Monthly Archives: September 2021

Weekly News Check-In 9/17/21

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Welcome back.

Lewis Carroll published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, early in the industrial period and nearly a hundred years before the nascent fossil fuel industry launched its mind-warping climate disinformation campaign to delay meaningful and rational action to avoid the planetary catastrophe baked into their business model. While collecting articles this week, I found myself asking more than once, “How did he know?”

Let’s begin with an overview of how utilities are still selling gas burning peaking power plants as solutions to our need to cut emissions. Also, Canada claims to be reducing emissions while pushing hard to complete the Trans Mountain tar-sands oil pipeline, even as giant Chubb becomes the sixteenth insurer to drop coverage. And while a Congressional committee calls for oil majors to testify next month about their organized and sustained influence and disinformation campaigns, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin threatens to hold up meaningful climate legislation because, “What is the urgency?”.

“Well, I never heard it before, but it sounds uncommon nonsense.” – L.C.

How about this for urgency… renowned climate scientist James Hansen predicts that, due to a reduction in aerosol pollution, the rate of global warming over the next 25 years could be double what we experienced in the previous 50. Again, Lewis Carroll on what that means for our climate mitigation efforts: “My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”

Meanwhile, back in the real world, efforts are underway to build out lithium battery recycling centers and diversify the green economy workforce. Australian startup SunDrive posted a power output efficiency record with its new solar PV module – using relatively abundant copper in its design instead of silver – a significant clean energy development. And energy storage company EnerVenue has found a way to bring long-duration nickel-hydrogen batteries down in price and down from space, where they have been successfully deployed for years – including on the International Space Station and Hubble Telescope.

At least as important as all that nice technology is actually leaning into the monumental task of improving the energy efficiency of our built environment. While Connecticut falls behind on this effort, the town of Brookline, Massachusetts doggedly pursues a ban on gas hookups for new construction – a key motivator for progress in this area.

We’re using our Clean Transportation section to spotlight where all the lithium for electric vehicles is likely to come from, and also launch a discussion about the biofuel “solution” to aviation emissions – too good to be true?

In the spirit of reality checks, we found some reasonable skepticism about Iceland’s big new carbon capture and sequestration project. The issue is whether it can ever be scaled up to a level that matches the need.

While much of this week’s fossil fuel industry news was just silly, we found some serious reporting on coal. The first article describes the utter environmental devastation caused by a partnership between Wall Street money and mountaintop-removal mining operations in Appalachia. The second notes that plans for most new coal plants have been cancelled in the six years since the Paris Climate Agreement.

We’ll close with a report on efforts in Massachusetts to remove renewable energy subsidies from woody biomass. And for anyone who still maintains that biomass is carbon neutral as it’s being harvested, processed, and burned, we’ll let Lewis Carroll have the last word: “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

button - BEAT News For even more environmental news, info, and events, check out the latest newsletter from our colleagues at Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT)!

— The NFGiM Team

PEAKING POWER PLANTS

CenterPoint
Fight over ‘peaker’ plants poses grid climate test
By Miranda Willson, E&E News
August 24, 2021

A proposed natural gas power plant and pipeline project in southwestern Indiana are drawing fire out of concerns that they will add more pollution to a region saddled with fossil fuel infrastructure.

The controversy surrounding CenterPoint Energy Inc.’s plans for the site of an aging coal plant near Evansville, Ind., highlights a broader debate over natural gas “peaker” plants — backup power producers that rarely run but can be ramped up quickly when electricity demand is high.

Some electric utilities are proposing new peaker units as coal plants retire and the power grid becomes more dependent on intermittent solar and wind farms, but the gas projects face opposition from local environmental groups who say their communities are already overburdened by emissions-spewing facilities.

In addition to the fight brewing near Evansville, utilities in Peabody, Mass., and Queens, N.Y., have similarly proposed new “peaking” gas units at the sites of existing or retiring fossil fuel generators. In all three cases, activists contend that the closure of fossil fuel plants should be used as opportunities to remedy historic environmental injustices.

“The majority of peaker plants across the country are sited in low-income areas and communities of color, many of which are already overburdened by decades of pollution from fossil-fuel infrastructure, industrial processes, and heavy transportation,” Seth Mullendore, vice president of the nonprofit advocacy organization Clean Energy Group, said in an email.

Because new peaker plants are often used less than 10% of the time and release less carbon dioxide than coal plants, environmentalists don’t always challenge them. In Minnesota, for example, several clean energy groups were “encouraged” by Xcel Energy Inc.’s plan to build new solar and wind projects as well as a transmission line, even though it also included two small gas units (Energywire, June 28). The groups added that they are still reviewing the plan and the need for the gas units.

Peaker plants built today are also much more energy efficient and lower-cost than older versions, said Alex Bond, deputy general counsel for climate and clean energy at the Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities.

Nonetheless, clean energy groups are calling on utilities to pursue more advanced solutions to the grid reliability issues posed by renewables, such as battery storage, demand-response programs and power lines to connect to far-flung solar or wind farms. And some environmentalists in communities with a legacy of fossil fuels perceive new gas plants as half measures toward clean air.
» Read article                 

» More about peaker plants

PIPELINES

TMX pipe
Liberals say Trans Mountain pipeline could stay open until 2060
By Brian Hill, Global News
September 14, 2021

The Trans Mountain Pipeline could remain operational for another “30 to 40 years,” according to Liberal candidate Jonathan Wilkinson.

Wilkinson, who is also the current environment minister, made the remarks during an interview with Global News on Sept. 13 about the future of fossil fuels and pipelines in Canada.

“What you’re going to start to see is declining demand for oil over the coming 30 years — 40 years perhaps in the context of some of the developing countries,” Wilkinson said.

“And so, in that context, I would say that the utilization of the Trans Mountain Pipeline is probably in that order of 30 to 40 years.”

Wilkinson said building and operating the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, which will increase the existing pipeline’s current capacity from 300,000 barrels a day to 890,000 barrels, will ensure Canadian energy producers receive “full value” for the oil they extract by opening up foreign markets other than the United States.

Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada and an instructor of environmental studies at the University of Toronto, said expanding any pipeline at a time of decreasing demand for fossil fuels is illogical.

“When you’re supposedly moving to a zero carbon economy, that doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Stewart said.

“There’s this notion that we can basically get off fossil fuels, and yet somehow continue to export them.”

A report recently published in the journal Nature said 84 per cent of Canada’s 49 billion barrels of proven oil sand reserves, and nearly two-thirds of global oil supplies, must remain “unextracted” to avoid temperatures rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. That target was set at the 2015 Paris climate change summit.

“Canada’s resources are really expensive to extract, in addition to having a super high carbon intensity,” said Caroline Brouilette, domestic policy manager at Climate Action Network Canada. “In a global market, where demand has to decrease, those resources that are the most expensive and most polluting will have to be the first one to stay in the ground.”
» Read article                  
» Read the Journal Nature report

» More about pipelines                    

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

gas station damage
House Panel Expands Inquiry Into Climate Disinformation by Oil Giants
Executives from Exxon, Shell, BP and others are being called to testify in Congress next month after a secret recording this year exposed an Exxon official boasting of such efforts.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
September 16, 2021

The House Oversight Committee has widened its inquiry into the oil and gas industry’s role in spreading disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming, calling on top executives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Royal Dutch Shell, as well as the lobby groups American Petroleum Institute and the United States Chamber of Commerce, to testify before Congress next month.

The move comes as Washington is wrestling with major climate legislation intended to slash the nation’s reliance on oil and gas, and in a year of climate disasters that have affected millions of Americans. Raging wildfires in the West burned more than two million acres, one of the strongest hurricanes ever to make landfall in the United States left a path of destruction from Louisiana to New York City, and heat waves smashed records and delivered life-threatening conditions to regions unaccustomed to extreme heat.

Thursday’s demands from the powerful Oversight Committee put senior executives from some of the world’s largest oil companies at the center of an investigation into the role their industry has played in undermining the scientific consensus that the burning of fossil fuels is a root cause of global warming.

“We are deeply concerned that the fossil fuel industry has reaped massive profits for decades while contributing to climate change that is devastating American communities, costing taxpayers billions of dollars, and ravaging the natural world,” read the letter to Darren Woods, the Exxon chief executive.

“We are also concerned that to protect those profits, the industry has reportedly led a coordinated effort to spread disinformation to mislead the public and prevent crucial action to address climate change,” the letter said.
» Read article                   

» More about protests and actions

DIVESTMENT

TMP - Chubb out
BREAKING: Trans Mountain Loses 16th Insurer as Industry Giant Chubb Walks Away
By The Energy Mix
September 14, 2021

The world’s biggest publicly-traded provider of property and casualty insurance, Chubb, has become the 16th insurer to declare that it won’t back the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline, a coalition of climate and Indigenous campaigners announced yesterday.

