Monthly Archives: June 2022

Weekly News Check-In 6/24/22

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Welcome back.

We’re kicking off this week with a fabulously informative article by DeSmog Blog’s Stella Levantesi, who takes us through the rapidly-evolving climate disinformation and propaganda campaigns coming at us from the fossil fuel industry and public relations firms that support them. This is an article worth reading in its entirety.

Once you digest that, you’ll spot industry fingerprints all over the place. Start with the financial industry’s claims of greening up their investment portfolios. Ask yourself who’s behind state-level campaigns to punish funds that wish to divest from fossils. Natural Gas utilities lean heavily on this deceptive toolkit. Sabrina Shankman’s excellent Boston Globe article pulls the curtain back on strategies discussed at a recent gas industry conference, aimed at perpetuating business as usual. Take a peek inside this article too – the slides showing industry projections of future gas use are jaw-dropping.

We can add the U.S. Supreme Court to the list of institutions working against climate action, with a decision expected soon that could severely limit the federal government’s authority to reduce carbon dioxide from power plants. It’s part of a concerted conservative effort to delay climate action by hobbling regulators and protecting polluting industries.

Even our Clean Energy section includes a spot on emerging natural gas power plant technology being positioned as a demonstration of that fuel’s rightful place in our energy future. Sounds great till you think about it. (The section is redeemed by an article about promising developments in tidal power off Scotland’s Orkney Island.)

Interestingly, the steel industry – generally held up as an example of a legitimate application for fossil fuels at least until clean hydrogen becomes a viable alternative – may go all-electric sooner than expected. Boston Metal, a company that spun out a decade ago from MIT, has developed a way to use electricity to separate iron from its ore, making steel without releasing carbon dioxide. This creates a path to cleaning up one of the world’s worst industries for greenhouse gas emissions.

Sophisticated disinformation and propaganda strategies are a direct response to the solid science-based imperative to disrupt the fossil business model, the onset of alternative technologies, and strong public support for change. Protesters who gathered this week in Longmeadow, MA to voice opposition to a proposed Eversource natural gas pipeline are one example. Folks argue that the logical outcome of greening the economy will be to cut reliance and demand for all kinds of fuel. That includes gasoline – so cities are starting to ban construction of new gas stations.  We have some catching up to do… a recent report on sustainable cities puts Europe and Canada well ahead of the U.S. in key metrics like energy efficiency and air quality.

Maine scores some points for being on the right track. Its utility regulators have approved the state’s latest three-year energy efficiency plan, a set of programs and incentives that should make it easier for low-income and rural residents to weatherize their homes and access electric vehicle chargers, while building on the state’s already nation-leading heat pump incentives.

Energy storage is critical to a net-zero emissions future, and lots of it needs to come online quickly to accommodate all the wind and solar generation we’re building. We found an article by an expert in the field, who explains how it works and what’s missing to make it all come together. Related to that, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently proposed requiring transmission providers to adopt “first-ready, first-served” interconnection requirements in an effort to bring proposed renewable generation and energy storage projects online more quickly – key requirements for a clean, modern grid.

Before we leave the technology topics, we’ll take a look at how the growing popularity of e-bikes is shaping clean transportation. Many states have noticed, and are passing laws to incentivize their use.

We’ll end where we started, but with a focus shift to the fossil fuel-related plastics industry. You can see where industry lobbying has the most influence by comparing different approaches to bans of single-use plastics. Two articles contrast Virginia’s recent reversal of a planned plastics phase-out, with Canada’s new regulations banning the manufacturing and import of a number of “harmful” single-use plastics. We also look at plastics in the environment – specifically the tiny plastic packets known as sachets. They’ve allowed companies to tap millions of low-income customers in the developing world but also unleashed a global pollution crisis.

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— The NFGiM Team

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Longmeadow pipeline protest
Protesters gather over proposed Eversource pipeline extension
By Matt Sottile and Ryan Trowbridge, Western Mass News
June 21, 2022

LONGMEADOW, MA (WGGB/WSHM) – There was a large gathering on Tuesday in Longmeadow as people voiced their opposition to a proposed Eversource natural gas pipeline.

State environmental protection officials were at Longmeadow Country Club and they were greeted by neighbors, as well as a number of elected officials, who have been strongly opposed to this proposal for years and are continuing to fight it.

“I will be very angry and upset and I will do everything I can to fight it for as long as I can,” said Vicki Deal from Longmeadow.

Deal is one of the Longmeadow residents who has been fighting a proposed Eversource natural gas pipeline for years. The planned route is from Longmeadow Country Club to West Columbus Avenue in Springfield and would serve 58,000 customers.

“It’s terrifying. They shouldn’t be allowed to build it. It’s not needed,” said Jane Winn with the Berkshire Environmental Action Team.

On Tuesday, officials from the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act visited the site and answered questions from the large group of protestors about environmental and health concerns.

“This is a good part of the process. It’s a robust conversation and we’re listening,” said Eversource spokesperson Priscilla Ress.

Ress told Western Mass News the current pipeline is over 70 years old and there’s no backup system currently in place.

“We evaluated the entire system for safety and this is a project that rose right to the top. This is a priority for us,” Ress added.

State Senator Eric Lesser, a candidate for lieutenant governor, was also in attendance and said he’s drawing up formal opposition to the project.

“I would much rather see us investing in alternative forms of energy, whether that’s wind weather, that’s solar…ways we can power homes and provide energy to people and a renewable way,” Lesser explained.

Another point of concern is placing a pipeline in a residential neighborhood after natural gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley killed an 18-year-old and injured 22 others in 2018.

“We’ve already seen what happens in the Merrimack Valley when their nice little station doesn’t correctly assess what the pressure is…There’s obviously a lot of anger at an unnecessary project that’s being proposed,” Winn added.
» Read article    

» More about protests and actions

DIVESTMENT

stop funding climate death
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Wall Street’s Climate Promises
Within three months of the IEA’s announcement, Citi, Chase, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley helped facilitate $36 billion in financing to the corporations most rapidly opening new oil and gas fields, including Exxon-Mobil, Aramco, and BP.
By Alec Connon, Common Dreams
June 17, 2022

You could be forgiven for thinking that Wall Street has experienced a climate epiphany. Bank of America brags about its environmental credentials; Citigroup’s new CEO announces on her first day that achieving net-zero emissions is a top priority. The onslaught has convinced many in even the left-leaning media that Wall Street will lead the way to a better, greener version of capitalism.

Unfortunately, if you look beyond the green veneer, you’ll find a different story. In 2021, JPMorgan Chase provided $61.7 billion in financing to the fossil fuel industry, Citigroup loaned $15.1 billion to the corporations most rapidly expanding their oil and gas operations, Wells Fargo and Bank of America provided the fracking industry with $12.9 billion.

In May 2021, the IEA, the world’s most respected energy modeler, announced that to have a fifty percent chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, there can be no new oil and gas fields developed. Yet, within three months of the IEA’s announcement, Citi, Chase, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley helped facilitate $36 billion in financing to the corporations most rapidly opening new oil and gas fields, including Exxon-Mobil, Aramco, and BP.

But let’s pause here. Maybe we’re being unfair. Leading climate scientist, James Hansen, may have testified to Congress in 1988 that global warming required urgent action, but banks have only recently promised to act on climate. Maybe we shouldn’t judge them on what they did last year, but on what they say they’re going to do in the years ahead. Fortunately, as the largest banks have all now set 2030 climate targets, we’re able to do that. Unfortunately, this is where banks’ climate pledges turn from bad to ugly.

Four of the largest US banks—Chase, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs—have set 2030 climate targets for the fossil fuel sector using a metric known as “carbon intensity,” pledging they will achieve anywhere between a fifteen percent and twenty-nine percent reduction in the “carbon intensity” of the oil and gas firms they finance.

The thing to know here is that reductions in “carbon intensity” and reductions in “actual greenhouse gas emissions” are not the same thing.
» Read article    

empire strikes back
West Virginia may boycott 6 finance firms over fossil-fuel lending stance
By Robin Bradley, Utility Dive
June 16, 2022

The West Virginia State Treasury is slated to blacklist six of the nation’s largest financial firms from accessing state contracts, in view of perceived lending discrimination against the fossil-fuel industry.

State Treasurer Riley Moore alerted BlackRock, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and U.S. Bank they would be placed on West Virginia’s restricted financial institution list within 45 days, according to letters sent Friday and seen by Politico.

The firms have 30 days to provide the treasury with proof they have not turned their back on the coal, oil and natural gas industries.

As the second-largest producer of coal and the fifth-largest producer of energy overall in the country, West Virginia is pushing back against an emerging trend among financial institutions to slash fossil-fuel funding to assuage activist investors concerned about environmental, social and governance issues.

Moore announced in November he formed a 15-state coalition, with each member assessing whether financial institutions were boycotting their state’s traditional energy industry. The group represents more than $600 billion in public assets under management.

“I’m proud to continue to stand with my colleagues against these attacks on our states’ coal, oil and natural gas industries,” Moore said in the press release at the time. “These industries — which are engaged in perfectly legal activities — provide jobs, paychecks and benefits to thousands of hard-working families in our states and we will not stand idly by and allow our peoples’ livelihoods to be destroyed to advance a radical social agenda.”
» Read article    

» More about divestment

GREENING THE ECONOMY

the bag
Cities are banning new gas stations. More should join them

Gas stations are environmental liabilities and hugely expensive to remediate. Electric cars are making gas stations obsolete
By Nathan Taft, The Guardian | Opinion
June 21, 2022
Nathan Taft is the digital and communications lead for Stand.earth’s Safe Cities initiative

Whether or not we’ve all realized it, the era of gasoline-powered cars is rapidly winding to a close – and with it, gas stations and the pollution they bring to communities.

People are tired of being forced to pay obscene amounts of money for fuel every time there’s an international incident. Meanwhile, the cost of battery tech is just 10% of what it was a decade ago, and is expected to continue dropping as the decade wears on. And just this month the Biden administration announced its plan for making EV charging stations accessible across the US.

Climate change concerns have led to governments in California, Canada and the EU mandating an end to new gas car sales by 2035, while other places are going even further and implementing sales bans as soon as 2030 or even 2025. Car companies like GM, Mazda, Volvo and others see the writing on the wall and are following suit by setting dates for when their last gasoline vehicles will be sold.

And now, local governments are taking action as well.

In 2021, Petaluma in California became the first city in the world to prohibit new gas stations. Since then, at least four more cities have prohibited new gas stations permanently and at least six more (including Los Angeles, the city of cars!) are developing policies now. Much as in 2019, when Berkeley kicked a wave of cities passing building electrification policies, the movement to stop new gas stations has arrived – and local elected officials everywhere would be wise to take notice.
» Read article   

way to be
Europe Outshines North America in New Sustainable Cities Ranking
By The Energy Mix
June 19, 2022

When it comes to sustainable cities, Scandinavia is knocking it out of the park, according to the world’s first-ever crowdsourced urban sustainability index, with Stockholm scoring highest and Oslo, Copenhagen, and Lahti, Finland close behind on a list of 50 high- and middle-income cities.

Developed by Toronto-based Corporate Knights, the 2022 Sustainable Cities Index responds to the urgent need to boost cities’ sustainability amid rising urban populations. The index is seeded with publicly-sourced data on 12 key indicators like per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and consumption emissions, air quality, climate change resilience, water access, and vehicle dependency, among others.

Vancouver and Toronto rank eighth and ninth, and Canadian cities are generally the highest-scoring North American cities on the index, Corporate Knights finds. But seven of the top ten cities are in the United Kingdom and Europe, a result “attributable to sustainability leadership,” the report states. Tokyo ranks seventh, first among cities in Asia and Oceania, and well ahead of San Francisco and New York City, which place sixteenth and nineteenth on the index as the most sustainable cities in the United States.

While cities with smaller populations tend to score higher, the fact that London ranks fifth with a population of eight million, and Tokyo comes in seventh with its population of 13 million, shows that megacities can be highly sustainable.

Dhaka, Bangladesh, ranks at the top of the list of cities with low per capita emissions, with Scope 1 emissions of 0.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per capita, while Houston does far worse at 8.5 tonnes. Cities like São Paulo fare very well against places like Canberra on consumption-based GHG emissions (5 and 22 tonnes CO2e per capita, respectively), confirming a clear correlation between wealth and high per capita emissions.

Corporate Knights cites air quality as an important indicator, with fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution from cars and industries “the single biggest threat to human health”. Only Canada demonstrates “consistently acceptable” indicators for urban air quality, while Dhaka and cities in China show up worst in the category.
» Read article    

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

hemmed in
Republican Drive to Tilt Courts Against Climate Action Reaches a Crucial Moment
A Supreme Court environmental case being decided this month is the product of a coordinated, multiyear strategy by Republican attorneys general and conservative allies.
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
June 19, 2022

Within days, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is expected to hand down a decision that could severely limit the federal government’s authority to reduce carbon dioxide from power plants — pollution that is dangerously heating the planet.

But it’s only a start.

The case, West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, is the product of a coordinated, multiyear strategy by Republican attorneys general, conservative legal activists and their funders, several with ties to the oil and coal industries, to use the judicial system to rewrite environmental law, weakening the executive branch’s ability to tackle global warming.

Coming up through the federal courts are more climate cases, some featuring novel legal arguments, each carefully selected for its potential to block the government’s ability to regulate industries and businesses that produce greenhouse gases.

“The West Virginia vs. E.P.A. case is unusual, but it’s emblematic of the bigger picture. A.G.s are willing to use these unusual strategies more,” said Paul Nolette, a professor of political science at Marquette University who has studied state attorneys general. “And the strategies are becoming more and more sophisticated.”

The plaintiffs want to hem in what they call the administrative state, the E.P.A. and other federal agencies that set rules and regulations that affect the American economy. That should be the role of Congress, which is more accountable to voters, said Jeff Landry, the Louisiana attorney general and one of the leaders of the Republican group bringing the lawsuits.

But Congress has barely addressed the issue of climate change. Instead, for decades it has delegated authority to the agencies because it lacks the expertise possessed by the specialists who write complicated rules and regulations and who can respond quickly to changing science, particularly when Capitol Hill is gridlocked.

[…] At least two of the cases feature an unusual approach that demonstrates the aggressive nature of the legal campaign. In those suits, the plaintiffs are challenging regulations or policies that don’t yet exist. They want to pre-empt efforts by President Biden to deliver on his promise to pivot the country away from fossil fuels, while at the same time aiming to prevent a future president from trying anything similar.
» Read article    

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

supercritical
Can Natural Gas Be Used to Create Power With Fewer Emissions?
One company says it has the technology. And though investors looking for cleaner power generation are lining up, some environmentalists are skeptical.
By John Schwartz, New York Times
June 21, 2022

[…] Most electrical plants boil water by burning coal or natural gas, or through nuclear fission; the resulting steam then spins a turbine. The burning of those fossil fuels yields greenhouse gases, the primary culprits in climate change. Scientists warn that if we cannot stop those emissions, increasingly dire disasters lie ahead.

Renewable energy (like solar, wind and geothermal power) has grown tremendously as its price has dropped. But many experts suggest that the grid will still need electricity sources that can be started up quickly — what the trade calls “dispatchable” power — to fill gaps in the supply of sunshine and wind. And while some researchers have suggested that the electric grid can be built completely on renewable energy and storage, Professor Jenks said, “I think fossil will continue to be in our energy system in the near future.” And so “you need a host of solutions for us to be able to keep moving on the path we need to go now. We don’t yet know what the silver bullet is — and I doubt we’ll ever find a silver bullet,” she said.

That’s where fans of NET Power say the company can make a difference: its technology burns natural gas without causing the biggest problems fossil fuels typically do. It combusts a combination of natural gas and oxygen inside a circulating stream of high-temperature carbon dioxide under tremendous pressure. The resulting carbon dioxide drives the turbine in a form known as a supercritical fluid.

In other power plants, capturing carbon dioxide means adding separate equipment that draws considerable energy. NET Power’s system captures the carbon dioxide it creates as part of its cycle, not as an add-on. The excess carbon dioxide can then be drawn off and stored underground or used in other industrial processes. The plant’s operations produce none of the health-damaging particulates, or the smog-producing gases like oxides of nitrogen and sodium, that coal plants spew.

Its only other byproduct? Water.

With commercial success, NET Power believes it will meaningfully reduce global carbon emissions, said Ron DeGregorio, the company’s chief executive. Many potential customers could still opt for coal power, but “bring this credibly to market, and this changes the world.”

[…A] project proposed in Louisiana would use NET Power’s technology to produce various products, including hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Known as G2 Net-Zero, it would also include an export terminal for liquefied natural gas, or L.N.G. Charles E. Roemer IV, the company’s chairman, said that while many L.N.G. export terminals were planned or under construction in coastal Louisiana, building a cleaner alternative could create a new paradigm.

The technology has spawned criticisms, particularly of its reliance on methane infrastructure and of the present-day limitations of carbon storage. Many environmentalists oppose L.N.G. terminals, in large part because they extend the use of fossil fuels; the Sierra Club recently targeted those planned for Cameron, in Southwest Louisiana, including G2 Net-Zero, arguing that they will cause grave environmental damage to the area.

