s new prime minister as of May 12, has already announced a bold intention. In a short government manifesto he submitted to the Iraqi Parliament, Kadhimi emphasized his plans to “impose the state’s prestige” by bringing armed groups under government control. 
  • Iranian-backed Iraqi militias such as Kataib Hezbollah, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, among others, operate outside the jurisdiction of the Iraqi state. They are part of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an umbrella military organization that is nominally under Iraqi command but that in fact plays an integral part in projecting Iranian power throughout the region.
  • Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who became prime minister in October 2018, increased the PMF’s budget by 20 percent in 2019 and enabled the Iranian-backed militias to expand their presence in strategic regions, including along the Iraqi-Syrian border, across which they have moved almost freely.
  • Kadhimi has indicated that he has plans to end this state of affairs. Recent developments in Iraq and in the wider region suggest that the new prime minister has a much better chance than his predecessors did of curbing the militias’ influence and consequently, that of Iran.
  • The Economist / Egypt chose a looser lockdown. Its economy is still in crisis

Foreign Policy – Keith Johnson and Robbie Gramer / U.S. falters in bid to replace Chinese rare earths

  • Rising tensions with China and the race to repatriate supply chains in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic have given fresh impetus to U.S. efforts to launch a renaissance in rare earths, the critical minerals at the heart of high technology, clean energy, and especially high-end U.S. defense platforms. 
  • But it’s not going well, despite a slew of new bills and government initiatives aimed at rebuilding a soup-to-nuts rare-earth supply chain in the United States that would, after decades of growing reliance on China and other foreign suppliers, restore U.S. self-reliance in a vital sector.
  • The problem is that, despite years of steadily increasing efforts under the Trump administration, the United States has yet to figure out how to redress the fundamental vulnerabilities in its critical materials supply chain, and America still seems years away from developing the full gamut of rare-earth mining, processing, and refining capabilities it needs if it seeks to wean itself off foreign suppliers.
  • The U.S. Defense Department, meanwhile, is trying to throw money at the problem, putting rare earths at the center of the annual defense acquisition bill three years in a row, with plans this year to massively increase existing Pentagon funding for rare-earth projects. The drive to decouple from China has been thrown into overdrive by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Project Syndicate – Joschka Fischer / The future of global power

Euractiv – Frédéric Simon / Electricity giants join forces on renewable hydrogen

  • Major European electricity groups have issued a joint call urging the European Commission to prioritise renewable hydrogen in its upcoming pandemic recovery plan. The “choose renewable hydrogen” campaign is supported by 10 companies and associations: Akuo Energy, BayWa r.e., EDP, Enel, Iberdrola, MHI Vestas, SolarPower Europe, Ørsted, Vestas and WindEurope.
  • “Hydrogen produced via electrolysis powered by 100% renewable electricity has zero greenhouse gas emissions” and should be Europe’s top priority when supporting a clean hydrogen supply chain, the alliance says in a letter to the Commission. Wind and solar power have become the cheapest source of electricity and are expected to play a major role in decarbonising the economy.
  • But some industrial sectors like steel, chemicals or heavy-duty transport are too expensive or difficult to electrify. “In these sectors renewable hydrogen will play a key role and can be the most cost-effective and sustainable solution for decarbonisation,” the coalition says in the letter, dated 22 May.
  • “Investment in renewable hydrogen has a great potential in terms of jobs and growth creation,” because of existing plans to expand renewable electricity capacity. “When produced by grid connected renewables it offers a real form of sector coupling between the power sector and the other economic sectors,” the coalition says.
  • Financial Times – Richard Milne / Danish groups join forces to deliver green hydrogen project

Bloomberg – Laura Millán Lombraña and Akshat Rathi / These pioneers are already living the green recovery

  • Buildings are responsible for 36% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. There are now more companies doing sustainable construction and renovations than there were when Cubina started out, he says, and architects, builders and contractors are aware of the importance of energy efficient buildings and the use of recycled and sustainable materials. But the changes still haven’t gone deep enough.
  • Cheaper batteries, tough emissions regulation and mass production mean that by later this year some electric vehicles will cost the same as combustion models. Few investors were willing to touch the sector until recently, says Javier Guerra, a Madrid-based managing partner at private equity firm Satif Group.
  • About 25% of all natural gas burned in Europe is used to heat homes. Clean alternatives exist, but technologies such as electric heat pumps are much more expensive and not always viable in dense cities. Although both biogas and natural gas release carbon dioxide when burned, biogas is a lower-carbon alternative when it’s derived from farm waste or energy crops, which have absorbed carbon while growing.
  • Hydrogen burns at very high temperatures and produces only water as a byproduct, making it a possible zero-carbon solution to high-emitting industries such as steel-making, heavy transport, and chemicals manufacturing, none of which can operate on solar or wind alone.
  • Politico – Aitor Hernández-Morales / In COVID-19 Britain it pays to run your washing machine on Sunday afternoon

Today’s perspective:

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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