The flurry of social media activity was triggered by a single tweet from Financial Times insurance correspondent Ian Smith, with no elaborating news story as The Energy Mix went to virtual press Tuesday evening. “Chubb does not provide insurance coverage for any tar sands projects,” a spokesperson told Smith, following a protest at the U.S. Open tennis tournament earlier this month.

Chubb became the official insurance sponsor for the annual tournament last year.

At the U.S. Open last week, campaigners “erected a 15-foot inflatable of Chubb CEO Evan Greenberg to demand he act on climate change,” Insure Our Future wrote in a release. “U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) wrote to Greenberg in March asking how Chubb’s underwriting policies align with its sustainability commitments.”

That was apparently enough pressure for Chubb, which became the first U.S. insurer to withdraw investment and risk coverage from coal projects in 2019. That action made the company a leader at the time, Insure Our Future said, “but the company has not made any additional climate commitments since then. In recent months, it has been under increasing pressure for its involvement with the tar sands industry.”
» Read article                   

shift
Harvard to Divest Fossil Fuels, Sets Example for Other Institutions
By The Energy Mix
September 12, 2021

Climate activists are hailing Harvard University’s move to divest from fossil fuels as a profound shift in the status quo and a model for other institutions.

The iconic and wealthy university’s decision to go fossil-free comes after years of resisting calls to divest, writes The Washington Post, citing Harvard President Larry S. Bacow’s invocation of the climate crisis as the reason for the about-face.

“We must act now as citizens, as scholars, and as an institution to address this crisis on as many fronts as we have at our disposal,” Bacow said in an open letter explaining the shift.

The university’s a call to action “is likely to have ripple effects in higher education and beyond, given Harvard’s US$41-billion endowment and its iconic status among American institutions,” notes the Post. Along with ending all direct investment in fossil exploration or development, Harvard “also plans to allow its remaining indirect investments in the fossil fuel industry—through private equity funds—to lapse without renewal.”

That figure currently stands at about 2% of the endowment, the Post says.

“Harvard is really a very potent symbol of the status quo,” said Richard Brooks, climate finance director at San Francisco-based Stand.earth. “With this move, they have shifted the status quo. That’s where the power of this announcement and this change really lies.”
» Read article                  
» Read Harvard President Larry S. Bacow’s letter

» More about divestment

LEGISLATION

urgency is obvious
In the Democrats’ Budget Package, a Billion Tons of Carbon Cuts at Stake
The package is imperiled by opposition from Joe Manchin, a coal state Democrat, who is balking at the costs, and advocates fear the chance won’t come again.
By Marianne Lavelle, Inside Climate News
September 17, 2021

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia was explaining why he opposed his Democratic colleagues’ $3.5 trillion budget plan, but his words summed up the Congressional response on climate change for the past 30 years.

“What is the urgency?” asked Manchin in an appearance on CNN on Sunday.

With climate action advocates now in a race against both the forces of nature and the political calendar, some might say the answer is obvious.

The legislation that Manchin wants to stall contains the policies that most Democratic senators see as the best hope left to make the deep cuts in greenhouse gases necessary to curb devastating planetary warming.

With a key round of international climate talks scheduled for November in Glasgow—the first since the United States rejoined the Paris accord—Congressional action now would demonstrate the nation’s commitment to President Joe Biden’s ambitious pledge to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2030.

And with the Democrats’ slim majority in both the House and Senate in jeopardy in next year’s midterm elections, the budget package may mark the last opportunity to act.

“We have a responsibility now—while we don’t have fossil fuel-funded Republican control in the House or the Senate, and while we have President Biden in the White House—to get this done,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) at a rally outside the Capitol on Monday. “If we miss this moment, it is not clear when we will have a second chance.”
» Read article                   

» More about legislation

GREENING THE ECONOMY

elemental
Li-ion battery recycling specialist Li-Cycle plans Alabama facility after demand exceeds expectations
By Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
September 13, 2021

Lithium battery recycling company Li-Cycle is planning its fourth facility in North America, the company said, as it made its first financial results release since listing on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in August.

The new plant will be built in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which Li-Cycle co-founder and executive chairman Tim Johnston said is in response to demand for lithium-ion battery recycling exceeding the company’s expectations. Li-Cycle builds ‘Hub and Spoke’ facilities: lithium batteries are dismantled and turned into ‘black mass’ which contains all their different metals at Spokes and then the black mass is processed at Hubs.

The company has two Spokes already in operation in Kingston, Ontario, and Rochester in Upstate New York and then announced a further Spoke in Arizona in April to meet both supply and demand from the West Coast. Meanwhile it is still developing its first Hub, which will also be in Rochester and is expected to be its major revenue-generator.

Li-Cycle is betting, as are many in the battery industry, that recycling will become a big opportunity further down the line and has sought to enter the space early. At the moment the majority of its feedstock comes from the 5% to 10% of assembly line batteries that manufacturers reject, but it is anticipating a “tsunami” of end-of-life batteries to begin in the next couple of years.
» Read article                   

help wanted
E2: ‘The face of clean energy is predominantly White and male’
By Emma Penrod, Utility Dive
September 14, 2021

People of color and women are “vastly underrepresented” in clean energy jobs compared to the U.S. workforce at large, and many underrepresented groups lost ground between 2017 and 2020, according to a report released last week by BW Research Partnership, E2, and a coalition of clean energy industry groups.

Underrepresented racial and ethnic groups hold just four in ten clean energy jobs, according to the report. Black workers were the most poorly represented in the sector, composing 8% of clean energy jobs compared to 13% of the U.S. workforce as a whole.

With people of color and women now representing the majority of young students in the U.S., clean energy companies could face labor shortages in the future if they fail to recruit more diverse workers, according to Paula Glover, president of the Alliance to Save Energy. “If you’ve done nothing and know nobody, then your roadway is a lot longer than someone who has been at it a long time,” she said.
» Read article                  
» Read the E2 report

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

the devil collects
The Rate of Global Warming During Next 25 Years Could Be Double What it Was in the Previous 50, a Renowned Climate Scientist Warns
Former NASA climate scientist James Hansen urged Congress decades ago to act on climate change. Now he says he expects reduced aerosol pollution to lead to a steep temperature rise.
By Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News
September 15, 2021

James Hansen, a climate scientist who shook Washington when he told Congress 33 years ago that human emissions of greenhouse gases were cooking the planet, is now warning that he expects the rate of global warming to double in the next 20 years.

While still warning that it is carbon dioxide and methane that are driving global warming, Hansen said that, in this case, warming is being accelerated by the decline of other industrial pollutants that they’ve cleaned from it.

Plunging sulfate aerosol emissions from industrial sources, particularly shipping, could lead global temperatures to surge well beyond the levels prescribed by the Paris Climate Agreement as soon as 2040 “unless appropriate countermeasures are taken,” Hansen wrote, together with Makiko Sato, in a monthly temperature analysis published in August by the Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions center at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

Declining sulfate aerosols makes some clouds less reflective, enabling more solar radiation to reach and warm land and ocean surfaces.

Since his Congressional testimony rattled Washington, D.C. a generation ago, Hansen’s climate warnings have grown more urgent, but they are still mostly unheeded. In 2006, when he was head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, George W. Bush’s administration tried to stop him from speaking out about the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The removal of air pollution, either through air quality measures or because combustion processes are phased out to get rid of CO2, will result in an increase in the resulting rate of warming,” said climate scientist and IPCC report author Joeri Rogelj, director of research at the Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute.

There’s a fix for at least some of this short-term increase in the rate of warming, he said.

“The only measures that can counteract this increased rate of warming over the next decades are methane reductions,” Rogelj said. “I just want to highlight that methane reductions have always been part of the portfolio of greenhouse gas emissions reductions that are necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. This new evidence only further emphasizes this need.”
» Read article               

methane plume
U.S., EU pursuing global deal to slash planet-warming methane – documents
By Kate Abnett and Valerie Volcovici, Reuters
September 14, 2021

BRUSSELS/WASHINGTON, Sept 13 (Reuters) – The United States and the European Union have agreed to aim to cut emissions of the planet-warming gas methane by around a third by the end of this decade and are pushing other major economies to join them, according to documents seen by Reuters.

Their pact comes as Washington and Brussels seek to galvanize other major economies ahead of a world summit to address climate change in Glasgow, Scotland, in November, and could have a significant impact on the energy, agriculture and waste industries responsible for the bulk of methane emissions.