“As long as a power plant is being powered by methane gas, it will continue to harm our climate and communities,” said Jeremy Fisher, senior adviser for strategic research and development for the Sierra Club. “This technology would do nothing to protect families living with pollution from fracking wells or next to dangerous gas pipelines, and it would continue to allow for the massive — and often undercounted — amount of climate-warming methane leaked from wellheads, pipelines and plants.”
» Blog editor’s note: This technology may have a place, for now, in providing power to applications that are hard to decarbonize. The danger is the gas industry wants to promote it for widespread use – a way to keep us hooked up to the gas pipeline.
» Read article    

Orbital 02
Heat wave: how Orkney is leading a tidal power revolution
Strong tides make conditions in the Scottish islands ideal, but can the UK grasp the opportunity to become a leader in the sector?
By Eve Livingston, The Guardian
June 18, 2022

On a small passenger boat about 10 miles north of Kirkwall, Orkney, at the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the North Sea, an immense yellow structure heaves into view. This is the world’s most powerful tidal stream energy generator, Orbital Marine Power’s O2. Its shadow quickly dwarfs the tiny vessel.

Today, the generator’s turbines are raised above sea level for maintenance. It is difficult to comprehend the O2’s scale until a worker appears, a tiny stick figure against the hulking turbine.

Orkney, chosen as the European Marine Energy Centre’s (Emec) headquarters for its combination of strong tides and waves as well as connection to the energy grid, has become a hub for tidal power innovation. Alongside Scottish company Orbital, Spain-based Magallanes is also testing at Emec and US company Aquantis has just signed up to a six-month demo programme.

Tidal power, while not yet widely commercialised, is seen by many as the next frontier in global renewables. It’s the only renewable power source that comes from the moon’s pull on the Earth. “Unlike other renewables which rely on, for instance, the sun or the wind, tidal resources are predictable and continuous,” says Prof AbuBakr Bahaj, head of the energy and climate change division at the University of Southampton.

Harnessing power from the waves can be done in three ways: tidal barrages, in which turbines are attached to a dam-like wall; tidal lagoons, where a body of water is enclosed by a barrage-like barrier; and tidal stream, where turbines are placed directly into fast-flowing bodies of water.

Only tidal barrages are used commercially – most notably at Lake Sihwa in South Korea and La Rance in northern France – but it is tidal stream technology that is being tested in Orkney. Tidal stream is cheaper to build and has less of an environmental impact than barrages, which alter tidal flow and can affect marine life and birds.

Tidal stream power alone could provide 11% of the UK’s current electricity needs, according to 2021 research from Plymouth University.
» Read article    

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

sloppy install
Maine energy efficiency plan puts priority on equity, electrification

As the state increasingly feels the strain of rising energy prices, the $300 million plan includes commitments to helping low-income and rural residents weatherize homes and access electric vehicle chargers.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
June 17, 2022

Maine’s utility regulators have approved the state’s latest three-year energy efficiency plan, a set of programs and incentives that environmental and community advocates say will make it easier for low-income and rural residents to weatherize their homes and access electric vehicle chargers.

The plan substantially increases funding for programs serving low- and moderate-income households, continues efforts to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure into more sparsely populated areas, and builds upon the state’s already nation-leading heat pump incentives. In total, the plan calls for spending just under $300 million over three years and projects a lifetime benefit totaling $1.5 billion for the state, in addition to the environmental gains it is expected to produce.

“We think that these benefits extend beyond the economic savings to include really important progress with carbon reductions and improving our energy independence, which has never been more important,” said Michael Stoddard, executive director of the Efficiency Maine Trust, the quasi-governmental agency that administers the bulk of the state’s efficiency programs.

Efficiency Maine puts out a new plan every three years, outlining its intended goals, spending, and programs. The newly approved plan, called Triennial Plan V, covers the years 2023 to 2025 and has been widely praised.

“This is a wonderful plan,” said Jeff Marks, Maine director for climate and energy nonprofit the Acadia Center. “This gets at a lot of the priorities in Maine.”
» Blog editor’s note: photo shows the ugliest heat pump installation job I’ve ever seen. Why it was selected is a mystery….
» Read article   
» Read the plan

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

storage graphic
‘All hands on deck’ for the energy storage industry
By Kelly Sarber, CEO of Strategic Management Group, in Utility Dive
June 21, 2022

Energy storage technology may be the singular, most important component in our nation’s transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, since utility-scale, battery systems provide the flexibility to absorb, store and deploy energy at locations where and when the power is most needed. Energy storage is crucial to replacing America’s fleet of polluting, fossil fuel plants because they integrate the increasing amounts of wind, solar and hydropower being transmitted hundreds of miles without jeopardizing grid reliability — sometimes the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining where and when the power is most needed.

For example, in New York City alone, there are plans to construct more than 9,000 MW of offshore wind projects that will connect to land, replacing more than 8,000 MW of an aging fleet of natural gas plants while adding more electrification capacity for vehicles. These goals cannot be accomplished without deploying utility-scale storage to connect new, intermittent offshore wind power that will take years to develop. More importantly, energy storage projects need to be constructed and operational before these new, planned renewable energy resources come online, making sure intermittent resources are balanced against demand.

Unfortunately, and like every segment of our nation’s economy, the energy storage industry is reeling from unforeseen costs and supply chain delays, facing uncertain, external risks and market-based obstacles that must be acknowledged and addressed if we are to stay on track to aggressively fight climate change by investing and constructing energy storage projects that support dual goals of renewable energy and grid resiliency.

Utility-scale, battery systems operating today are quickly proving themselves to be a reliable and resilient workhorse for grid support in locations where projects have come online. California leads the nation in deploying energy storage because the state’s climate change policies are complemented by market incentives that reward grid resiliency, reliability, resource adequacy, voltage support and energy islanding. In most other states, energy markets do not compensate developers of energy storage with the same benefit-based approach — policies that need to be immediately remedied if they hope to attract similar investment.
» Read article    

» More about energy storage

BUILDING MATERIALS

hot stuffThe race to produce green steel
The steel industry is testing new technologies that don’t rely on fossil fuels.
By Marcello Rossi, Ars Technica
June 19, 2022

In the city of Woburn, Massachusetts, a suburb just north of Boston, a cadre of engineers and scientists in white coats inspected an orderly stack of brick-sized, gunmetal-gray steel ingots on a desk inside a neon-illuminated lab space.

What they were looking at was a batch of steel created using an innovative manufacturing method, one that Boston Metal, a company that spun out a decade ago from MIT, hopes will dramatically reshape the way the alloy has been made for centuries. By using electricity to separate iron from its ore, the firm claims it can make steel without releasing carbon dioxide, offering a path to cleaning up one of the world’s worst industries for greenhouse gas emissions.

An essential input for engineering and construction, steel is one of the most popular industrial materials in the world, with more than 2 billion tons produced annually. This abundance, however, comes at a steep price for the environment. Steelmaking accounts for 7 to 11 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions, making it one of the largest industrial sources of atmospheric pollution. And because production could rise by a third by 2050, this environmental burden could grow.

[…] Facing escalating pressure from governments and investors to reduce emissions, a number of steelmakers—including both major producers and startups—are experimenting with low-carbon technologies that use hydrogen or electricity instead of traditional carbon-intensive manufacturing. Some of these efforts are nearing commercial reality.

[…] Modern steelmaking involves several production stages. Most commonly, iron ore is crushed and turned into sinter (a rough solid) or pellets. Separately, coal is baked and converted into coke. The ore and coke are then mixed with limestone and fed into a large blast furnace where a flow of extremely hot air is introduced from the bottom. Under high temperatures, the coke burns and the mixture produces liquid iron, known as pig iron or blast-furnace iron. The molten material then goes into an oxygen furnace, where it’s blasted with pure oxygen through a water-cooled lance, which forces off carbon to leave crude steel as a final product.

This method, first patented by English engineer Henry Bessemer in the 1850s, produces carbon-dioxide emissions in different ways. First, the chemical reactions in the blast furnace result in emissions, as carbon trapped in coke and limestone binds with oxygen in the air to create carbon dioxide as a byproduct. In addition, fossil fuels are typically burned to heat the blast furnace and to power sintering and pelletizing plants, as well as coke ovens, emitting carbon dioxide in the process.

[…] Electricity can also be used to reduce iron ore. Boston Metal, for example, has developed a process called molten oxide electrolysis, in which a current moves through a cell containing iron ore. As electricity travels between both ends of the cell and heats up the ore, oxygen bubbles up (and can be collected), while iron ore is reduced into liquid iron that pools at the bottom of the cell and is periodically tapped. The purified iron is then mixed with carbon and other ingredients.

“What we do is basically swapping carbon for electricity as a reducing agent,” explained Adam Rauwerdink, the company’s senior vice president of business development. “This allows us to make very high-quality steel using way less energy and in fewer steps than conventional steelmaking.” As long as power comes from fossil-free sources, he added, the process generates no carbon emissions.

He said the company, which currently runs three pilot lines at its Woburn facility, is working to bring its laboratory concept to the market, using $50 million raised last year from an investor group including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, backed by Bill Gates, and the German carmaker BMW. A commercial-scale demonstration plant is expected to be up and running by 2025.
» Read article     

» More about building materials

MODERNIZING THE GRID

jammed
FERC proposes ‘first-ready, first-served’ interconnection rules to help spur new generation, storage
The federal agency also proposed extreme weather grid reliability requirements and reports from transmission providers on extreme weather assessments.
By Ethan Howland, Utility Dive
June 17, 2022

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday proposed requiring transmission providers to adopt “first-ready, first-served” interconnection requirements in an effort to bring proposed generation and energy storage projects online more quickly.

“Our [interconnection] queues are clogged, it takes forever to get new generation through,” FERC Chairman Richard Glick said during the commission’s monthly open meeting, noting the delays potentially hurt grid reliability and prevent lower-cost energy from reaching consumers.

There are about 8,100 proposed generation and storage projects in interconnection queues across the United States, totaling about 1,000 GW and 400 GW, respectively, Glick said. Regional transmission organizations and other transmission providers are studying what grid upgrades are needed to safely connect those projects to the grid and how much the upgrades would cost.

The review process takes about 3.7 years to complete, on average, and about three-quarters of the projects drop out before finishing it, Glick said.

FERC aims to help remove the interconnection logjam by adopting tactics already used by some grid operators: studying interconnection requests in groups, or clusters, instead of one by one, and imposing requirements, such as larger financial commitments, that aim to weed out speculative projects that have little chance of being built.
» Read article    

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

pedego
E-bike Sales and Sharing are Booming. But Can They Help Take Cars off the Road?
E-bikes, already taking off during the pandemic, are getting a big boost from states that hope they will reduce driving, energy consumption and emissions.
By James Pothen, Inside Climate News
June 23, 2022

Talk to Kiran Herbert and you might start to think that e-bikes cure cancer. She’s not just a writer and content manager at the bicycle advocacy group PeopleForBikes. She is a self-proclaimed e-bike evangelist on a mission to see electric bicycles spread across her home state of Colorado, then across the country and around the world.

[…] She has reason to be so giddy. Next week, the state of Colorado is set to release $12 million for e-bike ownership and rideshare programs. The funding comes as part of Colorado State Senate Bill 22-193, which was signed into law on June 2 and is among a host of state and local measures across the country that identify e-bikes as an essential tool for getting people to drive less, which will reduce emissions from transportation.

“I will say the Colorado bill…has a lot of people excited because it’s showcasing what’s possible,” said Herbert. “Because they have done all these pilot [programs], there’s just a lot of proof that this works and they’re pretty much going all-in on e-bikes, which is really exciting. And I think, honestly, that’s the strategy this country needs.”

Colorado is joining California, Connecticut and Vermont among states with statewide e-bike incentive programs, in addition to many local governments with programs, according to a database maintained by Portland State University in partnership with PeopleForBikes. Massachusetts may soon join them, with a bill making its way through the legislature that would provide rebates to consumers buying e-bikes.

Electric bicycles have been around for over a hundred years. But recent technological advances, including the development of lighter batteries, have helped make them easier to ride. And then, the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns pushed more people to ride, share and buy bikes.

[…] So e-bikes are popular. But are they good for the environment? Evangelists like Kiran Herbert say that they can replace a large number of car rides in cities. An e-bike uses less energy than a gas-powered or electric-powered car, so as people start to use e-bikes instead of their cars, they will save money as well as reduce emissions, and may even get rid of their automobiles completely.

There is some evidence to suggest this is true. For example, a 2020 study in Norway found that car owners who purchase an e-bike will drive less.
» Read article   
» Read the Massachusetts E-bike bill

» More about clean transportation

GAS UTILITIES

fenced in
As gas companies plan for a climate future, their vision: more gas
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
June 16, 2022

Up on the fourth floor of Westin Copley Place this week, hundreds of natural gas representatives mingled among glossy posters and tables littered with branded baseball hats and Oreos. Among the niceties and exchanges of business cards it became quickly clear — the climate crisis is very much on people’s minds. Another thing became clear, too. The solution, as they see it, is more gas.

“Additional natural gas pipelines are the answer to many of the questions we face today,” Amy Andryszak, chief executive of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, told a panel audience Tuesday.

It was the 27th annual gathering of the Northeast LDC Gas Forum — nicknamed the “Best Deal-Making Conference” in the industry, according to the organizers, and seemingly as good a place as any to get the gas industry’s view of the climate crisis as it is lived every day in the executive suites, field sites, and maintenance trucks of the scores of companies that operate in New England.

Elsewhere in the world, on this very day, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres issued the latest of his increasingly desperate pleas for world action, saying that the planet is headed toward climate chaos and that “new funding for fossil fuel exploration and production infrastructure is delusional.”

But the message on the convention floor was that the outside world just doesn’t understand.

In panels and presentations, industry representatives told the story of an industry in the cross-hairs, trying to solve the climate problem but getting interference from overly ambitious regulators, activist shareholders who want to see them slash emissions, and climate advocates and policy makers pushing to get off of fossil fuels.

[…] Nowhere was the tension felt by the industry more clear than in the framing of a panel called “Electrification — Not So Fast!”

Electrification — a plan for powering most vehicles and homes with energy from a clean electrical grid — is the path to net zero that clean energy advocates and many policy makers in Massachusetts and around the world generally agree is the best and most cost-effective. But the gas industry is pushing back hard, proposing its own scenarios, which generally involve expanding gas production and gas infrastructure, eventually replacing what flows through pipes with something less carbon-intensive.

A problem with those plans, many experts say, is that low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels are still new technologies that are expected to be low in supply, meaning they will need to be conserved for the parts of the economy that are the hardest to electrify, like steel production or heavy-duty transportation.

At this panel, though, and at others throughout the conference, the message was to find a way to replace at least a portion of what flows through the pipes, while growing the footprint of natural gas infrastructure.
» Read article

» More about gas utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

reflecting on climate denial
Climate Deniers and the Language of Climate Obstruction
From narratives about fossil fuels as a solution to climate advocates as out of touch with reality, here’s how the fossil fuel industry and its allies are weaponizing words to delay climate action.
By Stella Levantesi, DeSmog Blog
June 16, 2022

On a recent episode of the Fox Business show “Mornings with Maria,” American Petroleum Institute CEO and President, Mike Sommers, said that “the most important environmental movement in the world is the American oil and gas industry.”

“A super absurd example of oil and gas companies appropriating and weaponizing the language of climate advocates for their own greenwashing,” commented author and climate activist Genevieve Guenther on Twitter.

Sommers’ statement may be, in fact, one of the most literal examples of how fossil fuel companies are using language to perpetuate their climate denial and fend off action. And because public perception and awareness of the climate crisis are, at least in part, driven by how we talk about it, the fossil fuel industry has used language “to create smoke and mirrors and false impressions around what they’re really doing,” said Christine Arena, author, expert on climate disinformation, and former Executive Vice President at the PR firm Edelman. Arena was one of six employees to resign in 2015 following revelations of the firm’s greenwashing work with fossil fuel lobbies and associations.

PR firms — or “the enablers,” as Arena calls them — have played a key role in exploiting communication and manipulating language to their advantage, all while working on behalf of the fossil fuel industry and using a tobacco industry playbook. Ultimately, they’ve been using it to obstruct climate action, a longtime goal of the oil, gas, and coal industries. “If we take a step back and ask ourselves, why has meaningful action to avert the climate crisis proven to be so difficult? It is at least in part because of communications and because of the language coming from the fossil fuel industry,” said Arena.

Today, the fossil fuel industry and its allies are “appropriating and weaponizing” language from climate advocates, usually in ways that are much less obvious than Sommers’ recent comment.

“The industry is repeating the same phrases it’s hearing from the climate movement to use for their own advertising purposes. They are commandeering the language of sustainability and of the climate movement,” Arena said of fossil fuel companies, adding that they are doing so “to create a false perception that they’re on our side.”

[…] From fossil fuel solutionism to adaptation-only narratives, these climate obstruction tactics commandeer language in an attempt to undermine one of the most urgent and far-reaching challenges of our day. And the momentum behind such deceptive language is only building.

“We are on a dangerous trajectory,” Arena said. “I would say broadly that climate disinformation and greenwashing are getting much worse, and today we have many more examples to point to than we even did back when the industry was trying to deny climate change altogether.”

