Monthly Archives: August 2022

Weekly News Check-In 8/19/22

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Welcome back.

Our last two newsletters focused on two big pieces of climate legislation, one in Massachusetts, and the other – the Inflation Reduction Act – for the whole country. We’re leading this week’s news with climate activist Bill McKibben’s thoughts on what needs to be done next.

Here in Massachusetts, we’re watching developments as Boston declares its intent to file a home rule petition which may allow it to ban natural gas hookups in new buildings. Trouble is, the climate bill only allows ten communities to participate in a pilot project banning those hookups, and that list is already full. Boston’s participation depends on one of those smaller communities getting bumped.

Gas bans are surging nation wide, and both rules and opportunities vary by state. Rockie Mountain Institute offers a guide for communities who want to require electrification in new construction.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is looking at a permit request from the Regional Energy Access Expansion (REAE) pipeline project, designed to support growing demand for natural gas in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Typical of pipeline projects, it’s the developer (Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC in this case) that’s claiming increased gas demand. New Jersey state officials, however, have told FERC that the Garden State doesn’t need more gas, in part because of the state’s climate policies and energy efficiency goals. The case offers an opportunity for FERC to reconsider its approach – something clean energy advocates have requested for years.

Two reasons that states are projecting lower demand for gas include more building electrification along with surging demand for weatherization services. Maine is seeing a doubling of projects over the past year, and contractors are having a hard time keeping up with demand.

Climate change is intensifying heat waves, which are growing longer, hotter, and deadlier.    A new study predicts that a Midwestern ‘heat belt’ will come to dominate dangerous-conditions forecasts over the next 30 years. For those of us living outside the Midwest – don’t feel left out – there’s plenty to go around.

The proliferation of wind farms in the West is displacing coal production, benefiting the climate, and providing lots of good jobs. But wind turbines are killing golden eagles. This is a powerful narrative for considering the tradeoffs and uncomfortable choices associated with the energy transition. Turns out, climate change is more of a threat to the overall golden eagle population than turbine blades, and eagle collisions can be reduced by properly siting wind farms.

For some green energy good news, we can report that new solar installations around the world are expected to grow by a whopping 30% this year, and the industry believes double-digit annual growth will continue through 2025.

Energy storage is surging too, and will be considerably goosed by investment tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act. Importantly, the IRA extends these credits to standalone projects (just batteries, for example – not hybrid projects co-locating batteries with renewable energy technologies like solar or wind). This will allow an acceleration of storage build-out, which is essential for a clean, resilient grid.

And in long-duration energy storage, Oregon-based iron flow battery company ESS Inc has recognized revenues for the first time since it publicly listed, while also closing in on its targeted annual production capacity of 750MWh. Theirs is a battery made entirely of non-toxic, non-flammable, Earth-abundant materials – yes, yes, yes!

Our neighbors in Vermont are showing how widely-distributed small residential storage batteries increase the resiliency of a modern grid. Utility Green Mountain Power helped thousands of customers get home batteries, and now it taps them at peak times to prevent high costs and grid outages. Meanwhile, traditional utilities have resorted to emailing their customers on hot days, begging them to back off their air conditioners.

The electric vehicle revolution is upon us, but the public charging system has some catching up to do. EV early adopters mostly recharge at home, and that’s both convenient and reliable. But drivers taking occasional long road trips, and folks dependent on public facilities are encountering a high percentage of broken chargers. With a major effort underway to build hundreds of thousands of public chargers – the federal government alone is spending $7.5 billion – improving reliability is a top issue.

We’re learning more about health effects from the witches brew of chemicals pumped into the ground during fracking operations. A new peer-reviewed study conducted by the Yale School of Public Health finds that young children living near fracking wells at birth are up to three times more likely to later develop leukemia.

The fracking industry has always guarded its secrets – declining to disclose the full list of chemicals used to smash open subterranean rock and facilitate the flow of hydrocarbons. That obfuscation – especially under-reporting emissions – goes right up the chain as the fuels are transported, processed, and eventually burned. A recent example is Cheniere Energy, a major exporter of U.S. liquefied natural gas. The company is engaged in “greenwashing”  its operations in order to portray gas exports as a climate solution and clear the way for further expansion, according to a new report.

Global demand for gas has soared in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine, sparking a scramble by U.S. gas exporters to increase export volumes, with the backing of the Biden administration.

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

BABY BOY LOOKING UP AND POINTING

BABY BOY LOOKING UP AND POINTING

One Down – Reflections on a Remarkable Year
By Bill McKibben, Substack.com
August 14, 2022

Well, check off one of the Crucial Years. If our civilization has a fighting chance of survival, we need to cut emissions in half by 2030; it’s the greatest challenge we’ve ever faced as a species, and the greatest drama imaginable.

I’ve been writing this newsletter for a particularly remarkable trip around the sun. It’s been a pivot year: the U.S. Congress finally passed climate legislation, by the thinnest of margins, and filled with all the gifts to Big Oil that Joe Manchin could cram in. But it’s what we should have done 30 years ago: started moving aggressively towards clean energy. And so now the game is on. The next year is going to see at least three crucial things

1)     Having gotten some concessions from Politics, the movement is now going to go hard against Money—Wall Street will be as much the target as Washington

2)    They don’t call it global warming for nothing, and so it will be fascinating to see if the Biden administration can leverage American action to help move the rest of the world (which is a way of saying I’m looking forward to reporting from the climate talks in Cairo)

3)    Execution. With the burst of money from DC, it’s time to build out all those EV chargers and offshore wind farms; figuring out how to make it happen in timely fashion is going to be crucial.

So we’ll watch these things together—but this is a fighting newsletter. So we’ll also figure out ways to help spur change on.

In our first year together we had one clear win as a community: convincing the president in late spring to sign legislation using the Defense Production Act to start producing heat pumps as a response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Heat Pumps for Peace and Freedom” went from a newsletter post to American policy inside a hundred days, and you folks made it happen, with a storm of organizing. More to come.
» Read article      

» More about protests and actions

NATURAL GAS BANS

Mayor Wu
Boston seeks to ban fossil fuels in new buildings
By The Associated Press, in WBUR News
August 16, 2022

Boston is seeking to ban fossil fuels from new building projects and major renovations, Mayor Michelle Wu announced Tuesday.

The Democrat said the state’s largest city will take advantage of a key provision in the climate change bill signed into law by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker last week.

That legislation, which is meant to bring the state closer to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, calls for a pilot project allowing 10 Massachusetts cities and towns to require new building projects be all-electric, with the exception of life sciences labs and health care facilities.

Wu said the city will file a home rule petition with the state Legislature to join the pilot.

“Boston must lead by taking every possible step for climate action,” she said in a statement. “Boston’s participation will help deliver healthy, energy efficient spaces that save our residents and businesses on utilities costs and create local green jobs that will fuel our economy for decades.”

Wu’s office said natural gas, oil and other fossil fuels used in buildings represent more than one-third of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Other major U.S. cities have already moved to ban fossil fuel hookups in new buildings, including New York City and Washington, D.C.
» Read article     

Concord Millrun
Ten cities and towns are poised to ban fossil fuels from new buildings
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
August 14, 2022

The small housing development just off Main Street in Concord is almost complete. Many of the neat one-, two- and three-bedroom homes are already occupied, and the rest have just a few plumbing and electrical jobs that need wrapping.

From the outside, this 14-unit development looks relatively unremarkable — except for one key difference: there are no gas hookups, no oil or propane tanks. All the homes are completely fossil-fuel free.

In recent years, small developments such as Concord Millrun have cropped up in recognition that the climate crisis calls for radical changes in our use of fossil fuels. And now, a new climate bill signed last week by Governor Charlie Baker contains a provision that could change the landscape significantly: 10 communities in the state can participate in a pilot program that bans the use of fossil fuels in new buildings and major renovations. Where once they were the exception, in these 10 communities, fossil-fuel-free developments will become the rule.

And if the effort succeeds in those communities, advocates say, the rest of the state could eventually follow.

“Ultimately, we need to stop building with fossil fuels, and the easiest way to decarbonize our buildings is for them not to be carbon-full from the beginning,” said Amy Boyd, policy director of the clean energy advocacy group Acadia Center. “The more we keep building with fossil fuels, the harder it’s going to be.”

Cutting emissions from buildings, which account for nearly one third of emissions in Massachusetts, is key to addressing the climate crisis and reaching the state’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. To get there, the state’s climate roadmap calls for widespread electrification of homes, primarily through the use of heat pumps that use electricity to heat and cool homes.

While progress has been slow so far, updates to the energy efficiency program known as Mass Save aim to change that, with new incentives up to $10,000 for installing heat pumps as the sole source of heating and cooling.

[…] “It will, ideally, show that a natural gas ban or a building electrification requirement is feasible, cost-effective, and not something to be afraid of, particularly in the Northeast region of the country,” said Amy Turner, a senior fellow with the Cities Climate Law Initiative at Columbia University’s Sabin Center. “By allowing a handful of municipalities to go ahead and do this, we hopefully will get some more data to support building electrification movement generally.”

Ten cities and towns have already secured local approval and have submitted home rule petitions: Cambridge, Newton, Brookline, Lexington, Arlington, Concord, Lincoln, Acton, Aquinnah, and West Tisbury. But it’s unclear if all of them will meet the affordable housing requirement, and other towns and cities can still apply. The Department of Energy Resources will decide which communities participate.

One potential contender: the city of Boston, where a spokesperson for Mayor Michelle Wu said they are “closely reviewing the rules for participating in the pilot program as part of our broader agenda.” If Boston were to pass a ban on fossil fuels in new buildings, it would be among the first major US cities to take the step, joining New York City, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
» Read article      

skyline
How Local Governments and Communities Are Taking Action to Get Fossil Fuels out of Buildings
By  Leah Louis-Prescott,  Rachel Golden, RMI | Blog Post
August 9, 2022

Across the United States, 80 cities and counties have adopted policies that require or encourage the move off fossil fuels to all-electric homes and buildings. As of August 2022, nearly 28 million people across 11 states live in a jurisdiction where local policies favor fossil fuel-free, healthy buildings. And the momentum behind these policies keeps building — dozens more local governments have strong commitments to decarbonize their buildings stock, which will soon become formal policy.

This national wave of action is motivated by the numerous benefits — in terms of climate, air quality, health, economics, resilience, and safety — of shifting from fossil fuels to zero-emissions electric appliances.

Local governments across the nation are feeling the heat and are eager to help their residents and businesses get off fossil fuels like gas. With the help of local experts, they have created a range of policy solutions, including:
» Blog editor’s note: This article will be of particular interest to activists and policy makers who wish to implement fossil-free building guidelines in their communities.
» Read article     

» More about gas bans

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

high pressure on FERC
N.J. pipeline project could shake up FERC gas reviews
By Niina H. Farah and Miranda Willson, E&E News
August 17, 2022

A proposed Northeast pipeline expansion could test the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approach to scrutinizing demand for new natural gas infrastructure at a time when a slew of states are trying to use less of the fossil fuel.

The Regional Energy Access Expansion (REAE) project is designed to support growing demand for natural gas in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland, according to developer Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC. New Jersey state officials, however, have told FERC that the Garden State doesn’t need more gas, in part because of the state’s climate policies and energy efficiency goals.

The tension offers an unusual opportunity for the commission to consider a state’s climate targets before signing off on a pipeline project, according to some legal experts. At the same time, it exposes a key question for the commissioners as they contemplate new approaches to natural gas reviews: What evidence and perspectives should carry the most weight?

“We finally get to see what FERC will do now that they have these data from the state showing that we don’t need more gas capacity,” said Jennifer Danis, a senior staff attorney at the Niskanen Center, a libertarian-leaning think tank that is representing the New Jersey Conservation Foundation opposing the project before the commission.

In a potential first for a pipeline proceeding, the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) have presented FERC with an independent study on the state’s natural gas capacity. Conducted by the consulting firm London Economics International for the BPU last year, the analysis concluded that New Jersey was “well-positioned with available interstate supply beyond 2030,” contrary to gas utilities’ claims of potential shortfalls.

The study was commissioned by the BPU last year as New Jersey seeks to transition off fossil fuels. The Garden State has a target of 100 percent clean energy by 2050 across the electric power, transportation and buildings sectors.
» Read article     

» More about FERC

GREENING THE ECONOMY

heavy demand
Maine weatherization contractors race to hire and expand as demand booms
Contractors registered with Efficiency Maine are on pace to insulate twice as many houses this year as last, with wait times now close to three months. State incentives and soaring oil prices are driving the surge in demand.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
August 16, 2022

Maine weatherization contractors are scrambling to hire and expand as state incentives and soaring oil prices cause a surge in demand for their services.

Contractors registered with Efficiency Maine, the major administrator of efficiency programs in the state, are on pace to insulate twice as many houses this year as last. The average wait time to receive services is now close to three months.

“Every contractor is fully booked,” said Andy Meyer, senior program manager for Efficiency Maine. “Most for months, some for more than that.”

Weatherization is one of the strategies Maine is using in its efforts to cut emissions by 80% by 2050. The state has set a goal of weatherizing 35,000 homes by 2030. And in the past year, several factors have converged to pique consumers’ interest in implementing such measures.

At the beginning of 2022, Efficiency Maine increased its rebates for weatherization services, boosting the rebate rate from 30% to 50% and the lifetime cap on rebates from $3,500 to $5,500. In concert, it launched a $1 million marketing campaign spreading awareness of the incentive program.

Then, fossil fuel prices shot up: The price of heating oil more than doubled from May 2021 to the same month this year, bringing the cost of filling a standard tank over $1,500 in a state where 60% of homes use heating oil.

Now, record numbers of homeowners are interested in better insulating and sealing their homes to cut down on fuel use and costs. By June of this year, requests for rebates were up 254% over June 2021.
» Read article     

sea jack
World’s biggest offshore wind farm company sets 100% renewable target for all suppliers
By Joshua S Hill, Renew Economy
August 15, 2022

Denmark’s Ørsted – the world’s biggest developer of offshore wind projects – has set “a clear expectation” for all its suppliers to use 100% renewable electricity by 2025, marking them as the first company in the world to do so.

In April 2020, Ørsted asked its main suppliers to disclose their own emissions and to set science-based carbon reduction targets, and to begin using 100% renewable electricity in the manufacturing of wind turbines, foundations, cables, substations, and components.

Ørsted is now expanding its supply chain decarbonisation programme to include all its 22,000 suppliers across component manufacturing, transportation, installation, and operation of renewable energy assets, requiring them all to begin using 100% renewable electricity.

