Monthly Archives: October 2022

Weekly News Check-In 10/28/22

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Welcome back.

The Salem City Council has asked state environmental officials to take another look at the Peabody “peaker” power plant, adding their voice to the litany of objections and concerns raised over the past year by opponents to the plant. The 11-member council unanimously approved a resolution “strongly and urgently” opposing the plant’s construction. It calls for Gov. Charlie Baker and Bethany Card, secretary to the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to “reopen the (state review) process and do a full environmental impact review.” The statement echoes a similar plea from Peabody officials.

The East African crude oil pipeline (EACOP) is another piece of fossil infrastructure under fire. If built, it will transport oil drilled in a biodiverse national park in Uganda more than 870 miles to a port in Tanzania for export. The pipeline is part of a pattern where the world’s biggest fossil fuel firms are quietly planning scores of carbon bomb oil and gas projects that would drive the climate past internationally agreed temperature limits, with catastrophic global impacts.

Atmospheric concentrations of another potent greenhouse gas — methane — grew tremendously in 2021, but scientists are still trying to figure out why. The reason for last year’s big increase is unclear because methane in the atmosphere can come from many different sources. The oil and gas industry is responsible for much of it, but there are also natural sources, and climate change can increase the rate of those emissions. Helpfully, NASA scientists, using a tool designed to study how dust affects climate, have identified more than 50 methane-emitting hotspots around the world – an important step toward mitigation.

Listen up. Three major studies just completed by the United Nations conclude that the world is fast approaching irreversible climate tipping points.  At a time when existing emissions reduction plans are woefully inadequate and solving climate problems requires unprecedented international cooperation, geopolitical tensions are peaking.

Let’s take that sobering news as a call to action, rather than cause for despair. On the hopeful side, we’re seeing lots of stories about how legislation and the private sector are finding ways to break down barriers and accelerate the transition to renewable energy. One example is the C-PACE program being finalized in Maine. It involves loans to commercial property owners that eliminate down payments and spread the cost of solar, energy efficiency, and other projects over longer terms than conventional bank loans. More broadly, the New England states, having spent years crafting climate and clean energy plans, are in a good position to secure Inflation Reduction Act funds.

In Minnesota, green energy jobs are booming, but 84% of the companies in that sector report having trouble hiring qualified workers. A program at White Earth Tribal and Community College is stepping up to fill that gap.

Another obstacle being addressed is the high cost of electric vehicles. So far, the people with long commutes who stand to benefit the most from EVs often aren’t able to afford them. Traditional lease programs don’t work because of high-mileage penalties. But Zevvy, a California financing startup hopes to change that with a new leasing model. It features a fixed fee that’s cheaper than a monthly loan payment, plus a small per-mile fee that should result in drivers saving money compared to what they’d pay to keep burning gasoline.

And it’s looking like the energy crisis Russia sparked by invading Ukraine is likely to speed up rather than slow down the global transition away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner technologies like wind, solar and electric vehicles. Some countries have been burning more fossil fuels like coal because of war-related disruptions, but that effect is expected to be short-lived.

In Massachusetts, the Mass Save program provides funding for all sorts of energy efficiency projects, small and large. The primary complaint has been the program is administered by the state’s investor-owned gas and electric utilities, and has been used to slow the transition away from natural gas. The conflict of interest baked into that arrangement played out in Wellesley recently, when National Grid offered nearly $1.5 million in Mass Save funds to help fund energy efficient equipment at two new schools, on the condition that the buildings connect to gas lines. The town managed to beat back this crude attempt at extortion and collect the money anyway, but the episode underscores the need to remove Mass Save from utility control.

While we’re on the topic of utilities, millions of service shutoffs during the pandemic highlighted the growing U.S. electricity affordability crisis. Utility company commitments to customer equity, energy affordability and equitable access to clean energy resources are becoming more common, but energy justice advocates say they’re not enough. Advocates say investor-owned utilities need to do more to help low-income customers, customers of color and residents of traditionally underserved communities.

Urban heat islands are a common hazard in many of those communities. Reducing the surface area of pavement or making it more reflective can be effective cooling strategies. Boston’s Chelsea neighborhood is experimenting with lightening pavement – making it more reflective – by using a shot blasting technique.

At a time when fossil fuel giants are posting record profits, we take a look at the growing trend to sell off wells, coal mines, and other operations through private equity. The practice takes some of the dirtiest assets off the books of publicly-traded companies, and shifts them to the private sphere shielded from rigorous reporting requirements. Some environmental advocates are warning that these transactions, supposedly driven by an effort to reduce emissions and climate risks, may instead do the opposite.

Now that New Zealand has decided to support a temporary moratorium on deep-seabed mining, this is a good time to review the case against doing it at all.

We’ll close with reporting from Greenpeace on the fantasy of plastics recycling. Only 5% of the mountains of plastic waste generated by US households last year was recycled, but the plastics problem is much bigger than wanton consumerism or laziness. The situation would still be bad even if every household separated every piece of plastic and disposed of it in a dedicated recycling plant. Not a single type of plastic packaging in the US meets the definition of recyclable used by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s new plastic economy initiative.