Understanding how opponents of climate action employ these discourses of delay is essential to recognizing climate disinformation and misinformation, Arena said, and ultimately to disrupting it. “We have to redouble our efforts to hold these companies and their enablers accountable.”
» Read article    

» More about fossil fuels   

PLASTICS BANS

fails the sniff testVirginia governor rolls back plastics phase-out, seeking to court recycling
An executive order this spring by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin trumpeted efforts to boost recycling, but it also eliminated a commitment by his predecessor to phase out single-use plastics at state agencies and universities.
By Elizabeth McGowan, Energy News Network
June 21, 2022

At first whiff, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order centered on curbing food waste and boosting recycling across Virginia might pass an environmentalist’s sniff test.

Scratch a bit deeper, however, and that same nose detects a less-than-pleasant odor.

Conservationists have no quibble with order No. 17’s initiative to keep leftovers out of landfills by doubling down on composting efforts statewide.

Where they smell greenwashing is in the section that cancels an initiative by the previous administration to eliminate single-use plastics. Instead, the new order urges state agencies, parks, colleges and universities to encourage recycling of the ubiquitous plastics.

“I would love to be positive about this,” said Tim Cywinski, spokesperson for the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club. “Youngkin easily could’ve written an order that didn’t get rid of the plastics phase-out.

“But every time he does something that seems good, he does something else and goes two steps backward.”

What’s the harm in backtracking on plastics? The Sierra Club is among those claiming it’s an invitation for companies with questionable claims about recycling plastic into fuel or feedstock for more plastic to move into the state.

In fact, Youngkin’s early April order does just that. The state Department of Environmental Quality is required to lead research on a report due next spring that outlines how Virginia can attract entities that specialize in post-consumer recycled products.

That order refers to those businesses as “clean technology companies.”

The American Chemistry Council has lobbied for years to locate plastic recyclers in Virginia, according to the Sierra Club.

“This is investing in something that is just going to pollute again,” said Connor Kish, Sierra’s legislative and political director. “What is clear is that Gov. Youngkin’s executive order undoes a lot of good work.”
» Read article   
» Read Governor Youngkin’s executive order

collecting bottles
Canada announces ban on single-use plastics in ‘historic step’
New regulations will prohibit sale and import of ‘harmful’ plastics, with some time for businesses to adjust.
By Al Jazeera
June 20, 2022

The government of Canada announced that it will ban the manufacturing and import of a number of “harmful” single-use plastics, with several new regulations coming into place in December.

The new rules, announced Monday, will apply to checkout bags, utensils, food-service products with plastic that is difficult to recycle, ring carriers, stir sticks, and straws with some exceptions, the government announced in a release.

“Our government is all in when it comes to reducing plastic pollution …That’s why we’re announcing today that our government is delivering on its commitment to ban harmful single-use plastics,” said environment minister Steven Guilbeault in a press conference Monday.

“This is a historic step towards beating plastic pollution and keeping our communities, lands and oceans clean.”

The sale of such items will be prohibited starting in December 2023, a buffer period meant to give businesses time to adjust to the changes and wind down their existing supplies.

The government will also ban the export of six plastics by the end of 2025.

The federal government listed plastics as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act last year, which paved the way for regulations to ban some. However, a consortium of plastics producers is suing the government over the toxic designation in a case expected to be heard later this year.
» Read article    

» More about plastics bans

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

surf sachet
Explainer: Plastic sachets: As big brands cashed in, a waste crisis spiraled
By John Geddie and Joe Brock, Reuters
June 22, 2022

Tiny plastic packets known as sachets have allowed companies to tap millions of low-income customers in the developing world but also unleashed a global pollution crisis.

A Reuters investigation has found that London-listed Unilever plc (ULVR.L), a pioneer in selling sachets, has privately fought to derail bans on the problematic packaging despite saying publicly it wants to “get rid of” them.

Here’s what you need to know about sachets.

While commonly associated with ketchup or cosmetic samples in wealthy countries, sachets are widely used in emerging markets to sell inexpensive micro-portions of everyday products, from laundry detergent to seasoning and snacks.

These palm-sized pouches tend to be made up of multiple layers of plastic and aluminum foil, melded together using adhesives, according to Mark Shaw, technical sales manager at UK-based packaging firm Parkside Flexibles.

A typical sachet will have an inner plastic layer that makes an airtight seal around the product, a foil layer that provides an additional barrier against moisture and heat – an important factor in tropical climates – and an outer plastic layer that provides flexibility and can be printed on, he said.

[…] Proponents say sachets give low-income consumers access to high-quality, safe products. Critics say companies charge the poor a premium because products sold this way are more expensive by volume than bigger packages.

They also have created a massive environmental problem. Often sold in countries without proper waste collection, these single-use sachets end up as litter, clogging waterways and harming wildlife.

And even in countries with waste infrastructure, the complex design and small size of these packets makes them virtually impossible to recycle in a cost-effective way. It’s easier to bury or burn them.
» Read article    

» More about plastics in the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 6/17/22

banner 09

Welcome back.

We’ve been seeing how climate-related court actions are playing out both ways. That dynamic was on display this week. First, a coalition of environmental groups sued the Biden administration for failing to consider the harms caused to endangered species from the emissions produced by oil and gas drilling on public lands. The idea is to enlist the Endangered Species Act in the climate fight. On a similar track, a petition from a group of scientists and former public officials calls on the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate emissions under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

In the opposite corner, we’re watching the rapidly-growing roster of lawsuits brought under the Energy Charter Treaty by fossil fuel companies against signatory countries whose climate mitigation policies threaten polluters’ business-as-usual bottom line.

Meanwhile, climate activists building on earlier success in persuading wealthy universities to divest their stocks from fossil fuel companies are now raising awareness of the billions of dollars those same institutions accept from fossil companies for climate research.

All of the above influences how quickly we manage to transition to a green economy. It’s a good place to check in with Johanna Chao Kreilick, President, Union of Concerned Scientists about whether we need new technology to address climate change – and if not, what’s the hold-up? Just to underline the urgency of getting that climate mitigation in gear, we look at new research that uncovered “off the charts” warming in the Arctic, and also a report on the increasingly precarious existence of billions of people who contributed nothing to the atmospheric carbon buildup.

The nuclear power industry has pitched a new generation of small modular reactors (SMRs) as a vital base load component in our clean energy future.  Trouble is, they still produce radioactive waste – potentially lots of it – and the U.S. has never solved the problem of where to put it. In the renewables world, a new peer-reviewed analysis from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has determined that current inflationary pressures will eventually ease up on solar and wind, and the cost trend should return to its previous downward trajectory.

A couple stories out of Boston show how innovations in renewables and energy efficiency can address the needs of a variety of existing buildings. There’s a lot happening in battery storage also, with new avenues being explored because of the high cost and huge demand for lithium – driven largely by the exponential growth of electric vehicles. And for all you EV drivers who are frustrated with the sketchy and sometimes unreliable public charging infrastructure, an update to federal rules could be a game changer.

Looking at the production side, Activists in New York state are backing a bill to increase the role of public-owned power generation. It’s an idea that’s been gaining ground with climate advocates around the country as they grow increasingly frustrated that investor-owned utilities are not moving away from fossil fuels quickly enough.

In the last few years, mitigating methane emissions has become a top priority in our effort to keep total warming below 2 degrees Celsius. So the hunt is on for emissions sources, especially from oil and gas production and distribution activities. Evidence from infrared cameras and satellites is mounting that fossil producers vastly underreport their emissions. Related to this is the recent industry push to extensively build up U.S. liquefied natural gas export capacity. The industry argues that the facilities would support Europe’s energy needs in lieu of Russia’s assault on Ukraine. But actual operations from the proposed facilities won’t begin until well after the crisis is expected to have passed. Emissions from simply operating those facilities – never mind the end-use combustion or leakage of their product – would be astronomical.

We’ll close with another story about plastics recycling that’s more of a problem than a solution. So-called ‘advanced recycling’ uses a high-heat process known as pyrolysis to turn plastic into fuel. In a world where we really need to stop burning stuff, it’s hard to find anything about this ‘solution’ that seems like a good idea. Slick marketing is working to convince you otherwise.

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

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

monk seal
Can a Law Protecting Endangered Animals Stop New Oil Drilling?
Environmentalists say the government failed to study the threats to endangered species from climate change before issuing oil and gas drilling permits.
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
June 15, 2022

A coalition of environmental groups sued the Biden administration on Wednesday for failing to consider the harms caused to endangered species from the emissions produced by oil and gas drilling on public lands.

Using a novel legal argument based on the Endangered Species Act, the groups are arguing that oil burned from a well drilled in Wyoming adds to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that is heating the planet and devastating coral reefs in Florida, polar bears in the Arctic and monk seals in Hawaii.

If the coalition succeeds, more than 3,500 drilling permits issued during the Biden administration could be revoked and future permitting could be far more difficult.

“The science is now unfortunately quite clear that climate change is a catastrophe for the planet in every which way, including for endangered species,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. It is leading the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“We need to stop the autopilot-like approach of fossil fuel leasing on public lands,” he said.
» Read article   
» Read the lawsuit

obscure
Why the energy charter treaty is a threat to the global transition effort

An obscure international trade pact, which has protected investments in the energy sector since the 1990s, is deterring governments from taking decisive action on climate change
By Sam Haddad, Raconteur
June 15, 2022

In April, a report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that international trade agreements could obstruct government-led decarbonisation projects.

It cited the energy charter treaty (ECT) – a legally binding pact protecting investments in activities such as oil and gas extraction, coal mining and petroleum refining – as the most egregious case, largely because several claims brought under the ECT had been “settled in favour of foreign investors” at the expense of “much-needed climate action”.

The 1994 treaty, which took effect in 1998, has 53 signatories, including the UK and the EU. Its original purpose was to protect western firms that were investing in newly independent former Soviet states, but the ECT’s reach has broadened to include countries such as Cyprus, Jordan and Yemen.

“Its main goal was to promote energy security where investors were unsure about going into new places, because there was a chance of having their assets expropriated or nationalised,” says Rachel Thrasher, a researcher at the Boston University Global Development Policy Center.

Aside from its “neo-colonial historical context”, as Audrey Changoe, trade campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, puts it, the biggest problem with the treaty is a mechanism called the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system. This allows energy firms to sue foreign governments privately in courts of arbitration. [emphasis added]

[…] Claims brought under the ISDS can go into billions, which is money that could be used for the green energy transition. After the Dutch government revealed its plans to close all coal-fired power plants in the Netherlands by 2030. German energy firms RWE and Uniper issued lawsuits in 2020 for €1.4bn and €1bn respectively to compensate them for their impending loss of business there.

Changoe notes that governments are “phasing out fossil fuels because of pressure from civil society. Dutch citizens had actually sued their own government in 2015 for failing to protect them from the climate crisis. This is a democratic process that big fossil-fuel companies are seeking to undermine.”
» Read article    

» More about protests and actions

DIVESTMENT

Harvard divest
Universities face mounting pressure to stop taking fossil fuel funds
By Dharna Noor, Boston Globe
June 13, 2022

Climate activists, emboldened by their success in pushing wealthy universities to divest their stocks from fossil fuel companies, are now looking to a new and even thornier target: the billions of dollars universities accept from those companies for climate research.

Some researchers, including academics at the nation’s most prestigious institutes, say fossil fuel money helps them conduct crucial climate research. Having less of it, they say, could actually slow progress in the fight against climate change.

“I don’t see how that’s a win for the climate or MIT or society,” said Christopher Knittel, a professor of applied economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who led the 2016 study Utility of the Future, which focused on decarbonizing the grid — and was sponsored in part by oil and gas firms.

But other leading climate experts, citing evidence of the oil industry’s history of disinformation and scientists’ dire calls to phase out fossil fuels, said institutions must cut these ties. Oil companies fund research, they said, that protects their business models, greenwashes their reputations, and distracts from the urgent need to abandon fossil fuels altogether.

Their effort, dubbed the Fossil Free Research campaign, is gaining traction. In March, 500 academics — including climatologist Michael Mann, creator of the iconic “hockey stick” graph of the past millennium’s global temperature rise; Bill McKibben, perhaps the most prominent fossil fuel divestment advocate; and dozens of Ivy League scholars — called on universities to reject oil and gas funding.

“Academics should not be forced to choose between researching climate solutions and inadvertently aiding corporate greenwashing,” they wrote.
» Read article    

» More about divestment

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

Morgantown Generating Station
Greenhouse gases must be legally phased out, US scientists argue
A petition calls on the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate emissions under the Toxic Substances Control Act
By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
June 16, 2022

Greenhouse gas emissions should be subject to legal controls in the US and phased out under the Toxic Substances Control Act, according to a group of scientists and former public officials, in a novel approach to the climate crisis.

“Using the TSCA would be one small step for [the US president] Joe Biden, but potentially a giant leap for humankind – as a first step towards making the polluters pay,” said James Hansen, a former NASA scientist, who is a member of the group alongside Donn Viviani, a retired 35-year veteran of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Their legal submission, filed to the EPA on Thursday, states that greenhouse gas emissions present a danger to the climate and should be regulated as such under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), a law passed in 1976 as part of a suite of environmental regulations in the US.

The TSCA, which was amended in 2016, allows the EPA to place monitoring requirements on companies and enforce strict controls on certain substances. It has been used to restrict chemicals including asbestos, lead in paint, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

The law covers substances that pose “an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment”. The petitioners believe it can be interpreted to allow for a phase-out of greenhouse gas emissions.

Viviani said: “TSCA is like the ruby slippers [in The Wizard of Oz] – it can do just about anything. It can allow you to put a levy on carbon, and can deal with the legacy of carbon emissions. It has nearly international reach, as the US is the biggest market in the world and could apply these measures to imports too.”
» Read article   
» Summary of the TSCA

» More about EPA

GREENING THE ECONOMY

to the people
Do We Really Need New Technology to Fight Climate Change?
By Johanna Chao Kreilick, President, Union of Concerned Scientists | Blog
June 13, 2022

I was invited to speak at a panel discussion last Wednesday as part of The Economist’s annual Sustainability Week, titled “What technologies are needed to avert a climate disaster?” True to the theme, I was asked about which technological innovations would be necessary to save our planet. I wanted to take this space to share some of my thoughts from the panel—and why I believe this wasn’t exactly the right question to ask.

Technology is where most energy transition conversations remain focused. And yet, technological innovation is not what’s standing in the way of significant and necessary near-term climate progress. We already have so many of the foundational technological building blocks of the clean energy transition at hand: renewables, energy efficiency, energy storage, and pathways to electrifying a vast array of energy end uses. Combined, these technologies have the capacity to get us an overwhelming amount of the way there.

No question, there’s still room for technological innovation—to make existing technologies better, and to push the frontiers of what’s possible to enable the best possible outcomes for climate, for health, for equity, for affordability, for resilience, and for overall quality of life. But we could be making enormous strides right now. And yet, we aren’t. Indeed, in most scenarios today, it is everything but the technology that’s impeding progress.

Overly focusing on technological innovation will miss the basic changes needed to drive the clean energy transition at scale and at pace today, including required breakthroughs on collaboration, collective action, communication, governance, and business model reforms. These pieces are critical to unleashing necessary change—regardless of the technologies at hand—yet are too often overlooked.
» Read article    

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

Barents Sea
‘Off the Scale’: Warmer Arctic Ocean Fueling Climate Feedback Loop Faster Than Previously Known
“This is one of the scariest reports I have ever seen,” said one climate scientist in response to new study.
By Jon Queally, Common Dreams
June 15, 2022

New scientific research published Wednesday shows the waters in the North Barents Sea are warming at a rate that is much more rapid than most climate models have predicted, with worrying implications about feedback loops for the larger Arctic region and far beyond.

Extending between the north coast of Norway and Russia in the eastern Arctic Ocean, the North Barents Sea has been warming at a rate nearly seven times that of the global average, the study shows. The researchers used temperature data over four decades to determine that the trends in the region—the “fastest warming place known on Earth”—should be seen as an “early warning” of what could happen elsewhere.

Published in Scientific Reports, the new findings offer further confirmation that feedback loops in the Arctic are taking hold but could be doing so at a faster rate than previously understood.

“The warming pattern is primarily consistent with reductions in sea ice cover and confirms the general spatial and temporal patterns represented by reanalyses,” states the abstract of the study. “However, our findings suggest even a stronger rate of warming and [sea ice concentration (SIC) and sea surface temperature (SST)] relation than was known in this region until now.”

Researchers behind the study, reports High North News, warn the increased warming is likely to fuel “increases in extreme weather in North America, Europe and Asia.” The scientists say the Barents sea region offers a window into how warming is already impacting the Arctic more broadly and what more rapid warming could look like elsewhere in the future.
» Read article   
» Read the study

Dima Hasao
On Climate Change’s Front Lines, Hard Lives Grow Even Harder
Hundreds of millions of humanity’s most vulnerable live in South Asia, where rising temperatures make it more difficult to address poverty, food insecurity and health challenges.
By Mujib Mashal and Hari Kumar, New York Times
Photographs by Atul Loke
June 14, 2022

FATEHGARH-SAHIB, India — When the unseasonably heavy rains flooded the fields, and then the equally unseasonable heat shriveled the seeds, it didn’t just slash Ranjit Singh’s wheat harvest by nearly half.

It put him, and nearly all the other households in his village in northern India, that much further from financial stability in a country where a majority of people scratch out a living on farms. Like many Indian farmers, Mr. Singh is saddled with enormous debt and wondering how he will repay it, as a warming world makes farming ever more precarious.