“A sustainable future for our planet requires a rapid transition to renewable energy and limiting global warming to 1.5 °C,” said Mads Nipper, group president and CEO of Ørsted.

“That’s why the renewables industry must lead the pack by decarbonising its own supply chain. We’ve transformed Ørsted into a global leader in renewable energy and strongly believe that companies must demand science-aligned climate action from each other as well.”

“We recognise the efforts undertaken by all existing and new suppliers who share our ambitions and will commit to using 100 % renewable electricity. We look forward to working together to achieve this goal as soon as possible and to set a new gold standard for the renewable energy industry.”

Ørsted’s overarching goal is to become carbon-neutral in its own energy generation and operations by 2025, on track to achieving a carbon neutral footprint across the company, its supply chain, and energy trading by 2040.
» Read article     

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

extreme heat belt
Climate study predicts Missouri will see days of 125 degrees by 2053 as part of ‘heat belt’
By Andrew Sullender, Springfield News-Leader
August 17, 2022

Amid this year’s heat wave in southwest Missouri, a new study predicts a new Midwestern ‘heat belt’ to dominate forecasts over the next 30 years.

Released Monday, the peer-reviewed ‘Extreme Heat Model’ created by the First Street Foundation studies the future of climate change in the United States and “identifies the impact of increasing temperatures at a property level, and how the frequency, duration, and intensity of extremely hot days will change over the next 30 years from a changing climate.”

In the study, “Extreme Danger Days” of heat are defined as when temperature exceeds 125 degrees in a given day. The model predicts only 50 counties next year will experience an Extreme Danger Day of heat. But more than 1,000 counties in the United States will experience days of over 125 degrees by 2053.

The vast majority of these counties are geographically concentrated in the Midwest, the model finds — dubbing the more than quarter of U.S. land mass the “Extreme Heat Belt.” This emerging heat belt stretches from the northern Texas and Louisiana borders to Illinois, Indiana, and even into Wisconsin. Of course, right in the center of the heat belt is all of Missouri.

“Increasing temperatures are broadly discussed as averages, but the focus should be on the extension of the extreme tail events expected in a given year,” said Matthew Eby, founder and CEO of First Street Foundation. “We need to be prepared for the inevitable, that a quarter of the country will soon fall inside the Extreme Heat Belt with temperatures exceeding 125 degrees Fahrenheit and the results will be dire.”
» Read article     

heat islands
As Heat Waves Worsen, THIS Policy Predicts Where People Will Die
PBS Weathered, YouTube
August 16, 2022

» Watch video     

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

golden eagle hazard
Wind energy boom and golden eagles collide in the US West
By MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press
August 17, 2022

CODY, Wyo. (AP) — The rush to build wind farms to combat climate change is colliding with preservation of one of the U.S. West’s most spectacular predators — the golden eagle — as the species teeters on the edge of decline.

Ground zero in the conflict is Wyoming, a stronghold for golden eagles that soar on 7-foot (2-meter) wings and a favored location for wind farms. As wind turbines proliferate, scientists say deaths from collisions could drive down golden eagle numbers considered stable at best.

Yet climate change looms as a potentially greater threat: Rising temperatures are projected to reduce golden eagle breeding ranges by more than 40% later this century, according to a National Audubon Society analysis.

That leaves golden eagles doubly vulnerable — to the shifting climate and to the wind energy promoted as a solution to that warming world.

“We have some of the best golden eagle populations in Wyoming, but it doesn’t mean the population is not at risk,” said Bryan Bedrosian, conservation director at the Teton Raptor Center in Wilson, Wyoming. “As we increase wind development across the U.S., that risk is increasing.”

Turbine blades hundreds of feet long are among myriad threats to golden eagles, which are routinely shot, poisoned by lead, hit by vehicles and electrocuted on power lines.

[…] Despite the deaths, scientists like Bedrosian say more turbines are needed to fight climate change. He and colleague Charles Preston are finding ways wind companies can reduce or offset eagle deaths, such as building in areas less frequented by the birds, improving habitat elsewhere or retrofitting power poles to make them less perilous when eagles land.

“It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, but it’s a start and I think it’s the way to go,” Preston said. “It’s a societal question: Is there room for them and us? It’s not just golden eagles. They are kind of a window into the bigger picture.”
» Read article     

solar growth
Solar On Track for ‘Staggering’ 30% Growth This Year
By The Energy Mix
August 15, 2022

New solar installations around the world are poised to grow by a “staggering” 30% this year, and the industry can look ahead to double-digit growth each year through 2025, according to a Bloomberg.com analysis that predates the ambitious clean energy provisions in the US$369-billion Inflation Reduction Act adopted by the U.S. Congress last week.

“At the end of the day, the global solar picture is just staggering at this point,” Bloomberg senior clean energy analyst Rob Barnett told Yahoo Finance in late July. “We are on track to install something like 250 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity this year. I know most folks don’t think in gigawatts, but that is a very large amount. It’s more than the installed capacity of a number of European countries.”

(A gigawatt is one billion watts of electricity generating capacity, enough to power about 750,000 North American homes.)

Yahoo cites massive growth in many parts of the world. China, already the world leader in solar capacity, plans to double its new deployment this year. Germany broke its solar generation record in the midst of a searing heat wave July 17, and solar plus wind generation covered 28% of U.S. electricity demand in April, an all-time high.

Barnett maintained the boom is just beginning. “There really is this big, top-line growth scenario that we see unfolding for all of the companies that are participating in the solar supply chain,” he said. And while the cascade of extreme weather events around the world is increasing concern about climate change, the big push is coming from high oil and gas prices driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, coupled with plummeting solar costs.

“I do think there is increasing focus on all sorts of solutions to try to help manage emissions and tackle the concerns of climate change,” Barnett told Yahoo. “But I would actually argue that the bigger driver for clean energy demand, particularly here in Europe, is elevated energy costs.”

Though solar is still an intermittent power source without some form of storage, and fossil energy costs are beginning to come down, “the economics [of renewables] are already quite good,” he added. “And so you’d have to see such a sea change in terms of gas prices or coal prices, if you’re thinking about the power grid, to really reverse some of the trends. And I just don’t think there’s any appetite for it, either.”
» Read article     

» More about clean energy

ENERGY STORAGE

BFD inked
Energy storage industry hails ‘transformational’ Inflation Reduction Act
By Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
August 17, 2022

US President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act yesterday, bringing with it tax incentives and other measures widely expected to significantly boost prospects for energy storage deployment.

“The Inflation Reduction Act invests US$369 billion to take the most aggressive action ever — ever, ever, ever — in confronting the climate crisis and strengthening our economic — our energy security,” Biden said.

The legislation was readied for Biden’s signature at a speed which took many by surprise, from the announcement of compromises being reached by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the end of July, to its quick passing in the Senate and then the House of Representatives in just over a fortnight.

Its investment in energy security and climate change mitigation targets a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) levels by 2030, supporting electric vehicles (EVs), energy efficiency and building electrification, wind, solar PV, green hydrogen, battery storage and other technologies.

Most directly relevant to the downstream energy storage industry is the introduction of an investment tax credit (ITC) for standalone energy storage. That can lower the capital cost of equipment by about 30%, although under some prevailing conditions it will be more or less, depending on, for example, use of local unionised labour.

It also unties developers from pursuing a disproportionately high percentage of solar-plus-storage hybrid projects, since prior to the act, batteries were eligible for the ITC, but only if they charged directly from the solar for at least 70% of every year in operation. The industry has campaigned for the standalone ITC for many years.

For the upstream battery and energy storage system value chains, there are also tax incentives for siting production within the US, as there are for wind and solar PV equipment manufacturers that source components or make their products domestically.

There are also 10-year extensions to existing wind and solar ITCs along with new or extended clean energy production tax credits (PTCs) and the ITC for solar goes up from 26% to 30%, while the standalone storage ITC will also be in place for the next decade.
» Read article     

» More about energy storage

LONG-DURATION ENERGY STORAGE

ESS revenue
ESS Inc ramps iron flow battery production capacity to 500MWh, signs 12GWh Australia deal
By Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
August 12, 2022

Iron flow battery company ESS Inc has recognised revenues for the first time since it publicly listed, while also closing in on its targeted annual production capacity of 750MWh.

Alongside its latest quarterly financial results release yesterday, the Oregon, US-headquartered technology provider also announced a major deal for up to 12GWh of its systems to be deployed in a new partnership.

ESS Inc listed on the New York Stock Exchange in late 2021 after a SPAC merger. Having said from the outset that it would likely be a couple of years before it would be able to reach profitability, it has also not been able to recognise revenues until this quarter.

It registered revenues of US$686,000 for Q2 2022, relating to the sale and installation of three of its Energy Warehouse systems, which are behind-the-meter commercial and industrial (C&I) devices of 400kWh capacity each.

ESS Inc is the only manufacturer and holder of patents on its flow batteries, which use an iron and saltwater electrolyte in rugged systems that can deliver long-duration energy storage (4-12 hours’ duration) over many years without the degradation that lithium-ion batteries experience with use, in particular from frequent and deep cycling.

The company also talks up the fact that its electrolyte is non-toxic and uses more abundant raw materials than other flow batteries in their manufacture, with other providers tending to opt for vanadium dissolved in sulfuric acid, or in some cases, zinc-bromine. Alongside Energy Warehouse it also offers a grid-scale unit, Energy Center, which is a 3MW system.
» Read article     

» More about long-duration energy storage

MODERNIZING THE GRID

GMP VPP
This utility keeps customers cool during heat waves while saving them money
Vermont’s Green Mountain Power helped thousands of customers get home batteries. Now it taps them at peak times to prevent high costs and grid outages.
By Julian Spector, Canary Media
August 11, 2022

Again and again this summer, U.S. power grids have struggled to meet demand for electricity to run air conditioners amid heat waves. Utilities and grid operators have asked people to use less electricity in hopes of averting widespread outages in places like Indiana, New York and Texas.

Such pleas put the onus on regular people to keep the grid up and running, instead of the companies that make money from producing electricity. And though ​“demand flexibility” is something that power companies pay for, these emergency calls for customer cutbacks ask people to donate this service for free.

Voluntary customer conservation has helped grids stay functional in dicey situations. But the power sector can do better than hoping people choose not to use air conditioning in a heat wave — especially as extreme weather events and ensuing grid crises worsen due to climate change.

Against that backdrop, Vermont utility Green Mountain Power wants people to know there’s a readily available alternative: instead of asking customers to sacrifice, it uses clean, decentralized energy sources to reduce consumption and save millions of dollars.

[…] Many utilities worry about losing control (and, potentially, revenue) in a world of consumer-owned energy devices; indeed, many startups that sell such devices frame their products as an explicit challenge to the centrally managed, monopolistic utility system. GMP embodies a different vision: a creative utility managing the influx of new localized energy technologies to benefit everyone in its territory.

The fact that this model exists implicitly challenges other utilities to do more with readily available consumer energy technology. There are high-tech alternatives to the frantic pleas to turn down the AC.

[…] Back in 2015, GMP offered customers in its service territory a discount to buy or lease their own Tesla Powerwall home batteries, on one condition: In a pinch, the utility can control the battery for its own needs.

The customers get to use the batteries (offerings now include brands beyond Tesla) however they want almost all the time. Key benefits include storing rooftop solar power and keeping the lights on during a grid outage. But if GMP senses a major weather event — like a storm threatening power lines, or a heat wave driving a spike in air conditioning — it takes control, makes sure the battery is charged up ahead of time and discharges it during the event to deliver extra power when it’s needed most.

All these batteries are pretty small. But there are thousands of them, thanks to years of customer outreach. After starting as a pilot program, the battery offering was codified as a rate option customers can select for their utility services. Renters can participate, with permission from their landlords. And if a resident gets a battery on their own, they can sign it up to participate. GMP now also controls around 1,000 smart electric-car chargers, as well as large-scale batteries at solar power plants, which it can also dispatch to send power to the grid.

All those devices, working in unison, give GMP ample capacity to play with in the form of what’s called a ​“virtual power plant,” or VPP. If the utility control center predicts an hour when demand will peak, it can throw its VPP at it.
» Read article     

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

charge angels
A Frustrating Hassle Holding Electric Cars Back: Broken Chargers
Owners of battery-powered cars sometimes struggle to refuel on longer trips because public chargers don’t work or malfunction while cars are plugged in.
By Niraj Chokshi, New York Times
August 16, 2022

The federal government is doling out billions of dollars to encourage people to buy electric vehicles. Automakers are building new factories and scouring the world for raw materials. And so many people want them that the waiting lists for battery-powered cars are months long.

The electric vehicle revolution is nearly here, but its arrival is being slowed by a fundamental problem: The chargers where people refuel these cars are often broken. One recent study found that about a quarter of the public charging outlets in the San Francisco Bay Area, where electric cars are commonplace, were not working.

A major effort is underway to build hundreds of thousands of public chargers — the federal government alone is spending $7.5 billion. But drivers of electric cars and analysts said that the companies that install and maintain the stations need to do more to make sure those new chargers and the more than 120,000 that already exist are reliable.

Many sit in parking lots or in front of retail stores where there is often no one to turn to for help when something goes wrong. Problems include broken screens and buggy software. Some stop working midcharge, while others never start in the first place.

Some frustrated drivers say the problems have them second-guessing whether they can fully abandon gas vehicles, especially for longer trips.

“Often, those fast chargers have real maintenance issues,” said Ethan Zuckerman, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who has owned a Chevrolet Bolt for several years. “When they do, you very quickly find yourself in pretty dire straits.”

[…] The climate and energy bill that Congress approved last week includes tax credits for purchases of electric cars and chargers. And last year, lawmakers passed an infrastructure law that authorized $7.5 billion in federal spending to help build public chargers. Just having more chargers available means drivers will be much less likely to become stranded or frustrated if the first one or two they pull up to malfunction.

The money also comes with a requirement that chargers be functional 97 percent of the time and adhere to technical standards for communicating with vehicles.
» Read article     

leading through loans
Bank Australia to steer customers towards electric vehicles with halt to loans for fossil fuel cars in 2025
Announcement at national electric vehicle summit comes as climate change minister seeks input on national EV strategy
By Adam Morton, The Guardian
August 18, 2022

An Australian bank will stop offering loans for new fossil fuel cars from 2025 in a step it says will encourage more people to buy electric vehicles.