The greenhouse gas methane, the biggest cause of climate change after carbon dioxide (CO2), is facing more scrutiny as governments seek solutions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, a goal of the Paris climate agreement.

In an attempt to jumpstart the action, the United States and the EU later this week will make a joint pledge to reduce human-caused methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030, compared with 2020 levels, according to a draft of the Global Methane Pledge seen by Reuters.

“The short atmospheric lifetime of methane means that taking action now can rapidly reduce the rate of global warming,” the draft said.
» Read article                   

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

new breed
Australia’s breakthrough solar tech has eye on rooftop and mega-project markets
By Giles Parkinson, Renew Economy
September 15, 2021

The Australian start up that has achieved a major new benchmark for solar cell efficiency says it hopes to target the rooftop solar market first and then expand into some of the mega, multi-gigawatt scale projects proposed in the north and west of Australia.

SunDrive, a solar start-up founded six years ago in a Sydney garage by two UNSW graduates, last week claimed a world record of 25.54 per cent for commercial size silicon solar cell efficiency, from testing carried out by Germany’s Institute for Solar Energy Research at Hamelin.

The significance of this, however, was not so much the record in itself – impressive as it was – it was the fact that it was achieved using a new breed of solar cells that rely on more abundant and cheaper copper rather than the silver traditionally used in solar cells.

The switch from silver to more abundant and lower cost copper is the principal aim of SunDrive, and the goal when graduates and flatmates Vince Allen and David Hu set up operations in a Sydney suburban garage in 2015, with the backing of solar industry luminary Zhengrong Shi, the founder of Suntech.
» Read article                 

ITER magnet
Magnet milestones move distant nuclear fusion dream closer
Teams working on two continents have marked similar milestones in their respective efforts to master nuclear fusion
By FRANK JORDANS, SETH BORENSTEIN and DANIEL COLE, Associated Press, in The Berkshire Eagle
September 9, 2021

SAINT-PAUL-LES-DURANCE, France (AP) — Teams working on two continents have marked similar milestones in their respective efforts to tap an energy source key to the fight against climate change: They’ve each produced very impressive magnets.

On Thursday, scientists at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in southern France took delivery of the first part of a massive magnet so strong its American manufacturer claims it can lift an aircraft carrier.

Almost 60 feet (nearly 20 meters) tall and 14 feet (more than four meters) in diameter when fully assembled, the magnet is a crucial component in the attempt by 35 nations to master nuclear fusion.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists and a private company announced separately this week that they, too, have hit a milestone with the successful test of the world’s strongest high temperature superconducting magnet that may allow the team to leapfrog ITER in the race to build a ‘sun on earth.’
» Read article                   

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Hartcord CT
Connecticut losing ground on building emissions despite efficiency programs

Climate activists say the state’s progress on reducing building emissions has been far too slow given the pace of the climate crisis, and that it needs to end incentives for energy-efficient natural gas heating.
By Lisa Prevost, Energy News Network
September 15, 2021

Greenhouse gas emissions from heating and cooling buildings continue to rise in Connecticut despite the state’s efforts to improve energy efficiency.

An annual greenhouse gas inventory released last week for 2018 — the latest available data — showed vehicle exhaust remains the state’s largest problem, but the sharpest year-over-year increase came in the residential sector. Commercial building emissions were also higher.

The report attributes the increases to greater cold-weather heating demand, but climate activists underscore the state’s lack of progress on building emissions, which are roughly the same as they were a decade ago. They say the state lags on the adoption of electric heat pumps relative to the rest of New England, continues to expand its natural gas infrastructure, and doesn’t allow municipalities to adopt more stringent efficiency standards for new buildings.

Just one day after the emissions report was released, the state’s Energy Efficiency Board approved the next round of ratepayer-funded energy efficiency incentives, and despite pleas not to do so, included subsidies to entice homeowners to switch from oil heating to high-efficiency natural gas furnaces. Activists met the news with incredulity.

“Continuing to subsidize polluting fossil fuels defies logic,” said Shannon Laun, a staff attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation, in a statement. “If Connecticut continues subsidizing gas heating, the state will not meet its climate goals and our communities will suffer.”

“I’m not seeing very much in the way of a change in the standard way of doing business in Connecticut, which is just continuing to do things they way they’ve been done for the last several decades,” said Bruce Becker, a Westport-based developer who specializes in highly efficient building projects and is converting a former office building in New Haven into what could be the country’s first net-zero-energy hotel. “Public utilities are still sending out mailers to get people to convert to natural gas, which is not helping.”
» Read article                   

gas-lit flame
Brookline Tries Again For A Fossil-Free Future
By Bruce Gellerman, WBUR
June 3, 2021

On June 2 Brookline voted, again, to become the first municipality in Massachusetts with an ordinance designed to keep fossil-fuel hookups out of new buildings. This was the town’s second attempt to get builders to go all-electric in future construction.

Brookline’s first attempt, which was overwhelmingly approved in Town Meeting in 2019, was declared unlawful by Attorney General Maura Healey because it superseded state authority. Healey said she supported Brookline’s clean-energy goals, however.

This time, instead of banning fossil-fuel installations in future construction, Town Meeting members proposed two carefully-worded warrant articles. Instead of a ban, the proposals require that people applying for special construction permits agree to go fossil-free in exchange for permit approval. Both proposals passed by margins of more than 200 to 3.

Brookline Town Meeting member Lisa Cunningham, one of the leaders of the effort, says municipalities must take action because the state, which is legally obligated to reduce climate emissions to net zero by 2050, has no mechanism for limiting fossil fuel use. Buildings account for 27% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Brookline’s new ordinances “won’t get us where we have to go,” Cunningham said, “but it is a first step and we really need to stop making this problem worse; we need to make it better.”

The Attorney General’s Municipal Law Unit will review Brookline’s new ordinances before they go into effect. The office has 90 days for review, which can be extended to six months.
» Read article                   

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

EnerVenue
EnerVenue to use latest funding to build gigawatt-scale nickel-hydrogen battery factory in USA
By Kelly Pickerel, Solar Power World
September 15, 2021

Metal-hydrogen battery company EnerVenue announced today it has raised $100 million in Series A funding that it will use to build a gigawatt-scale factory in the United States, accelerate R&D efforts and expand its salesforce.

EnerVenue’s batteries use nickel-hydrogen technology that has been tested for decades on the International Space Station and Hubble Space Telescope. The company formed in 2020 to bring the NASA-originated technology to grid-scale and other stationary power applications.

“With the durability, flexibility, reliability, and safety of its batteries, EnerVenue is delivering a unique and future-proof solution for grid-scale energy storage,” said Jorg Heinemann, CEO, EnerVenue. “We have proven the advantages that our next-generation nickel-hydrogen battery delivers and are excited to accelerate our journey forward with Series A backing and our agreement with Schlumberger.”

EnerVenue nickel-hydrogen batteries can work in -40° to 60°C (140°F) temperatures with projected 30,000-cycle lifespans. With no lithium, the batteries have no thermal runaway risk. Also with no toxic materials and easily separable parts, the batteries are expected to be 100% recyclable.
» Read article                   

» More about energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

white gold ev boom
In Argentina’s north, a ‘white gold’ rush for EV metal lithium gathers pace
By Agustin Geist, Reuters
September 14, 2021

Beneath the South American country’s highland salt flats, reached by winding mountain roads, is buried the world’s third largest reserve of the ultra-light battery metal, which has seen a price spike over the past year on the back of a global push towards greener modes of transport.

Already the fourth top producer of lithium worldwide, Argentina’s national and local governments are now looking to speed up development, held back for years by red tape, high tax rates, rampant inflation and currency controls.

Provinces like Salta are building regional mining logistics nodes and access roads, lowering tax rates and rationalizing confusing rules for the sector to attract investment in the ‘white gold’ metal.

That has seen a flurry of new activity, deals and plans to ramp up production, which could make Argentina a key player in the electric vehicle supply chain in coming years, with demand from carmakers and buyers like China expected to gain pace.

“Argentina could become the world’s leading producer from brines in less than a decade if the flow of projects is followed and maintained,” David Guerrero Alvarado, a consultant advising Canada’s Alpha Lithium, told Reuters in Salta.

Alpha Lithium is in the investigation stage for a project in the nearby Salar Tolillar, one of many early-stage developments that – while offering promise – need an often long and costly process to be turned into a reality.