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


courtesy image
Salem councilors call for stronger state review of Peabody plant
By Dustin Luca, The Salem News
October 27, 2022

SALEM — The City Council has asked state environmental officials to take another look at the Peabody “peaker” power plant, adding their voice to the litany of objections and concerns raised over the past year by opponents to the plant and other local officials.

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

With a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the 11-member council in Salem approved a resolution “strongly and urgently” opposing the plant’s construction. It calls for Gov. Charlie Baker and Bethany Card, secretary to the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to “reopen the (state review) process and do a full environmental impact review,” echoing a similar plea from Peabody officials.

Salem councilors noted they didn’t want to create an impression they were telling their peers in Peabody what to do. The resolution is targeting state actors and calling for further review, they said, feeling it was a necessary statement to make.

“This is a resolution that’s directed to our environmental affairs departments in the state to hopefully be another community that’s encouraged enough to follow through on a promise they’ve made,” Ward 5 Councilor Jeff Cohen said: “to have that environmental impact study any time any power plant is built.”
» Read article            

» More about peakers        


Belridge oil field
There was a record-breaking increase in methane in Earth’s atmosphere last year
Methane is an even more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and scientists are scrambling to figure out why there’s been such a dramatic increase of it in the atmosphere
By Justine Calma, The Verge
October 27, 2022

Concentrations of a super potent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere — methane — grew tremendously in 2021. It’s still something of a mystery why the world saw such an “exceptional increase” last year, says the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which released the numbers yesterday.

The reasons for the big leap last year are unclear because methane in the atmosphere can come from many different sources. But we do know who’s consistently responsible for huge amounts of methane pollution. Every year, the oil and gas industry leaks tremendous amounts of methane. There are also natural sources of methane emissions, and climate change can make that a bigger problem. So it’s no wonder methane is building up at astonishing levels in our atmosphere.

2021 marked the biggest year-on-year increase in atmospheric methane concentrations since the WMO started keeping track around four decades ago. With that jump, the amount of methane lingering in the atmosphere in 2021 was 262 percent of what it was before the industrial revolution. And once methane is in the atmosphere, it’s initially 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide when it comes to heating up the planet. Methane is estimated to have caused about 30 percent of the current rise in global temperatures since the industrial revolution.

Methane is simultaneously a pervasive and elusive pollutant to track. The fossil fuel industry sells it as the “natural gas” used in home heating and cooking stoves. And the gas is constantly leaking from oil and gas fields, pipelines, and even stoves. About 82.5 million tons of methane escaped from the oil and gas industry last year, according to the International Energy Agency.

For a sense of scale, consider what experts estimate is likely the fossil fuel industry’s single-largest methane leak ever — which just happened this month. A nearly half-mile stretch of the Baltic Sea was bubbling with leaking methane after suspected sabotage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines. While the cause and severity of that leak make it unusual, the upper estimate of how much gas escaped from the Nord Stream pipelines represents just a small fraction of industrial methane leaks every year. The worst-case emissions scenario for Nord Stream pipelines is equivalent to only two days of routine leaks from oil and gas infrastructure around the world. And there’s plenty of research that suggests that methane leaks are actually underestimated.

Tracking methane emissions gets more complicated because a lot of it also comes from animals and the environment. A cow will belch up around 220 pounds of methane a year, a major source of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. Methane also wafts up from landfills as organic material decomposes.
» Read article           

methane plume
New NASA instrument detects methane ‘super-emitters’ from space
The Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) identified more than 50 methane hotspots around the world.
By Al Jazeera
October 26, 2022

NASA scientists, using a tool designed to study how dust affects climate, have identified more than 50 methane-emitting hotspots around the world, a development that could help combat the potent greenhouse gas.

NASA said on Tuesday that its Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) had identified more than 50 methane “super-emitters” in Central Asia, the Middle East and the southwestern United States since it was installed in July onboard the International Space Station.

The newly measured methane hotspots — some previously known and others just discovered — include sprawling oil and gas facilities and large landfill sites. Methane is responsible for roughly 30 percent of the global rise in temperatures to date.

“Reining in methane emissions is key to limiting global warming,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement, adding that the instrument will help “pinpoint” methane super-emitters so that such emissions can be stopped “at the source”.

Circling Earth every 90 minutes from its perch onboard the space station some 400km (250 miles) high, EMIT is able to scan vast tracts of the planet dozens of kilometres across while also focusing in on areas as small as a football field.

The instrument, called an imaging spectrometer, was built primarily to identify the mineral composition of dust blown into Earth’s atmosphere from deserts and other arid regions, but it has proven adept at detecting large methane emissions.

“Some of the [methane] plumes EMIT detected are among the largest ever seen — unlike anything that has ever been observed from space,” said Andrew Thorpe, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) research technologist leading the methane studies.
» Read article             

» More about gas leaks


Commercial building owners are about to get a new tool to fight climate change in Maine
Maine is the latest state to offer Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, or C-PACE, loans, a tool that lets property owners repay loans for solar, energy efficiency and other projects through a line on their property tax bills.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
October 26, 2022

Maine is finalizing rules for a program that will soon let commercial property owners pay for clean energy upgrades through their property tax bills.

Loans known as C-PACE — or commercial property-assessed clean energy — eliminate down payments and spread the cost of solar, energy efficiency, and other projects over longer terms than conventional bank loans. When a property is sold, repayment responsibility transfers to the buyer, allowing owners to invest without worrying whether they will own long enough to fully recoup the cost savings.