The customer-owned Bank Australia will announce the self-imposed ban at a national EV summit in Canberra on Friday, arguing it is a responsible step to ensure its lending practices did not “lock our customers into higher carbon emissions and increasingly expensive running costs”.

The bank’s chief impact officer, Sasha Courville, said the bank, which has 185,000 customers, would continue to fund loans for second-hand cars with internal combustion engines as it recognised not everyone would be able to afford an EV in three years.

But she said the announcement would send a message that “if you’re considering buying a new car you should think seriously about an electric vehicle, both for its impact on the climate and for its lifetime cost savings”.

“We’ve chosen 2025 because the change to electric vehicles needs to happen quickly and we believe it can with the right supporting policies in place to bring a greater range of more affordable electric vehicles to Australia,” she said.
» Read article     

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

fracking site
Children born near fracking wells more at risk for leukemia – study
Report looked at over 400 cases of acute lymphoblastic leukemia out of a sample of 2,500 Pennsylvania children ages two to seven
By Tom Perkins, The Guardian
August 17, 2022

Young children living near fracking wells at birth are up to three times more likely to later develop leukemia, a new peer-reviewed study conducted by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The alarming report, published on Wednesday in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal, looked at over 400 cases of acute lymphoblastic leukemia out of a sample of about 2,500 Pennsylvania children ages two to seven. The form of leukemia is the most common type of cancer in children, and though the survival rate is high, it frequently leads to other health problems later in life, like cognitive disabilities and heart disease.

Hydraulic fracking is the process by which oil and gas are extracted from deep beneath the Earth’s surface, and the number of wells proliferated in the 2000s in Pennsylvania and across the country as the industry boomed. More than 10,000 fracking wells were drilled in Pennsylvania between 2002 and 2017, and about one-third are located within 2km (a little over a mile) of a residential groundwater well, the study states.

The study found the risk is highest for those living within 2km of a fracking site, and who were exposed in utero. The data accounted for other factors that could influence cancer risk.

“[Fracking] can both use and release chemicals that have been linked to cancer, so the potential for children living near [fracking wells] to be exposed to these chemical carcinogens is a major public health concern,” said Nicole Deziel, the study’s senior author and an associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health.

Though mounting evidence suggests a connection between exposure to fracking pollution and health problems, few studies have examined the connection between exposure and childhood cancer. The Yale study is the largest to examine health impacts on children, and the first to use a novel metric that measures exposure to contaminated drinking water and distance to a well. It fills a significant data gap, the authors say.

The fracking process requires the injection of high amounts of chemical-laden water and sand into the ground, which forces oil and gas into a collection well. Hundreds of chemicals linked to cancer and other health issues may be used in the process, including heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, benzene and radioactive material.

Local ground and surface water is frequently contaminated through spills or releases of fracturing fluids or wastewaters that percolate into groundwater: Pennsylvania recorded about 1,000 spills and 5,000 state environmental violations between 2005 and 2014, the study states.
» Read article     
» Read the study

mug shot
Critics Call Dems’ Climate Bill a “Devil’s Bargain” on Climate. Here’s What the Devil Is Getting.
Evaluating the ugly parts of the historic legislation.
By Nitish Pahwa, Slate
August 13, 2022

Americans feeling the heat of climate change will find a lot to like in the Inflation Reduction Act—and a decent bit to criticize. Overall, the climate movement has cheered the bill’s $370 billion climate investment, albeit with reservations about some of its fossil-fuel tradeoffs. My colleague Jordan Weissmann recently addressed some of the more prominent complaints: that the bill requires federal lands and offshore waters utilized for renewable energy development to also be opened up for oil and gas drilling, and that the deal reached with Sen. Joe Manchin included future concessions that could greenlight a West Virginia gas pipeline and ease the process for permitting new energy projects. Add to all that nitpicks like the IRA’s subsidy of arguable climate solutions like “clean” hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, biofuels, and big electric automobiles to the exclusion of non-car EVs. It’s a lot of buts.

As always, two things can be true: The IRA is an unprecedented and necessary climate bill that will reduce emissions to a significant degree, and it has some flaws. It was never going to be any other way—Democrats’ narrow hold on the Senate, the influence of big business, a hostile judiciary, and Americans’ extreme sensitivity to gas prices meant there would have to be compromises on any climate package. Yet even with these snags, many analyses of the bill have determined it to be a net good. The think tank Energy Innovation calculates that for every ton of carbon emissions from new oil and gas, there will be 24 tons reduced due to measures governing buildings’ energy use, home electrification, and green lands set aside as carbon sinks. So with the IRA now making its way to President Joe Biden’s desk, it’s worth taking stock of just how much of a boon it will be to fossil fuels.
» Read article     

» More about fossil fuels

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

methane downplay
LNG Exporter Downplays Emissions to Justify Expansion
Cheniere Energy has introduced “cargo emissions tags” to assuage climate concerns of potential buyers. But a new report says these tags are riddled with problems.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
August 12, 2022

A major exporter of U.S. liquefied natural gas is “seeking to greenwash” its operations in order to portray gas exports as a climate solution and clear the way for further expansion, according to a new report.

Global demand for gas has soared in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine, sparking a scramble by U.S. gas exporters to increase export volumes, with the backing of the Biden administration. But building out LNG infrastructure to address an energy crisis is at odds with governments simultaneously trying to slash emissions to address the climate emergency.

In recent months, Cheniere Energy, the largest LNG exporter in the United States, has begun providing emissions data, which it calls “carbon emissions tags,” or CE tags, for its gas.

The tags quantify the greenhouse gas emissions of a given LNG cargo, with the aim of easing buyers’ concerns. The CE tags include emissions from where the gas is drilled upstream, all the way down to the point of export on the coast. The logic is to offer transparency to buyers overseas by disclosing the emissions of each shipment, which would help to clean up the supply chain over time.

But a new report from Oil Change International and Greenpeace USA says the program is riddled with flaws and is broadly aimed at portraying LNG as a clean fuel, rather than actually cleaning up the supply chain, at a time when gas developers are hoping to take advantage of the war in Ukraine to expand operations.

“The industry realizes they have a problem with methane emissions,” Tim Donaghy, a senior research specialist for Greenpeace USA and a coauthor of the report, told DeSmog. He pointed to the 2020 decision by French energy company Engie to back out of a U.S. LNG deal over concerns about runaway methane emissions in American fracking fields. Donaghy said that event hammered home the message to the U.S. gas industry “that they do have to clean up their act, or at least be seen as making progress.”

Cheniere has responded to growing climate concerns by pointing to a study that it funded that shows that emissions from its Sabine Pass facility in Louisiana could displace electricity generated by coal in China, cutting emissions intensity by 47 to 57 percent. Cheniere then introduced CE tags to quantify the emissions of its LNG cargoes.

But Cheniere’s CE tags downplay the industry’s environmental impact, Donaghy said. They rely on EPA calculations that have been shown to underestimate methane releases by shale drillers. The general rule of thumb is that if gas drillers are leaking more than 3.2 to 3.4 percent of the gas they produce, then gas is worse for the climate than coal. The EPA assumes a national methane leakage rate of about 1.4 percent. But it uses models, rather than actual measurements.

Studies have shown that the EPA has consistently undercounted methane pollution from oil and gas operations. The Permian basin in West Texas and New Mexico is particularly dirty — a recent study pegged methane leaks at 9.4 percent, six times worse than EPA estimates, and offered evidence that Permian gas is vastly worse for the climate than coal.

“In the scientific literature, people have come around to the perspective that the EPA is sort of systematically underestimating methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure,” Donaghy said. And because Cheniere’s data is premised on the EPA approach, it too is undercounting methane, the report alleges.
» Read article     
» Read the Oil Change International report
» Read the Permian Basin methane leak study

» More about LNG

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Weekly News Check-In 8/12/22

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Welcome back.

Happy Friday, Folks!

This week finds us standing at a historic crossroads. The many years that all of us have put into pushing the needle toward a more climate friendly energy sector and economy are finally paying off in some big, meaningful ways.

AT THE STATE LEVEL

Yesterday, Governor Baker signed into law An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind. This joins 2008’s Global Warming Solutions Act and 2021’s Next Generation Climate Roadmap Act as the third bold climate bill Massachusetts has passed. Each subsequent bill has set goal and then further codified the means to reach those goals.

This latest bill, signed into law yesterday, was hard won, with No Fracked Gas in Mass and BEAT joining our fellow environmental groups, largely under the organizing umbrella of the Mass Power Forward coalition, in guiding its crafting and pushing legislators and the Governor to reach the finish line right down to the last minute.

Highlights of this bill include:

  • Developing MA-based offshore wind industry with investments in infrastructure, workforce development and economic inclusion;
  • Preventing wood-burning biomass plants from qualifying for clean energy incentives in the Renewable Portfolio Standard;
  • Reforming ratepayer-funded efficiency programs by reducing incentives for fossil fuel equipment starting in 2025 and increasing accountability in the efficacy of energy efficiency services to low-income ratepayers and households;
  • Creating a pilot program for whole home building retrofits in low and moderate income buildings, effective July 2023;
  • Allowing 10 municipalities to pilot fossil-free new construction and major renovations, excluding life science labs, health care facilities, and hospitals, provided each community meets a standard around inclusionary housing policy.

Both TUE Committee members Mike Barrett and Jeff Roy have great explainer threads on Twitter.

There is still much work to be done like extending fossil free construction pilots statewide, ensuring better air quality monitoring programs, instituting a Net Zero stretch code, reforming and expanding our public transportation – especially in rural areas and connecting major regional systems. But the passage of this bill will allow us to make many of the bold climate-positive steps we’ve been requesting for years.

AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL

With the Inflation Reduction Act, after much wrangling among Senate members, finally passing the Senate and likely the House later today, it looks like we’re standing on the same edge of a sea change in the way our country is addressing the climate / clean energy challenge.

But among the huge strides for clean energy and equity in transitioning to it, there are many painful giveaways to the fossil fuel industry that helped sweeten the pot to get it over the finish line with Joe Manchin. A particularly harsh provision of the bill is its pairing with the future passage of another bill that seeks to secure the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. This highly impactful and unnecessary pipeline is one that activists have been battling for years, and Ted Glick, one of the leaders in that fight, sums up the dynamics of these two bills’ perilous joining in his recent post.

Also, another bill recently passed at the federal level is seldom framed as climate positive, but it has some very good provisions. As outlined in The Altantic, the “CHIPS” Act,  will “boost efforts to manufacture more zero-carbon technology in America, establish a new federal office to organize clean-energy innovation, and direct billions of dollars toward disaster-resilience research.”

This and the Inflation Reduction Act will finally push us onto the road of taking concrete steps toward climate solutions.

Indeed, there’s still much to be done. Watchful vigilance and pressure on our lawmakers and regulators will need to continue, but it’s definitely time to stop, look around, take stock and give yourselves a pat on the back … then get back to the work of making our world a cleaner, more balanced and more equitable place.

Onward, with much gratitude and new wind in our sails!

Rosemary Wessel, Program Director
No Fracked Gas in Mass, a program of Berkshire Environmental Action Team


This newsletter contains lots of related news stories. Navigate to various topics by clicking on the following:  Massachusetts legislation, Federal legislation, protests and actions, pipelines, greening the economy, climate, clean energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, modernizing the grid, clean transportation, questionable solutions, deep-seabed mining, fossil fuel industry, biomass, and plastics in the environment.

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

LEGISLATION (Massachusetts)

counting
Baker signs major climate bill into law
By Sabrina Shankman and Dharna Noor, Boston Globe
August 12, 2022

Governor Charlie Baker signed a major climate bill into law on Thursday that will accelerate the clean energy transition in the state by boosting offshore wind and solar, and — in a first for Massachusetts — allowing some cities and towns to ban the use of fossil fuels in new buildings and major renovations.

Baker’s approval comes after weeks of speculation that he might veto the bill, and just days after he said he particularly disapproved of the fossil fuel ban because of his concern it could make it harder to construct affordable housing.

Ultimately, though, he said the bill’s changes to the offshore wind procurement process and its advances in clean energy were important enough to secure his signature.

“I continue to want us to be a pretty big player in that space because it’s a sustainable way to create a lot of jobs, for a very long time,” Baker said in an interview with the Globe.

As the state recovers from two record-breaking heat waves, Senator Michael Barrett, a Democrat from Lexington and one of the bill’s architects, noted that the passage of the state legislation — along with the expected passage of the federal Inflation Reduction Act, with its $369 billion in energy and climate financing — should give people hope. “There’s plenty more to do, but nothing motivates like success,” he said.

[…] The new law will scrap the so-called price cap that currently requires each new offshore project to offer power at a lower price than the one brought online before it. Critics fear the cap has discouraged bids.

That provision is a win for Baker, who has long sought to eliminate the price cap, and whose administration plans to solicit bids for offshore wind development later this year.

Another provision would allow Massachusetts to join with other New England states in bidding for wind, solar, or other forms of renewable energy. This would, for example, allow the Commonwealth to team up with Maine in bids for onshore wind in a remote area in Aroostook County.

In another significant change, the bill will remove wood-burning power plants from the state’s renewable portfolio standard, meaning they will no longer count toward renewable energy goals in Massachusetts or be eligible for state clean energy subsidies. Wood-burning plants produce harmful pollutants like carbon monoxide, and research shows they can emit even more carbon at the smokestack than coal-fired plants.
» Read article      

landmark
Massachusetts just passed a massive climate and clean energy bill
In a first for the state, the legislation contains a provision that would allow some cities and towns to ban fossil fuel infrastructure in new and major construction projects
By Allyson Chiu, The Washington Post
August 11, 2022

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) on Thursday signed a major climate and clean-energy bill that contains sweeping policies targeting renewables, transportation and fossil fuels — a move that lawmakers and advocates say is critical to supporting the state’s goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Baker’s decision to sign the bill, which was approved by the state legislature July 31, comes as Congress is poised to pass its most significant piece of climate legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act.

Described as a “landmark bill,” the Massachusetts climate legislation notably includes a provision — the first of its kind for the state — that would allow 10 municipalities to legally ban fossil fuel infrastructure in new and major construction projects. With this policy, certain cities and towns in Massachusetts could soon join others across the country that have taken similar steps to change local building codes to block the use of fossil fuels, such as natural gas — meaning many people who want gas stoves or furnaces are probably out of luck in these places.