With countries around the world scrambling to reduce emissions, rising global lithium demand and surging prices have drawn increased interest in the so-called ‘lithium triangle’ that spans parts of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.
» Read article                   

environmental toll
Biden Outlines a Plan for Cleaner Jet Fuel. But How Clean Would It Be?
Some biofuels may contribute to greenhouse gas emissions in ways that can significantly reduce, and sometimes offset, their advantages over fossil fuels, studies have shown.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
September 13, 2021

At first glance, it’s a big step forward in curbing climate change. In a deal announced Thursday, the Biden administration and the airline industry agreed to an ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050, a target meant to drive down flying’s environmental toll.

As early as 2030, President Biden said, the United States will aim to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about 10 percent of current jet fuel use — from waste, plants and other organic matter, reducing aviation’s emissions of planet-warming gases by 20 percent and creating jobs.

The airline industry has set sustainable fuel targets before. The International Air Transport Association, a trade group of the world’s airlines, had pledged to replace 10 percent of the jet fuel it uses with sustainable fuels by 2017. That year has come and gone, and sustainable fuels are still stuck at far less than 1 percent of supply.

Could it be different this time?

It could. Momentum is building for action even in industries like aviation, which are particularly reliant on burning fossil fuels, because powering planes solely with batteries, especially for long-haul flights, is tricky.

But there’s a twist: Depending on the type of alternative fuel, using billions of gallons of it could hurt, not help, the climate.

Scientists’ concerns center on the complicated calculations that go into assessing the true climate-friendliness of biofuels, a major subset of sustainable fuels. Growing crops like corn and soy to be made into biofuels can significantly change how land is used, and trigger emissions increases — for example, if forests are cut down or grassland is dug up to make way for those crops.

Add in the emissions from fertilizers, and from transporting and processing the crops into fuel, and the overall climate costs become unclear. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that corn ethanol emits just 20 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline, and that calculation doesn’t fully take into account past land-use changes, scientists say. Scientific studies have long shown that biofuels can be as polluting as fossil fuels.
» Read article                   

» More about clean transportation

CARBON CAPTURE AND SEQUESTRATION

carbfix
Critics question viability of world’s largest carbon sucking plant
By Andy Rowel, Oil Change International l Blog Post
September 13, 2021

The latest techno-fix to try and reduce carbon dioxide emissions has begun operations in a remote, bleak landscape of Iceland.

Called Orca, or Icelandic for energy, it is the first such facility to suck carbon dioxide out the air and then permanently dispose of it underground as it dissolves into rock.

Climeworks’ co-chief executive Jan Wurzbacher told the Financial Times, “this is the first time we are extracting CO2 from the air commercially and combining it with underground storage.”

Most CCS projects to date try and capture carbon dioxide in a smoke stack after carbon has been burnt, where concentrations of CO2 can be as high as ten percent. However, the Orca plant extracts carbon dioxide directly out of the air, which is less than 0.05 per cent.

So although this plant is different from other CCS projects, such as Gorgon in Australia, it is easy to question whether this is another so-called solution that offers false hope at a time-scale that is unrealistic.

Firstly, it is way more expensive than other CCS projects. As Bloomberg notes: “Individuals wanting to purchase carbon offsets can pay the company up to $1,200 per ton of CO2.”

And then there is CCS’s perennial problem of scale. The new Orca facility, which is built by Swiss startup Climeworks and Iceland’s Carbfix, will capture 4,000 tons of CO2 a year, which according to Bloomberg Green, makes “it the largest direct-air capture facility in the world.”

As with much CCS technology, there is immediately a problem. 4,000 tons of CO2 is the equivalent of the annual emissions of 250 US residents or some 870 cars. As other CCS projects, it is not living up to the hype or the hope. Also to put it in perspective, 33 billions tons of CO2 will be emitted this year.
» Read article                   

» More about CCS

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

mountaintop-removal coal mining
When Wall Street came to coal country: how a big-money gamble scarred Appalachia
Around the turn of the millennium, hedge fund investors put an audacious bet on coal mining in the US. The bet failed – but it was the workers and the environment that paid the price.
By Evan Osnos, The Guardian
September 14, 2021

Around the turn of this century, hedge funds in New York and its environs took a growing interest in coalmines. Coal never had huge appeal to Wall Street investors – mines were dirty, old-fashioned and bound up by union contracts that made them difficult to buy and sell. But in the late 1990s, the growing economies of Asia began to consume more and more energy, which investors predicted would drive up demand halfway around the world, in Appalachia. In 1997, the Hobet mine, a 25-year-old operation in rural West Virginia, was acquired for the first time by a public company, Arch Coal. It embarked on a major expansion, dynamiting mountaintops and dumping the debris into rivers and streams. As the Hobet mine grew, it consumed the ridges and communities around it. Seen from the air, the mine came to resemble a giant grey amoeba – 22 miles from end to end – eating its way across the mountains.

This was more than just the usual tradeoff between profit and pollution, another turn in the cycle of industry and cleanup. Mountaintop removal was, fundamentally, a more destructive realm of technology. It had barely existed until the 90s, and it took some time before scientists could measure the effects on the land and the people. For ecologists, the southern Appalachians was a singular domain – one of the most productive, diverse temperate hardwood forests on the planet. For aeons, the hills had contained more species of salamander than anywhere else, and a lush canopy that attracts neotropical migratory birds across thousands of miles to hatch their next generation. But a mountaintop mine altered the land from top to bottom: after blasting off the peaks – which miners call the “overburden” – bulldozers pushed the debris down the hillsides, where it blanketed the streams and rivers. Rainwater filtered down through a strange human-made stew of metal, pyrite, sulphur, silica, salts and coal, exposed to the air for the first time. The rain mingled with the chemicals and percolated down the hills, funnelling into the brooks and streams and, finally, into the rivers on the valley floor, which sustained the people of southern West Virginia.
» Read article                   

Nantong coal plant
Most plans for new coal plants scrapped since Paris agreement
Report by climate groups found more than three-quarters of projects were discarded after the deal was signed
By Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian
September 14, 2021

The global pipeline of new coal power plants has collapsed since the 2015 Paris climate agreement, according to research that suggests the end of the polluting energy source is in sight.

The report found that more than three-quarters of the world’s planned plants have been scrapped since the climate deal was signed, meaning 44 countries no longer have any future coal power plans.

The climate groups behind the report – E3G, Global Energy Monitor and Ember – said those countries now have the opportunity to join the 40 countries that have already signed up to a “no new coal” commitment to help tackle global carbon emissions.

“Only five years ago, there were so many new coal power plants planned to be built, but most of these have now been either officially halted, or are paused and unlikely to ever be built,” said Dave Jones, from Ember.

“Multiple countries can add their voices to a snowball of public commitments to ‘no new coal’, collectively delivering a key milestone to sealing coal’s fate.”

The remaining coal power plants in the pipeline are spread across 31 countries, half of which have only one planned for the future.

Chris Littlecott, the associate director at E3G, said the economics of coal have become “increasingly uncompetitive in comparison to renewable energy, while the risk of stranded assets has increased”.
» Read article                   

» More about fossil fuels

BIOMASS

Pinetree power station
New bill would eliminate subsidies for biomass energy
By State House News Service
September 14, 2021

With regulations ready to take effect that effectively close about 90 percent of the state’s land area to new wood-burning power generation facilities, Springfield-area lawmakers on Monday pushed for legislation that would more permanently eliminate state clean energy program subsidies for biomass anywhere in the Bay State.

Sens. Eric Lesser and Adam Gomez, and Rep. Orlando Ramos, each of whom represent parts of the western Mass. city known as the asthma capital of the United States, were joined by Boston Rep. Jay Livingstone in calling for the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy to issue favorable reports on bills (H 3333/S 2197) that would remove state incentives for facilities that burn wood products to generate power.

“The purpose of these two bills, and they are identical, is to remove woody biomass as an eligible fuel source in Massachusetts’ renewable energy portfolio standard, RPS, and the alternative energy portfolio standard, the APS standard,” Lesser, an opponent of a controversial wood-burning power plant proposed in East Springfield, said. “I want to be clear … H 3333 and S 2197 do not outright ban biomass. What they do is they eliminate the subsidy for biomass, and I feel strongly that Massachusetts ratepayers should not be subsidizing what is an inherently dirty fuel.”
» Read article                   

» More about biomass

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Weekly News Check-In 9/10/21

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Welcome back.

With Labor Day behind us, data confirm that we just experienced the hottest Summer on record. Our event calendar – extending well into the Fall – includes deadly heat waves, wildfires, floods, and hurricanes. We were warned, beginning decades ago and repeatedly with increasing urgency. But we’re still locking in a hotter, more dangerous future.