“It is a financing tool that reduces the upfront cost barrier to renewable energy and energy efficiency measures for commercial properties,” said Robert Wood, director of government relations and climate policy at the Nature Conservancy’s Maine chapter. “It has a clearly successful and growing track record in a number of other states.”

Connecticut became the first state to approve a C-PACE program in 2012. Adoption picked up from there and today more than 20 states and the District of Columbia have active programs in place. Maine passed legislation (LD 340) last year to establish a program administered by Efficiency Maine Trust.

Maine has been making an ambitious push to cut its greenhouse gas emissions since 2019, when Gov. Janet Mills took office and declared climate issues a priority for her administration. In 2020, the state released a comprehensive climate change plan Maine Won’t Wait, which includes a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

One of the major strategies in the document is to modernize Maine’s buildings. The heating, cooling, and lighting of commercial buildings are responsible for an estimated 11% of the state’s emissions. C-PACE is seen as a tool to address this segment.
» Read article             

ready to goNew England states poised to capitalize on new federal climate law incentives
Every New England state except New Hampshire has already adopted climate laws requiring greenhouse gas emission reductions. The work already done around those plans should help them secure Inflation Reduction Act funds.
By Lisa Prevost, Energy News Network
October 24, 2022

Years of work crafting climate and clean energy plans have left New England states in a prime position to take advantage of renewable energy incentives in the historic climate bill enacted by Congress over the summer, advocates say.

“We’ve worked really hard to create fertile ground for this type of thing — in five of the six states, you have climate laws already passed,” said Sean Mahoney, executive vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation. “The states have prepared for this day. And now the Inflation Reduction Act is going to provide them with the resources to execute on it.”

The Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, will allocate an estimated $369 billion over 10 years for energy security and climate change measures, according to the Congressional Budget Office. (It also includes many other forms of aid, including $64 billion to extend the Affordable Care Act and $4 billion for drought relief efforts in 17 western states.)

The wide-ranging climate change measures include tax credits for renewable energy production and storage, loans and grants for energy transmission projects and transmission planning, grants and rebates to replace heavy-duty vehicles with zero-emission vehicles, and financial assistance for clean energy technology manufacturing.

There are also rebates for consumers who install heat pumps and other energy-saving retrofits in their homes. Tax credits are available for the purchase of new or used electric vehicles by income-qualified buyers.

Passage of the law has generated “a whole bunch of enthusiasm” among the members of NECEC, a clean energy trade organization, because they see the coming injection of federal resources and private investment that will attract as an economic buttress in the face of inflation and an “up and down economy,” said Jeremy McDiarmid, vice president for policy and government affairs.

The Northeastern states overall are well positioned to jump on these opportunities because of the policy groundwork that has already been laid, he said.
» Read article             

» More about legislation


White Earth Tribal College becomes a bright spot for solar energy job training
As alternative energy jobs expand across Minnesota, a new program offered at a northwestern Minnesota reservation college is connecting Native and other workers to good-paying work.
By Andrew Hazzard, Sahan Journal, in Energy News Network
October 27, 2022

MAHNOMEN — Near the tall grasses outside White Earth Tribal and Community College, students huddled around a small ground-mounted-unit solar array on an unusually warm October day. The trainees, ranging in age from recent high school graduates to people in their 60s, took turns connecting wires, testing voltage, and flipping switches that connected the panels to a large battery.

“Be gentle with the wires,” instructor George Lemelin cautioned them. “Take your time, relax, no worry or hurry about anything.”

The five students were wrapping up a 45-hour solar-energy training certificate program that gives a basic introduction to electrical work with an emphasis on solar power. To test their knowledge, the group assembled, connected, tested, and powered up a ground-mounted solar array.

For Andrew Goodwin, 45, the course is a chance to change careers. After 20 years of union masonry jobs, he’s looking for rewarding work that’s easier on his body. He sees opportunities for trade work in solar in northwestern Minnesota.

“I’d like to make my own system and sell it,” he said.

Solar energy jobs are on the rise in Minnesota, and new workers are in demand, according to a new report published by Clean Energy Economy Minnesota, a nonprofit organization that promotes renewable energy. The solar industry grew 9% last year, the report found, higher than the 5%growth seen overall in clean-energy jobs, which include heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, clean-car production, and renewable energy like wind and solar power.

But 84% of companies in the clean energy sector reported trouble hiring qualified workers, according to Gregg Mast, executive director of Clean Energy Economy Minnesota.

The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act expanded and extended existing tax credits on solar power projects for commercial and residential users, which renewable energy experts believe will supercharge growth in the sector.
» Read article            

» More about greening the economy


peak fossil
War in Ukraine Likely to Speed, Not Slow, Shift to Clean Energy, I.E.A. Says
While some nations are burning more coal this year in response to natural-gas shortages spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that effect is expected to be short-lived.
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
October 27, 2022

The energy crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is likely to speed up rather than slow down the global transition away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner technologies like wind, solar and electric vehicles, the world’s leading energy agency said Thursday.

While some countries have been burning more fossil fuels such as coal this year in response to natural gas shortages caused by the war in Ukraine, that effect is expected to be short-lived, the International Energy Agency said in its annual World Energy Outlook, a 524-page report that forecasts global energy trends to 2050.