The bill also has a slew of other climate-friendly policies, including: funding for offshore wind energy and electricity grid improvements, a ban prohibiting car dealerships from selling new gas- or diesel-powered vehicles after 2035, incentives for electric vehicles and appliances, and additional provisions focused on natural gas.

“Addressing climate change requires bold, urgent action,” Baker tweeted Thursday after signing the bill. “I am proud to have supported the Commonwealth’s leadership on these critical issues to preserve our climate and our communities for future generations.”
» Read article      

» More about legislation

LEGISLATION (U.S. Federal)

carrots only
After 25 Years of Futility, Democrats Finally Jettison Carbon Pricing in Favor of Incentives to Counter Climate Change
The $370 billion Inflation Reduction Act is the nation’s first comprehensive climate plan to curtail greenhouse gas emissions and boost renewable energy and green technology. It relies on tax credits and other “carrots,” not sticks.
By Marianne Lavelle, Inside Climate News
August 12, 2022

The nation’s first comprehensive climate law, expected to be sealed with a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, will not look anything like the program imagined by either climate economists or those in Washington and the environmental movement who had faith in bipartisan action.

From the time that the world first agreed to act on climate change 30 years ago at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, environmentalists talked about putting a “price” on carbon as a core element of any strategy for reducing the fossil fuel pollution that was heating the planet.

Whether imposed by tax, fee or cap-and-trade system—such a price would discourage carbon-based fuel pollution and encourage investment in and deployment of clean alternatives, said advocates of the idea. And because such a scheme would rely on the market, rather than government mandates, to decide the best approach to decarbonize, proponents argued it was an idea both Democrats and Republicans could get behind.

Instead, Democrats are advancing their climate bill with no Republican support, and their program is one of carrots, not sticks. The idea is that an unprecedented $370 billion federal investment in clean energy—largely in the form of tax credits to encourage its development, as opposed to taxes on carbon to discourage use of fossil fuels—will be the push that transforms not only the economy but the politics of climate change.

[…] The decision that the United States would spend rather than tax its way to a more sustainable future was in large part driven by political reality—Democrats had to win over the vote of a staunch fossil fuel industry supporter in their own party, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who opposed carbon taxes. But the plan also was influenced by a new generation of climate policy thinkers who argued that lawmakers had spent too much time listening to the economists, and as a result, had played into the hands of the powerful foes of climate action.

Previous climate proposals in Washington focused first on costs, not benefits. That made it easy for the fossil fuel industry and its allies to defeat the Clinton administration’s BTU tax proposal and the cap-and-trade plan that died in Congress under President Barack Obama, whereby carbon emissions would have been capped and polluting industries could have purchased credits from non-polluters.

In contrast, President Joe Biden is about to put his signature on a climate plan that is entirely focused on benefits—not just cleaner energy, but prevailing wage jobs, relief for disadvantaged neighborhoods overburdened with pollution, and revival of communities left behind by coal.
» Read article    

CHIPS
Congress Just Passed a Big Climate Bill. No, Not That One.
A bipartisan act is quietly about to invest billions in boosting green technology.
By Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic
August 10, 2022

Yesterday, President Joe Biden signed into law one of the most significant investments in fighting climate change ever undertaken by the United States. The new act will boost efforts to manufacture more zero-carbon technology in America, establish a new federal office to organize clean-energy innovation, and direct billions of dollars toward disaster-resilience research.

Over the next five years, the CHIPS Act could direct an estimated $67 billion, or roughly a quarter of its total funding, toward accelerating the growth of zero-carbon industries and conducting climate-relevant research, according to an analysis from RMI, a nonpartisan energy think tank based in Colorado.

That would make the CHIPS Act one of the largest climate bills ever passed by Congress. It exceeds the total amount of money that the government spent on renewable-energy tax credits from 2005 to 2019, according to estimates from the Congressional Research Service. And it’s more than half the size of the climate spending in President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill. That’s all the more remarkable because the CHIPS Act was passed by large bipartisan majorities, with 41 Republicans and nearly all Democrats supporting it in the House and the Senate.

Yet CHIPS shouldn’t be viewed alone, Lachlan Carey, an author of the new analysis and an associate at RMI, told me. When viewed with the Inflation Reduction Act, which the House is poised to pass later this week, and last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law, a major shift in congressional climate spending comes into focus. According to the RMI analysis, these three laws are set to more than triple the federal government’s average annual spending on climate and clean energy this decade, compared with the 2010s.
» Read article      

» More about legislation

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

change is now
These Groups Want Disruptive Climate Protests. Oil Heirs Are Funding Them.
Beneficiaries of two American oil fortunes are supporting groups trying to block fossil fuel projects. One donor said he felt a “moral obligation.”
By Cara Buckley, New York Times
August 10, 2022

They’ve taken hammers to gas pumps and glued themselves to museum masterpieces and busy roadways. They’ve chained themselves to banks, rushed onto a Grand Prix racetrack and tethered themselves to goal posts as tens of thousands of British soccer fans jeered.

The activists who undertook these worldwide acts of disruption during the last year said that they were desperate to convey the urgency of the climate crisis and that the most effective way to do so was in public, blockading oil terminals and upsetting normal activities.

They also share a surprising financial lifeline: heirs to two American families that became fabulously rich from oil.

Two relatively new nonprofit organizations, which the oil scions helped found, are funding dozens of protest groups dedicated to interrupting business as usual through civil disobedience, mostly in the United States, Canada and Europe. While volunteers with established environmental groups like Greenpeace International have long used disruptive tactics to call attention to ecological threats, the new organizations are funding grass-roots activists.

The California-based Climate Emergency Fund was founded in 2019 on the ethos that civil resistance is integral to achieving the rapid widespread social and political changes needed to tackle the climate crisis.

Margaret Klein Salamon, the fund’s executive director, pointed to social movements of the past — suffragists, civil rights and gay rights activists — that achieved success after protesters took nonviolent demonstrations to the streets.

“Action moves public opinion and what the media covers, and moves the realm of what’s politically possible,” Ms. Salamon said. “The normal systems have failed. It’s time for every person to realize that we need to take this on.”

So far, the fund has given away just over $7 million, with the goal of pushing society into emergency mode, she said. Even though the United States is on the cusp of enacting historic climate legislation, the bill allows more oil and gas expansion, which scientists say needs to stop immediately to avert planetary catastrophe.

Sharing these goals with the Climate Emergency Fund is the Equation Campaign. Founded in 2020, it provides financial support and legal defense to people living near pipelines and refineries who are trying to stop fossil fuel expansion, through methods including civil disobedience.
» Read article      

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

paid for
No One Owes Joe Manchin Anything
Acting on climate doesn’t entitle him to the pipeline of his choice
By Bill McKibben, Substack.com | Opinion
August 11, 2022

Assuming that the Democratic majority in the House passes the massive climate bill this week, the next round for federal climate action will come when Congress returns after its August recess, and it will center on something euphemistically called ‘permitting reform.’

In return for Manchin’s vote for the IRA—the first significant action Congress has ever taken on the climate crisis—Chuck Schumer apparently promised that ‘permitting reform’ language would be attached to some piece of ‘must-pass’ legislation in the fall. It’s designed to make it easier to build energy projects of all kinds—but Manchin’s clearest intention is to guarantee construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), an unnecessary piece of infrastructure that would extend the fossil fuel era in the region a few more decades, endangering local communities along the way.

The opposition to that pipeline has been fierce enough to scare Manchin and his backers in the fracking industry. Indeed, second only to the young people from the Sunrise Movement, it’s clear that the world owes those opponents a huge debt of gratitude: without them Manchin might never have come to the table with a bill that cuts emissions and gives the U.S. a role again in the global climate fight.

But that does not mean that Democrats owe Manchin his permitting reform (especially since they’ve already given him plenty of other gifts in the IRA, including lots of cash for dubious carbon-capture projects).

For one thing, he’s demonstrated that promises aren’t binding: House progressives passed the fossil-friendly Bipartisan Infrastructure bill on his word that he would support what was then called Build Back Better. But Manchin reneged, gutting much of what was best in that bill, and only at the bitter end (when it became clear that his lifetime legacy would be blocking any action on the greatest crisis in history) allowing the IRA to pass the Senate.

For another, Manchin’s promise in this case was extracted by extortion. The IRA will save myriad lives: many thousands of people who will breathe fewer particulates and then die from the lung damage, and many millions who won’t die in whatever portion of the climate crisis its emission cuts avert. Manchin—who has taken more money from the fossil fuel industry than anyone else in DC–essentially held a gun to the head of negotiators: give me my pipeline or these people perish.

[…] Whatever Republicans do—and in the end they will do what Big Oil instructs them to do—progressives should not sign off on permitting reform that helps expand the fossil fuel empire. The question for every energy project should be: does it add carbon to the atmosphere? If the answer is yes, then the answer should be No. We’re in a life-and-death struggle for a working planet; the IRA advances our chances, and permitting reform would reduce them. The moral choice is therefore obvious.
» Read article      

sold out
Manchin’s Donors Include Pipeline Giants That Win in His Climate Deal
The controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline is one of several projects the senator has negotiated major concessions for, benefiting his financial supporters.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
August 7, 2022

After years of spirited opposition from environmental activists, the Mountain Valley Pipeline — a 304-mile gas pipeline cutting through the Appalachian Mountains — was behind schedule, over budget and beset with lawsuits. As recently as February, one of its developers, NextEra Energy, warned that the many legal and regulatory obstacles meant there was “a very low probability of pipeline completion.”

Then came Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and his hold on the Democrats’ climate agenda.

Mr. Manchin’s recent surprise agreement to back the Biden administration’s historic climate legislation came about in part because the senator was promised something in return: not only support for the pipeline in his home state, but also expedited approval for pipelines and other infrastructure nationwide, as part of a wider set of concessions to fossil fuels.

It was a big win for a pipeline industry that, in recent years, has quietly become one of Mr. Manchin’s biggest financial supporters.

Natural gas pipeline companies have dramatically increased their contributions to Mr. Manchin, from just $20,000 in 2020 to more than $331,000 so far this election cycle, according to campaign finance disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission and tallied by the Center for Responsive Politics. Mr. Manchin has been by far Congress’s largest recipient of money from natural gas pipeline companies this cycle, raising three times as much from the industry than any other lawmaker.

NextEra Energy, a utility giant and stakeholder in the Mountain Valley Pipeline, is a top donor to both Mr. Manchin and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, who negotiated the pipeline side deal with Mr. Manchin. Mr. Schumer has received more than $281,000 from NextEra this election cycle, the data shows. Equitrans Midstream, which owns the largest stake in the pipeline, has given more than $10,000 to Mr. Manchin. The pipeline and its owners have also spent heavily to lobby Congress.

The disclosures point to the extraordinary behind-the-scenes spending and deal-making by the fossil fuel industry that have shaped a climate bill that nevertheless stands to be transformational.

[…] Despite concessions like the pipeline deal, major environmental groups as well as progressives in Congress have praised the legislation. Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, called it a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for the country to enact meaningful climate legislation.
» Read article      

» More about pipelines

GREENING THE ECONOMY

climate care
What could the climate bill do for environmental justice?
The Inflation Reduction Act would make historic investments in disadvantaged communities with provisions for renewable energy, electrified transportation, environmental review and cleaner air.
By Alison F. Takemura, Canary Media
August 10, 2022

The breakthrough bill that passed the Senate with $369 billion in climate funding includes up to $60 billion in environmental justice initiatives. (That figure depends on what you count, of course.) The money would go to help communities of color and low-income areas that have been overburdened with pollution and pushed to the frontlines of climate change by historically racist and classist practices.

The ​“once-in-a-generation investments” in the Inflation Reduction Act would ​“greatly benefit people adversely impacted by fossil-fuel operations and climate crises,” Dana Johnson, senior director of strategy and federal policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, told Canary Media.

Senator Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts), who worked on some of the environmental justice provisions in the bill, said in a statement that it ​“would be the most significant investment in environmental justice and climate action in American history.”

So what exactly are the bill’s environmental justice investments? Here are some of the heftiest:
» Read article      

right to breathe
The UN Just Declared a Universal Human Right to a Healthy, Sustainable Environment – Here’s Where Resolutions Like This Can Lead
By Joel E. Correia, EcoWatch
August 8, 2022

Climate change is already affecting much of the world’s population, with startlingly high temperatures from the Arctic to Australia. Air pollution from wildfires, vehicles and industries threatens human health. Bees and pollinators are dying in unprecedented numbers that may force changes in crop production and food availability.

What do these have in common? They represent the new frontier in human rights.

The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on July 28, 2022, to declare the ability to live in “a clean, healthy and sustainable environment” a universal human right. It also called on countries, companies and international organizations to scale up efforts to turn that into reality.

The declaration is not legally binding – countries can vote to support a declaration of rights while not actually supporting those rights in practice. The language is also vague, leaving to interpretation just what a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is.

Still, it’s more than moral posturing. Resolutions like this have a history of laying the foundation for effective treaties and national laws.

I am a geographer who focuses on environmental justice, and much of my research investigates relationships between development-driven environmental change, natural resource use and human rights. Here are some examples of how similar resolutions have opened doors to stronger actions.
» Read article      

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

no relief
Nights are getting way too hot to handle
It’s a ‘neglected’ climate risk, researchers say
By Justine Calma, The Verge
August 10, 2022

Summer nights are getting increasingly dangerous thanks to climate change. By 2100, the risk of death from excessively hot nights is expected to grow six-fold compared to 2016 — even under the most optimistic predictions of future global warming, according to a new study published in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health.

Hot nights are becoming both more frequent and way more intense, the study authors found. We don’t know just how much the planet will heat up in the future, but scientists have estimates for best- and worst-case scenarios. When looking at a more middle-of-the-road forecast for future climate change, hot nights become 75.6 percent more frequent by the end of the century. The average intensity of a sweltering night doubles — from 20.4 degrees Celsius (68.7 degrees Fahrenheit) to 39.7 degrees Celsius (103.5 degrees Fahrenheit).

An international collaboration of scientists used historical data from 1981 to 2010 and applied that to climate models to estimate future mortality risk, looking specifically at 28 cities in East Asia. They’re working on expanding their research to a global dataset.