For India and other South Asian nations, home to hundreds of millions of humanity’s most vulnerable, a seemingly bottomless well of challenges — poverty, food security, health, governance — has only deepened as the region bakes on the front lines of climate change.

Global warming is no longer a distant prospect that officials with short electoral mandates can choose to look away from. The increasing volatility in weather patterns means a greater risk of disasters and severe economic damage for countries already straining to increase growth and development, and to move past the pandemic’s devastation to lives and livelihoods.

[…] South Asia has always been hot, the monsoons always drenching. And it is far from alone in contending with new weather patterns. But this region, with nearly a quarter of the world’s population, is experiencing such climatic extremes, from untimely heavy rain and floods to scorching temperatures and extended heat waves, that they are increasingly becoming the norm, not the exception.
» Read article    

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

no turns
Smaller reactors may still have a big nuclear waste problem
A new generation of reactors promises a nuclear energy renaissance, but critics say the U.S. needs to figure out what to do about its radioactive garbage.
By Gregory Barber, Grist
June 15, 2022

Lindsay Krall decided to study nuclear waste out of a love for the arcane. Figuring how to bury radioactive atoms isn’t exactly simple — it takes a blend of particle physics, careful geology, and engineering, and a high tolerance for reams of regulations. But the trickiest ingredient of all is time. Nuclear waste from today’s reactors will take thousands of years to become something safer to handle. So any solution can’t require too much stewardship. It’s gotta just work, and keep working for generations. By then, the utility that split those atoms won’t exist, nor will the company that designed the reactor. Who knows? Maybe the United States won’t exist either.

Right now, the United States doesn’t have such a plan. That’s been the case since 2011, when regulators facing stiff local opposition pulled the plug on a decades-long effort to store waste underneath Yucca Mountain in Nevada, stranding $44 billion in federal funds meant for the job. Since then, the nuclear industry has done a good job of storing its waste on a temporary basis, which is part of the reason Congress has shown little interest in working out a solution for future generations. Long-term thinking isn’t their strong suit. “It’s been a complete institutional failure in the US,” Krall says.

But there’s a new type of nuclear on the block: the small modular reactor or SMR. For a long time, the U.S. nuclear industry has been stagnating, in large part because of the tremendous costs of building massive new plants. SMRs, by contrast, are small enough to be built in a factory and then hauled elsewhere to produce power. Advocates hope this will make them more cost-effective than the big reactors of today, offering an affordable, always-on complement to less-predictable renewables like wind and solar. According to some, they should also produce less radioactive waste than their predecessors. A Department of Energy-sponsored report estimated in 2014 that the U.S. nuclear industry would produce 94 percent less fuel waste if big, old reactors were replaced with new smaller ones.

Krall was skeptical about that last part. “SMRs are generally being marketed as a solution — that maybe you don’t need a geological repository for them,” she says. So as a postdoc at Stanford, she and two prominent nuclear experts started digging through the patents, research papers, and license applications of two dozen proposed reactor designs, none of which have been built so far. Thousands of pages of redacted documents, a few public records requests, and a vast appendix full of calculations later, Krall, who is now a scientist with Sweden’s nuclear waste company, got an answer: By many measures, the SMR designs produce not less, but potentially much more waste: more than five times the spent fuel per unit of power, and as much as 35 times for other forms of waste. The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences earlier this week.
» Read article   
» Read the research paper

Palmetto Bay
DOE: Here’s where renewable costs are heading
By David Iaconangelo, E&E News
June 14, 2022

Recent challenges facing wind and solar likely won’t sink their longer-term progress in the United States, as industries figure out ways to keep the cost of renewable power on a downward slope, according to a new peer-reviewed analysis from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Three Berkeley Lab researchers assessed how well the wind and solar industries have performed based on the historical prices of renewable electricity, and then used the findings to project how renewables’ levelized costs of energy would decrease through 2050.

The team found that every time utility-scale wind capacity doubles in size, its levelized cost of electricity will decline by 15 percent. For big solar projects, that decline will be even steeper, at 24 percent, according to the analysis published in iScience journal in May.

By 2035, solar could cost as little as $22 per megawatt-hour on average. That’s down from a 2020 average of $34 per MWh. It is also close to what the Energy Department is targeting for solar in 2030 — $20 per MWh, under a goal declared last year.

Wind, for its part, could hit $24 per MWh, down from $32 per MWh two years ago, according to the analysis.

The projection of plunging costs may seem to clash with the recent reality of wind and solar, whose economics have been battered by soaring commodity prices and trade policy pressures. The price of wind turbines rose 9 percent last year, for instance. And the cost of power purchase agreements rose across all of the U.S.’s electricity markets, according to industry analyses (Energywire, May 17).

The solar industry has been particularly vocal about its endangered growth, which it linked to a Commerce Department probe into new import tariffs. Earlier this week, the solar industry said a “substantial amount” of solar had been lost because of the Commerce move, despite a tariff waiver by President Joe Biden to ease pressure on the industry (Energywire, June 8). In April, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, Abigail Ross Hopper, said the probe had plunged the industry into its “most serious crisis” in history (Energywire, April 6).

The Berkeley Lab analysis — which was based on nationwide, plant-level data from 1982 through 2020 — did not factor in those recent problems.

Yet the researchers wrote that they expected both renewable industries to adapt and return to slashing costs again, judging from their past track record.
» Read article    

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Boston steam
How century-old ​‘district energy’ networks can help decarbonize cities
Vicinity Energy aims to convert Boston’s steam network to run on clean electricity, showing how some cities can move toward climate-friendly heating and cooling of buildings.
By Jeff St. John, Canary Media
June 7, 2022

Buildings need to switch from being heated with fossil fuels to being heated with clean electricity to meet the world’s decarbonization goals. That switch can happen one building at a time — or, for city centers and university and corporate campuses that have district energy systems, there’s another option.

One example is the eSteam plan being pursued by Vicinity Energy for the nearly 90-year-old district steam system serving about 65 million square feet of buildings in the cities of Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Over the coming years, Vicinity plans to augment its fossil-gas-fired cogeneration plant in downtown Cambridge with electric-powered boilers and industrial-scale heat pumps.

That could serve as a template for electrifying more of the district heat and cooling systems the Boston-based company owns and operates in cities including Baltimore, Philadelphia and Oklahoma City and college campuses across the U.S. Northeast, Vicinity CEO Bill DiCroce said.

“We can become a converter of electric renewable power to steam, and our customers don’t have to do a damn thing,” he said. The grid power for those electric heating systems will increasingly come from the gigawatts of onshore solar and offshore wind power being built to meet Massachusetts’ clean-energy targets.

[…] Retrofitting hundreds of millions of square feet of buildings with zero-carbon heating is ​“going to be expensive. It’s going to take time to build in that electrical infrastructure,” DiCroce said. Not all cities have a district energy system that could serve as an alternative to that approach, he said. But Boston and Cambridge do, and ​“we’re coming in and saying, ​‘We can take 65 million square feet off your hands really quickly.’”

[…] District energy can also be more resilient during power outages, DiCroce said. Vicinity plans to install molten-salt batteries that can store clean electricity for hours or days at a time to ride through lulls in wind and sun or other electricity supply shortfalls, he said. And while it expects to run its gas-fired power plant less and less as the need for its steam is replaced by electric boilers and heat pumps, that generator will still be available for emergencies, he said.
» Read article    

Edgewood Street
$20 million is in sight for Boston three-decker energy pilot
By Jennifer Smith, WBUR
June 7, 2022

A $20 million pilot to retrofit three-deckers and other multi-family homes for energy efficiency is included in the latest round of federal funding before the Boston City Council.

Earlier this year, Mayor Michelle Wu announced the “nation-leading pilot,” which is bundled in a $206 million package of other affordable housing investments. The funding would come from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), a federal pot of money aimed at assisting states and municipalities in weathering and recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic. ARPA funding has to be obligated by the city by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.

This proposal takes aim at two of Wu’s priority areas: affordable housing and climate resiliency. Though other retrofit programs exist, like the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s triple-decker pilot which pursues high-efficiency electric retrofits of the housing type, this Boston-based pilot is a new enterprise for the city in line with its green goals.

Buildings selected for the pilot would include deed restricted housing, naturally occurring affordable housing, and public housing.

“This particular program would be dedicated funding to address gaps in the available financing for deep energy retrofits of affordable housing and would also have a focus on helping to allow residents to stay in place through that work,” said Joe Backer, senior development officer with the mayor’s Office of Housing in the neighborhood housing development division.

Still in its infancy pending funding, the pilot would explore flexible options to bring “deep energy retrofits” to existing housing stock, targeting income-restricted housing. Given the diversity in housing types, even between three-deckers, officials expect the pilot to involve building-by-building energy assessments.

Deep energy retrofits are holistic approaches to making structures themselves more energy-efficient. So, rather than an individual just swapping out lightbulbs, it may also involve better exterior cladding to make sure the house is well insulated. Certain homes may be modified for different fuel sources, prioritize more efficient heating and cooling, and across the board more efficient appliances.

According to the presentation before the council, the $20 million could fund these retrofits for about 300 housing units.
» Read article    

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

future of NA-ion
As EVs drive off with Li-Ion supply, the push to stationary storage alternatives accelerates
Once seen as synonymous with renewable batteries, stationary Li-ion faces strong headwinds due to rapidly accelerating demand from the automotive sector as EVs capture the mainstream.
By Randy Selesky, CRO, Enervenue, in PV Magazine
June 16, 2022

Mining and refinement capacity simply cannot keep up. Experts from mining industry prognosticators to Elon Musk foresee a widening chasm between li-ion supply and demand over the next few years. As that gap expands, expect the stationary renewable storage market to adopt emerging technologies more aligned with the needs of the stational market – and expect organizations to diversify well beyond Li-ion to meet energy demands and advance their renewable transformation goals.

Li-ion batteries are particularly suited to electric vehicle (EV) use cases: Li-ion’s energy density is required to make EVs viable. As EV adoption increases over the next decade, so too will Li-ion costs as lithium supply pressures grow in severity. In short, EVs will eat up Li-ion supply out of necessity, while alternatives already better-suited to stationary use cases carve out their own niche.

Such stationary alternatives aren’t just going to be more affordable, they’ll also be matched to their purpose. As a battery technology, Li-ion has been the standard, but it has limits. Li-ion batteries bring comparatively high operating expenses. They supply power for relatively short durations. They struggle in locations with extreme temperatures – which an ever-increasing swath of the world falls into. They’re also limited in their lifespans, and show environmental and safety issues over the long term.

These challenges leave the future open to alternatives more appropriate to stationary applications. While lead-acid and redox flow batteries struggle with many of the same issues as lithium-ion, other technologies aim to improve on where Li-ion falters.

In my view, there are three energy storage technology categories quickly maturing and with a clear potential to lead the stationary energy storage market into the future. [Metal-hydrogen, gravity-assisted, and sodium-ion batteries are all discussed.]
» Read article   

» More about energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

EV charging only‘A solid floor’: How new rules could remake EV charging
By David Ferris, E&E News
June 13, 2022

The nation’s electric vehicle charging stations — an improvisational curio shop of machines that often don’t work — might become more reliable and easier to use thanks to new government rules.

That is the conclusion of longtime electric vehicle watchers, who cheered the federal guidelines.

Until now, “it’s been mixed, to be polite,” said Dan Bowermaster, the head of EV research at the Electric Power Research Institute. “It’s great that this focus is on how do we as an industry scale up as quickly and as cost-effectively and, you could say, as driver-friendly as possible.”

The new guidelines, proposed late last week, start to dictate how states can spend the $7.5 billion of federal money approved in last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law for electric vehicle charging.

The pot of money is intended to be a jolt that transforms the EV charging effort from scattershot to standardized, the better to deliver electrons to a wave of millions of EVs soon to come from automakers. The stations are essential to replacing the gasoline- and diesel-burning vehicles that form the biggest slice of America’s climate emissions.

Experts say that a side benefit is that the federal government, with its authority and purse, can set ground rules that make the e-fueling experience more trustworthy and consistent, and set a baseline for what drivers and others should expect from a charging station.

“What we’re going to see is cohesion now,” said Nick Nigro, the founder of Atlas Public Policy, an EV advisory group. “This rulemaking is going to build a solid floor on which to build a national charging network.”
» Read article   
» Read the proposed guidelines

» More about clean transportation

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

public power
A push for public power stalled in New York, but activists say they’re just getting started
Advocates say the New York Power Authority is a “sleeping giant” in the energy transition.
By Emily Pontecorvo, Grist
June 10, 2022

On Monday night, more than 200 activists tuned into a “rapid response” Zoom call organized by the New York chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, or DSA. It was a chance to regroup after a rollercoaster week where it looked as though a DSA-authored climate bill might make it through the state legislature.

The bill, called the Build Public Renewables Act, soared through the New York State Senate last Wednesday. After a zealous eleventh-hour push by grassroots organizers to garner support in the Assembly, it appeared to have the 76 “yeas” required to send it to the governor’s desk, and then some. But on Saturday, Carl Heastie, the Democratic speaker of the Assembly, brought the year’s legislative session to a close without ever giving his colleagues a chance to vote on it.

“We need to consider this as the beginning of our movement as opposed to the end,” Zohran Mamdani, a state assembly member from Queens, said on the Monday call.

Supporters of the bill painted it as a climate package that would have sped up the pace at which renewable energy comes online in New York state. But beyond that, it would have opened the door for a larger role for publicly owned power, testing whether giving the government more ownership over the clean energy transition can deliver in ways that the private market hasn’t.

It’s an idea that’s been gaining ground with climate advocates around the country as they grow increasingly frustrated that energy systems are not moving away from fossil fuels quickly enough. They argue that publicly owned power companies, which are not beholden to shareholders and do not have the same profit motive as their private counterparts, can enable a transition that’s faster, more affordable, more worker-friendly, and more accountable to communities.
» Read article    

» More about electric utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

methane monitor
Leak Detection Technology Catches Fossils Underreporting Methane
By Christopher Bonasia, The Energy Mix
June 12, 2022

Regulators around the globe are using monitoring tools, from infrared cameras to satellites, to call out oil and gas companies for methane leaks that are often underreported by fossil producers, with one group of U.S. legislators concluding that fossils are not concerned that the technology could fail—but rather that it might succeed.

In Australia, a new report recently showed that emissions from the country’s coal industry are nearly twice that reported in official estimates, says BBC. Though Australia did not sign on to the highly-touted methane reduction pledge at last year’s COP 26 climate summit, its newly-elected government is promising to take action on the leaks, which will obstruct the country from reaching its climate targets if not addressed.

The report compared the officially reported methane leaks against research compiled by the International Energy Agency (IEA), which used satellites to paint a more accurate picture of the problem, BBC says.

[…] Methane leak monitoring was also the focus of recent hearings before the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, after the release of a report compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA found that fossils are “failing to address super-emitting methane leaks, deflecting the use of methane quantification data, and deploying mitigating methane detection technologies too slowly and too inconsistently,” said Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), at a committee hearing last week investigating methane leaks in the fracking fields of the Permian Basin.

Using internal data from oil and gas companies, the committee found that operators were “failing to design, equip and inform” methane leakage detection programs, and that their response to the problem does not “reflect the latest scientific evidence on methane leaks,” reports CNN.

Although the investigation was meant to evaluate the scale of methane leakage across the entire sector, the committee focused on the Permian because of its “centrality” as a source of oil and gas sector methane emissions, the legislators wrote.

Among the key findings was that, where Methane Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) strategies are implemented, the scope is too narrow and limited to fully address the scale of the problem, despite the technology’s ability to provide a more rigorous assessment.

One company’s methane management team commented that permanent deployment of LDAR technology would pose “near-term risks”—including that “more frequent awareness of gas emissions and leaks could lead to more action, which could be costly”. That had the committee speculating that expected costs were motivating fossils to dodge more effective monitoring.

“The point is brutally clear,” said the report. “The operator’s technology experts were warning that the technology’s biggest risk was not that it would fail, but rather that it would succeed – and in doing so, would find more methane leaks that the operator would then be responsible for, with all of the accompanying repair costs and reputational risks that might ensue.”
» Read article   
» Read the House science committee report on methane monitoring

» More about fossil fuels

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

Cameron LNG plantEmissions From New U.S. Natural Gas Projects Will Equal 18 Million Cars
A report details the disturbing climate implications of a new LNG push, which gained steam after the invasion of Ukraine.
By Molly Taft, Gizmodo
June 15, 2022

Despite the Biden administration’s vows to fight climate change, the U.S. is currently embarking on a major effort to build out fossil fuel infrastructure following the war in Ukraine—with potentially disastrous climate results.

A report released last week from the Environmental Integrity Project finds that 25 proposed and in-development liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals in the U.S. have the potential to release as much greenhouse gases each year as 18 million gas-powered cars—roughly equivalent to all of the cars in Florida.

“Although there is pressure to hurry up approvals of these LNG projects, government regulators should be careful and thoughtful in considering their significant environmental impacts,” Alexandra Shaykevich, research manager at the Environmental Integrity Project, said in a statement. “A dramatic increase in global dependence on LNG could be risky, from a climate perspective.”

[…] According to numbers that are included in the permits and proposed permits for these facilities, all together, they have the potential to release more than 90 million tons of greenhouse gases a year. [See blog editor’s note, below] That number includes 27.3 million tons from facilities currently under construction, 25.6 million tons from facilities that have gotten permits but haven’t started construction, and 37.7 million tons from facilities awaiting approval.