Instead, for the first time, the agency now predicts that worldwide demand for every type of fossil fuel will peak in the near future.

One major reason is that many countries have responded to soaring prices for fossil fuels this year by embracing wind turbines, solar panels, nuclear power plants, hydrogen fuels, electric vehicles and electric heat pumps. In the United States, Congress approved more than $370 billion in spending for such technologies under the recent Inflation Reduction Act. Japan is pursuing a new “green transformation” program that will help fund nuclear power, hydrogen and other low-emissions technologies. China, India and South Korea have all ratcheted up national targets for renewable and nuclear power.

And yet, the shift toward cleaner sources of energy still isn’t happening fast enough to avoid dangerous levels of global warming, the agency said, not unless governments take much stronger action to reduce their planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions over the next few years.

Based on current policies put in place by national governments, global coal use is expected to start declining in the next few years, natural gas demand is likely to hit a plateau by the end of this decade and oil use is projected to level off by the mid-2030s.

Meanwhile, global investment in clean energy is now expected to rise from $1.3 trillion in 2022 to more than $2 trillion annually by 2030, a significant shift, the agency said.

“It’s notable that many of these new clean energy targets aren’t being put in place solely for climate change reasons,” said Fatih Birol, the agency’s executive director, in an interview. “Increasingly, the big drivers are energy security as well as industrial policy — a lot of countries want to be at the leading edge of the energy industries of the future.”
» Read article            
» Read the IEA report

pursuing perovskites
Perovskites can make solar panels more efficient than silicon alone
But will their remarkable performance in the lab ever translate into real market momentum? Caelux and other tandem-solar startups are betting the answer is yes.
By Eric Wesoff, Canary Media
October 19, 2022

Startup Caelux is betting that its ​“tandem” solar technology, which combines perovskite photovoltaics with market-dominating silicon, will result in more efficient solar panels — and the company recently received a $12 million investment from Indian conglomerate Reliance New Energy to commercialize this new approach. Vinod Khosla, no stranger to next-generation solar, is also an investor in the Caltech spinout, which is based in Pasadena, California.

Tandem solar startups like Caelux place a light-absorbing layer made from perovskites, a class of crystalline materials, atop a conventional silicon cell. This dual-material architecture has the potential to break through the efficiency barrier of single-junction silicon because of the different wavelength sensitivities of silicon and perovskite materials.

In the last 10 years, the average conversion efficiency of commercial wafer-based silicon modules has increased from about 15 percent to more than 20 percent and is forecast to reach efficiencies of 23 to 24 percent by the end of the decade, approaching the practical limits of this technology.

With a perovskite layer added, ​“you’re going to see a 20 percent to 30 percent relative efficiency boost,” Caelux CEO Scott Graybeal told Canary Media. ​“So you’re talking about modules that will come out at 27 percent to 29 percent efficiency.”

With more efficient solar panels, more electricity could be produced from a plot of land or a rooftop, making solar power — already the cheapest form of electricity in history — even more cost-effective.
» Read article             

» More about clean energy


Hunnewell Elementary
Wellesley teed up a bold move on climate action. Then came an offer it couldn’t refuse.
How $1.5 million in incentives from National Grid nearly derailed the town’s net-zero plans
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
October 26, 2022

It took five years of painstaking work and delicate negotiations, but finally this summer town officials in Wellesley were on the cusp of a bold step to a climate-friendly future. Two new schools and a renovated town hall were to be completely free of fossil fuels. Officials hoped the projects would be an inspiration for residents and even for other communities.

Then came a wrinkle as leaders were finalizing the plans this summer. National Grid, the gas and electric giant, offered nearly $1.5 million to help with the cost of cutting-edge electric heating and cooling equipment.

But there was a catch. To get the money, the town would have to install gas lines to each of the new buildings.

[…] Steve Gagosian, the town’s design and construction manager, sent a terse letter to National Grid on Aug. 12, in hopes of convincing the utility to offer the money without requiring gas lines.

“It would appear that the incentive to electrify and then maintain a fossil fuel service are at odds with each other and sustainable climate goals,” Gagosian wrote.

National Grid replied that it was looking into his request, but Gagosian said months passed without hearing back.

By late August, some members of the School Committee and Select Board seemed “ready and willing to drop their commitment to Net Zero Energy Ready buildings” in order to ensure Wellesley got the National Grid money, a volunteer involved with the town’s climate effort claimed in an e-mail to Gagosian.

Then, on Oct. 18, the Globe interviewed a National Grid official for this story, who verified the company’s position and confirmed details of the offer. Three days later, on Friday, Gagosian said he received an unexpected message from National Grid on his office voicemail. The company said it had decided to rescind the requirement for gas connections.

[…] Even with Wellesley’s situation seemingly resolved, climate advocates said the offer and its terms underscore how the business interests of gas utilities put climate efforts at risk. They noted that National Grid’s offer came via Mass Save, the state’s energy efficiency program, which offers rebates for equipment such as electric heat pumps. While Mass Save is funded by ratepayers, the program itself is run by gas and electric utilities including National Grid. The program is meant to encourage reductions in harmful climate emissions, and yet in this case, it appeared to be aimed at ensuring those Wellesley buildings remained tied to fossil fuels.