While hot days are already brutal for people, the risk of mortality rises by up to 50 percent if temperatures stay high into the evening. Hot days stress out the body, straining the heart and lungs, and nighttime is usually when our bodies can bring our core temperature down while sleeping. That’s harder to do if it’s still uncomfortably hot and you’re tossing and turning during the night. Heat stress can lead to heatstroke, which can eventually lead to death. Lost sleep can also weaken our immune systems, affect mental health, and aggravate a wide range of health conditions.
» Read article     

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

no hands
‘Solar Coaster’ Survivors Rejoice at Senate Bill
The legislation would lead to much more certainty on federal tax policy for the solar industry
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
August 11, 2022

People who work in the solar industry can barely contain their glee this week.

The Inflation Reduction Act, which passed the U.S. Senate on Sunday and appears to be heading to passage in the House, contains a wish list of the industry’s priorities.

And here’s a big one: a 10-year extension of the investment tax credit, the main tax policy that has supported growth of the solar industry.

“This is one of those moments where I feel like, as a human being, I will remember where I was, when the Senate passed this,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, in a conference call with reporters.

Without the new legislation, the investment tax credit, or ITC, was phasing down for large-scale projects and phasing out for residential projects.

At its full value the ITC covers 30 percent of the cost of buying and installing a solar system. But it dropped to 26 percent this year and was going to go to 22 percent next year. After that, the credit was going to end for residential projects, and go to 10 percent for large-scale projects.

With the new legislation, the credit would return to its full value of 30 percent through 2032, and include a retroactive credit so anyone who installed systems in 2022 would get 30 percent instead of 26 percent.

The extension would accelerate growth in the solar sector, which is an essential part of the country making a transition away from fossil fuels.

People who work in the solar industry refer to the uncertainty they face as a “solar coaster,”  whose ups and downs often hinge on fluctuating state and federal policy.

This legislation would make for a much smoother ride, and that’s good news coming at a time when global shortages of parts have led to a spike in some costs and a slowdown in project timelines.
» Read article      

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

transformational
Climate bill could spur ​‘market transformation’ in home electrification
The Inflation Reduction Act has tax credits, rebates and loans to make homes more efficient and move them from fossil fuels to electricity.
By Jeff St. John, Canary Media
August 4, 2022

Donnel Baird, CEO of BlocPower, thinks the climate bill unveiled by Senate Democrats last week could transform the country’s home efficiency and electrification markets. It could certainly boost the bottom line for his company and help the primarily low-income and disadvantaged communities it serves.

Baird estimated that the Inflation Reduction Act’s tens of billions of dollars in federal rebates, tax incentives, grants and lending capacity for electric appliances, heat pumps, rooftop solar, home batteries, efficiency retrofits and other building improvements could cut 5 to 40 percent of the per-home cost of the efficiency and electrification projects BlocPower is doing around the country.

That ​“means there are millions and millions of buildings where you couldn’t make the economic argument, where now you can,” he told Canary Media, ​“particularly low-income buildings where the financial payback did not pencil out before.”

The result would be many more homes and apartments with lower energy bills, reduced health risks from burning fossil fuels indoors, higher property values for owners, and appliances that can interact with a grid increasingly powered by renewable energy, he said.

And, of course, it would be a vital part of combating the climate crisis. The direct use of fossil fuels in buildings accounts for about 13 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.S. can’t meet its decarbonization goals ​“unless we electrify the 1 billion machines across our 121 million households across the country,” Ari Matusiak, CEO of pro-electrification nonprofit group Rewiring America, said at a Wednesday press conference. His organization designed one of the key electrification rebate provisions of the bill. ​“Transforming the market so that we rewire America’s households is a big task,” and one that ​“needs to be catalyzed” by federal legislation.
» Read article      

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

hot mass
Can thermal storage fire up the net-zero transition?
After almost a decade in incubation, thermal energy storage is finally coming of age to play its long-fated role in the net-zero transition.
By Oliver Gordon, Energy Monitor
August 8, 2022

[…] “[Long Duration Energy Storage (​​​​LDES)] is any technology that can be deployed to store energy for prolonged periods and that can be scaled up to sustain electricity or heat provision, for multiple hours, days or even weeks, and has the potential to significantly contribute to the decarbonisation of the economy,” explains Godart van Gendt, a senior expert in McKinsey’s Sustainability and Electric Power & Natural Gas practices. “Energy storage can be achieved through very different approaches, including mechanical, thermal, electrochemical or chemical storage.”

[…] The thermal energy storage technology used in the Berlin and Kankaanpää pilot projects works by turning electricity into heat using a heat pump, which is then stored in a hot material such as water or sand inside an insulated tank. When required, the heat is distributed for heating purposes or turned back into electricity using a heat engine. The latter conversions are done with thermodynamic cycles, the same physical principles used to run refrigerators, car engines or thermal power plants.

“The heating can be done using different energy sources such as electricity, hydrogen or waste heat,” adds van Gendt. “In the context of energy system decarbonisation, we most often consider using excess renewable electricity, but the spectrum of relevant solutions is much broader.”

[…] When compared with other LDES technologies, thermal storage has several things going for it. Firstly, the conversion process relies on conventional components, such as heat exchangers and compressors, that are already widely used in the power and processing industries, meaning the facilities are easier and quicker to build than many alternatives.

The storage tanks themselves can be filled by a variety of abundant and cheap materials such as gravel, molten salts, water or sand, which, unlike battery materials, pose no danger to the environment.

Thermal storage plants can also be deployed anywhere and can be scaled up to meet the grid’s storage requirements. Other LDES technologies are limited to specific geographies: pumped hydro requires mountains and valleys able to hold vast reservoirs, and compressed air energy storage is dependent on large subterranean caverns. Thermal storage also has a greater energy density (the amount of energy stored in a given volume) than pumped hydro: for example, 1kg of water stored at 100°C can provide ten times the electricity of 1kg of water stored at a height of 500m in a pumped hydro facility. This means less space is required for a thermal facility, reducing its environmental footprint.
» Read article      

» More about energy storage

MODERNIZING THE GRID

distribution
Massachusetts is getting hotter. Our electricity system is not prepared.
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
August 3, 2022

In July, as a heat wave bore down on the Boston area, warnings landed in the inboxes of National Grid and Eversource electricity customers: Demand was expected to be high, each company warned, and making a small change to conserve energy at home could help avoid outages.

But still, outages happened, from Acton to West Roxbury, Newton to Chelsea, silencing the reassuring whir of air conditioners. Another bout of intense heat is due this week that will test the power grid yet again, raising the question of how the energy system will respond as extreme temperatures become more frequent and intense due to climate change.

The networks of wires and substations that bring electricity to homes and businesses are already stressed as housing density increases, experts say, and many parts of them will likely need upgrading or expanding in a future when demand could double or even triple as the state relies ever more on clean electricity to replace fossil fuel power.

“These outages can occur during the worst possible time, in sizzling temperature conditions, because the substations are not necessarily expanded upon over time to keep pace with pockets of electric demand in various communities,” said Richard Levitan, president of Levitan and Associates, an energy management consulting firm. “A failure for a day or for hours when it’s 100 degrees is potentially devastating.”

On social media during the July heat wave, some of the unlucky and unhappy customers mused the outages were akin to problems in Texas, where the energy grid’s failure to keep up with demand had catastrophic consequences. But the energy grid here, operated by ISO-New England, has not had failures such as in Texas, and had plenty of surplus capacity each day of the heat wave, even as demand rose with increased use of air conditioners.

What happened, instead, were failures in the distribution system — the substations, transformers, and wires that bring electricity from power lines into neighborhoods and homes. These localized networks are affected by the demands of a specific street or area— eased in some places, perhaps, by the presence of solar panels on homes or intensified by the demands of big users such as apartment buildings with air conditioners and fast-chargers for electric vehicles.

The pressure on those local networks is a problem that will only become more urgent, experts said.
» Read article      

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

delivering
Climate bill could help electrify more USPS mail trucks
The Inflation Reduction Act includes $3 billion to convert the nation’s aging mail truck fleet to cleaner electric vehicles.
By Maria Gallucci, Canary Media
August 10, 2022

French postal service La Poste operates nearly 40,000 electric delivery vehicles. In Germany, Deutsche Post recently added the 20,000th EV to its delivery fleet. The U.K.’s Royal Mail plans to operate 5,500 electric vehicles by early next year, while Japan Post owns 1,200 small electric vans.

The U.S. Postal Service, meanwhile, has about two dozen electric mail trucks — and some 212,000 gas-guzzlers that it’s looking to replace.

Democratic policymakers and environmental groups are pushing for the independent federal agency to electrify its entire mail-truck fleet, a measure that would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb toxic tailpipe pollution in neighborhoods all around the country. Yet the Postal Service has been reluctant to fully embrace EVs mainly because, it says, battery-powered models are more expensive to buy than petroleum-powered vehicles.

The major climate and tax bill moving through Congress this week aims to alleviate some of that sticker shock.

Known as the Inflation Reduction Act, the legislation would provide $3 billion for the Postal Service to buy zero-emission delivery vehicles and install necessary charging infrastructure at post offices and central mail facilities. (That’s triple the amount of direct funding in the bill for heavy-duty vehicles like garbage trucks and school buses.)

The Postal Service has previously stated that, should Congress provide more support, the agency could increase the number of electric vehicles it plans to introduce.

“This bill is trying to put to bed their argument that they need more resources,” said Adrian Martinez, a senior attorney for Earthjustice. The environmental group is one of several organizations that are suing to scrap the Postal Service’s original mail-truck plan.

The humble, boxy delivery vehicle has become a political flashpoint over the last year because it represents an important crossroads: Either the agency helps accelerate the nation’s shift to cleaner cars — or it locks in fossil-fuel use and associated emissions. New mail trucks are expected to operate for 20 years, if not longer; many existing mail trucks have been carrying letters and packages for over three decades.
» Read article      

EV submeter
California becomes first state to roll out submetering technology to spur EV adoption
By Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive
August 8, 2022

California regulators last week approved first-of-their-kind protocols on submetering technology, which would essentially allow EV owners to measure their vehicles’ energy consumption separately from their main utility meter.

Thanks to the decision, owners of EVs, as well as electric buses and trucks, will be able to avoid installing an additional meter to measure the electricity that is consumed by their vehicle, removing a key barrier to EV adoption across the state.

The CPUC’s decision is the culmination of a decade of efforts to develop submetering capabilities and standardize communication protocols, President Alice Reynolds said at a meeting Thursday. “We really are hoping to build on efforts to accelerate and facilitate greater customer control over how and when they charge their vehicle, and enable customers to better manage their demand and to benefit from electric vehicle-specific rates,” she said.

The transportation sector represents nearly 40% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions and electrifying vehicles is a critical component of the state’s decarbonization efforts. In 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom, D, passed an executive order aiming to have all new passenger vehicle sales in the state be zero-emission by 2035. Currently, over 16% of passenger cars sold in California are electric, and the state represents nearly half of EV sales across the country.

Sub-metering basically allows EV customers to avoid having to install a separate meter to measure the electricity use of their car, CPUC Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen said at an agency voting meeting Thursday. This is significant because in California, EVs are subject to special rate structures, which make it less costly to charge during off-peak hours.

“Right now, you can charge your car for one half to one third the cost of filling up the gas tank, and that’s actually even before the run up of gas prices over the last several months,” Rechtschaffen said. “But, the EV rates often don’t work for an entire home or business – so most EV drivers today aren’t choosing those EV specific rates.”

EV-specific rates can drastically reduce the cost of owning an electric car, but many customers are reluctant to purchase an additional utility-grade meter, presenting a barrier to EV adoption across the state, according to the CPUC.
» Read article      

» More about clean transportation

QUESTIONABLE SOLUTIONS

sidestep
Global Push for Hydrogen Sidesteps Knowledge Gaps on Climate Impacts
By Gaye Taylor, The Energy Mix
August 11, 2022

As the global push for a hydrogen economy accelerates, researchers are urging policy-makers to address new knowledge and fill in some profound data gaps, with recent studies revealing the considerable global warming potential of a fuel that many fossils see as their industry’s best hope for a second life.

The global hydrogen juggernaut has been picking up steam for a few years now, with strong advocates around the world and at least two different colour schemes meant to distinguish between gradations of environmentally friendly or high-emitting, fossil-dependent product. “Between November 2019 and March 2020, market analysts increased the list of planned global investments from 3.2 GW to 8.2 GW of [green hydrogen-generating] electrolysers by 2030,” the European Commission writes in a 2020 strategy roadmap.

By July, 2022, reported Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, more than 30 countries had joined the EU in publishing formal hydrogen strategies.

[…] But many of the hydrogen strategies that different jurisdictions have produced are long on hype, but short on details. The problems begin with a lack of rigorous data on hydrogen supply and demand, the Center on Global Energy Policy reported in April. Both the dollars to be made and the emission reductions to be achieved will depend on getting those numbers right.

There’ve been persistent concerns that “blue” hydrogen—which involves deriving the end product from fossil gas, then capturing and storing the resulting emissions—produces more climate pollution than just burning the gas outright once the related methane emissions are factored in.

But even if the production process is clean and green, there is “very little data on hydrogen leakage along the existing value chain, and that which does exist comes from theoretical assessments, simulation, or extrapolation rather than measures from operations,” the Center warns in an early July analysis. The available numbers suggest that annual hydrogen leakage could increase from 2.4 million tonnes in 2020 to between 15.3 and 29.6 megatonnes in 2050, depending on technical improvements and the degree of government regulation.

The Center projects green hydrogen production, transportation, and storage, road transport vehicles, electricity generation, and synthetic fuel production contributing 77% of global hydrogen leakage, at a cost of up to US$59 billion per year in lost product.

But economic losses are by no means the only concern with hydrogen leakage. While hydrogen molecules themselves do not trap heat, they exert an indirect warming effect when they’re released into the atmosphere, primarily because they tend to react with atmospheric hydroxyl, a substance that also reacts with methane. As more hydrogen leaks into the atmosphere, less hydroxyl will be available to neutralize the devastating short-term effects of methane, a greenhouse gas that is about 85 times more powerful a warming agent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year span.

Hydrogen is also part of the chemical chain reaction that leads to the formation of ground-level ozone, another potent climate pollutant.

And any leaked hydrogen that makes it into the stratosphere produces water vapour, itself a significant heat trapping agent.

All of which adds up to hydrogen having very considerable potential to warm the atmosphere. A UK government report in April found that over a 100-year time period, a tonne of hydrogen in the atmosphere will warm the Earth roughly 11 times more than a tonne of CO2 (with a fairly wide margin for error), making its impact about twice as bad as previously understood.