This 90 million figure is also deceptively low: The greenhouse gas emissions included in permits for these terminals and expansions are just from operating the plants, not from producing the gas or using it. [emphasis added] There are currently just seven terminals that export all of the LNG in the U.S., and those aren’t included in the analysis; together, these facilities are permitted to emit 28.3 million tons of greenhouse gases from their operation each year. (Six of these facilities, according to the report, are currently operating at maximum capacity since the war began.)

[…] Paradoxically, energy experts have pointed out that a mass build-out of LNG infrastructure won’t actually help solve the short-term energy crisis the world is facing—despite sustained messaging from the fossil fuel industry that they’re the only ones who can fix things. Many of the facilities that have been greenlit or proposed since the war started won’t actually be up and running until later this decade. By the time they come online and start exporting gas, Europe, which has been working hard since the war began to cut its natural gas use and increase energy efficiency and renewable use, may not be such an eager customer.
» Blog editor’s note: The report considers emissions of all major greenhouse gases: CO2, Methane, etc, and expresses the total as if it were an equivalent amount of CO2 that would have the same warming effect on climate. Unit: CO2e).
» Read article  
» Read the report

» More about LNG

PLASTICS RECYCLING

plastic bottle
Senate passes bill that would clear the way for plastics-to-fuel plants in R.I.
[Rhode Island] Senate votes 19-14 for legislation for ‘advanced recycling’ facilities using a high-heat process that environmentalists call ‘highly polluting, energy-intensive, unproven’
By Edward Fitzpatrick, Boston Globe
June 7, 2022

PROVIDENCE — In the video, a 7-year-old boy with missing front teeth talks about how much plastic there is in the world, including his plastic toy dinosaurs.

“By the time I’m my Dad’s age, like in 30 years, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish,” he says. “And it makes me feel bad.”

The solution, the boy says, lies in the “advanced recycling” plant where his father works in Ashley, Indiana, a small town best known for a water tower painted with a bright-yellow smiley face.

“I saw plastic getting turned back into oil,” the boy says on a tour of the plant. “It will keep plastic from going into landfills, incinerators, and our oceans, reducing greenhouse gas, which will help us from going extinct like the dinosaurs.”

Senator Frank Lombardo III, a Johnston Democrat, showed the video to the Senate Judiciary Committee in April, saying it simplifies the argument for his bill to clear the way in Rhode Island for “advanced recycling” plants, which use the high-heat process known as pyrolysis to turn plastic into fuel.

The Senate passed the bill on Tuesday by a vote of 19 to 14.

But environmentalists say the Brightmark corporate video does more than simplify the matter – they say the gee-whiz narrative attempts to paint a smiley face on a “toxic industry” that would set back Rhode Island’s progress in addressing climate change and matters of environmental justice.

“This bill is the biggest legislative threat to our environment this year,” said Kevin Budris, staff attorney for the zero waste project at the Conservation Law Foundation’s Rhode Island office. “The Brightmark video shown to the Senate Judiciary Committee was incredibly misleading.”

He said Brightmark does not recycle plastic or manufacture products. Rather, he said, Brightmark uses a two-step pyrolysis process to burn plastic waste. He said 90 percent of the output from its Ashley, Indiana, plant is plastic-derived fuel, most of which it burns onsite, and the other 10 percent is toxic char, which must go to a landfill.
» Read article    

» More about plastics recycling

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Weekly News Check-In 6/10/22

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Welcome back.

A case that took six years to move through the courts finally concluded this week when the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the U.S. Department of the Interior must analyze the climate impacts of oil and gas leasing on 4 million acres of federal land spanning five states before drilling can commence. This comes after the oil and gas industry failed to strike down three separate settlements arising out of lawsuits brought against the DoI by U.S. conservation groups.

In a surprising twist, Massachusetts may become the first state to pass legislation reversing a national trend in which states open their electricity markets to competition. But studies show that retail electric suppliers have generally offered plans that turn out to be more expensive for consumers than default rates from utilities.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s first-ever senior counsel for environmental justice and equity, Montina Cole, has stated that the commission can “absolutely” improve its assessments of natural gas projects to better account for environmental justice issues. We’re looking forward to seeing how this translates into action. FERC recently declared that the Weymouth compressor station should never have been permitted, but then declined to actually do anything about this unhealthy and dangerous facility located within an environmental justice community.

On a related topic, we offer an interview with one of the authors of a new paper arguing that policies focused only on greenhouse gas emissions will be less successful than a broader approach that tackles inequality and climate change together. Turns out that climate change increases inequality – something we already knew – but inequality also makes climate change worse and more difficult to address.

In climate news, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere just surpassed anything seen on Earth in the past four million years. There’s also new research saying we have greater than a 50% chance of locking in global warming of more than 1.5°C unless greenhouse gas emissions can be dramatically reduced before 2025.

That certainly lays down a challenge, so we’re happy to report that the Biden Administration this week took executive action, invoking the Defense Production Act to build up domestic production of all sorts of clean energy products including solar panels, electric transformers, heat pumps, insulation and hydrogen-related equipment. At the same time, we found a cautionary article about hydrogen, calling attention to several chemical pathways by which it could become another powerful greenhouse gas if leaked into the atmosphere. The message: limit hydrogen to applications for which there are no alternatives, and stop hyping it as the answer to all-things-energy.

The European Commission is responding to Russian energy blackmail associated with its war in Ukraine by proposing to end sales of fossil fuel boilers by 2029. That will boost the energy efficiency of building heat by encouraging a more rapid adoption of heat pumps and district geothermal networks, but experts are saying the timeline should be more ambitious.

Out west, Wyoming is preparing to bump coal off its position as the state’s top energy revenue earner, through grid modernization in the form of two major high-voltage transmission lines connecting itself to several other states in the West. The Gateway South and TransWest Express transmission lines will allow a major expansion of wind energy development.

The road to clean transportation isn’t always smooth. Two Massachusetts state senators are calling out the Baker administration for broken electric vehicle chargers along the Mass Turnpike – two of six having been inoperable for over a year. But in the ‘win’ column, Colorado-based Solid Power just took a major step toward realization of its solid state EV battery with completion of its pilot production line. This is necessary to prove production capability at commercial scale, and also allows the long testing and safety certification process to begin.

We have a couple of articles on how some electric utilities have worked behind the scenes to undermine progress toward clean energy, and even to promote climate denial. But regulations are changing to make that harder. In others cases, courts are coming for the worst offenders in the same way they’re going after fossil fuel producers who internally acknowledge climate risk while telling a different story to investors and the public.

We’ve known for a long time about health risks associated with natural gas infrastructure, but it’s difficult to monitor how pollutants move through the air at the local level. A recent innovative study in a heavily fracked Ohio county showed that regional air quality monitors failed to capture short-term neighborhood-level variations in pollution that affect people’s health. But low-cost local monitors revealed the true story.

Wrapping up the energy news, a huge spike in the cost of fossil fuels is driving worldwide inflation. Natural gas futures hit a 13-year high ahead of what traders expect to be a very hot summer. This sort of price volatility is a risk associated with energy derived from fuels traded on global commodity markets. Renewable energy and energy storage are technology-based and therefore tend to experience price reductions over time.

The last word goes to another fossil-derived product: single-use plastics, which the Biden administration just committed to phasing out in all U.S. public lands including national parks. Once fully implemented, it will cut 80,000 tons from the Department of the Interior’s annual waste stream.

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

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

climate impactsJudge: U.S. Must Conduct Climate Review Of Leases Before Drilling Can Commence
By Julianne Geiger, Oil Price
June 3, 2022

The U.S. Department of the Interior must analyze the climate impacts of oil and gas leasing on 4 million acres of federal land spanning five states before drilling can commence, a legal settlement reached this week concluded, according to Reuters.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruling comes after oil and gas industry groups failed to succeed with their motion to strike down three separate settlements arising out of lawsuits brought against the DoI by U.S. conservation groups.

This week’s settlement is just the latest in the six-years-long saga that started when conservation groups WELC and WildEarth Guardians sued the Department of the Interior over millions of federal acres that were leased to oil and gas companies in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

Years ago—well before the Biden Administration took office, U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras blocked drilling permits and required the DoI to do a more thorough environmental analysis that included GHG emissions. Today confirms that ruling despite oil and gas industry challenges.

The Biden Administration must now conduct a more thorough environmental review of those leases. For Biden, this is a precarious position indeed, particularly in the runup to mid-term elections. On the one hand, the U.S. President has taken heavy criticism for his energy policies in the wake of record-high gasoline prices. On the other, he has taken heavy criticism from his green supporters for his failure to live up to some of his anti-fossil fuel campaign promises.
» Read article       

» More about protests and actions

LEGISLATION

Wikimedia MA Statehouse
Massachusetts lawmakers consider ending retail electric choice for residential customers
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
June 8, 2022

At least 18 states have opened up their electricity markets to competition. Arizona backed away from plans to allow retail choice in the early 2000s in the face of the Western energy crisis, but no states have reversed course so far after allowing it, retail choice advocates say. Massachusetts, which opened its retail electricity market to competition in 1998, could be the first, after studies and support from the Office of the Attorney General showed retail electric supplier offers as generally being more expensive than the default utility supply offer.

The state legislature has considered this issue in the House of Representatives since 2018, as the AG reported higher costs for customers who left municipal or investor-owned utility service. Healey’s testimony on S. 2150 last summer noted that arrears increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that residents were being charged more by electric suppliers in nearly every community examined.

“I know it is a big deal for us to call for the banning of an industry,” Healey told the state Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, but “this industry has overcharged Massachusetts customers for far too long.”

However, the 2021 study is “riddled with inaccurate results,” creating an unrealistic picture for state legislator support of eliminating retail choice for residential customers, Christopher Ercoli, president of the Retail Energy Advancement League, said in an interview with Utility Dive.

According to REAL, retail suppliers lock rates in at the beginning of a contract, so many retail energy customers in Massachusetts that are locked into rates from last fall are currently saving money as energy prices are currently increasing in the country and internationally.
» Read article      

» More about legislation

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

Montina Cole
FERC’s EJ counsel says agency can bolster gas oversight
By Miranda Willson, E&E News
June 2, 2022

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can “absolutely” improve its assessments of natural gas projects to better account for environmental justice issues, according to the agency’s first-ever senior counsel for environmental justice and equity.

One year into her role at FERC, Montina Cole joined a webinar yesterday to discuss how the commission is becoming more responsive to historically disadvantaged communities affected by its decisions and policies — something that environmental justice advocates say has long been overlooked.

Cole said FERC is planning to build staff capacity focused on justice and equity in natural gas proceedings, as well as hold a public workshop on environmental justice issues “that are arising in the gas facility review process.” A FERC spokesperson said the timing on the public workshop has not been determined.

“I’m very, very optimistic and looking forward to ways that we can improve [gas permitting],” Cole said during the webinar, hosted by the Wires Group, a trade association for the electric transmission industry.

[…] Earlier this year, FERC proposed changes to its guidelines for assessing new natural gas pipelines, calling for “robust consideration” of projects’ effects on environmental justice communities as part of a costs and benefit analysis. In its updated permitting policy, the majority of commissioners said that FERC would try to more accurately identify disadvantaged communities. They also said the commission would consider a new pipeline’s cumulative impacts — meaning the total burdens or benefits that affected communities could experience from the facility and other infrastructure in the area.

Critics, however, said the new policy went too far on environmental and landowner issues and would make it difficult and expensive for new gas projects to get built. In March, FERC turned the proposal and another, related policy into “drafts,” open to further consideration and revisions (Energywire, March 25).

While Cole did not directly address that controversy, she said she is reviewing the commission’s “key regulations and guidance” for the siting of new natural gas projects. That effort will include consideration of projects’ cumulative impacts and the “thresholds” currently used by FERC to identify environmental justice communities, Cole said.
» Read article       

» More about FERC

GREENING THE ECONOMY

GND climate case
Q&A: The Causal Relationship Between Inequality and Climate Change
DeSmog interviewed an author of a new paper that says that policies focused only on greenhouse gas emissions will be less successful than a broader approach that tackles inequality and climate change together.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
June 3, 2022

Climate change has worsened global inequality, with poorer countries less able to withstand and adapt to climate change’s effects. It also has worsened inequality within countries between the rich and the poor: The impacts of drought, floods, hurricanes, and extreme heat are disproportionately felt by low-income communities and communities of color.

But new research suggests the reverse is also true: Not only is climate change contributing to greater inequality, but inequality is also fueling climate change. A new peer-reviewed paper by Fergus Green and Noel Healy, published in One Earth, analyzes the various ways in which inequality contributes to more greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously making climate action even more difficult to pursue. The paper also asserts that climate policies that only focus on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, while ignoring inequality, will prove less effective at addressing the climate crisis compared to a much broader movement — like the Green New Deal — that attacks both inequality and climate change at the same time.

DeSmog spoke with one of the authors, Fergus Green, a lecturer in political theory and public policy at University College London, about the new research. The following conversation was edited for brevity and clarity.
» Read article      
» Read the paper

Welcome to Ithaca
Inside Ithaca’s plan to electrify 6,000 buildings and grow a regional green workforce using private equity funds

The city has mustered $105 million in private funds to support low-cost loans for businesses and residents to install heat pumps.
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
June 2, 2022

Ithaca, New York, made headlines last year when its city council voted to fully decarbonize. Achieving the 2030 goal will require grid decarbonization, electrifying transportation and rolling out heat pumps to the city’s 6,000 aging commercial and residential buildings.

Ithaca is known for its progressive politics — in the 90s the city pioneered a time-based currency to inspire local spending, for example. But the decarbonization plan is among its most ambitious efforts, according to Director of Sustainability Luis Aguirre-Torres.

“When I came to Ithaca last year … my job was to craft a plan to decarbonize in eight years. I told the mayor, ‘You’re nuts. This is very difficult to achieve,’” said Aguirre-Torres, who took the job in April 2021.

Ithaca’s plan is “innovative,” Building Decarbonization Coalition Executive Director Panama Bartholomy said, and is an example of the kind of work many cities are now exploring.

“It’s encouraging to see a city take a wholesale approach to buildings instead of trying to adopt policies that are more reactive,” Bartholomy said. “Every major city in the United States right now is trying to figure out the right model for how to do this.”

Installing heat pumps and making other efficiency improvements makes financial sense for some buildings: the energy savings will pay for the improvements. Other projects may be close, or simply not pencil out. Either way, the savings accrue slowly. So in order to get all buildings decarbonized, the city aggregated blocks of buildings to manage project risk, and then securitized the project to attract private capital.

“The numbers work for some [buildings], they don’t work for some. But in the end, as a whole, it works for the investor,” Aguirre-Torres said. The program is essentially a way of covering the upfront costs of making building improvements and turning it into “electrification as a service,” he explained, resulting in long-term leasing or long-term lending at a low interest.
» Read article       

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

future on fire
“Limited time:” World will lock in 1.5°C warming by 2025 without big emissions cuts
By Michael Mazengarb, Renew Economy
June 7, 2022

The world faces a greater than 50 per cent chance of locking in global warming of more than 1.5°C  unless greenhouse gas emissions can be dramatically reduced before 2025, new research suggests.

In a new paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers from the University of Washington, Seattle, warn that the world needs an ‘abrupt cessation’ of greenhouse gas emissions to prevent locking in global warming above safe levels.

The research also confirm that net zero targets by 2050 are insufficient to cap average global warming  below 2°C, and that does not include like feedback loops that will accelerate temperature rises.

“Gobal warming is projected to exceed 1.5°C within decades and 2°C by mid-century in all but the lowest emission scenarios, the paper says. “That is, there is limited time and allowable carbon dioxide emissions (a remaining carbon budget) before these temperature thresholds are exceeded.”

The research, led by oceanography researcher Michele Dvorak, used geophysical modelling that finds the world already has a 42 per cent chance of exceeding 1.5°C of global warming – even if further greenhouse gas emissions were immediately ceased.

The probability of breaching this and higher temperature levels will increase year-on-year, the research shows, until the world achieves a status of zero net emissions.
» Read article       

Mauna Loa ABO
Carbon Dioxide Levels Are Highest in Human History
Humans pumped 36 billion tons of the planet-warming gas into the atmosphere in 2021, more than in any previous year. It comes from burning oil, gas and coal.
By Henry Fountain, New York Times
June 3, 2022

The amount of planet-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere broke a record in May, continuing its relentless climb, scientists said Friday. It is now 50 percent higher than the preindustrial average, before humans began the widespread burning of oil, gas and coal in the late 19th century.

There is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than at any time in at least 4 million years, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said.

The concentration of the gas reached nearly 421 parts per million in May, the peak for the year, as power plants, vehicles, farms and other sources around the world continued to pump huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Emissions totaled 36.3 billion tons in 2021, the highest level in history.

As the amount of carbon dioxide increases, the planet keeps warming, with effects like increased flooding, more extreme heat, drought and worsening wildfires that are already being experienced by millions of people worldwide. Average global temperatures are now about 1.1 degrees Celsius, or 2 degrees Fahrenheit, higher than in preindustrial times.