“The investor-owned utilities should never have had control over these incentives,” said Logan Malik, interim executive director of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network, a climate advocacy group. The arrangement “is not designed in a way that can ensure we are electrifying as quickly as we need to be.”

Gas utilities in Massachusetts make most of their profit by installing new pipes, the cost of which is passed on to customers as a surcharge on their gas bills. And while state climate plans call for widespread conversion to electric heat powered by a clean grid, the gas industry has been pushing for climate policies that would allow it to pump new fuels through its pipes, another potential motivation to install more, climate advocates say.
» Read article             

» More about energy efficiency


shot blast
How pavement can help cool overheated cities, even in chilly Mass.
By Martha Bebinger, WBUR
October 24, 2022

On a typical summer day, it might be 10-12 degrees cooler in leafy sections of Boston than it is downtown, because unshaded pavement and roofs absorb and radiate so much heat.

Reducing pavement or making it more reflective are strategies more communities must adopt to help cool cities, experts say, and slow global warming. One of the dire challenges with pavement is how much heat it radiates at night.

“It’s this inability to cool down at night that leads to some of the worst health effects,” says Carly Ziter, an associate professor of biology at Concordia University in Montreal.

Heat radiating off asphalt, concrete and bricks overnight can disrupt sleep. Lack of sleep can aggravate chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and anxiety. Some researchers forecast more deaths connected to excessive nighttime heat.

More than a dozen U.S. cities, mostly in central or southern states are testing ways to cool pavement, in addition to planting trees and coating roofs white. In Massachusetts, where being too cold has historically been more of a concern than being too hot, there are a few experiments, but most decision makers are waiting and watching. There’s not much research about what works, on which surfaces, and in what settings.

In late September, a machine that looked like an oversized floor sander rolled slowly up and down the street in front of Chelsea’s Boys and Girls Club. Tiny metal beads pummeled the top black layer of asphalt, leaving it light gray.

“It’s striking,” says Tim Corrigan, an engineer with Weston and Sampson, “and what we hoped to see here.”

Asphalt fades from black to gray over time. This technique, called shot blasting, speeds up that process. Pavement color makes a big difference when it comes to heat. Black asphalt absorbs more sun than concrete, for example, and can be about 20 degrees hotter. Bringing asphalt closer to the color of concrete is the aim of many cool pavement projects.

“Our goal is to make the pavement hold less of the heat from the sun and reflect it back into the atmosphere,” says Corrigan, who proposed this experiment for Chelsea, an urban heat island where summer temperatures are often 10 or more degrees warmer than in suburbs.
» Read article             

» More about building materials


This startup offers affordable EV leases to people with long commutes
Zevvy has raised seed funding to scale its electric-vehicle leasing, which is aimed at saving money and slashing emissions for the people who drive the most.
By Julian Spector, Canary Media
October 25, 2022

The people who stand to benefit the most from electric vehicles often aren’t the ones who’ve been able to get them. A Bay Area financing startup hopes to change that.

Zevvy wants to make electric cars accessible to the millions of Americans who commute many miles each day and tens of thousands of miles each year. These workers typically can’t afford the premium of a new electric vehicle, and they can’t lease one because they’d blast through the mileage cap. As such, they end up in the used car market and rack up steep annual bills for gas and maintenance.

The EV market hasn’t found a way to reach these customers effectively, contends Zevvy founder and CEO Andrew Krulewitz. But that needs to happen, both for drivers’ pocketbooks and for the planet’s health.

“If you think about maximizing an EV’s impact, financially and environmentally, you want it driven as much as possible,” Krulewitz told Canary Media.

Put another way, there’s a big difference in avoided carbon (and tailpipe) emissions from electrifying the personal vehicle of someone who taps on a keyboard at home every day versus someone who drives 60 miles to and from work every day. Similarly, the personal financial savings from reduced fuel and maintenance costs add up the more miles are driven on an electric vehicle.

The trick is getting your hands on one. Zevvy hopes to make this possible with a new type of financing product based on proprietary analytics. Drivers can sign up for a lease with a minimum commitment of six months. The monthly bill combines a fixed fee of several hundred dollars plus a variable fee of ​“only a few cents for every mile they drive,” and there’s no cap on mileage per month.

Zevvy calculates the fixed fee to be cheaper than a monthly loan payment, and the per-mile fee should result in drivers saving money compared to what they’d pay to keep burning gasoline, Krulewitz said. On Tuesday, the company raised $5.4 million in seed funding led by MaC Venture Capital. It’s a relatively small funding round at a time of massive investment in climatetech, but it’s enough to bring EVs to 1,000 California commuters in the coming year.
» Read article       

» More about clean transportation


night sceneThe energy system is ‘inherently racist,’ advocates say. How are utilities responding to calls for greater equity?
Millions of utility shutoffs during the pandemic highlighted the growing U.S. electricity affordability crisis, customer advocates say. Utilities say funding, outreach are barriers to doing more.
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
October 26, 2022

Utility company commitments to customer equity, energy affordability and equitable access to clean energy resources are becoming more common, but energy justice advocates say they’re not enough. Investor-owned utilities need to do more, these advocates say, to help low-income customers, customers of color and residents of traditionally underserved communities.