With that in mind, we’re leading this week with profiles of individuals and groups whose hard work, sacrifice, protests, and actions have given us a shot at turning this around. These activists have also inspired others – and that is a foundation for hope.

The outcome is far from certain. Important climate legislation hangs in precarious partisan balance, while the shape of the future green economy is contested between established workers and a new generation with their own fresh ideas. Imagine being Jimmy Carter, who as president steered the country through a second major oil supply crisis in the ’70s and set the U.S. on an ambitious pivot toward renewable energy – only to see momentum lost to climate denial, Big Oil, Reagan, and the rest.

President Biden’s ambitious new program to generate 45% of the nation’s energy from solar by 2050 is a nod to Carter’s vision. Meanwhile, the question of where to locate all those solar panels is generating lots of debate and considerable innovation. The other half of that equation requires buildings to greatly increase energyefficiency. Long-duration energy storage ensures that energy is available whenever it’s needed, and to that end a Minnesota electricity cooperative is testing promising new iron-air battery technology. Then there’s aviation, which may be the hardest sector to clean up. We found a guide to six big problems to solve on the way to friendly skies.

As we glean energy from the sun and wind, store it away to use when necessary, and upgrade our buildings from energy guzzlers to sippers, it’s worth considering whether there’s room in that world for cryptocurrency. Another puzzler: will just-nominated Willie Phillips bring what’s needed to reform the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or are his industry ties too deep?

It’s time to pay attention to carbon capture and sequestration. We’ve delayed meaningful climate action for so long that scientists agree a certain amount of active CO2 removal from the atmosphere will be required to mitigate global heating effects. A direct air capture system operating in Iceland is one example of how this might work. We also have an excellent podcast and investigative report on how Big Oil and Gas is promoting their own version of this technology to justify continuing business as usual, which stacks up as a Very Bad Idea. CO2 pipelines? Yikes!

Meanwhile, another major study confirms that the majority of fossil fuel industry reserves must stay in the ground if we’re to meet the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement. So of course, the industry’s response is an all-out lobbying blitz aimed at preserving subsidies to keep them drilling, pumping, and burning on the taxpayer’s dime.

We thought we had pretty much covered all the ways biomass harms people, climate, and the environment – deforestation to acquire the fuel and high emissions when it’s burned. But a just-published article in The Guardian warns of health hazards in the middle phase. Workers at biomass plants are getting sick from exposure to wood pellet dust.

We’ll close with an overview of plastics in the environment – how they get there, and how they’re related to fossil fuels. And some good news, too! Common sense is fighting back against those insidious, useless, recycling triangles. California is on track to be the first state to ban them except on materials that actually get… recycled. Other states should be following soon.

button - BEAT News  button - BZWI For even more environmental news, info, and events, check out the latest newsletters from our colleagues at Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) and Berkshire Zero Waste Initiative (BZWI)!

— The NFGiM Team

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Lynn Nadeau
What Makes For An Activist?
By Judith Black, Clean Power Coalition
Photos by Jerry Halberstadt
September 9, 2021

Some people are so self involved that they don’t notice the world around them, except in the ways it touches them.

Some people see a problem, shrug their shoulders and say ‘That is too big! I can’t do anything about it.”

Lynn Nadeau looks at a problem, rubs her hands together, rolls up her sleeves, and says “Let’s get to it, now!”

When one of her best friends died at a relatively young age from breast cancer, she did not simply attend the funeral, make a donation to the American Cancer Society and go back to teaching math at an area high school. Along with Jane Bright, Lori Ehrlich (now state representative to the legislature for Marblehead, Swampscott, and Lynn), and a few others, she dug into what might have caused a healthy woman to contract a deadly cancer.  Data showed a high rate of cancer in the area of  a coal burning power plant across a small harbor, just upwind of them in Salem MA.

That is when this teacher, mother, and Democrat declared her intention to “clean that plant.” She held meetings in her living room, and HealthLink was born as a nonprofit entity with a mission to “protect public health by reducing and eliminating environmental toxins through education, research and community action.”  Confronting the plant owners, the town, and state protection agencies, she set out to stop the toxic emissions from that plant.  They marched, went to Washington, protested, informed, and eventually 15 years after their campaign began, the Salem Power Plant was closed and sold, the coal burning stopped.  Lead, fly ash, mercury and more from their uncovered waste piles no longer flew across the harbor into local air, water, land, porches, cars and boats which had been covered with soot.

This would be her first venture into environmental activism, but hardly her last.  Lynn quoted Archimedes “Give me a place to stand and a lever, and I will move the world.”
» Read article                

walk for water
Indigenous Resistance Instrumental in Stopping High-Profile Fossil Fuel Projects, Says Report
Indigenous peoples in North America have helped block tar sands mines, oil pipelines, and LNG export terminals. Their successes against the fossil fuel industry have kept enormous volumes of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
September 8, 2021

The efforts of Indigenous peoples in North America have helped block or delay a long list of major fossil fuel projects over the past decade, successfully leading to the avoidance of a massive amount of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report.

“The numbers don’t lie. Indigenous peoples have long led the fight to protect Mother Earth and the only way forward is to center Indigenous knowledge and keep fossil fuels in the ground,” Dallas Goldtooth, a Keep It In The Ground organizer for Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), said in a statement. The report was coauthored by IEN and Oil Change International, a research and advocacy organization focused on transitioning away from fossil fuels.

Indigenous resistance has been key in blocking at least eight major projects, including the Keystone XL pipeline, the C$20 billion Teck Frontier tar sands mine in Alberta, the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Oregon, and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to name a few. Taken together, those delayed and canceled projects would have been responsible for nearly 800 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, or about 12 percent of the total emissions of the U.S. and Canada in 2019.

Another half-dozen projects are currently contested, including the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota, the Coastal GasLink pipeline in British Columbia, and the Rio Grande LNG project in Texas, for example. These projects represent another 12 percent of total U.S. and Canadian emissions, which, if opponents have their way, would bring the total carbon pollution avoided due to Indigenous resistance to 1.6 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent. That’s roughly equal to the pollution from 400 new coal-fired power plants or 345 million passenger vehicles.

As the report notes, this is likely an underestimate because it only includes 17 of the largest and most iconic fossil fuel projects in recent years.
» Read article               
» Read the report: Indigenous Resistance Against Carbon

» More about protests and actions

LEGISLATION

drifting awayWill a Summer of Climate Crises Lead to Climate Action? It’s Not Looking Good
A $3.5 trillion budget bill is faltering in the Senate, and in America at large, well, as one expert put it: “It’s really hard to get people to change their way of life.”
By Marianne Lavelle, Inside Climate News
September 3, 2021

This summer, the climate crisis has roared into basement apartments in Brooklyn, leaped across the dry tops of the Sierra Nevadas and kicked over the towers that held up the power and communication networks of Louisiana. It has shredded homes in New Jersey and poured into the underpasses of Philadelphia, turning a cross-town expressway into a murky, swirling river.

But as fall approaches, bringing the best opportunity in years for Congress to act on global warming, prospects are dimming for the package of investments that make up President Joe Biden’s plan to jump-start a clean energy transition.

In the Senate, where Biden will need every Democratic vote to pass a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill that contains the bulk of his climate plan, party unity is fraying. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) placed an editorial in the Wall Street Journal calling for Democrats to “pause” the package, because of concerns over inflation and the national debt. Less noticed, but just as lethal to the package’s chances was a statement by a spokesman for Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) in Politico on Aug. 23: She will not support a $3.5 trillion budget bill, he said.
» Read article                

» More about legislation

GREENING THE ECONOMY

union pipefitters
One Big Hurdle for a San Diego Gas Ban: Union Labor
Across the state, cities are seeking to ditch gas and require buildings be equipped to run solely on electricity. Union-represented gas workers worry the trend could mean more work for electricians and less work for the people digging trenches or laying and maintaining gas pipes.
By MacKenzie Elmer, Voice of San Diego
September 8, 2021

The city of San Diego is about to drop its latest plan to fight climate change, but local unions representing workers in the natural gas industry are worried it could cost them jobs.

Across the state, cities are seeking to ditch gas and require buildings be equipped to run solely on electricity for all energy needs including heating and cooking. And union-represented gas workers are paying attention.

In short, they worry the trend could mean more work for electricians and less work for the people digging trenches or laying and maintaining gas pipes.