Over a 20-year span, Bloomberg writes, hydrogen has 33 times the global warming potential of an equivalent amount of CO2.
» Read article     
» Read the report, Hydrogen Leakage: A Potential Risk for the Hydrogen Economy

» More about questionable solutions

DEEP-SEABED MINING

changing currents
Amid haggling over deep-sea mining rules, chorus of skepticism grows louder
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts, Mongabay
August 5, 2022

It starts with tiny deep-sea fragments — shark’s teeth or slivers of shell. Then, in a process thought to span millions of years, they get coated in layers of liquidized metal, eventually becoming solid, lumpy rocks that resemble burnt potatoes. These formations, known as polymetallic nodules, have caught the attention of international mining companies because of what they harbor: rich deposits of commercially sought-after minerals like cobalt, nickel, copper and manganese — the very metals that go into the batteries for renewable technologies like electric cars, wind turbines, and solar panels.

But while some experts say we must mine the deep sea to combat climate change, others warn against it, saying we know too little about the damage that seabed mining would cause to the ocean’s life-sustaining properties.

Actual extraction has yet to begin, but in June 2021, the small Pacific island country of Nauru pushed the world closer to this possibility by notifying the International Seabed Authority — the intergovernmental body that oversees mining in international waters — that it had triggered a two-year rule in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This rule would theoretically allow it to start mining in June 2023 under whatever mining rules are in place by then. Nauru itself doesn’t have a mining company with this interest, but it sponsors a subsidiary of Canada-based and U.S.-listed The Metals Company.

Since then, the ISA has been working to negotiate a set of regulations that would allow it to follow the two-year rule. But at the latest set of meetings that took place between July 4 and Aug. 4 in Kingston, Jamaica, progress on the mining code appears to have stalled, observers reported.

[…] Mongabay previously reported on concerns about transparency at the recently concluded ISA meetings, including accusations that the ISA had restricted access to key information and hampered interactions between member states and civil society.

Despite the many setbacks, Matt Gianni, a political and policy adviser for the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC), told Mongabay that he was observing a change happening in the negotiations.

“There’s a broad recognition that unless something really surprising happens, these regulations are not only unlikely to be adopted by July 2023, but they’re probably not likely to be adopted for several years at least,” said Gianni, who attended the meetings as a representative of EarthWorks, an NGO that works to shield communities and the environment from the negative impacts of extractive activities.
» Read article      

» More about deep-seabed mining

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

sunset rig
The Inflation Reduction Act promises thousands of new oil leases. Drillers might not want them.
The bigger question about Joe Manchin’s fossil fuel provisions is if they’ll succeed on the senator’s own terms.
By Jake Bittle, Grist
August 9, 2022

The U.S. Senate passed the largest climate action bill in American history on Sunday, clearing the path for hundreds of billions of dollars for clean energy and other climate-related measures (in addition to billions for other Democratic Party priorities). But because the so-called Inflation Reduction Act bears the imprint of swing-vote Senator Joe Manchin, it also includes numerous provisions that support oil and gas producers.

The fossil-fuel policy that has drawn the most attention in the weeks since Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer unveiled their deal is a provision that requires the federal government to auction oil and gas leases on federal land and in the Gulf of Mexico. Though presidential administrations of both political parties have historically leased this territory for drilling, the Biden administration has attempted to halt the federal leasing program; recent lease auctions have also been delayed by litigation from environmental groups.

The reconciliation bill reinstates old auctions that the Biden administration has tried to cancel and forces the administration to hold several new auctions over the coming years. The legislation also requires that the government auction millions of acres of oil and gas leases before it can auction acreage for wind and solar farms. The Center for Biological Diversity, one of many environmental organizations to oppose these provisions, said they turned the bill into a “climate suicide pact,” since they have the potential to prolong the lifespan of the domestic oil industry. However, energy and climate experts who spoke to Grist said that the provisions may not add significantly to U.S. emissions — in part because the fossil fuel industry may not be all that interested in what the government has to offer.

“I wouldn’t say the provision requiring offshore lease sales is entirely insubstantial, but I also wouldn’t classify it as some kind of major victory for the oil and gas industry,” said Gregory Brew, a historian of oil at Yale University.

That’s for one simple reason: Even if the government does keep auctioning off federal territory, it’s far from certain that oil and gas companies will want to build new drilling operations on that territory. The industry has shifted resources away from federal lands and the Gulf of Mexico in recent years, and there’s currently less capital available than ever for new production in these areas.
» Read article      

» More about fossil fuel

BIOMASS

dried wood chips
Wood-burning power plants in Mass. won’t qualify for renewable energy credits. Local activists are celebrating

By Luis Fieldman, MassLive
August 12, 2022

The enactment of a new climate law in Massachusetts has given environmental groups cause to celebrate.

An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind will expand clean energy development and end renewable energy subsidies for wood-burning power plants, according to a press release from Climate Action Now Western Massachusetts.

“We are grateful to the Massachusetts legislature for taking bold action to address the climate emergency, and relieved that Governor Baker has signed the bill into law,” said Susan Theberge, co-founder of Climate Action Now. “It is inspiring to see the power of grassroots organizing to create positive change and advance climate justice.”

The new law makes Massachusetts removes woody biomass from its Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS). There were only two biomass plants that qualified for the state’s RPS, according to Climate Action Now, but climate activists expected that number to increase dramatically due to changes by the Department of Energy Resources.

By removing woody biomass from the RPS program altogether, the new law will prevent DOER’s rule changes from going into effect, according to Climate Action Now.

“The science is clear: burning wood for energy is not a climate solution,” said Laura Haight, U.S. Policy Director for the Pelham-based Partnership for Policy Integrity. “Massachusetts is once again leading the way by removing woody biomass from its definition of renewable energy, and we hope other states and nations will follow.”

Climate activists said the effort to enact this law goes back to 2008, when western Massachusetts residents organized to oppose several large biomass plants that were proposed in Springfield, Greenfield and Russell.

“Burning trees is harmful to our lungs and the planet and should play no role in our state’s clean energy future,” said Janet Sinclair of Greenfield-based Concerned Citizens of Franklin County. “We’re grateful that the Legislature heard us and agreed that funding biomass projects is a bad idea. For Governor Baker, signing this bill was the right thing to do.”
» Read article     

» More about biomass

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

bubble barrier
‘Incredibly promising’: the bubble barrier extracting plastic from a Dutch river
Technology applied to Oude Rijn river helps stop plastic pollution reaching sea
By Senay Boztas, The Guardian
August 5, 2022

Five years ago, Claar-els van Delft began to suspect that plastic waste on the beach at Katwijk in the Netherlands did not come from visitors, or the sea, but from the mouth of a nearby river.

“We started picking up litter and we noticed, near the river entrance, pieces that came from fresh water – all kinds of plastic,” she says. “Tampon sheaths, brush bristles, but also crisp packages, drink packages, everything.”

Sure enough, when volunteers sifted through an oil drum full of Oude Rijn river water, in between the duckweed they saw tiny plastic particles. “We saw so much pollution, we were shocked,” says van Delft, the co-founder of the local charity Coast Busters.

Fast forward to July 2022, and Katwijk is the site for the world’s first river “bubble barrier” – an experimental concept where a 120-metre stream of rising bubbles, plus the water current, pushes plastic waste to one side in order to be collected.

“We place a perforated tube on the bottom of the waterway, at an angle, and then pump through compressed air: the rising air bubbles create an upward current that will lift plastic from the water column to the surface, and then at the surface – together with the flow of the river – it is all pushed to one side,” explains Philip Ehrhorn, the chief technology officer at the Dutch startup The Great Bubble Barrier. “Here, we get the flow from the pumping station, or the wind can also push trash into the catchment system.”

The company, run by a team of keen sailors, surfers and water enthusiasts, won an international Postcode Lottery Green Challenge in 2018 and started its first permanent pilot in a canal in Amsterdam the following year. Such is the promise of this trial that it has convinced the Rijnland water board, 12 municipalities and the Holland Rijnland and Zuid-Holland regions – along with Coast Busters and local fundraisers – to invest €470,000 to build their river bubble barrier.
» Read article      

» More about plastics in the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 8/5/22

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Welcome back.

Just like last week, there’s still a lot of drama around climate legislation. The Massachusetts Legislature incorporated some of Governor Charlie Baker’s proposed amendments and sent this major climate bill back to his desk just as the legislative session wound down. Notably, the Legislature didn’t capitulate to Baker’s suggested amendment on power generated by burning wood, and lawmakers also rejected proposed changes to their plan to permit 10 towns and cities to ban gas hookups in new buildings. If you’re a Massachusetts resident, please call or email the Governor and ask him to sign the bill into law.

While we wait for that, we’re seeing some really positive movement both practically and conceptually away from fossils and toward clean energy. In court, three public interest groups filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against Washington [D.C.] Gas Light Company over what they called the “greenwashing” of its use of highly polluting methane gas. The complaint claims that Washington Gas consistently refers to fossil gas in customer-facing materials as clean and sustainable compared to electrification. Sounds familiar!

And on the opposite coast, San Diego officials took action against natural gas to strengthen their city’s position on climate change. The City Council voted unanimously to ban natural gas in new houses and local businesses over the next 12 years, and included a measure to phase out 90 percent of natural gas from existing buildings.

While the gas industry continues to hammer hard on the “can’t cook without my gas range” message, chef Chris Galarza is busy helping restaurants and institutions shift from gas to induction stoves. The change is good for the climate — and for kitchen workers’ mental health and well-being.

On the innovation front, a $70 million initiative will deploy 30,000 window-mounted electric heat pumps to bring climate-friendly comfort to residents of New York City’s aging public housing units. Encouraging a market for this type of heat pump could go a long way toward decarbonizing older buildings that typically heat with oil or gas, where residents rely on window air conditioners for cooling.

Innovation is shaking up building materials, too. Making steel is carbon intensive. It’s responsible for up to 9% of worldwide CO2 emissions and almost a quarter of all industrial emissions. Until recently, substituting green hydrogen for fossil fuel seemed to be the pathway to sustainable steel. But Boston Metal claims it has “cracked the code to electrifying steel manufacturing”. Their process produces steel without releasing carbon dioxide, and without using hydrogen fuel. Of course, the model relies on a green grid to supply that power.

We’ve run a lot of stories about the need for the U.S. transmission grid to expand and modernize, and how it isn’t happening fast enough to support the enormous growth of clean energy that’s quickly coming online. Here, we look at how grid-enhancing technologies enable us to get more out of existing power lines.

Recognizing that the U.S. lags behind China in the capacity to build the batteries it will need to meet its growing demand for electric vehicles, the Department of Energy is planning to loan a U.S. battery manufacturing consortium $2.5 billion to ramp up domestic battery production.

All of that is great, but we’re still stuck with fossils for a while – and the industry is pulling all its levers to draw that out as long as possible. One ploy is to turn the divestment movement back on itself. A New York Times investigation revealed a coordinated effort by Republican state treasurers to use government muscle and public funds to punish companies trying to reduce greenhouse gases.

Another tactic involves claiming that existing fossil emitters like power plants can be cleaned up using in-stack carbon capture technology. We’ve expressed plenty of skepticism about this expensive scheme that consistently under-delivers. A new study bears that out. But the carbon capture and sequestration concept can be applied to removing CO2 directly from the ambient air – and a cutting edge direct air capture facility in Iceland is going big.

One last story about the fossil fuel industry:  The Associated Press recently did some great investigative work based on a 2021 aerial survey of the Permian Basin conducted by Carbon Mapper, a partnership of university researchers and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. That survey documented massive amounts of methane venting into the atmosphere from oil and gas operations along the Texas-New Mexico border, and the AP concluded that just 10 companies owned at least 164 of 533 “super-emitting” sites. The Environmental Protection Agency is taking another look now, with enforcement action in mind.

Our climate section shows why we can’t just ignore that kind of industry malfeasance anymore.    While there are encouraging signs that we may be starting to get some traction in the race against global warming, we’re still way behind and the stakes are high. Scientists say it’s time to consider worst-case scenarios as the planet approaches environmental tipping points that could exacerbate other global crises like pandemics and war. That’s the tried-and-true “hope for the best, but plan for the worst” approach.

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

LEGISLATION

MA state house stock shot
Legislature amends climate bill, leaving its fate in Governor Baker’s hands
By Dharna Noor, Boston Globe
August 1, 2022

The Massachusetts Legislature sent a major climate bill back to Governor Charlie Baker’s desk as the session wound down, incorporating some, but not all, of his proposed amendments. The fate of the legislation is now in Baker’s hands.

On the House floor Sunday, Representative Jeff Roy, who negotiated the bill in the Legislature along with Senator Michael Barrett, read a passage from Baker’s recent book about the importance of political compromise.

Roy said the bill gives Baker, who isn’t seeking reelection this fall, a chance to secure his climate legacy.

“He indeed has an incredible choice to make and we certainly hope that he embraces the compromises in this bill like all of us have already done,” he said on Monday. “Otherwise, he will be remembered as the one who pulled the plug on electrification and took the breeze out of offshore wind.”

The Legislature didn’t capitulate to Baker’s suggested amendment on power generated by burning wood.

In their original bill, lawmakers sought to remove wood-burning power plants from the state’s renewable portfolio standard, meaning they would no longer count toward renewable energy goals in Massachusetts or be eligible for state clean energy subsidies. The Legislature would have grandfathered in two long-standing small facilities that are currently in the program.

Baker filed an amendment that would have exempted all wood-burning power plants that began commercial operation before 2022.

Environmental advocates say that would have gutted the provision and praised the Legislature for standing its ground. Wood-burning plants produce harmful pollutants like carbon monoxide, and research shows they can emit even more carbon at the smokestack than coal-fired plants.

“In passing this bill, the Legislature is preventing our clean energy dollars from going up in smoke,” said Laura Haight, US policy director for the Partnership for Policy Integrity, in an e-mailed statement.

Lawmakers also rejected Baker’s proposed changes to their plan to permit 10 towns and cities to ban gas hookups in new buildings.

The policies have been contentious for state officials since Brookline first attempted to pass one in 2019.
» Read article   

take it
Baker in take-it-or-leave-it position on climate bill
Lawmakers accept his price cap amendment, reject most others
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
July 31, 2022

THE LEGISLATURE returned compromise climate legislation to Gov. Charlie Baker on Sunday and urged him to sign it into law even though he didn’t get all the changes he wanted.

Rep. Jeffrey Roy of Franklin, the House chair of the Legislature’s energy committee, gave a speech in which he appealed to Baker to follow his own advice on compromising and warned him of the consequences of not doing so.