To assess these efforts, Utility Dive contacted 20 major investor-owned utilities around the country to request details on their customer equity initiatives, including goals and challenges as well as what type of customer data they collect. Eleven utilities responded, sketching out a range of programs that stretch beyond traditional energy efficiency and bill assistance efforts to include expanded access to renewables, new approaches to energy affordability, weatherization offerings and commitments to community partnerships.

[…] Utility responses also highlighted the challenges they face — including struggling to connect with target customers and a lack of sufficient funding for these efforts — that have perpetuated energy system inequities for years.

“This is not a new problem. It’s been happening for a long time,” said Sharonda Williams-Tack, associate director for Sierra Club’s Energy Justice Campaign, Healthy Communities.

Why are utilities showing interest now?

Recent events, including the global pandemic and the racial reckoning in the United States since the murder of George Floyd, have forced regulators to acknowledge issues of energy affordability and equity, say experts. And they have created an opportunity for community-based organizations and consumer advocates to press for utilities to include more formal equity goals and commitments in their planning documents.

The focus on equity isn’t coming from utilities, said Grant Smith, senior energy policy advisor at Environmental Working Group. ”I don’t see that they’re excessively interested in it. … It’s advocates [and] state legislators that champion these issues and get support,” he said.

[…] “The rash of [utility] disconnections during the COVID crisis was pretty abhorrent,” Smith said. “It emphasized the exacerbated affordability issue and actually lent this equity effort a higher profile.”
» Read article             

» More about electric utilities


The Case Against Deep-Sea Mining
By Sylvia Earle and Daniel Kammen, Time | Opinion
October 25, 2022
Earle served as the Chief Scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She is the founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, and Mission Blue, a National Geographic Explorer in Residence, and an Ocean Elder. Kammen is Professor of Sustainability at the University of California, Berkeley. He has served as Chief Technical Specialist for Renewable Energy at the World Bank, and Science Envoy in the Obama Administration

Seldom do we have an opportunity to stop an environmental crisis before it begins. This is one of those opportunities. The mining industry is on the brink of excavating the deep ocean, creating a new environmental disaster with irreversible consequences for our ocean and climate. We urgently need a deep-sea mining moratorium to thoughtfully assess the full impact before a new crisis is created.

Deep-sea mining would wreak enormous damage. Massive machines digging, dredging, and vacuuming up the ocean floor would create huge sediment plumes deep in the ocean that will drift on currents, smothering marine life, including species not yet discovered. Surface-level processing ships would dump tailings—the waste materials left after the target mineral is extracted from ore—back into the ocean, killing plant and animal life as it drifts through the water column, releasing acidic and toxic sediment hazardous to fish and those who consume it. This process would disrupt the ocean’s vast natural carbon capture and sequestration system, and release greenhouse gas from the seabed floor, accelerating climate change.

The reason for this enormous destruction is simple—so a few mining companies can reap a profit. But this motive is hidden behind a clever greenwashing campaign.

The mining companies’ justification for deep-sea mining is based on a big lie—that we need deep-ocean minerals for electric car batteries and the transition to green energy. We don’t. New longer-lasting car batteries are becoming available that don’t need deep sea minerals, including batteries based on graphene aluminum-ion, lithium-iron phosphate, iron-flow, and solid-state technologies. We also have the option of low-cost, no-impact extraction of battery materials, such as lithium and cobalt, directly from seawater. And importantly, a circular economy that prioritizes reducing, reusing, and recycling critical minerals can power the clean energy transition without deep-sea mining—and at a lower cost. Car battery recycling is already a rapidly growing industry. Perhaps the best evidence that deep-sea mining is needless is the strong message from the electric vehicle industry: forward-thinking manufacturers including BMW, Volvo, Volkswagen, Renault, and Rivian are supporting the moratorium.
» Read article             

proper regs
[New Zealand] Government backs seabed mining ban in international waters until ‘strong environmental rules’ in place
By Michael Neilson, NZ Herald
October 26, 2022

The Government says it will support a movement to ban deep sea mining in international waters until the international community can develop appropriate rules “backed up by robust science”.

A small but growing global movement is concerned about the practice, which involves extracting metals and minerals from the seafloor. Campaigners and scientists have long raised concerns about the potential to damage ecosystems, about which little is currently known.

But some nations – including New Zealand’s Pacific neighbours – see it as a means to develop important new revenue streams. Many of the minerals found are vital components of new “clean technology”, including in developing electric vehicle batteries.

Te Pāti Māori and the Green Party have called for the practice to not only be halted in international waters but in New Zealand’s territory as well.

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta today said Aotearoa New Zealand would back a “conditional moratorium on deep-sea mining in areas beyond national jurisdiction”.

A review is under way of progress on regulations for deep-sea mining in the area managed by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which covers the seabed beyond exclusive economic zones and extended continental shelves.

The ISA has a July 2023 deadline to complete the regulations, or Mining Code, before mining applications can be submitted.
» Read article             

» More about deep-seabed mining


European Oil Giants Report ‘Obscene’ Profits as Millions Face Deadly Energy Crisis
“The likes of Shell are treating families like cash machines,” said one United Kingdom union leader.
By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams
October 27, 2022

European oil giants Shell and Total reported massive profits Thursday as sky-high energy prices fuel a devastating cost-of-living crisis across the continent, with families struggling to afford heat and electricity as the winter months approach.