“It’s not just a pipeline, it’s a lifeline,” said Joe Cruz, executive director of the California State Council of Laborers, which represents the workers who do heavy digging for pipe laying. “(Natural gas) creates many good-paying jobs. The ban on natural gas and decarbonization efforts in California will have a major impact on laborers across the state, including San Diego if that moves forward.”
» Read article                

no point
‘No point in anything else’: Gen Z members flock to climate careers
Colleges offer support as young people aim to devote their lives to battling the crisis
By Angela Lashbrook, The Guardian
September 6, 2021

California is facing a drought so devastating, some publications call it “biblical”. Colorado now has “fire years” instead of “fire seasons”. Miami, which sees more dramatic hurricanes each year, is contemplating building a huge seawall in one of the city’s most scenic tourist districts to protect it from storm surges.

“Once you learn how damaged the world’s ecosystems are, it’s not really something you can unsee,” says Rachel Larrivee, 23, a sustainability consultant based in Boston. “To me, there’s no point in pursuing a career – or life for that matter – in any other area.”

Larrivee is one of countless members of Gen Z, a generation that roughly encompasses young people under 25, who are responding to the planet’s rapidly changing climate by committing their lives to finding a solution. Survey after survey shows young people are not just incorporating new climate-conscious behaviors into their day-to-day lives – they’re in it for the long haul. College administrators say surging numbers of students are pursuing environmental-related degrees and careers that were once considered irresponsible, romantic flights of fancy compared to more “stable” paths like business, medicine, or law.

“I cannot imagine a career that isn’t connected to even just being a small part of a solution,” says Mimi Ausland, 25, the founder of Free the Ocean, a company that aims to leverage small actions to remove plastic from the ocean.
» Read article                

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

Jimmy Carter RE plan
Joe Biden’s Solar Plan and the Prescience of Jimmy Carter
The best time to plant a solar panel was forty years ago—but Biden is trying hard to make up for lost time.
By Bill McKibben, The New Yorker
September 8, 2021

The Biden Administration’s announcement on Wednesday of a plan that could set the country on a course to generate forty-five per cent of its electricity from solar panels by mid-century might—might—someday be remembered as one of those moments that mattered. That’s because it sets a physical target whose progress will be relatively easy to measure—it’s the energy equivalent of announcing that “before this decade is out” we will achieve the goal of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” This plan is much more ambitious, though: the Apollo project focussed all the nation’s technological might on moving one person; this is more akin to landing all of us somewhere very new. But physical targets are easier to track and understand than, say, the squishy and amorphous chatter about “net zero” emissions and so forth. Observers will be able to track with ease our progress and see if future Administrations are keeping up the pace.

Jimmy Carter, midway through his Administration, and faced with the second OPEC oil shock, put forward a goal for producing twenty per cent of the country’s energy from renewable resources by the year 2000. In fact, as he unveiled solar panels on the White House roof, in 1979, he said these words:

In the year 2000, this solar water heater behind me, which is being dedicated today, will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy. . . . A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.

Carter was prophetic, and sadly so. I first saw one of those solar panels, which the Reagan Administration removed from the White House roof, in a Chinese museum. Had Carter been reëlected, and had we pursued steadily his vision through the nineteen-eighties and nineties, we may have gone down the learning curve decades earlier.
» Read article                

global health emergency
Medical Journals Call Climate Change the ‘Greatest Threat to Global Public Health’
By Winston Choi-Schagrin, New York Times
September 7, 2021

A collection of leading health and medical journals called this week for swift action to combat climate change, calling on governments to cooperate and invest in the environmental crisis with the degree of funding and urgency they used to confront the coronavirus pandemic.

In an editorial published in more than 200 medical and health journals worldwide, the authors declared a 1.5-degree-Celsius rise in global temperatures the “greatest threat to global public health.” The world is on track to warm by around 3 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by 2100, based on current policies.

“The science is unequivocal; a global increase of 1.5°C above the preindustrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse,” the authors wrote. “Indeed, no temperature rise is ‘safe.’”

Although medical journals have copublished editorials in the past, this marked the first time that publication has been coordinated at this scale. In total more than 200 journals representing every continent and a wide range of medical and health disciplines from ophthalmology to veterinary medicine published the statement. The authors are editors of leading journals including The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine.
» Read article                
» Read the medical journal editorial – call for emergency action

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

Lennon solar farm
From 4% to 45%: Energy Department Lays Out Ambitious Blueprint for Solar Power
The department’s analysis provides only a broad outline, and many of the details will be decided by congressional lawmakers.
By Ivan Penn, New York Times
September 8, 2021

The Biden administration on Wednesday released a blueprint showing how the nation could move toward producing almost half of its electricity from the sun by 2050 — a potentially big step toward fighting climate change but one that would require vast upgrades to the electric grid.

There is little historical precedent for expanding solar energy, which contributed less than 4 percent of the country’s electricity last year, as quickly as the Energy Department outlined in a new report. To achieve that growth, the country would have to double the amount of solar energy installed every year over the next four years and then double it again by 2030.

Such a large increase, laid out in the report, is in line with what most climate scientists say is needed to stave off the worst effects of global warming. It would require a vast transformation in technology, the energy industry and the way people live.
» Read article                
» Read the Dept. of Energy report

H2 horsetrading
As DOE ramps up Hydrogen Shot initiative, debate about means of production begins
By Emma Penrod, Utility Dive
September 7, 2021

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm kicked off a summit on the Hydrogen Shot — a challenge from the Department of Energy to industry and academics to find a means of cutting the cost of hydrogen to $1 per kilogram — with a call for participants to focus on clean, zero carbon solutions and to avoid “solutions that claim to be clean but are not.”

Breakout sessions during last week’s summit allowed participants to choose specialized discussions focused on ways hydrogen could be produced. One track covered the use of electrolysis to split water and create “green” hydrogen, while another considered innovations to conventional methods of extracting hydrogen from methane, and a third looked at early stage or even theoretical means.

While Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) described hydrogen as a true “all of the above fuel” and argued the U.S. needs to consider all possible options for hydrogen production, Chanell Fletcher,  deputy executive officer for the California Air Resources Board, expressed concern that casting too wide a net would “muddy the water and open the door for polluting pathways.”
» Read article                

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Sydney Engel
Opinion: Climate-friendly buildings are essential to city’s future
By Sydney Engel and Sarah Simon, Boston Business Journal
September 3, 2021

In Boston, buildings have a profound impact on the changing climate; just 3% of them account for 50% of all our greenhouse-gas emissions because they use so much oil and gas for heating and cooling. These fossil fuels emit not only substantial amounts of carbon dioxide but also other air pollutants known to make people sick. In Massachusetts, more people die from building-related air pollution than air pollution from electricity generation. We need climate-friendly, healthier buildings.

A solution for Boston is on the way. As shown in the 2018 Carbon Free Boston report, we can update our buildings and meet Boston’s 2050 carbon-neutral targets with efficiency improvements and existing heating and cooling technology.

This June, Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley took up a key element outlined in the city’s 2019 Climate Action Plan and introduced an update to the existing Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance, otherwise known as BERDO. This update would significantly decrease carbon emissions from large, existing buildings over the next 30 years while allowing building owners to decide how to meet the emissions standards.
» Read article                

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

Form Energy stock photo
Minnesota utility co-op sees big battery as piece of grid reliability puzzle

Great River Energy, a distribution and transmission cooperative, has partnered with a Massachusetts startup on a long-duration energy storage pilot project that it hopes will help buffer its grid from extreme cold and heat impacts.
By Frank Jossi, Energy News Network
September 10, 2021

The utility cooperative partnering with Form Energy on its first “iron air” battery project sees the long-duration energy storage technology as a potential buffer for its grid during extreme cold snaps like 2019’s polar vortex.

Great River Energy, a Minnesota generation and transmission cooperative that serves 28 member utilities, had been in discussions with the Massachusetts startup company for several years before committing to the pilot project, according to Jon Brekke, its vice president and chief power supply officer.

“We’re interested in pursuing long-duration storage because it gives us reliability advantages over traditional lithium-ion batteries,” Brekke said. “We can look at a 10-day weather forecast, and if we see that the weather is going to get very cold seven or eight days out, we can make sure that the battery is charged up.”

Wind speeds tend to decrease during extremely cold temperatures. Meanwhile, turbine components can become brittle or stop working as temperatures plunge into the double-digits below zero. Those factors caused Upper Midwest wind generation to drop off two winters ago during a prolonged polar vortex. (Coal and gas plants also experienced outages.)