Growing carbon dioxide levels are more evidence that countries have made little progress toward the goal set in Paris in 2015 of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s the threshold beyond which scientists say the likelihood of catastrophic effects of climate change increases significantly.
» Read article       

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

DPA invoked
Biden invokes Defense Production Act to boost domestic manufacturing in clean energy, grid sectors
By Ethan Howland, Utility Dive
June 7, 2022

The U.S. Department of Energy aims to build up domestic production of solar panels, electric transformers, heat pumps, insulation and hydrogen-related equipment under the Defense Production Act, or DPA, determinations issued Monday by the White House.

The DOE could support those sectors through commitments to buy clean energy products from U.S. manufacturers; direct investments in facilities; and aid for clean energy installations in homes, military sites and businesses, Charisma Troiano, department press secretary, said in an email.

The Biden administration’s move to use its executive power is a “game changer” that will establish and bolster a manufacturing base to support the renewable energy transition, according to Jean Su, energy justice program director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The DPA, which President Joe Biden has invoked to spur COVID-19 vaccine and electric battery production, allows the White House to coordinate with industry to obtain supplies that are deemed to be in the interest of national defense, according to Su.

The White House issued similar DPA determinations for the solar, hydrogen, heat pump, insulation and grid equipment sectors.

“Ensuring a robust, resilient, and sustainable domestic industrial base to meet the requirements of the clean energy economy is essential to our national security, a resilient energy sector, and the preservation of domestic critical infrastructure,” Biden said in the findings.

The Center for Biological Diversity in February urged Biden to use his executive powers, including through the DPA, to tackle climate change.
» Read article       

H2 pathways
Hydrogen Leaks Could Make Climate Change Worse, Scientists Warn
By The Energy Mix
June 5, 2022

As the world invests billions in hydrogen fuel systems, scientists are urging vigilance against leakage, since its release into open air can trigger chemical reactions that significantly warm the atmosphere.

Widely seen as one of the only ways to decarbonize sectors that aren’t easily electrified (like heavy industry and aviation), hydrogen has much to recommend it as a clean fuel—unless it leaks into the air, where three chemical pathways can transform it into an indirect greenhouse gas with 33 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over 20 years, writes Bloomberg.

The first pathway involves hydrogen’s tendency to react with atmospheric hydroxyl (OH), an element which also reacts with methane in a manner that helps remove this dangerous greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. The more hydrogen that leaks into the atmosphere, the less hydroxyl will be available to neutralize the warming effects of methane, which is about 85 times more powerful a warming agent than CO2 over a 20-year span.

The second pathway is hydrogen’s involvement, near ground level, in a chemical chain reaction that produces ozone, another potent greenhouse gas.

Finally, leaked hydrogen that makes it into the stratosphere produces more water vapour, “which has the overall effect of trapping more thermal energy in the atmosphere.”

Most leaked hydrogen would not escape into the air, but would rather be absorbed by microbes in the soil. But any hydrogen that does get airborne can wreak climate havoc, at least in the short term.

And it’s the short term that matters, given the speed with which global temperatures are rising, say climate scientists with the U.S. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

“The potency is a lot stronger than people realize,” EDF climate scientist Ilissa Ocko told Bloomberg. “We’re putting this on everyone’s radar now, not to say ‘no’ to hydrogen, but to think about how we deploy it.”
» Read article       

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

  

Meissen rooftops
Ditching gas boilers for heat pumps will take EU “well beyond next winter”
To quit Russian gas, the European Commission now wants to end sales of fossil fuel boilers by 2029. Some experts are pinning new hopes on geothermal heat pumps.
By Nour Ghantous, Energy Monitor
June 3, 2022

As part of its REPowerEU proposal to end Russian fossil fuel imports, the European Commission announced an increase in its energy efficiency target for 2030 from 9% to 13% on 18 May 2022. Part of achieving this ambition will be to double the roll-out of heat pumps, with a view to banning gas boilers by 2029, and integrating geothermal and solar thermal energy in modernised district and communal heating systems.

The move is a win for energy efficiency campaigners who argue that the best way to reduce energy imports is to reduce our energy demands in the first place. “A structural reduction of energy demand must be at the core of any strategy to increase EU energy security,” said Arianna Vitali Roscini, secretary-general of the Coalition for Energy Savings, in a statement about the plans. She suggests that the Commission’s inclusion of energy efficiency targets in its proposal will ensure long-term solutions to the energy crisis: “REPowerEU [proposes] measures that go well beyond next winter only.”

The general response in the EU energy sphere has been a sigh of relief at seeing more robust energy efficiency policies proposed, but no festivities just yet as some argue the plans still fall short of necessary ambition.

“We are very happy to see a phase-out date [for gas boilers] but we are not happy with the date itself,” says Davide Sabbadin, senior policy officer for climate and circular economy at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), a network of environmental NGOs.
» Read article       

cut by half
St. Paul school is latest to conclude geothermal is ‘the way to go’
Space constraints, energy savings and the long-term return on investment convinced St. Paul Public Schools to install a ground-source geothermal heat pump system at a high school that until now hasn’t had a cooling system.
By Frank Jossi, Energy News Network
June 7, 2022

[…] In St. Paul, only about a third of public schools have air conditioning — a growing liability as heat waves become more common, resulting in potentially distracting or dangerous temperatures in classrooms. The district also has a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its buildings by 45% by 2030.

Johnson High School, in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood on the city’s East Side, is among the sites that have lacked cooling options. Its 1961 facade and interior were refreshed a few years ago but its HVAC system is decades old.

Space constraints limited the school’s options. While geothermal systems can require a large underground footprint, relatively little equipment is installed above ground, which along with financial aspects made it a good option.

“Geothermal seemed the way to go,” said Henry Jerome, facilities project manager.

The school district hired a local firm, TKDA, to consult on the project. Over the spring, the district hired a contractor to bore 160 wells 305 feet deep into the school’s baseball field. A liquid glycol mixture will run through buried pipes, transferring heat between the ground and the school’s heat pump.

The school won’t be able to entirely depend on geothermal during the coldest stretches of winter. A high-efficiency condensing boiler and two steam boilers will remain in operation when temperatures drop below freezing, but the school expects to cut natural gas consumption by more than half.

[…] Geothermal can cost more upfront than conventional heating and cooling systems and require enough land for well drilling. But the economics can appeal to schools, governments, and other building owners with long-term outlooks. After installation, the systems require a relatively small amount of electricity to operate.

Peter Lindstrom, a manager for Minnesota’s Clean Energy Resource Teams, specializes in helping public sector organizations with clean energy projects. He said geothermal is getting more attention recently as public schools and other institutions aim to reduce emissions and energy costs. Other Minnesota schools that have installed geothermal systems include Pelham, Onamia, and Watertown-Mayer Schools. And it may not be the last in St. Paul.
» Read article    

» More about energy efficiency

MODERNIZING THE GRID

Seven Mile Hill
Greenlit powerlines forecast Wyoming wind energy boom

Developers are poised to double Wyoming’s wind energy capacity, replacing coal as the state’s top source of electrical generation.
By Dustin Bleizeffer, WyoFile, in Energy News Network
June 3, 2022

Having recently cleared key legal and permitting hurdles, developers are slated to begin construction of two major high-voltage transmission lines connecting Wyoming to several states in the West. When completed, the Gateway South and TransWest Express transmission lines will open the door to a major expansion of wind energy development in the Cowboy State, industry officials say.

“The TransWest Express project opens the ability for Wyoming wholesale electricity supplies to reach new markets, like southern California, Arizona and Nevada, that the state is not directly serving today,” Power Company of Wyoming Communications Director Kara Choquette said.

The $3 billion, 732-mile long TransWest Express transmission line will transport electricity from Power Company of Wyoming’s Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project in south-central Wyoming, as well as other potential new wind energy facilities. Situated in Carbon County, the project’s 900 wind turbines with a total capacity of 3,000 megawatts will be the largest onshore wind energy facility in the United States.
» Read article       

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

EVstop
Senators blast Baker administration over broken EV chargers on Mass. Pike
By Aaron Pressman, Boston Globe
June 7, 2022

Two state senators are taking the Baker administration to task for broken electric vehicle chargers along the Massachusetts Turnpike.

As the Globe reported in April, two of the six chargers installed at rest stops along the 138-mile highway — in Natick and the westbound Charlton stop — have been out of service for over a year. EVgo, the company that operated the chargers, withdrew all six charger locations from its listings and said it could not repair the problems on its own.

On Monday, in a letter to Secretary of Transportation Jamey Tesler, state senators Cynthia Creem and Michael Barrett demanded that the broken chargers be fixed by July 1 and asked for information about who was responsible for their operation and maintenance.

“The continued inoperability of these chargers hampers the Commonwealth’s ability to reach its EV goals, not only because it makes it more difficult for EV drivers to travel across the Commonwealth, but also because it feeds into an inaccurate yet prevalent narrative that EVs are not reliable for long-distance travel,” the pair wrote to Tesler.

MassDOT did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We would like to see the broken EV chargers on the Pike returned to operation by no later than July 1 of this year, ahead of the busiest periods of summer travel,” the senators added. “We would also like to know that there is a plan in place to ensure that future issues with chargers are resolved immediately.”

The chargers were first installed in 2017. Matthew Beaton, then-secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said they would give “consumers confidence that they will have access to charging stations on long trips, a commonly cited hurdle in transitioning to zero emission vehicles.”
» Read article       

Solid Power pilot line
Solid-state batteries for EVs move a step closer to production
Solid Power wants to give cells to BMW and Ford for testing later this year.
By Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica
June 6, 2022

Solid Power, a Colorado-based battery developer, moved one step closer to producing solid-state batteries for electric vehicles on Monday. The company has completed an automated “EV cell pilot line” with the capacity to make around 15,000 cells per year, which will be used first by Solid Power and then by its OEM partners for testing.

“The installation of this EV cell pilot line will allow us to produce EV-scale cells suitable for initiating the formal automotive qualification process. Over the coming quarters, we will work to bring the EV cell pilot line up to its full operational capability and look forward to delivering EV-scale all-solid-state cells to our partners later this year,” said Solid Power CEO Doug Campbell.

Solid-state batteries differ from the lithium-ion batteries currently used in EVs in that they replace the liquid electrolyte with a solid layer between the anode and cathode. It’s an attractive technology for multiple reasons: Solid-state cells should have a higher energy density, they should be able to charge more quickly, and they should be safer, as they’re nonflammable (which should further reduce the pack density and weight, as it will need less-robust protection).

It’s one of those technologies that to a very casual observer is perennially five years away, but in Europe there are already operational Mercedes-Benz eCitaro buses with solid-state packs.
» Read article       

» More about clean transportation  

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

under the radar
Meet the group lobbying against climate regulations — using your utility bill
The federal government is considering a rule change that would make it harder for utility companies to recover trade association dues.
By Nick Tabor, Grist
June 7, 2022

A typical electricity bill leaves the customer with the sense that she knows exactly what she’s paying for. It might show how many kilowatts of power her household has used, the costs of generating that electricity and delivering it, and the amount that goes to taxes. But these bills can hide as much as they reveal: They don’t indicate how much of the customer’s money is being used to build new power plants, for example, or to pay the CEO’s salary. They also don’t show how much of the bill goes toward political activity — things like lobbying expenses, or litigation against pollution controls.

Most U.S. utility bills also fail to specify that they’re collecting dues payments for trade associations. These organizations try to shape laws in electric and gas companies’ favor, in addition to more quotidian functions like coordinating regulatory compliance. On any given billing statement, these charges may only add up to pennies. By collecting them from tens of millions of households, however, trade associations have built up enormous budgets that translate to powerful political operations.

The Edison Electric Institute, an association that counts all of the country’s investor-owned electric utilities as its members, is the power industry’s main representative before Congress. With an annual budget of over $90 million, Edison is perhaps the largest beneficiary of the dues-collection baked into utility bills. In recent years, it’s attracted attention for its national campaign against rooftop solar panels, and for its role in the legal fight against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

Within the next year or two, however, this financial model could come to an end. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, the top government agency overseeing the utility industry, is considering a rule change that would make it harder for companies to recover these costs. While utilities are already nominally barred from passing lobbying costs along to their customers, consumer advocates and environmental groups argue that much trade association activity that isn’t technically “lobbying” under the IRS’s definition is still political in nature — and that households are being unfairly charged for it.
» Read article       

Plant Scherer
Warned of ‘massive’ climate-led extinction, Southern Company funded crisis denial ads

The Georgia-based utility spent at least $62.1 million running campaigns to deceive the public about climate change, new research has found.
By Geoff Dembicki, The Guardian
June 8, 2022

In 1980, a report circulated to a division of one of the biggest coal-burning utilities in the U.S. warned that “fossil fuel combustion” was rapidly warming the atmosphere and could cause a “massive extinction of plant and animal species” along with a “5 to 6-meter rise in sea level” across the world.

Several years later an official at the utility co-chaired a conference where scientific researchers fretted that “as we continue to exploit the vast deposits of fossil fuels” it could cause “disruptive climate changes.”

Not only did Southern Company fail to adjust its business model towards cleaner energy sources, it began paying for print advertisements saying climate change was not real. “Who told you the earth was warming,” asks one ad from 1991.

Major oil and gas producers are now being sued in more than 20 U.S. jurisdictions for running campaigns to deceive the public about climate change while internally acknowledging the risks of burning fossil fuels. And the new report suggests that coal-burning electric utilities like Southern Company, which were also warned about climate change for decades, could be sued next.

The Georgia-based utility made its multimillion-dollar payments between 1993 and 2004, according to the Energy and Policy Institute’s analysis of corporate filings. It was a crucial period when aggressive U.S. action to combat the climate crisis could have potentially made the emergency less intense than it is now.
» Read article       

» More about electric utilities

HEALTH RISKS – NATURAL GAS INFRASTRUCTURE

Yuri Gorby
In Ohio, researchers find EPA data doesn’t tell the whole story on fracking pollution

Scientists working with community organizations established a network of local-level air monitors, finding details that regional monitors can miss.
By Kathiann M. Kowalski, Energy News Network
June 8, 2022

A recent study in a heavily fracked Ohio county found that regional air quality monitors failed to capture variations in pollution at the local level, spotlighting the need to address gaps in data on fossil fuel emissions.

Existing Environmental Protection Agency monitors track broad regional trends in air quality. But they don’t reflect differences from place to place within an area. And their reporting often misses short-term spikes that can affect human health, said lead study author Garima Raheja at Columbia University.

“Health is not a broad regional effect,” Raheja said. Health impacts from pollution often depend on more local conditions and can vary “day to day, hour to hour,” she noted.

[…] The team developed a grassroots, community-based network of low-cost air monitoring stations. Each monitoring station used PurpleAir monitors. The monitors cost a couple hundred dollars each, compared to up to $100,000 or more for equipment at the regional EPA air monitoring stations, Raheja said.

The equipment measures levels of fine particulate matter, or PM. Corrected data from PurpleAir monitors correlate strongly with those from reference-grade monitors, studies have found. Tweaks to the monitors also let the network track levels of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. And community members kept logs about physical symptoms or things they noticed in the area.

Additionally, the researchers made an inventory of all pollution emissions already permitted for the area. The data let them model how pollution could travel in the area.

“We wanted to show what people are actually experiencing,” Raheja said. “And we wanted to show some examples of plumes from different sources.”

General trends in emissions levels were similar for the EPA monitoring stations and the local monitors. However, there were substantial variations in the emissions levels recorded by the two types of stations. Those results showed that exposure to pollutants varies throughout the study area.

The results also showed multiple cases when spikes in certain emissions tracked closely with log entries about residents’ health symptoms or other events in the area, such as pipeline pigging or compressor station blowdowns.
» Read article     
» Read the study

» More about gas infrastructure health risks

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

blistering
Natural Gas Futures Hit 13-Year High As Traders Expect “Blistering Hot Summer”
By Tom Kool, Oil Price
June 6, 2022

On Monday, Henry Hub natural gas futures were up nearly 10% at a 13-year high.

At 5:00pm EST, Henry Hub prices for July contracts sat at $9.368, up 9.91%. August contracts were at $9.350, up 9.87%.

A key reason for the sudden surge is heat, with temperatures expected to rise significantly in the middle part of this month, with production declining and demand threatening to exceed supply.

Natural Gas Intelligence (NGI) quoted EBW analyst Eli Rubin as saying in a note to clients that a “blistering hot summer” is first and foremost among fears. Rubin said the increasing demand for natural gas for cooling in the coming weeks “could ignite another substantial rally in Nymex futures into mid-summer”.

Texas, in particular, is expected to see demand for natural gas soar to a historical record this week–even before the hottest part of summer sets in.

Also driving natural gas futures upward is rising demand, declining production, and soaring exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the U.S. Gulf coast, diverting domestic supplies.
» Read article       

» More about fossil fuel

PLASTICS BANS

ban single use
US government to ban single-use plastic in national parks
Biden officials make announcement on World Oceans Day in effort to stem huge tide of pollution from plastic bottles and packaging
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
June 8, 2022

The Biden administration is to phase out single-use plastic products on US public lands, including the vast network of American national parks, in an attempt to stem the huge tide of plastic pollution that now extends to almost every corner of the world.

The US Department of the Interior will halt the sale of single-use plastics in national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands, though not entirely until 2032, with a reduction planned in the meantime. The government will look to identify environmentally preferable alternatives to plastic bottles, packaging and other products, such as compostable materials.