Shell, one of the biggest oil companies in the world, posted $9.5 billion in global third-quarter profits—more than double the $4.2 billion it reported during the same period last year. The United Kingdom-based corporation also announced plans to reward shareholders by buying back $4 billion worth of its stock and boosting its dividend by 15%.

[…] Banner earnings reports from Europe’s two largest oil companies sparked fresh calls for a windfall profits tax that would return money to households being hammered by an energy cost spike stemming from Russia’s war on Ukraine, which fossil fuel giants have exploited to raise prices and pad their bottom lines.

“The announcement of yet another obscene profit for Shell shows the scale of the pain that these companies are inflicting on the public,” said Freya Aitchison, an oil and gas campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland. “While oil companies continue to make record-breaking profits, ordinary people are facing skyrocketing energy bills and millions are being pushed into fuel poverty.”

On Twitter, Greenpeace U.K. asked, “How many more households need to be forced into fuel poverty before the government properly taxes oil and gas giants?”

[…] Much of Europe is facing a cost-of-living crisis driven by high energy prices, which have sparked widespread anger and mass demonstrations against insufficient government action.
» Read article             

private extraction
With Fossil Fuel Companies Facing Pressure to Reduce Carbon Emissions, Private Equity Is Buying Up Their Aging Oil, Gas and Coal Assets

Environmentalists fear the sell-offs could keep those facilities operating for years into the future, worsening climate change.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News
October 24, 2022

When Continental Resources announced a deal last week to take the oil company private, it joined a trend that has swept across the fossil fuel sector in recent years. With investors agitating for energy companies to lower their greenhouse gas emissions, many oil and gas drillers and utilities have sold off wells and coal plants to private companies or private equity firms, which have been eager to scoop up the industry’s dirtier assets.

Now, some environmental advocates are warning that these transactions, supposedly driven by an effort to reduce emissions and climate risks, may instead do the opposite.

Privately held companies are exempt from many of the financial reporting rules that publicly traded companies face, and they are more insulated from the social and environmental pressures that investors have placed on the fossil fuel sector in recent years. As the impacts of climate change have worsened and more governments have acted to reduce emissions, investors have increasingly pressed oil companies to prepare for a pivot away from fossil fuels by scaling back drilling plans and investing in alternatives like renewable energy or biofuels.

The concern is that these privately held companies, facing less external pressure, might continue to run coal plants and oil wells for longer than the publicly traded concerns would have. Advocates also warn that the shift into private hands could increase the risks that the public will be left with the bill for cleanup when the operations are eventually shut and abandoned.

In the case of Continental, a large independent oil producer with headquarters in Oklahoma City, the move to go private was driven explicitly by a desire to free itself from investor restraints.
» Read article            

» More about fossil fuel

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Weekly News Check-In 10/21/22

banner 07

Welcome back.

Big players in the fossil fuel industry met in Cape Town recently to promote their vision of African prosperity riding on a gusher of hydrocarbons. But African climate campaigners took to the streets and social media to reject a ploy to use the continent’s development and energy crises as a pretext for accelerating oil and gas extraction. In the courts, New Jersey became the latest U.S. state to sue the fossil fuel industry over climate change, alleging it held knowledge for decades about the risks of global warming, but covered them up for profit.

New research shows that climate-related anxiety is common, especially among young people, all over the world. While we have promoted the common wisdom that the best antidote is to get involved, that’s easier said than done in many places.

Many Massachusetts communities are trying to support electricity suppliers who provide clean energy to the grid, but the state’s Department of Public Utilities has fallen far behind its counterparts in neighboring states. Its long backlogs are preventing municipalities from choosing lower-emissions suppliers for their electricity and hurting ratepayers as energy prices spike. This ties into a broader regional effort to modernizing the grid, which invloves adding renewable energy generation and storage while coordinating the retirement of fossil generators – all while making sure power is always available through periods of extreme heat and cold.

One way to relieve a constrained energy supplys is to use less of it, and there’s a lot of room for improved efficiency in buildings. With that in mind, Nick Falkoff is using his position as general manager of a construction company to train others in the industry in passive house construction. The several-week course is designed to make high-efficiency construction more available and affordable by expanding the pool of workers with the necessary skills.

Another solution is to deploy more energy storage, and exciting new technologies are getting very close to market. While lithium-ion technology has long been the gold standard for the short-duration battery storage system, the lithium supply chain is limited and strained. That leaves space for alternatives like Canadian company Salient Energy. Its new zinc-ion battery relies on materials that are abundant in the US, and the chemistry avoids lithium’s fire problem.

Long-duration battery storage is having a moment too. Form Energy is getting closer to commercializing multiday capacity with its iron-air battery. If Form’s battery works like it’s supposed to, it will store renewable energy so cheaply that an emissions-free power plant could deliver energy around the clock for days on end.

The siting impacts of renewable energy resources are always on our radar.   A Massive amount of offshore wind energy is about to be tapped along the Atlantic coast, and the best way to move all those electrons from turbines to your toaster is being worked out now. And down on the farm, agrivoltaics offers the potential to mix solar  generation with various forms of agriculture, but growing crops under PV arrays can be tricky. A new study by the National Renewable Energy laboratory (NREL) clarifies some of the benefits while also raising more questions for further research.