Roy read a passage from Baker’s recent book that extolled compromise and suggested the governor should practice what he preaches. He also warned that a veto, which would kill the legislation, would hurt the state’s efforts to meet its climate goals and set the governor up as “the one who took the breeze out of offshore wind.”

Roy said he’s not thrilled with everything in the bill but is nevertheless supporting the compromise version. He said Baker should do the same. Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem of Newton offered a similar perspective. “The governor has now a chance to cement his legacy,” she said.

Not every senator was as enthusiastic. Sen. Marc Pacheco of Taunton urged Baker to sign the bill, but he said he thought the bill did not go far enough. “I hope with a new governor and a new Legislature in January we will go way beyond what we’re going to do today. We need to have bold action on climate,” he said. “What we’re doing today is nowhere near close to where we need to be.”

Baker sent the Legislature’s original climate change bill back on Friday with 19 pages of amendments, including a call for a $750 million appropriation of federal and state funds for clean energy development.
» Read article       

» More about legislation       

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

electrify DC
First-of-Its-Kind Greenwashing Lawsuit Targets Gas Giant for Methane Lies
Washington Gas’s customers, said the plaintiffs, “have a right to the facts about the environmental and health impacts of the products and services they use—including where they get their energy.”
By Julia Conley, Common Dreams
August 4, 2022

Warning that a Washington, D.C. utility has run afoul of the U.S. capital’s consumer protection law, three public interest groups on Thursday announced a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against Washington Gas Light Company over what they called the “greenwashing” of its use of highly pollutive methane gas.

U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Environment America Research and Policy Center, and ClientEarth filed their lawsuit in the District of Columbia Superior Court, saying Washington Gas is consistently misleading more than one million customers by advertising its use of natural gas as a “smart choice for the environment.”

“Washington Gas consistently refers to fossil gas in customer-facing materials as clean and sustainable… compared to electrification,” said ClientEarth in a statement.

The company has focused heavily on convincing customers that using natural gas, whose main ingredient is methane, is a sustainable way to power their homes and workplaces—despite the fact that methane has 80 times the climate-heating potency of carbon emissions in its first 20 years in the atmosphere.

With fracking driving a surge in global gas production over the past two decades, methane is now responsible for nearly half of planetary heating to date and for 23% of Washington, D.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Washington Gas’s customers would never know this from the company’s marketing materials, however, said the groups suing the utility.

“Washington Gas is greenwashing methane gas in its materials,” said Matt Casale, director of environmental campaigns for U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “The truth is that methane is a super-potent greenhouse gas that pollutes our air and worsens the climate crisis.”
» Read article       

» More about protests and actions

GAS BANS

Mayor Todd Gloria
San Diego City Councils votes unanimously for the ban of natural gas in new construction
According to officials, this action will reduce San Diego County’s carbon footprint and hit net-zero emissions by 2035
By Guillermo Mijares, Chulavista Today
August 4, 2022

San Diego officials have taken action against natural gas to strengthen their position on climate change.

City Council recently voted unanimously to ban natural gas in new houses and local businesses over the next 12 years.

According to officials, this action will reduce San Diego County’s carbon footprint and hit net-zero emissions by 2035. This vote against fossil fuels in the latest and future buildings also includes electrifying existing construction over the next decade.

Mayor of San Diego Todd Gloria says this move was necessary because the consequences of failed action on the matter would negatively affect the county.

“The window to reverse the dangerous trends of climate change is rapidly closing, and this moment demands aggressive action,” said Gloria at a public hearing this week. “Implementing this more ambitious plan won’t be easy, but the financial cost and human consequences of inaction are almost unimaginable.”

Several cities in the state of California have installed restrictions involving gas stoves and home heaters in newly-built construction buildings, including in areas like Encinitas.

Jordan More, fiscal and policy analyst at the city’s Office of the Independent Budget Analyst, emphasized what this action means on the state’s fight against one of the biggest issues in the world today.

“There’s one action within this … that outweighs every other strategy, and that is the measure to phase out 90 percent of natural gas from existing buildings,” Jordan More, on the importance of this unanimous vote regarding the fight on climate change.

Cristina Marquez, organizer of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569, said this move is essentially a green light to produce more jobs in the energy workforce, something the state sees as a big win.
» Read article      

» More about gas bans         

DIVESTMENT

tickled pink
How Republicans Are ‘Weaponizing’ Public Office Against Climate Action
A Times investigation revealed a coordinated effort by state treasurers to use government muscle and public funds to punish companies trying to reduce greenhouse gases.
By David Gelles, New York Times
August 5, 2022

Nearly two dozen Republican state treasurers around the country are working to thwart climate action on state and federal levels, fighting regulations that would make clear the economic risks posed by a warming world, lobbying against climate-minded nominees to key federal posts and using the tax dollars they control to punish companies that want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the past year, treasurers in nearly half the United States have been coordinating tactics and talking points, meeting in private and cheering each other in public as part of a well-funded campaign to protect the fossil fuel companies that bolster their local economies.

Last week, Riley Moore, the treasurer of West Virginia, announced that several major banks — including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo — would be barred from government contracts with his state because they are reducing their investments in coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel.

Mr. Moore and the treasurers of Louisiana and Arkansas have pulled more than $700 million out of BlackRock, the world’s largest investment manager, over objections that the firm is too focused on environmental issues. At the same time, the treasurers of Utah and Idaho are pressuring the private sector to drop climate action and other causes they label as “woke.”

And treasurers from Pennsylvania, Arizona and Oklahoma joined a larger campaign to thwart the nominations of federal regulators who wanted to require that banks, funds and companies disclose the financial risks posed by a warming planet.

At the nexus of these efforts is the State Financial Officers Foundation, a little-known nonprofit organization based in Shawnee, Kan., that once focused on cybersecurity, borrowing costs and managing debt loads, among other routine issues.

Then President Biden took office, promising to speed the country’s transition away from oil, gas and coal, the burning of which is dangerously heating the planet.

The foundation began pushing Republican state treasurers, who are mostly elected officials and who are responsible for managing their state’s finances, to use their power to promote oil and gas interests and to stymie Mr. Biden’s climate agenda, records show.

[…] Many Democratic state treasurers support efforts to combat climate change and want banks and investment firms to be clear about risks posed to returns for retirees and others. Democratic lawmakers in California and New Jersey are working on legislation that would require their state pension systems to divest from fossil fuels. But Democrats have not mounted anything like the national campaign being orchestrated by the State Financial Officers Foundation.

The Republican treasurers skirt the fact that global warming is an economic menace that is damaging industries like agriculture and causing extreme weather that devastates communities and costs taxpayers billions in recovery and rebuilding. Instead, they frame efforts to reduce emissions as a threat to employment and revenue, and have turned climate science into another front in the culture wars.
» Read article       

» More about divestment

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Chef Chris Galarza
Meet a chef working to electrify commercial kitchens
Christopher Galarza helps restaurants and institutions shift to induction stoves. The change is good for the climate — and for kitchen workers’ mental health and well-being.
By Maria Virginia Olano, Canary Media
August 3, 2022

Working in a commercial kitchen can be intense, and not just because of the pressure to make great food. It entails hours of standing over the open flame of a gas-burning stove, enveloped in a cloud of extreme heat, humidity and steam.

“It’s almost suffocating,” Christopher Galarza says. He spent 10 years cooking in conventional commercial kitchens until, thanks to a job change, he had the chance to experience an entirely different environment — that of a fully electric, induction-powered kitchen.

For Galazara, there was no going back.

Now he wants to see induction stoves become the norm in restaurants and commercial kitchens across the country — for the mental and physical benefits they offer to people who work in those kitchens, and for the role they can play in moving away from fossil gas and addressing the climate crisis.

[…] From the backyard barbecue to the teppanyaki plates sizzling in restaurants, most people associate great cooking with hot open flames. But the fuel that often feeds those flames is not just heating up our kitchens — it’s also contributing to the climate crisis. Methane, the main component in the fossil gas that fuels more than a third of home stoves in the U.S., is a potent greenhouse gas. Fossil gas also negatively impacts human health, containing other toxic chemicals linked to cancer and greater risks of asthma, especially in kids. ​“Like many cooks, I used to think ​‘gas is king,’ but at a certain point, I started questioning why,” Galarza says.

In 2015, Galarza took a job as executive chef at Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, which is well known for its focus on sustainability. Galarza grew accustomed to cooking produce from local gardens and fish raised on nearby farms. The campus also had one of the country’s first fully electric commercial kitchens, and Galarza experienced for the first time what it was like to cook on induction stoves and in electric ovens, with no gas lines or open flames.

The technology behind induction stoves, which has been around since the 1970s, uses magnetic fields instead of combusting gas to generate heat, and it is orders of magnitude faster, more precise and, critically, cooler and more climate-friendly than any other cooking method.

“I fell in love with it,” Galarza says. It wasn’t just the lack of toxic fumes and hot, injury-inviting surfaces that Galarza appreciated. It was also the ease of cleaning up an induction stove; it needs only warm, soapy water as opposed to the grease-fighting chemicals required to clean up a gas stove, and it takes a fraction of the time.

Another lesser-known benefit of climate-friendly kitchens is how they impact the mental health of the people working in them. Galarza felt the difference immediately. The burnout that had plagued him eased, and he began to experience the joy of cooking again. Reinvigorated, he was eager to share with others what he’d learned at Chatham.
» Read article       

limited listing
The plan to turn blighted houses into a new source of green power for the grid

A California nonprofit is retrofitting homes to make a “virtual power plant” – and fighting gentrification at the same time.
By Emily Pontecorvo, Grist
August 3, 2022

Standing outside the sagging house on 2nd Street in North Richmond, California, it was hard to imagine it as the future site of a pioneering clean energy project. The building’s rotting white siding seemed to sink into the dirt yard with no real foundation. Chunks of it were crumbling to the ground. As we walked around to the back, Jim Becker, my tour guide, pointed to a plastic pipe sticking out of the wall.

“Here, the sewage was just flushing out onto the dirt,” he said. “It was just shooting all the poop into the garden.”

But Becker was excited. He was showing me this house as a sort of “before” picture. Soon, workers will take the building down to its studs and reconstruct the walls and roof. Then it will get a full menu of clean energy offerings: energy-efficient lighting, an electric vehicle charger, an electric stove, electric heat pumps for heating and air conditioning, an internet-connected “smart thermostat.” Solar panels will line the roof, and a backup battery will allow future residents to keep the lights on and the refrigerator running during a power outage.

When the retrofit is done, the house will not be listed publicly on the cutthroat Bay Area real estate market. Instead, it will be shown to a select group of Richmond locals, mostly from low and middle-income backgrounds, who are looking to buy their first home.
» Read article       

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

incinerated
Scientists Say It’s ‘Fatally Foolish’ To Not Study Catastrophic Climate Outcomes
A new paper discusses ‘climate end games’ as the planet approaches environmental tipping points that could exacerbate other global crises like pandemics and war.
By Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News
August 1, 2022

As global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, some climate scientists say it’s time to start paying more attention to the most extreme, worst-case outcomes, including the potential for widespread extinctions, mass climate migration and the disintegration of social and political systems.

“Facing a future of accelerating climate change while blind to worst-case scenarios is naive risk management at best and fatally foolish at worst,” an international team of researchers wrote this week in a Perspective piece in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More than half of all cumulative carbon dioxide emissions have occurred since international climate negotiations started in 1990. Global warming is accelerating and driving a steep increase of extremes like heat waves, wildfires and flooding. Most recent scientific estimates show that, under current policies, the world is headed for about 2.4 to 2.7 degrees Celsius warming by late this century.

As a result, the authors set 3 degrees Celsius warming by 2100 as a benchmark of extreme climate change. They chose that level of warming because it exceeds the current established targets of the Paris climate agreement, and because there are “substantially heightened risks of self-amplifying changes between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius warming that would make it impossible to limit warming to 3 degrees Celsius.”
» Read article   

plume
Tonga’s volcano sent tons of water into the stratosphere. That could warm the Earth
By Bill Chappell, NPR
August 3, 2022

The violent eruption of Tonga’s Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano injected an unprecedented amount of water directly into the stratosphere — and the vapor will stay there for years, likely affecting the Earth’s climate patterns, NASA scientists say.

The massive amount of water vapor is roughly 10% of the normal amount of vapor found in the stratosphere, equaling more than 58,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.

“We’ve never seen anything like it,” said atmospheric scientist Luis Millán, who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Millán led a study of the water the volcano sent into the sky; the team’s research was published in Geophysical Research Letters.

The Jan. 15 eruption came from a volcano that’s more than 12 miles wide, with a caldera sitting roughly 500 feet below sea level. One day earlier, Tongan officials reported the volcano was in a continuous eruption, sending a 3-mile-wide plume of steam and ash into the sky. Then the big blast came, sending ash, gases and vapor as high as 35 miles — a record in the satellite era — into the atmosphere.

Drone aircraft and other video from that day show the dramatic scale of the blast, as the volcano launched an incredibly wide plume into the sky. The intense eruption sent a pressure wave circling around the Earth and caused a sonic boom heard as far away as Alaska.

Earlier large volcanic eruptions have affected climate, but they usually cool temperatures, because they send light-scattering aerosols into the stratosphere. Those aerosols act as a sort of massive layer of sunscreen. But since water vapor traps heat, the Tongan eruption could temporarily raise temperatures a bit, the researchers said.

It normally takes around 2-3 years for sulfate aerosols from volcanoes to fall out of the stratosphere. But the water from the Jan. 15 eruption could take 5-10 years to fully dissipate.

Given that timeframe and the extraordinary amount of water involved, Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai “may be the first volcanic eruption observed to impact climate not through surface cooling caused by volcanic sulfate aerosols, but rather through surface warming,” the researchers said in their paper.
» Read article  

» More about climate

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

window heat pump
Window heat pumps will help electrify New York City’s apartments
A $70 million initiative will deploy 30,000 electric heat pumps to bring climate-friendly comfort to residents of NYC’s aging public housing units.
By Maria Gallucci, Canary Media
August 3, 2022

The sleek white machine straddles an apartment window in Queens, New York City, blowing cool air inside the narrow bedroom. Unlike the boxy air-conditioning units that drone loudly and drip water from buildings across the city, this device hums softly and spares passersby from overhead leaks. And when the sticky, sweltering August heat gives way to bone-chilling winter weather, the machine can warm the room instead.