The stakes for wintertime grid reliability will increase as more homes and buildings transition to electric heat, but long-duration energy storage could also help utilities manage the grid during scorching hot weather that is also becoming more common in Minnesota due to climate change.
» Read article                

» More about energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

six problems
The six problems aviation must fix to hit net zero
With passenger numbers growing and time to slash emissions dwindling fast, the industry must tackle urgent stumbling blocks on fuel, frequent flyers and more
By Jocelyn Timperley, The Guardian
September 5, 2021

Aviation tanked in 2020. The number of people taking flights fell by three quarters compared with 2019 levels and as a result there was a significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions from aviation. But as countries open up and people begin to fly again, aviation is expected to see a slow climb back to previous levels. The industry anticipates a return to 2019 passenger numbers globally by 2023 and to be back on track with previous growth projections within a couple of decades.

All this is bad news for the planet. CO2 emissions from the industry are likely to triple by 2050. But if the world is to limit global heating to 1.5C, it needs to have hit net zero CO2 emissions by this time. Aviation is a complicated sector to decarbonise. It has some prickly ingredients: difficult technological solutions, hidden extra climate effects, an association with personal freedoms and a disproportionately wealthy and powerful customer base. Here are just a few of the big hurdles the sector will need to overcome if it is ever to be carbon neutral.
» Read article                

» More about clean transportation

RENEWABLE ENERGY SITING IMPACTS

floating PV arrayPonds, reservoirs could host floating solar in space-constrained Massachusetts
Developers intend to install the floating solar panels atop storage ponds, water treatments plants, and other human-made bodies of water — a first in a state mired in debate over how best to site projects.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
September 7, 2021

A new joint venture between Boston-based BlueWave Solar and European photovoltaics firm Ciel et Terre is poised to bring floating solar panels to the ponds and reservoirs of Massachusetts for the first time. Supporters say the plan has the potential to mitigate ongoing concerns about finding enough space for clean energy development.

“This is an opportunity to site solar a lot more responsibly going forward,” said Mike Marsch, principal and head of solar development at BlueWave. “We think it’s an incredibly elegant and responsible way to use land.”

BlueWave has a history of building community solar projects and so-called “dual-use” installations, in which solar panels sit over active agricultural fields. Ciel et Terre, based in France, is a pioneer in the floating solar sector. The company introduced Hydrelio, a modular floating photovoltaic system, in 2012. In 2017, it launched a U.S.-based development arm, Laketricity.

Together they intend to develop floating solar projects atop human-made bodies of water such as storage ponds, water treatment plants, quarries, and reservoirs in Massachusetts and, eventually, the entire Northeast. Laketricity will contribute technology and on-the-ground experience, while BlueWave will share its extensive knowledge of the Massachusetts clean energy market and the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target program (SMART), which provides incentives to encourage solar development.
» Read article                

» More about renewable energy siting impacts

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

FERC building
Biden taps DC regulator Phillips to fill FERC’s 5th seat; ‘a gift to corporate utilities,’ says critic
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
September 10, 2021

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced plans to nominate Willie Phillips Jr., currently chairman of the District of Columbia Public Service Commission (PSC), to fill the vacant seat at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The choice is being closely watched, with the five-seat commission now split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, and Biden’s choice received mixed reviews. Commissioner Neil Chatterjee, who chaired the commission during part of the Trump administration, stepped down at the end of August.

The commission will play a key role in implementing the Biden administration’s clean energy and environmental goals. The White House has called for the U.S. to decarbonize its power sector by 2035 and to end carbon emissions across the economy by 2050.

Some environmental advocates had been hoping the next FERC commissioner would be more focused on consumer interests. Phillips’ nomination is a “gift to corporate utilities and the fossil fuel industry,” Drew Hudson, senior national organizer for Friends of the Earth, said in a statement.

Hudson noted that during his PSC tenure, Phillips voted to approve rate hikes, gas infrastructure and the merger between Washington, D.C.’s utility, Potomac Electric Power Co. (Pepco). and Exelon.

“Although if confirmed, Mr. Phillips would bring much needed racial diversity to the all-white and 4/5 male commission, his record of ignoring public comment and opposition from environmental justice advocates is a glaring red flag and demonstrates why he isn’t fit for this role,” Hudson said.

The Solar Energy Industries Association, on the other hand, said it is confident that Phillips “will help us put the regulatory reforms in place we need, all while championing equity and creating billions of dollars in economic growth.”
» Read article                

» More about FERC

CRYPTOCURRENCY

Bitcoin energy demand
Bitcoin Uses More Electricity Than Many Countries. How Is That Possible?
By Jon Huang, Claire O’Neill and Hiroko Tabuchi
September 3, 2021

Cryptocurrencies have emerged as one of the most captivating, yet head-scratching, investments in the world. They soar in value. They crash. They’ll change the world, their fans claim, by displacing traditional currencies like the dollar, rupee or ruble. They’re named after dog memes.

And in the process of simply existing, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, one of the most popular, use astonishing amounts of electricity.

We’ll explain how that works in a minute. But first, consider this: The process of creating Bitcoin to spend or trade consumes around 91 terawatt-hours of electricity annually, more than is used by Finland, a nation of about 5.5 million.

In the early days of Bitcoin, when it was less popular and worth little, anyone with a computer could easily mine at home. Not so much anymore.

Today you need highly specialized machines, a lot of money, a big space and enough cooling power to keep the constantly running hardware from overheating. That’s why mining now happens in giant data centers owned by companies or groups of people.

What if Bitcoin could be mined using more sources of renewable energy, like wind, solar or hydropower?

It’s tricky to figure out exactly how much of Bitcoin mining is powered by renewables because of the very nature of Bitcoin: a decentralized currency whose miners are largely anonymous.

Globally, estimates of Bitcoin’s use of renewables range from about 40 percent to almost 75 percent. But in general, experts say, using renewable energy to power Bitcoin mining means it won’t be available to power a home, a factory or an electric car.
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CARBON CAPTURE AND SEQUESTRATION

CO2 collector
Biggest Carbon Capture Effort Begins in Iceland, But Involves a Fraction of the Gas in the Atmosphere
Even a planned facility 10 times larger would have almost no impact on the 33 billion tons of carbon to be emitted this year.
By Leslie Hook, Financial Times, in Inside Climate News
September 9, 2021

The start-up behind the world’s biggest direct carbon capture plant said it would build a much larger facility in the next few years that would permanently remove millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

As Zurich-based Climeworks opened its Orca “direct air capture” project in Iceland on Wednesday, co-chief executive Jan Wurzbacher told the Financial Times it had started design work on a facility 10 times larger that would be completed in the next few years.

Orca will collect about 4,000 tons of CO2 a year and store it underground—a tiny fraction of the 33 billion tons of the gas forecast by the International Energy Agency to be emitted worldwide this year, but a demonstration of the technology’s viability.

“This is the first time we are extracting CO2 from the air commercially and combining it with underground storage,” Wurzbacher said.

The Orca plant sells the most expensive carbon offset in the world, costing as much as almost $1,400 a ton of CO2 removed and counting Microsoft founder Bill Gates among its customers.

Wurzbacher said commercial demand had been so high that the plant was nearly sold out of credits for its entire 12-year lifespan, prompting the accelerated development of the much larger plant using the same technology.
» Read article                

CO2 pipeline episode
It’s like a Rube Goldberg Pollution Machine – The CO2 Pipeline Episode
By 8 O’Clock Buzz, WORT 89.9 FM
August 31, 2021

Join Sikowis for the Tuesday 8 O’clock Buzz on WORT 89.9 FM in Madison! She will be discussing the new greenwashed, carbon capture tactic to address the climate crisis–CO2 Pipelines. This tactic is not so much a solution to curbing the climate crisis but more of a ploy by the fossil fuel industry and governments to keep drilling, fracking, and extracting rather than truly reducing emission levels.
» Listen to podcast                

gassing Satartia
The Gassing Of Satartia
A CO2 pipeline in Mississippi ruptured last year, sickening dozens of people. What does it forecast for the massive proposed buildout of pipelines across the U.S.?
By Dan Zegart, Huff Post
August 26, 2021

It was just after 7 p.m. when residents of Satartia, Mississippi, started smelling rotten eggs. Then a greenish cloud rolled across Route 433 and settled into the valley surrounding the little town. Within minutes, people were inside the cloud, gasping for air, nauseated and dazed.

Some two dozen individuals were overcome within a few minutes, collapsing in their homes; at a fishing camp on the nearby Yazoo River; in their vehicles. Cars just shut off, since they need oxygen to burn fuel. Drivers scrambled out of their paralyzed vehicles, but were so disoriented that they just wandered around in the dark.

The first call to Yazoo County Emergency Management Agency came at 7:13 p.m. on February 22, 2020.