Previously, national parks were able to ban the sale of plastic water bottles but this was stopped by Donald Trump when he was president. The Trump administration echoed the sentiments of the bottled water industry in preventing the ban.

The new plastics ban will eventually span 480m acres of federal land, a size about four times larger than Spain, and will cut the 80,000 tons of waste the Department of the Interior creates each year.

“The interior department has an obligation to play a leading role in reducing the impact of plastic waste on our ecosystems and our climate,” said Deb Haaland, the secretary of the interior.

Plastic pollution is now widespread across the US and the rest of the world, with trillions of tiny pieces of plastic found in the oceans, where much of the waste ends up. Plastics are so pervasive they have been found in the lungs of people and in freshly fallen snow in Antarctica.

The growing production of cheap, disposable plastics has been exacerbated by a falling recycling rate, which has dipped to about 5% in the US following some countries’ refusal to take shipments of American waste.
» Read article      

» More about plastics bans

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Weekly News Check-In 6/3/22

banner 07

Welcome back.

We’re starting off this week by circling back on a story we ran last time – about a group of determined citizens protesting the new peaking power plant currently under construction in Peabody, MA. Thanks again to all our friends who demonstrated and spoke out for state officials to do their jobs – we provide a link to photos. A little closer to home, folks were out on the steps of Springfield City Hall making it clear that Eversource’s proposed Longmeadow-Spfld gas pipeline expansion project is unnecessary and unwanted.

Of course, Eversource is simply following the standard playbook: building pipelines is how utilities traditionally make profits. That model will dominate until regulators put a stop to it, which is exactly what the Ontario Energy Board did recently, when to everyone’s surprise it refused to approve the final phases of a $123.7-million pipeline replacement project in Ottawa proposed by Enbridge Gas. More of that, please! Helpfully, the Biden administration has proposed undoing a Trump-era rule that limited the power of states and Indigenous Tribes to block natural gas pipelines based on their potential to pollute rivers and streams.

For those of us who fondly remember the promise of stepped-up climate action at the Federal level, and were holding out hope that a pared-down Build Back Better bill would somehow rise from the Senate swamp and make it to Biden’s desk… it’s just about time to admit it isn’t going to happen. Memorial Day is gone, and maneuvering for the upcoming midterm elections is going to make passing anything meaningful just about impossible.

That lost opportunity follows a string of others, perhaps the worst of which was the entirety of the Trump presidency in which this country essentially checked out of the climate fight altogether. While some states and cities tried to fill the policy void, the lack of Federal leadership and funding put this country well behind in a race we were already hard-pressed to win. Meanwhile, the United Nations secretary-general is doing all he can to prod world leaders into action, in what must feel like the single most thankless job on the planet.

The Biden administration is pressing ahead with the tools it has, and on Tuesday said it would substantially reduce the cost of building wind and solar energy projects on federal lands. But while those clean resources are getting a boost, California is losing almost half of its hydropower due to extreme drought – forcing its grid to rely more heavily on fossil fuel generating plants through a hot summer.

Wind power is big, and so, increasingly, are the turbines. As these beasts require ever-growing volumes of building materials like steel and concrete, some companies are working to make turbine towers more efficient and more cost-effective by building them with wood.

Proponents of a modernized electric grid often point to the resiliency that distributed sources of generation can offer. The Russian assault on Ukraine has made a good case for that. Recently, a Russian bomb struck a photovoltaic solar power plant in eastern Ukraine, leaving a large crater and lots of destroyed solar panels. But the facility was patched up in a couple of days with only a loss of about 6% of capacity. Imagine the disruption if the same bomb had struck a gas, coal, or nuclear power plant.

Facing a necessary and rapid transition to electric vehicles, the U.S. is pushing hard to develop domestic supply chains for metals critical to building EV batteries. Foremost among those is lithium, and we’re keeping an eye on the social and environmental impacts of all this planned extraction.

There’s a rush to develop carbon capture and storage, too. And the flood of money coming to that sector has been noticed by a public policy firm that represents electric utilities and oil companies. Bracewell LLP recently launched the Capture Action Project to tout technologies that capture carbon from smokestacks as a climate solution, but to us it looks like a way to keep burning fossil fuels through another taxpayer-funded subsidy. And while top environmental ministers from the Group of Seven major industrial countries agreed last Friday to end government financing for international coal-fired power generation and to accelerate the phasing out of unabated coal plants by the year 2035, it’s pretty clear the fossil fuel industry would like to keep the party going for as long as it can.

The rush to send liquefied natural gas to Europe is an example of how the industry leverages short-term crises for rationale to build long-term infrastructure. Even though studies show the U.S. can meet Europe’s needs with the export terminals it has (including two nearing completion), the promoters of other terminals are pitching hard. That has environmental groups urging the Biden administration to reverse a Trump-era rule that allows rail shipments of liquified natural gas (LNG), a super-risky mode of transport that the developers of the proposed Gibbstown, New Jersey LNG export terminal had intended to use in lieu of a pipeline.

Wrapping up, we’re watching a new program in Maine, which encourages proposals for specialized combined heat and power (CHP) biomass generating plants, and claims they will result in meaningful emissions reductions.

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

Water Street Bridge
“Do your job;” Protesters call on lawmakers to stop new Peabody peaker power plant
By Caroline Enos, Salem News
May 26, 2022

About 60 demonstrators gathered at the Waters River Bridge in Danvers Thursday afternoon to protest a new “peaker” power plant in Peabody. Their demand: for lawmakers to “do their job.”

“They’re ignoring the law. They’re ignoring our health needs, our climate needs,” said Jerry Halbertstadt, an environmental activist who has lived in Peabody for 15 years. “Everybody here, in one way or another, is aware of how important it is to make a change now.”

Halbertstadt, who is also a member of Breathe Clean North Shore, joined demonstrators in holding signs and flying kites that bore sayings like “No gas” and “Clean Energy Now, No Dirty Peaker” while standing along the bridge.

Some protesters also rode bikes and paddled kayaks with similar messages on their backs or boats.

The 55-megawatt “peaker” plant would be powered by oil and natural gas, and run during peak times of energy use. Construction on the new plant has already started, with developers expecting the $85 million project to be completed by summer 2023.

Protesters said the project’s developers, particularly the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company (MMWEC), have not been transparent about the project nor provided adequate health and environmental impact reports.

State Rep. Sally Kerans spoke at Thursday’s rally. She said neither herself nor elected officials in her district, including Peabody’s mayor and city council, were aware of the new plant until activists spoke up.

The state’s Department of Public Utilities also did not allow citizen input on the project before it was greenlighted, she said.
» Read article  
» Slide show from event        

» More about peakers

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Naia at city hall
Demonstrators take to City Hall steps to protest planned Eversource natural gas pipeline through Springfield and Longmeadow
By Patrick Johnson, MassLive
May 31, 2022

SPRINGFIELD — Some 35 opponents of a proposed natural gas pipeline through Springfield and Longmeadow took to the steps of City Hall on Tuesday to call for the project to be scrapped.

With demonstrators holding signs reading “stop the toxic pipeline,” speaker after speaker called the $35 million to $45 million Eversource pipeline unnecessary, potentially dangerous to the environment, and ultimately a cost that Eversource customers will bear.
» Read article   

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

Cliff Street Power Plant
Ontario Regulator Refuses New Pipeline, Tells Enbridge to Plan for Lower Gas Demand
By Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix
May 29, 2022

The Ontario Energy Board sent minor shock waves through the province’s energy regulatory and municipal energy communities earlier this month with its refusal to approve the final phases of a $123.7-million pipeline replacement project in Ottawa proposed by Enbridge Gas.

Several observers said this was the first time the OEB had refused a “leave to construct” application from a gas utility, laying bare an operating model in which the companies’ revenue is based primarily on the kilometres of pipe they can install, rather than the volume of gas their customers actually need.

The OEB’s written order cites plans to reduce fossil gas demand across the City of Ottawa as one of the factors in the decision, along with Enbridge’s failure to show that a pipeline replacement was necessary or the most affordable option available. Major drivers of that reduction include Ottawa’s community energy plan, Energy Evolution, as well as the federal government’s effort to convert its Cliff Street heating and cooling plant from steam to hot water—changes that Enbridge did not factor into its gas demand forecasts.

“Nobody expected them to lose. Zero expectation,” veteran energy regulatory lawyer Jay Shepherd of Shepherd Rubinstein told The Energy Mix.

But “having the city give evidence that everybody is cutting back on their carbon in Ottawa, the OEB was hard pressed,” he added. “If Enbridge had had any other proof that the existing pipeline was failing, they might have won. But when the city goes in and says it won’t be using as much gas anymore, you can’t just ignore it.”

The implications of the decision could reverberate far beyond Ottawa, said Richard Carlson, director of energy policy at the Pollution Probe Foundation, and Gabriela Kapelos, executive director of the Clean Air Partnership.
» Read article   

» More about pipelines

LEGISLATION

missed chance
Democrats and the endless pursuit of climate legislation
Amid overlapping crises, has Congress missed its moment to act?
By Shannon Osaka, Grist
June 1, 2022

Twelve years ago, when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, the country teetered on the edge of passing its first-ever comprehensive climate bill. A triumvirate of senators were negotiating bipartisan legislation that would invest in clean energy, set a price on carbon pollution, and — as a carrot for Republicans — temporarily expand offshore drilling.

Then an oil rig — the Deepwater Horizon — exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. The loose bipartisan coalition collapsed. As President Barack Obama later wrote in his memoir, A Promised Land, “My already slim chances of passing climate legislation before the midterm elections had just gone up in smoke.”

Today, the sense of déjà vu is strong. The first half of 2022 has been stacked with events that have pushed climate change far down the list of priorities. The Biden administration has been caught between the war in Ukraine, surging inflation, the fight over Roe v. Wade, and, horrifically, continued gun violence. A month ago, many Democrats cited the Memorial Day recess as a loose deadline for having a climate reconciliation bill — one that could pass the Senate with only 50 votes — drafted or agreed upon. Any later, and the summer recesses and run-up to midterms could swallow any legislative opportunity. That date has now come and gone. “If you’re paying attention, you should be worried,” Jared Huffman, a Democratic representative from California, told E&E News last week.

It’s both a sluggish and anticlimactic result for a party that, in 2020 and 2021, threw its weight behind climate action. The Build Back Better Act, President Biden’s massive $2 trillion spending framework, passed the House of Representatives last November, with $555 billion in spending for climate and clean energy. The bill would have invested in wind, solar, and geothermal power, offered Americans cash to buy EVs or e-bikes, retrofitted homes to be more energy efficient, and much, much more — but it died in the Senate, when Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia refused to support it.
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ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

water quality effects
Biden’s EPA aims to erase Trump-era rule keeping states from blocking energy projects
Trump restricted states’ power in favor of fossil fuel development but proposed rule would empower local officials to protect water
By Associated Press, in The Guardian
June 2, 2022

The Biden administration on Thursday proposed undoing a Trump-era rule that limited the power of states and Indigenous American tribes to block energy projects like natural gas pipelines based on their potential to pollute rivers and streams.

The Clean Water Act allows states and tribes to review what effect pipelines, dams and other federally regulated projects might have on water quality within their borders.

The Trump administration sought to streamline fossil fuel development and made it harder for local officials to block projects.

The Biden administration’s proposed rule would shift power back to states, tribes and territories.

The administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Michael Regan, said the draft regulation would empower local entities to protect water bodies “while supporting much-needed infrastructure projects that create jobs”.

The Trump-era rule required local regulators to focus reviews on pollution projects might discharge into rivers, streams and wetlands. It also rigidly enforced a one-year deadline for regulators to make permitting decisions. Some states lost authority to block projects based on allegations they missed the deadline.

Now, the EPA says states should have the authority to look beyond pollution discharged into waterways and “holistically evaluate” impacts on local water quality. The proposal would also give local regulators more power to ensure they have the information they need before facing deadline pressure over a permit.

The public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the EPA proposal. The final rule isn’t expected to take effect until spring 2023. The Trump-era rule remains in effect.
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CLIMATE

US falling behind
Trump Policies Sent U.S. Tumbling in a Climate Ranking
The Environmental Performance Index, published every two years by researchers at Yale and Columbia, found only Denmark and Britain on sustainable paths to net-zero emissions by 2050.
By Maggie Astor, New York Times
May 31, 2022

For four years under President Donald J. Trump, the United States all but stopped trying to combat climate change at the federal level. Mr. Trump is no longer in office, but his presidency left the country far behind in a race that was already difficult to win.

A new report from researchers at Yale and Columbia Universities shows that the United States’ environmental performance has tumbled in relation to other countries — a reflection of the fact that, while the United States squandered nearly half a decade, many of its peers moved deliberately.

But, underscoring the profound obstacles to cutting greenhouse gas emissions rapidly enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change, even that movement was insufficient. The report’s sobering bottom line is that, while almost every country has pledged by 2050 to reach net-zero emissions (the point where their activities no longer add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere), almost none are on track to do it.

The report, called the Environmental Performance Index, or E.P.I., found that, based on their trajectories from 2010 through 2019, only Denmark and Britain were on a sustainable path to eliminate emissions by midcentury.

[…] “We think this report’s going to be a wake-up call to a wide range of countries, a number of whom might have imagined themselves to be doing what they needed to do and not many of whom really are,” said Daniel C. Esty, the director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, which produces the E.P.I. every two years.

A United Nations report this year found that there is still time, but not much, for countries to change course and meet their targets. The case of the United States shows how gravely a few years of inaction can fling a country off course, steepening the slope of emissions reductions required to get back on.
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EFF Now
UN’s Guterres demands end to ‘suicidal war against nature’
Unless humanity acts now, ‘we will not have a livable planet,’ United Nations secretary-general warns, pleading for world leaders to ‘lead us out of this mess’.
By Al Jazeera
June 2, 2022

The world must cease its “senseless and suicidal war against nature”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, singling out developed nations and their gluttonous use of the planet’s resources.

Guterres said if global consumption were at the level of the world’s richest countries, “we would need more than three planet Earths”.

“We know what to do and increasingly we have the tools to do it, but we still lack leadership and cooperation. So today I appeal to leaders in all sectors – lead us out of this mess,” Guterres said on Thursday.

Developed nations must at least double financial support to developing countries so they can adapt and build resilience to climate disruptions that are already happening, the UN chief said.

“The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement show the way, but we must act on these commitments. Otherwise, they are nothing but hot air – and hot air is killing us.”

Guterres was speaking in Stockholm where he met Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in advance of a two-day climate and environment conference.

Humanity has less than three years to halt the rise of planet-warming carbon emissions and less than a decade to slash them almost in half, a recent UN report said.

Global emissions are now on track to blow past the 1.5°C warming limit envisioned in the 2015 Paris Agreement and reach 3.2 degrees Celsius (5.76 degrees Fahrenheit) by the century’s end.

“There is one thing that threatens all our progress – the climate crisis. Unless we act now, we will not have a livable planet,” said Guterres.

“We must never let one crisis overshade another. We just have to work harder. And the war in Ukraine has also made it very clear fossil fuel dependency is not only a climate risk, it is also a security risk. And it has to end,” said Andersson.

In recent months, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published the first two installments in a trilogy of mammoth scientific assessments covering how emissions are heating the planet – and what that means for life on Earth.

Carbon emissions need to drop 43 percent by 2030 and 84 percent by mid-century to meet the Paris goal of 1.5C (2.7F).

Nations must stop burning coal completely and slash oil and gas use by 60 percent and 70 percent, respectively, to keep within the Paris goals, the IPCC said.
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CLEAN ENERGY

Victorville CA
U.S. says it will cut costs for clean energy projects on public lands
By Reuters
May 31, 2022

The Biden administration on Tuesday said it would substantially reduce the cost of building wind and solar energy projects on federal lands to help spur renewable energy development and address climate change.

The new policy comes after years of lobbying from clean power developers who argued that lease rates and fees for facilities on federal lands were too high to draw investment.

In a statement, the Department of Interior said rents and fees for solar and wind projects would fall by about 50%.

The administration also said it would boost the number of people processing renewable energy environmental reviews and permit applications through the creation of five coordinating offices in Washington, Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah.

The offices are expected to improve coordination with other federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of agriculture, energy and defense.
» Read article  

Hyatt Powerplant
Extreme drought could cost California half its hydroelectric power this summer
Nearly 60 percent of the state is experiencing ‘extreme’ drought or worse
By Justine Calma, The Verge
June 1, 2022

Drought is forecast to slash California’s supply of hydroelectricity in half this summer. That’s bad news for residents’ air quality and utility bills, the US Energy and Information Administration (EIA) said in its forecast. The state will likely lean on more expensive, polluting natural gas to make up for the shortfall in hydropower.

Nearly 60 percent of California is currently coping with “extreme” drought or worse, according to the national drought monitor map. California’s current water woes stem from low levels of snowpack, which quenches the state’s reservoirs when it melts. In early April, when snowpack usually peaks, the water content of the state’s snowpack was 40 percent lower than the normal levels over the past 30 years.

Two of California’s most important water reservoirs, Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville, were already “critically low” by early May. We haven’t even reached the summer, when the weather could become even more punishingly dry and hot and demand for air conditioning places extra stress on the power grid.

Hydroelectricity is a significant source of energy in the US. It typically makes up about 15 percent of California’s electricity generation during “normal water conditions,” according to the EIA. But that’s expected to drop to just 8 percent this summer, the EIA says.