The startup Gradient showcased its new heating and cooling unit — a type of device called a heat pump — this week as part of the Clean Heat for All Challenge. Late last year, city and state officials in New York invited manufacturers to develop new electrified technology that would both improve living conditions and begin to decarbonize public housing buildings, many of which still rely on outdated heating-oil systems and gas-fired boilers.

On Tuesday, New York leaders announced a $70 million initial investment to deploy 30,000 window-sized electric heat pumps in apartments citywide. Gradient and another company, the global appliance maker Midea America, each won seven-year contracts to develop and produce devices for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which provides affordable housing. Leaders in other cities, including Jersey City, Boston and Seattle, say they’re tracking the project’s progress closely.

“We’re going to spur innovation for brand-new technologies here in New York that the rest of the nation will be looking at,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) said at a ceremony from a sunbaked basketball court at Woodside Houses, a complex of 20 brick buildings in Queens.
» Read article   

heat pump image
Questions about heat pumps? Connecticut offers free experts to help

The state’s energy efficiency program has hired a Massachusetts firm to provide virtual consultations with heat pump experts, along with developing a local network of trained heat pump installers.
By Lisa Prevost, Energy News Network
August 2, 2022

Electric heat pumps are moving front and center in Connecticut’s energy efficiency program as the state seeks to speed adoption with a free consultation service and significant rebates.

EnergizeCT has contracted with Abode, an energy management company, to operate the consultation service and develop a statewide network of trained heat pump installers. Abode, based in Concord, Massachusetts, operates similar programs in that state that have so far resulted in the installation of close to 2,200 heat pumps in 13 communities, said Christopher Haringa, the company’s program manager.

Ratepayers can sign up for a virtual chat session with a heat pump expert on the EnergizeCT website. Since the service started in late May, Abode has conducted more than 100 consultations lasting an average of 45 minutes each, Haringa said.

“Homeowners are terrified of making the wrong decision, especially when they’re going to be spending $10,000 or more on their install,” he said.

Eversource and United Illuminating, which run EnergizeCT, are also in the process of overhauling the program’s website to better promote heat pump technology, said Ronald Araujo, director of energy efficiency for Eversource.

Air-source heat pumps are heating and cooling systems that run on electricity instead of fossil fuels. They move heat outside in the summer and inside in the winter. They are highly efficient and can significantly lower energy bills when paired with home weatherization.
» Read article   
» Live in MA or CT? Explore free services from Abode

» More about energy efficiency

BUILDING MATERIALS

Boston Metal
Boston Metal Electrifies Steel Manufacturing Using Electrolysis
No hydrogen required to make this CO2-free steel
By Lloyd Alter, Treehugger
July 21, 2022

The process of making steel is responsible for up to 9% of worldwide carbon emissions and almost a quarter of all industrial emissions. There’s chemistry involved: The blast furnace reduces the iron oxide content of the ore by blasting air and pulverizing coal into the melted ore. The carbon monoxide from the burning coal reacts with the iron oxide, producing iron and carbon dioxide, or: Fe2O3 + 3 CO → 2 Fe + 3 CO2.

Some companies, like Hybrit, are replacing coal with hydrogen, which combines with oxygen to make water. It has been called the first fossil-fuel-free steel because they were using hydrogen produced through the electrolysis of water with Sweden’s clean hydroelectric power.

But there is another way to separate oxygen from iron using electricity: Molten Oxide Electrolysis (MOE), where you melt the iron ore, add an electrolyte, and apply a serious amount of electricity. That’s the approach being taken by Boston Metal, which claims it has “cracked the code to electrifying steel manufacturing.”

I often run when I hear the phrase “cracked the code”—see just about every modular housing company we have shown—and the idea of molten oxide electrolysis has been around for a while to make very high-grade steel. One problem has been similar to that of aluminum: The anode was made of graphite, which was consumed in the process, releasing carbon dioxide.

The other problem is most electricity in the world is made by burning fossil fuels and electrolysis needs a lot of it; that’s why the greenest aluminum production is in Iceland and Quebec, Canada. But the world is changing as we try to electrify everything, and more renewable and clean electricity is coming on line every day.

Adam Rauwerdink, Boston Metal’s vice president of business development, tells Treehugger that “the cleaner grid makes this all possible.” He notes it takes a lot of electricity: 4 megawatt-hours per tonne of steel. For reference, the average house uses 11 megawatt-hours per year. Rauwerdink says this energy use is comparable to the HYBRIT process between the melting of the iron ore and the making of the hydrogen and less than the 5-6 megawatt-hours consumed in conventional integrated steelmaking. He also says a “core innovation was the development of the metallic chrome and iron anode that isn’t consumed in the process.”
» Read article   

» More about building materials

MODERNIZING THE GRID

LineVision
How to move more power with the transmission lines we already have
Grid-enhancing technologies enable us to get more out of existing power lines. Here’s an in-depth look at one such technology: dynamic line rating.
By Jeff St. John, Canary Media
July 29, 2022

Over the past few months, we’ve been covering how the U.S. transmission grid isn’t expanding and modernizing fast enough to support the enormous growth of clean energy needed to decarbonize our electricity. We’ve also been covering how regulators, utilities and energy industry players are trying to surmount the technical, legal and economic barriers to building out a 21st-century grid.

But in the meantime — and given how long it takes to build new transmission lines, that meantime could be a long time indeed — there are ways to expand the clean-energy capacity of the power grids we already have. One of the most effective methods for doing this could be using grid-enhancing technologies, or GETs for short.

The term GETs covers a variety of technologies, each with its own role to play. Dynamic line-rating systems can reveal that high-voltage power lines are able to safely carry more electricity than previously known. Topology optimization software can discover ways to configure transmission grid networks to ease power flow bottlenecks that are preventing power from reaching customers. Power flow routing devices can actively direct the flow of electrons from overloaded to underutilized power lines in real time.

Real-world deployments of these GETs over the past decade have shown that they can cost-effectively deliver benefits like redirecting power flows around congested grid lines and reducing the cost of interconnecting more solar and wind power resources. More recent studies have shown that using multiple types of GETs in tandem can unlock enormous amounts of latent capacity on U.S. transmission grids.

A study last year indicated that the use of GETs on the grids crisscrossing the wind-rich plains of Oklahoma and Kansas could double the capacity for new clean energy projects and reduce the amount of power lost to grid congestion, yielding paybacks twice the cost of deploying the technologies in the first year of operations alone.

And in February of this year, the U.S. Department of Energy released a study indicating GETs could pay back their costs through higher production and increased capacity for renewables in New York state within half a decade — far more quickly than traditional grid upgrades.

Achieving these hypothetical best-case scenarios from GETs deployments will take a lot of work, however. Despite their growing track record in delivering real-world value in deployments in Europe and Australia, GETs are just beginning to be put to use in active grid planning and operations in the U.S. Integrating multiple technologies across wide swaths of the grid is still in the realm of computer modeling rather than real-world grid operations.
» Read article       
» Read The Brattle Group report
» Read the DOE report

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

gigaboost
EV battery plants in US anticipate boost from $2.5B federal loan
A DOE loan to Ultium Cells, a joint venture of GM and LG Energy Solutions, is aimed at upping domestic production of EV batteries, a sector now dominated by China.
By Jeff St. John, Canary Media
July 26, 2022

The U.S. lags behind China in the capacity to build the batteries it will need to meet its growing demand for electric vehicles. The U.S. Department of Energy is planning to loan a U.S. battery manufacturing consortium $2.5 billion to help change that.

DOE’s Loan Programs Office announced Monday that it has made a conditional commitment to lend the money to Ultium Cells, a joint venture of U.S. automaker General Motors and South Korean battery giant LG Energy Solutions. If approved by the DOE, the loan could help Ultium finance the battery-pack gigafactories it’s building in Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

It would be the first loan for battery-pack manufacturing from the Loan Programs Office’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program, which loaned a total of about $8 billion to Ford, Nissan and Tesla between 2007 and 2010. Since then, EVs have grown from a niche product to a primary focus for many automakers in the U.S. and around the world, as governments have set mandates aimed at ensuring that fossil-fueled cars, vans and trucks can be replaced with zero-emissions vehicles quickly enough to forestall the worst harms of climate change.

President Biden has set a goal for half of all U.S. auto sales to be electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2030, a target that will require a massive scale-up of EVs and battery production. ​“Those vehicles should be, to the best of our ability, made here in the United States — and the batteries should be made here, and as many of the components as possible should be made here,” said Jigar Shah, head of DOE’s Loan Programs Office.
» Read article       

» More about clean transportation

CARBON CAPTURE AND SEQUESTRATION

methane and CCS
High Carbon Capture Rates at U.S. Coal Plant a ‘Myth’, IEEFA Analysis Shows
By The Energy Mix
August 2, 2022

A proposed carbon capture and storage (CCS) plant in the United States will capture far less than the 95% of carbon dioxide emissions its backers claim, concludes a new analysis released this week by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

A full life cycle assessment of the proposed CCS retrofit at New Mexico’s San Juan Generating Station “shows 90% or higher capture is a myth,” IEEFA writes in a release. It “estimates the overall carbon capture rate from both the power plant and the mine that provides its coal would be no more than 72%, and could be significantly lower,” even though “companies continually promise a capture rate of 95%.”

Moreover, project proponent Enchant Energy “acknowledges there is little investor interest in its carbon capture project and it will be asking for US$1 billion from the federal government” to get the job done, IEEFA says.

The San Juan project is a retrofit to be bolted on to an existing power plant, not a new installation, and it’s meant to capture emissions from a coal-fired power plant, not oil or gas—so the process is somewhat different from approaches now in development in the Canadian fossil industry.

But IEEFA says its findings are applicable to other types of carbon capture projects. That conclusion reinforces concerns that the Trudeau government has agreed to a generous subsidy for a technology that still isn’t ready for prime time after 30 years of development—even though more proven, less expensive alternatives are readily at hand.

The institute says this is one of the first studies to look at a carbon capture scheme across its full life cycle—in this case, from extraction to final electricity production. It concludes that:

  • Even if Enchant hits its 90% capture target for the power plant, methane emissions from the associated coal mine will bring CO2-equivalent emissions capture down to 68%. That will leave the Farmington, NM-based energy supplier touting a “low-carbon” project that still emits the equivalent of nearly three megatons of CO2 per year.
  • If the power plant hits a more realistic target of 65 to 75% carbon capture, the life cycle capture rate will fall to between 49 and 57%.
    » Read article       
    » Read IEEFA’s report: Carbon Capture’s Methane Problem

going giga
Going giga: The race to scale up the direct air capture industry
Construction has begun in Iceland on the world’s largest direct air capture facility to date, as the industry looks to scale at a pace rarely seen in the history of commercial markets. Net zero depends on it.
By Oliver Gordon, Energy Monitor
August 1, 2022

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that to limit global warming to 1.5°C, the world will need to remove billions of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere – and that’s on top of the vast quantities of emissions cuts also required.

However, last month, on a grassy, far-flung stretch of the Icelandic tundra, an important step was taken towards that aspiration: Swiss company Climeworks broke ground on its newest and largest direct air capture and storage (DAC+S) facility to date, Mammoth.

Climeworks opened the world’s first DAC facility, Orca, in September 2021 – also in Iceland. Now, following a $650m equity raise earlier this year, the company plans to rapidly scale up the market’s capacity by introducing large, modular DAC facilities and investing vast sums in developing the technology. Mammoth has been designed with a nominal CO2 capture capacity of 36,000 tonnes (t) per year – an order of magnitude larger than Orca’s 4,000t capacity – when fully operational in 18–24 months’ time.

However, to avoid climate catastrophe, DAC+S technologies need to reach gigatonne capacity at a pace that would make the solar and wind power industries blush. At the Direct Air Capture Summit in Zurich, Switzerland, in July 2022, the industry’s great and good gathered to discuss just how to scale up at such an unprecedented rate.

In Zurich, Climeworks founders Dr Christoph Gebald and Dr Jan Wurzbacher said going giga would require $30–50bn of investment per year from 2030 onwards. That would represent 10% of the annual investment made into renewable energy capacity today: an ambitious target that will require the private and public sectors to work closely together.

Large-scale deployment will also be heavily influenced by the green energy requirements of powering DAC facilities. Conservative projections estimate the industry will require up to 25GW of wind and solar capacity per year from 2030 onwards, accounting for roughly 10% of the installed wind and solar capacity in 2021 and 3% of the annual capacity projected as of 2030.

“The gigatonne target is ambitious, but the numbers are clear: it is doable,” said Gebald. “To make this happen, corporate action, investments, policy-shapers and regulatory guidelines need to come together.”
» Read article       

» More about CCS

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Lenorah colors
Hidden Menace: Massive methane leaks speed up climate change

By MICHAEL BIESECKER and HELEN WIEFFERING, Associated Press
July 28, 2022

LENORAH, Texas (AP) — To the naked eye, the Mako Compressor Station outside the dusty West Texas crossroads of Lenorah appears unremarkable, similar to tens of thousands of oil and gas operations scattered throughout the oil-rich Permian Basin.

What’s not visible through the chain-link fence is the plume of invisible gas, primarily methane, billowing from the gleaming white storage tanks up into the cloudless blue sky.

The Mako station, owned by a subsidiary of West Texas Gas Inc., was observed releasing an estimated 870 kilograms of methane – an extraordinarily potent greenhouse gas — into the atmosphere each hour. That’s the equivalent impact on the climate of burning seven tanker trucks full of gasoline every day.

But Mako’s outsized emissions aren’t illegal, or even regulated. And it was only one of 533 methane “super emitters” detected during a 2021 aerial survey of the Permian conducted by Carbon Mapper, a partnership of university researchers and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The group documented massive amounts of methane venting into the atmosphere from oil and gas operations across the Permian, a 250-mile-wide bone-dry expanse along the Texas-New Mexico border that a billion years ago was the bottom of a shallow sea. Hundreds of those sites were seen spewing the gas over and over again. Ongoing leaks, gushers, going unfixed.

“We see the same sites active from year to year. It’s not just month to month or season to season,” said Riley Duren, a research scientist at the University of Arizona who leads Carbon Mapper.

Carbon Mapper identified the spewing sites only by their GPS coordinates. The Associated Press took the coordinates of the 533 “super-emitting” sites and cross-referenced them with state drilling permits, air quality permits, pipeline maps, land records and other public documents to piece together the corporations most likely responsible.

Just 10 companies owned at least 164 of those sites, according to an AP analysis of Carbon Mapper’s data. West Texas Gas owned 11.
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