“CALLER ADVISED A FOUL SMELL AND GREEN FOG ACROSS THE HIGHWAY,” read the message that dispatchers sent to cell phones and radios of all county emergency personnel two minutes later.

First responders mobilized almost immediately, even though they still weren’t sure exactly what the emergency was. Maybe it was a leak from one of several nearby natural gas pipelines, or chlorine from the water tank.

The first thought, however, was not the carbon dioxide pipeline that runs through the hills above town, less than half a mile away. Denbury Inc, then known as Denbury Resources, operates a network of CO2 pipelines in the Gulf Coast area that inject the gas into oil fields to force out more petroleum. While ambient CO2 is odorless, colorless and heavier than air, the industrial CO2 in Denbury’s pipeline has been compressed into a liquid, which is pumped through pipelines under high pressure. A rupture in this kind of pipeline sends CO2 gushing out in a dense, powdery white cloud that sinks to the ground and is cold enough to make steel so brittle it can be smashed with a sledgehammer.
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FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Inglewood Oil FieldTo Meet Paris Accord Goal, Most of the World’s Fossil Fuel Reserves Must Stay in the Ground
A new study in Nature reports that oil, gas and coal production must begin falling immediately to have even a 50 percent chance of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News
September 8, 2021

After a summer of weather extremes that highlighted the urgency of limiting global warming in starkly human terms, new research is clarifying what it will take to do so. In order to have just a 50 percent chance of meeting the most ambitious climate target, the study found, the production of all fossil fuels will need to start declining immediately, and a significant majority of the world’s oil, gas and coal reserves will have to remain underground over the next few decades.

While the research, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, is only the latest to argue that meeting the 2015 Paris Agreement goals to limit warming requires a rapid pivot to clean energy, it lays out with clear and specific figures exactly how far from those targets the world remains.

“The inescapable evidence that hopefully we’ve shown and that successive reports have shown is that if you want to meet 1.5 degrees, then global production has to start declining,” said Daniel Welsby, a researcher at University College London, in the United Kingdom, and the study’s lead author. As part of the Paris Agreement, nations agreed to try to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

The study found that nearly 60 percent of global oil and gas reserves and about 90 percent of coal reserves must be left unexploited by 2050, though a portion of those fuels could be produced in the second half of the century. Total oil and gas production must begin declining immediately, the research said, and continue falling at about 3 percent annually through 2050. Coal production must fall at an even steeper rate.

While the authors noted a few signs of change, including that coal production is already on the decline, the current course is far off what’s needed.
» Read article                
» Read the research paper

fossil lobby blitz
Oil Industry Launches Lobbying Blitz as Congress Targets Fossil Fuel Subsidies
A lobbying group representing large fracking companies is pressing Democrats to keep in place billions of dollars of subsidies that drillers receive.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
September 2, 2021

The oil industry has embarked on a lobbying blitz in an effort to derail any attempts by Congress to repeal fossil fuel subsidies as part of a much broader assault by corporate interests on the $3.5 trillion budget package that Democrats are currently drafting.

In particular, the oil industry is worried about the potential loss of one specific subsidy that they receive: the intangible drilling cost (IDC) deduction. This allows companies to deduct from their taxes the costs of drilling new wells.

The industry’s fear follows a letter sent to Democratic leadership on August 30, by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the Chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), who chairs the subcommittee on Environment.

The letter, signed by 50 other Democrats from the House of Representatives, specifically calls for the removal of the IDC deduction as part of the budget reconciliation process underway. The tax giveaway is worth billions of dollars each year, and makes up a large portion of the $20.5 billion that Democrats are targeting.

“Fossil fuel subsidies have been embedded in our tax code for over a hundred years, enriching oil and gas companies and their lobbying firms at the expense of our planet. It comes as no surprise to see Big Oil currently working overtime to protect these benefits,” Congressman Ro Khanna’s office told DeSmog in a statement. “What’s different now is that we have a real chance to end the worst of these subsidies in the Build Back Better Act and I’m committed to working with my colleagues in Congress to do so.”
» Read article                
» Read the letter

» More about fossil fuels

BIOMASS

Drax in the dock
Drax faces prosecution over health risk of dust from biomass pellets
Allegations relate to employee safety at power plant and spark renewed criticism from environmentalists
By Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian
September 2, 2021

The owner of the Drax power plant in North Yorkshire faces a criminal prosecution hearing after allegations that dust from wood pellets used to generate electricity could pose a risk to its employees’ health.

The company has earned hundreds of millions of pounds in subsidies by upgrading its generating units to burn biomass pellets instead of coal, but the Health and Safety Executive is taking it to court over concerns that the wood dust may have threatened employee health.

Drax will appear at Leeds magistrates court on 30 November to face the allegations as well as a separate charge that it breached risk assessment obligations before allowing employees to work with potentially “hazardous substances” at the plant.

The charges, which first reported by Sky News, have reignited criticism of Drax’ biomass strategy from environmentalists, who say burning wood pellets risks wasting multimillion pound subsidies and fueling the climate crisis.
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» More about biomass

PLASTICS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

spooky pooka
The Big Problem With Plastic
CR reveals where most of the plastic you throw away really ends up and explains what to do to limit its environmental harm
By Kevin Loria, Consumer Reports
September 08, 2021

Consider the amount of plastic you put into the trash or recycling on a typical day. There’s the lid to your coffee cup, and perhaps a bag from a newspaper. There’s the wrapper from a granola bar, a yogurt container, a salad clamshell, and the plentiful packaging from inside a box that arrived in the mail.

Many of these plastic items are useful and convenient, but they also come with a high environmental cost. In 2016, the U.S. generated more plastic trash than any other country—46.3 million tons of it, according to a 2020 study published in Science Advances. That’s 287 pounds per person in a single year. By the time these disposable products are in your hands, they’ve already taken a toll on the planet: Plastics are mostly made from fossil fuels, in an energy-intensive process that emits greenhouse gases and creates often hazardous chemicals.

And then there’s what happens when you throw them away.

If you’re like most people, you probably assume that when you toss plastic into the recycling bin it will be processed and turned into something new. The truth is that only a fraction of plastic is actually recycled. According to the most recent data estimates available from the Environmental Protection Agency, just 8.7 percent of the plastic that was discarded in the U.S. in 2018 was recycled.

The popular perception that plastic is easily and widely recycled has been shaped by decades of carefully calculated messaging designed and paid for by the petroleum and gas companies that make most of that plastic in the first place, and the beverage companies that depend on plastic to bottle their products.
» Read article                

» More about plastics in the environment

PLASTICS RECYCLING

no trash
California Aims to Ban Recycling Symbols on Things That Aren’t Recyclable
The well-known three-arrows symbol doesn’t necessarily mean that a product is actually recyclable. A new bill would limit the products allowed to feature the mark.
By Hiroko Tabuchi and Winston Choi-Schagrin, New York Times
September 8, 2021

The triangular “chasing arrows” recycling symbol is everywhere: On disposable cups. On shower curtains. On children’s toys.

What a lot of shoppers might not know is that any product can display the sign, even if it isn’t recyclable. It’s false advertising, critics say, and as a result, countless tons of non-recyclable garbage are thrown in the recycling bin each year, choking the recycling system.

Late on Wednesday, California took steps toward becoming the first state to change that. A bill passed by the state’s assembly would ban companies from using the arrows symbol unless they can prove the material is in fact recycled in most California communities, and is used to make new products.

“It’s a basic truth-in-advertising concept,” said California State Senator Ben Allen, a Democrat and the bill’s lead sponsor. “We have a lot of people who are dutifully putting materials into the recycling bins that have the recycling symbols on them, thinking that they’re going to be recycled, but actually, they’re heading straight to the landfill,” he said.

The measure, which is expected to clear the State Senate later this week and be signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, is part of a nascent effort across the country to fix a recycling system that has long been broken.

Though materials like paper or metals are widely recycled, less than 10 percent of plastic consumed in the United States is recycled, according to the most recent estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency. Instead, most plastic is incinerated or dumped in landfills, with the exception of some types of resins, like the kind used for bottled water or soda.

For years, the United States also shipped much of its plastic waste overseas, choking local rivers and streams. A global convention now bans most trade in plastic waste, though U.S. waste exports have not completely ceased.

This summer, Maine and Oregon passed laws overhauling their states’ recycling systems by requiring corporations to pay for the cost of recycling their packaging. In Oregon, the law included plans to establish a task force that would evaluate “misleading or confusing claims” related to recycling. Legislation is pending in New York that would, among other things, ban products from displaying misleading claims.
» Read article                

» More about plastics recycling

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