Canary’s global shipping coverage sets sail with new hire

Maria Gallucci reports on tough-to-decarbonize sectors like aviation, marine transport and more.
By Julian Spector

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(Jeremy Bezanger/Unsplash)

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Here at Canary Media, we love telling a story of that clean energy breakthrough you thought was ages away but is already happening.

Last week, we gave that treatment to the boating world, courtesy of the newest member of our Canary Media news team. Today, I’m going to introduce you to Maria Gallucci, who joins us from Brooklyn, New York. She’s spent years digging into the nautical world to see how to strip carbon emissions from the logistics system that powers the global economy.

Get excited for Maria’s reporting on clean shipping, aviation and other tough-to-decarbonize areas. Follow her on Twitter. And if you have any tips or ideas for stories on that subject, hit us up at [email protected].

Meet Maria!

I don’t know how you greet new colleagues. I’m a journalist, so I conduct a Q&A and then publish it. Here’s what I learned from chatting with Maria.

And if you know any ace editors, we’ve got a job posting up. Your friend or colleague could be the subject of a future Canary Q&A!

Julian Spector: To start, how did you get into the climate and energy beat?

Maria Gallucci: I started covering climate news when I was a freelancer in Mexico. The COP16 was in Cancun, and I covered that as part of a Mexican news team. Then I started freelancing for Inside Climate News, and when I moved to New York, I joined them full time.

Covering clean energy, you end up carving out a beat for yourself and it happens to be extremely relevant for the world. It’s grown so much in terms of technological developments, but also people grasping how important it is and how fundamental to our lives.

Spector: And how’d you get from the general climate beat to this focus on shipping and logistics?

Gallucci: Five years ago, I’d been covering everything happening on land, like solar and wind, etc. Then I read about a sailing cargo ship that was carrying goods from Europe to America and back again. It seemed like such a scrappy climate solution — here’s people using their imagination and their own ideas for addressing climate change. I started looking into that project and it just opened up the whole maritime world for me.

Then I got a fellowship from UT Austin’s Energy Institute to focus on that topic. It gave me an opportunity to get outside the newsroom. I boarded a cargo ship in the Netherlands, went to the Panama Canal, saw a sailing ship getting built in Costa Rica.

Spector: Is there a big idea you’ve learned from reporting on the shipping sector that more people should know about?

Gallucci: It’s given me a greater appreciation for how connected we are to the sector. It feels sort of intangible because it’s not necessarily a part of our everyday lives, but really, it is. Our whole world is enabled by cargo ships getting from point A to point B.

Also, cargo ships are these big, expensive assets designed to last a long time. Ships designed today could still be in use in 2040. So the solutions that we’re working on today, we need to figure them out sooner rather than later.

Spector: As someone who got low-key obsessed with historical nautical fiction as a quarantine escape, I very much look forward to reading your work on this. But that’s not to say you’ll only train your telescope on the high seas. What other areas will you write about at Canary?

Gallucci: I’m really interested in learning more about community initiatives — seeing how the clean economy actually plays out in people’s lives and how people can participate in the transition more fully.

The other types of stories that interest me are these tricky sectors where there are no easy answers, but it’s fun to explore how it could be possible.

Spector: And what do you do for fun when you aren’t boarding container ships in the Netherlands?

Gallucci: Pre-Covid, I loved traveling and going to new places. Now, I like doing that in my neighborhood with my family.

Batteries for boats

I know some of you have been wondering when we’d see action in the electric boating world. Maria dug into this emerging sector for her first Canary story and found that there’s a whole ecosystem of entrepreneurs raising real money and building products. Their boats are ready to ship!

This is a good example of clean energy tech with the potential to provide a better experience than the fossil-fueled status quo. Imagine zipping down a scenic waterway and not breathing diesel fumes, leaking fluids into the otherwise pristine waters and screaming to be heard over cacophonous motors.

To get there, the tech needs to come a long way still. Right now, the electric boats are more expensive than their conventional counterparts, and they can run out of juice pretty swiftly.

For those looking to clean up their recreational boating, Pure Watercraft offers:

  • A 50-horsepower electric outboard motor that can speed along at 25 miles per hour — but the battery only lasts for an hour at top speed. 
  • A rigid inflatable boat with the Pure electric motor system, the kind that carries people from shore to yacht. 
  • The motor plus charger is $16,500. The boat is $29,000.

For those looking to invest even more capital in a depreciating asset, check out the Arc One motorboat:

  • 24 feet of streamlined luxury, loaded with 200 kilowatt-hours of battery storage to run a 475-horsepower electric motor.
  • Sticker price: $300,000.

That’s just the beginning though. Expect a Tesla-style trajectory, starting with luxury products and working down to mass market.

I’ll say one thing about these boats: They’re far more photogenic than the boxes of batteries I often write about.

Carbon dioxide, but good

I recently met up with a newcomer to the long-duration energy storage space that is trying to store power cheaply for up to 24 hours. The company is called Energy Dome, based in Italy, and it stores energy by cycling carbon dioxide from gaseous to liquid state and back again.

There’s a cadre of startups touting their use of off-the-shelf” equipment to reduce technology risk. What’s notable here is just how quickly Energy Dome sprang into action. It launched in 2019 and found a customer for its first 100-megawatt-hour project earlier this month.

That’s the kind of pace that’s needed to get novel clean energy tech out working for the grid ASAP. It’s a far cry from the conventional growth of lithium-ion alternatives, which involves years of tinkering in labs, followed by years of insignificant pilot projects, followed by ???.

Energy Dome also raised an $11 million Series A to coincide with its project announcement. That’s looking increasingly like bake-sale money for today’s cleantech market. But there’s something refreshing about a company exerting financial restraint when there’s so much easy money floating around.

Julian Spector is a senior reporter at Canary Media. He reports on batteries, long-duration energy storage, low-carbon hydrogen and clean energy breakthroughs around the world.