Sometimes California can buy hydropower from other states in the Pacific Northwest. But Washington State and Oregon are also dealing with drought, so gas may have to fill in the gaps. As a result, the EIA says electricity prices in the Western US will likely be 5 percent higher over the next few months. In California, the drought will result in 6 percent higher carbon dioxide emissions in the energy sector.
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BUILDING MATERIALS

wood turbine tower
Wood Towers Can Cut Costs of Building Taller, More Efficient Wind Turbines
By Paige Bennett, EcoWatch
June 1, 2022

To be as efficient as possible, wind turbines need to be tall. But the taller the wind turbine, the more expensive it is to construct. The towers, typically made of steel or concrete, can be pricey, not to mention the embedded carbon emissions associated with these materials. Now, companies are working to make the towers of wind turbines taller, more efficient and more cost-effective by building them with wood.

Using wood for such a structure seems simple enough, yet many wind turbines are made with tubular steel or concrete, which can become increasingly expensive the taller the tower gets. But as explained by Energy.gov, “Because wind speed increases with height, taller towers enable turbines to capture more energy and generate more electricity. Winds at elevations of 30 meters (roughly 100 feet) or higher are also less turbulent.”

Most wind turbines in the U.S. are about 90 meters tall and are expected to reach an average height of 150 meters by 2035. To make this process more affordable, companies like Modvion and Stora Enso are working to use laminated timber, a material popular in sustainable building construction, for wind turbine construction.

According to Stora Enso, using wood can reduce a wind turbine’s emissions by up to 90%. Modvion has also noted that wood is lightweight, making it easier to transport and quick to assemble, and reduces manufacturing emissions by 25%, as reported by CleanTechnica.

Wood sourcing is also an issue, as deforestation continues to be a major problem for both its emissions and contribution to habitat loss. Modvion noted that it uses Scandinavian spruce for its wood wind turbines, saying this wood “is abundantly available and for which re-growth exceeds logging.” The wood is either Forest Stewardship Council- or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes-certified.

According to Modvion, its towers will last as long as other standard wood turbine parts, about 25 to 30 years. While the first commercially produced wood towers are slated for onshore use, the company does plan to make minor adjustments to also manufacture wood wind turbines for offshore use as well.
» Read article  

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MODERNIZING THE GRID

bombed solar farm
Russian missile strikes Ukraine solar farm, solar farm powers on
By Sophie Vorrath, Renew Economy
May 31, 2022

The safety of Ukraine’s many nuclear power plants has been a focus of major concern during the ongoing Russian invasion, but photos and video making the rounds on social media this week show that renewables, too, have come under attack.

The images, some of them shared above, show a solar farm in eastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv region that was struck by a missile over the weekend, leaving hundreds of smashed panels and a massive crater between two module rows.

According to Reuters via the New York Times, the 10MW solar plant is located in Merefa, southwest of Kharkiv.

Video footage of the attack as it happened has been shared on Twitter by Deutsche Welle, which says there were no casualties from that particular attack, although Ukranian officials say Russian bombs killed at least seven civilians in Karkhiv over the past week.

[…] The DW report also notes that power generation from the plant has since been restored. This has not been verified by the plant’s owner.

Whether the solar farm was the intended target of the Russian bomb is difficult to confirm, but Kirill Trokhin, who works in the power generation industry and is based in Kyiv, said on LinkedIn that the minimal “fallout” – so to speak – from the attack on the PV plant offers yet another very good reason to shift to renewables.

“A Russian bomb hits a photovoltaic solar power plant in eastern Ukraine. As we can see, it does not burn, it is not completely destroyed, and the cumulative destruction can be eliminated in a couple of days if spare materials are available,” Trokhin writes on LinkedIn alongside some of the images being shared.

“And if not – the damaged section can be localised in a day, so as not to affect the operation of the survived equipment.

“Judging by the photo, about four strings were destroyed and four more were damaged, approximately. This is about 200 modules. For a 10MW plant, this is approximately 0.6%. Yes, less than a percent.

“This is another reason to focus on distributed renewable generation if the climatic reason is not enough. To destroy it – you need to try very hard.

“Of course, Russians can hit into substations. But all the same, the resumption of work will happen much faster than when the technological equipment of thermal power plants, hydroelectric power plants, or nuclear power plants is destroyed. And single losses are much less.”
» Read article  

gridlock buster
DOE launches grid interconnection initiative to cut ‘gridlock’ hampering clean energy progress
By Ethan Howland, Utility Dive
June 2, 2022

In an effort to spur clean energy development, the U.S. Department of Energy is launching a program to improve the grid interconnection process through a partnership with utilities, grid operators, state and tribal governments, clean energy developers, energy justice organizations and other stakeholders.

The Interconnection Innovation e-Xchange (i2X) initiative will develop solutions for faster, simpler and fairer grid interconnection through better data, roadmap development and technical assistance, the DOE said Tuesday.

While the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission prepares for possible long-term solutions to improve the interconnection process, the DOE initiative may provide near-term relief to the backlog of interconnection requests, according to Jeff Dennis, Advanced Energy Economy managing director and general counsel.
» Read article   

offshore wind at sunset
Feds approve plan to delay scrapping a New England energy rule that harms renewables
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
May 28, 2022


A controversial rule that makes it harder for renewable energy projects to participate in one of New England’s lucrative electricity markets will remain in place for another two years.

Late Friday night, Federal energy regulators approved a plan from the regional grid operator, ISO New England, to keep the so-called minimum offer price rule — or MOPR (pronounced MOPE-er) — until 2025.

The MOPR dictates a price floor below which new power sources cannot bid in the annual forward capacity market — a sort of futures market for power plants promising to be “on call” and ready to produce electricity when demand spikes.

The grid operator holds this annual on-call auction to lock in the power capacity it thinks the region will need three years in the future. Power generators that won a spot in the 2022 auction, for example, are on stand-by beginning in 2025.

By keeping the MOPR around longer, Melissa Birchard of the Acadia Center says it will be harder for the New England states to meet their decarbonization goals.

“The MOPR has held the region back for a long time and we need to see it go away forever,” she said. “This decision falls short of providing the certainty and speed that the region deserves.”

As WBUR detailed in a recent explainer about the MOPR, most everyone agrees the rule needs to go; the debate has been over when it should happen.
» Read article  
» MOPR debate explained

» More about modernizing the grid

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY RESOURCES

Thacker Pass photo
Powering Electric Cars: the Race to Mine Lithium in America’s Backyard
The experience of one mining company in rural North Carolina suggests the road ahead will be hard to navigate.
By Aime Williams, The Financial Times, in Inside Climate News
May 31, 2022

At his small red brick farmhouse home near the Catawba river in the rural Piedmont region of North Carolina, Brian Harper is caught up in the dilemma facing America’s big push towards a future powered by green energy.

Running in a band beneath the soil close to Harper’s land lies America’s biggest deposit of spodumene ore, a mineral that when processed into lithium is crucial to building rechargeable batteries of the kind used in electric vehicles.

Seeing the business opportunity in this fast-growing area, Piedmont Lithium, a mining company originally incorporated in Australia, began knocking on the doors of the old houses surrounding a roughly 3,000-acre site several years ago, offering to buy up land so that it could start drilling a large pit mine to extract the mineral.

With the International Energy Agency projecting a boom in demand that vastly exceeds planned supply in coming years, Piedmont found no difficulty pledging future sales of lithium to Tesla, America’s poster-child electric car company, even before they secured all of the necessary mining permits.

But while it has successfully bought up some parcels of land, Piedmont Lithium has run into staunch opposition from many of its potential new neighbors, including Harper, who runs a small business making cogs and gears for industrial machinery just a little down the road from the proposed new mine.

[…] As the U.S. attempts to surge ahead in the global race to build batteries that will power the green transition, Washington is encouraging companies such as Piedmont to break ground on more mining projects across the continental United States. But it also wants to ensure state regulators, environmental activists and local communities are not left behind in the rush.

The explosion in the electric vehicle market has set off a “battery arms race,” according to Simon Moores, chief executive of consultancy Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, which specializes in data on lithium ion batteries.

Battery manufacturers will be trying to source the raw minerals needed to make batteries, including cobalt, nickel, graphite and lithium. Yet while scientists are having early success developing batteries that do not need cobalt or nickel to function, there are so far no leads on eliminating lithium. According to Moores, “lithium is the one that terrifies the industry.”

[…] While there is only one operational lithium mine in the U.S. at present, a number of companies are pressing to get mining projects operational. Lithium Americas is planning a mine at Thacker Pass in Northern Nevada, while Australia-based Ioneer USA Corp. also wants to build a large mine in southern Nevada, about 330 miles north of Los Angeles. Several other companies are proposing projects that would extract lithium from geothermal brine, including one at California’s largest lake in Salton Sea.

In Washington, both Democrats and Republican lawmakers have said they would support updating the federal law dated from 1872 that governs mining on American public lands. Lawmakers variously want to boost U.S. mining capacity and insert more robust environmental protections.
» Read article  

» More about siting impacts of renewables

CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE

corporate-backed boondoggle
Bracewell launches pro-CCS group ahead of funding explosion
By Carlos Anchondo and Corbin Hiar, E&E News
May 31, 2022

A public policy firm that represents electric utilities and oil companies recently launched a new group to tout technologies that capture carbon from smokestacks as a climate solution.

Bracewell LLP created the Capture Action Project in April as federal officials prepare to spend $8.2 billion on efforts to catch, transport and store carbon dioxide from industrial facilities. It joined a crowded field of groups that are advocating for expanded research, development and deployment of expensive technologies that can filter CO2 from smokestack emissions or suck CO2 from the air.

The unprecedented influx of government support for carbon capture and storage was provided by the bipartisan infrastructure bill President Joe Biden signed into law last year.

[…] Bracewell’s Capture Action Project has sought to undermine some groups that have raised concerns about carbon capture pipelines.

“Recently, a group called Food & Water Watch has been treating those living near potential carbon capture projects to a barrage of adverse arguments, including the unsurprising conclusion that folks would rather not see eminent domain authority used solely for private gain,” CAP staff wrote on the website. The post went on to highlight a February tweet from the environmental organization that said “all pipelines” are disastrous.

“These hardly seem like objective views that people can use to call balls and strikes on projects so important to maintaining energy security and addressing greenhouse gas emissions,” the CAP post said.

A Food & Water Watch representative said Bracewell’s criticism demonstrated that the environmental group’s campaign to “protect Iowa and other states from these dangerous, unneeded carbon capture pipelines is gaining steam.”

“The Capture Action Project expresses an apparent concern for our climate future, but nowhere does it even mention the aggressive shift to clean, renewable energy that will be required to save this planet from deepening climate chaos moving forward,” Emily Wurth, managing director of organizing for Food & Water Watch, said in an email. “We have the solutions to fight climate change — and it doesn’t involve corporate-backed boondoggles like CCS.”

Bracewell’s CCS advocacy group has also targeted the Pipeline Safety Trust. Earlier this year, the safety advocacy group warned that the U.S. is “ill prepared for the increase of CO2 pipeline mileage being driven by federal CCS policy” (Energywire, March 31).
» Read article  

caution CO2
Federal regulators crack down after pipeline caught spewing CO2
The operators of a pipeline that burst in 2020 face nearly $4 million in penalties
By Justine Calma, The Verge
May 27, 2022

Federal regulators are beginning to crack down on a new generation of pipelines that will be crucial for the Biden administration’s plans to capture millions of tons of carbon dioxide to combat climate change.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) proposed penalties yesterday on the operator of one such pipeline that ruptured in Mississippi, sending at least 45 people to the hospital in 2020. The agency also pledged to craft new rules to prevent similar pipeline failures from happening as the US makes plans to build out a network of pipelines to transport captured CO2.

There are not many of these pipelines (compared to oil and gas pipelines) yet in the US, which are primarily used by the fossil fuel industry so it can shoot CO2 into oil fields to push out hard-to-reach reserves. One of those pipelines ruptured in February 2020, releasing about 30,000 barrels of liquid carbon dioxide that immediately started to vaporize and triggered the evacuation of 200 residents in and around the small town of Satartia, Mississippi. Some of those who weren’t able to leave in time were left convulsing, confused, or unconscious, according to an investigation published last year by HuffPost and the Climate Investigations Center.

Pipelines for CO2 transport the gas at high pressure and at a high enough concentration to make it an asphyxiant. The CO2 in the pipeline that ruptured was also mixed with hydrogen sulfide, but CO2 can still be harmful on its own. About 100 workers a year die from CO2 accidents globally. It’s heavier than air, allowing a plume of it to sink to the ground and blanket a large area. That can also starve vehicles of oxygen it needs to burn fuel, which can strand people trying to evacuate or authorities trying to respond to the crisis.
» Read article  

» More about CCS

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

terminate funding
Key nations agree to halt funding for new fossil fuel projects
By Brady Dennis, The Washington Post, in The Boston Globe
May 27, 2022

Top environmental ministers from the Group of Seven major industrial countries agreed Friday to end government financing for international coal-fired power generation and to accelerate the phasing out of unabated coal plants by the year 2035.

The group said that it would aim to have “predominantly decarbonized electricity sectors by 2035.”

The commitments on the phaseout of coal plants will particularly affect Japan, which relies heavily on coal-fired power plants.

Unabated coal plants include those that have not yet adopted technology for capturing and using carbon dioxide.

The G-7 ministers also said that new road vehicles in their countries would be “predominantly” zero-emissions vehicles by 2030 and that they plan to accelerate cuts in the use of Russian natural gas, which would be replaced by clean power in the long term.

The private sector in the major industrial countries must crank up financing, the ministers said, moving “from billions to trillions.” The group acknowledged the need laid out by the International Energy Agency for the G-7 economies to invest at least $1.3 trillion in renewable energy, tripling investments in clean power and electricity networks between 2021 and 2030.
» Read article  

» More about fossil fuel

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

tanks and pipes
Worried by Ukraine war impacts, environmentalists petition feds to dump LNG by rail
By Susan Phillips, WSKG-NPR
May 24, 2022

STATEIMPACT PENNSYLVANIA – Environmental groups are urging the Biden administration to reverse a Trump-era rule that allows rail shipments of liquified natural gas (LNG). The groups say the war in Ukraine, and the subsequent plans by the White House to increase LNG exports, should not derail the Department of Transportation’s proposal to reinstate limits on LNG-by-rail.

“We cannot let an energy crisis that comes out of Ukraine turn into a blanket thrown over the climate crisis,” said Tracy Carluccio, of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, during a virtual press conference Wednesday. “The climate crisis is the fight of our lives, it’s the fight of our time.”

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network, along with half a dozen other advocacy groups, petitioned the Department of Transportation on Wednesday to follow through on their plan to suspend a Trump-era rule that opened up the nation’s railways to LNG.

While industry advocates say rail transport is safe, a leak of LNG carries risk of explosion. The petition also urges the Biden administration to outright ban any LNG-by-rail due to both safety hazards, and the climate impacts of expanding fossil fuel infrastructure and development.

Carluccio says the groups are against all forms of LNG production and transport, including pipelines. “We leave it in the ground, that’s basically the answer,” Carluccio said. “We’re not going to be able to ever safely move it, process it, or export it.”

Prior to a new Trump administration rule enacted in 2020, LNG rail transport permits faced steep hurdles, and only a few were approved through a “special permit,” including a plan to send LNG via rail across the Delaware River to Gibbstown, New Jersey. But in an effort to encourage natural gas infrastructure and expand LNG transportation beyond pipelines, the Department of Transportation under Trump reversed long-standing practice to allow a regular permitting procedure. No permits have been issued for LNG-by-rail since that 2020 rule change.
» Read article  

» More about LNG

BIOMASS

Maine biomass CHP
Maine plan for wood-fired power plants draws praise and skepticism

Critics characterize the program, which would capture waste heat for industrial use, as a handout to the timber industry and question whether it will result in meaningful emissions reductions.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
June 2, 2022

A new law encouraging the development of wood-fired combined heat and power plants in Maine is drawing praise for its potential to benefit the economy and the environment.

But some climate activists are skeptical, saying questions remain about whether the program will cut carbon emissions as intended.

The legislation, signed by Gov. Janet Mills in April, establishes a program to commission projects that will burn wood to create electricity and also capture the heat produced for use on-site — heat that would go to waste in a conventional power plant.

Proposals for these facilities are expected to come from forestry or forest products businesses that could use their own wood byproducts to fuel the plants, saving them money on heat and electricity costs and providing an extra revenue stream when excess power is sold back into the grid.

[…] “There is significant disagreement on whether it is truly carbon neutral and emission-free,” said Jeff Marks, Maine director and senior policy advocate for environmental nonprofit the Acadia Center.

[…] “It will not be highly efficient — it’s not feasible with a wood fuel,” [Greg Cunningham, director of the clean energy and climate change program at the Conservation Law Foundation] said. “It will not to any extent be a climate solution.”

The law caps the program at a total capacity of 20 megawatts statewide, a tiny fraction of the 3,344 megawatts of generating capacity the state already has. Still, the climate implications of the new law matter, Cunningham said.

“The money available in the state of Maine to fight climate change and invest in clean energy programs is finite,” he said. “When any amount of it is siphoned off for an anti-climate program, it’s problematic.”
» Read article  

» More about biomass

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