We have a good news/ bad news story about a new affordable electric vehiclecle covered in small solar panels to reduce the frequency of plugging in. That was the good news part. The bad news is it won’t be coming to the United States because it’s a car – not a crossover SUV – and Americans just don’t buy enough of those to justify the effort. So for now, Europe will keep the cool stuff while we lumber around in our behemoths.  But here’s a consolation prize… check out the story about SpinLaunch – an aerospace startup that’s building a giant gizmo to literally fling satellites into space. Be sure to watch the videos!

Watching out for false solutions covering for business as usual, a coalition of environmental and social justice organizations filed a petition with state regulators to halt a hydrogen project by Oregon’s largest gas utility. Apart from posing health, safety, and environmental dangers to residents already living with polluting industries, the hydrogen project is also viewed by critics as a costly exercise in greenwashing that offers little climate benefit and is calculated to slow down momentum towards building electrification.

A carbon capture project proposed for a central Louisiana power plant is also on our false-solutions radar. It’s dubbed “Project Diamond Vault” by its owner, Louisiana utility Cleco. The project is revealing some of the economic and environmental trade-offs associated with all carbon capture and storage projects: The process is so energy-hungry, it would either reduce net energy production by 30%, or produce the same amount of energy for customers by increasing total water consumption by 55%. There are no good choices.

There’s A social reckoning underway that threatens to make business harder for oil companies. Big Oil is becoming stigmatized as awareness grows that its environmentally-friendly messaging doesn’t match its actions. According to a survey, most millennials say they would avoid working in an industry with a negative image, with oil and gas topping the list as the most unappealing. This poses a hiring challenge for oil companies as much of their current workforce nears retirement.

We’ll close with a story that shows how plastic bag bans can help revive traditional sustainable industries. Jute, a coarse fiber used to make fabrics like burlap, has been cultivated for centuries in the warm and humid climate of the Ganges Delta. Now, as much of the world pivots to biodegradable alternatives to synthetic materials like plastics, Indian jute is making its way around the planet.

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


no more gas
Activists Say Fossil Fuel Interests Have Declared ‘War on Africa’s Sustainable Future’
“We reject the fossil fuel industry’s drive to expand in Africa when African people are suffering from the climate impacts of the industry,” said one campaigner at a protest outside the Africa Energy Week conference in Cape Town.
By Brett Wilkins, Common Dreams
October 18, 2022

As the fossil fuel industry gathered in Cape Town for Tuesday’s start of Africa Energy Week, African climate campaigners took to the streets and social media to reject a ploy to use the continent’s development and energy crises as a pretext for accelerating oil and gas extraction.

Activists with Extinction Rebellion Cape Town rallied Tuesday outside one of the conference’s venues to demand investment in renewable energy and a transition from a carbon-based economy.

“We reject the fossil fuel industry’s drive to expand in Africa when African people are suffering from the climate impacts of the industry,” Extinction Rebellion Cape Town spokesperson Judy Scott-Goldman told IOL.

Courtney Morgan, a South African campaigner with the African Climate Reality Project, said in a statement that “the Africa Energy Week program is a systematic plan by the fossil fuel industry for the massive scaling up of oil and gas in Africa.”

“It’s a declaration of war on Africa’s sustainable future and the global climate crisis,” she added. “This is not the Africa we want.”

It is the Africa that the fossil fuel industry—which is pivoting to the continent as much of the West ditches Russian energy—wants. Kicking off Africa Energy Week with a welcome speech, African Energy Chamber executive chairman N.J. Ayuk waxed bullish on the future of fossil fuels.

[…] In a bid to push fossil fuels, some African climate ministers have tried to exploit Africans’ wariness of Western powers—including some of their former colonizers—dictating a so-called European model of energy transition.

However, African climate campaigners vehemently reject this view.

“Collusion by European and African energy elites to continue colonizing the continent with dirty energy infrastructure will saddle Africa with dangerous projects that it doesn’t need, entrench the energy apartheid facing millions of Africans, and risk tipping Africa and the world into catastrophic climate disruption,” argued Dean Bhekumuzi Bhebhe, campaigns lead for Power Shift Africa.

Landry Ninteretse, regional director at, said that “the push for investment in fossil fuels is likely to perpetuate the triple injustices of energy, social, and environmental crises hundreds of millions of Africans are confronted with.”

“Such plans will not only lock the continent into reliance on climate-wrecking energy sources but also delay the much-needed transition to renewable energy,” the Burundian continued.

“It is imperative that officials at Africa Energy Week revise their message,” Ninteretse added, “and prioritize sustainable, inclusive, and diversified energy plans that directly benefit Africans and protect their basic rights, livelihoods, environment, and future.”
» Read article     

high stepper
New Jersey Joins Other States in Suing Fossil Fuel Industry, Claiming Links to Climate Change
ExxonMobil calls the lawsuit a waste of taxpayers’ money that won’t help curb global warming.
By Jon Hurdle, Inside Climate News
October 18, 2022

New Jersey became the latest U.S. state to sue the fossil fuel industry over climate change, alleging it knew for decades that emissions from its products contributed to global warming, but lied to protect its profits and deter efforts to curb greenhouse gases.

State Attorney General Matthew Platkin announced a suit on Tuesday against five major oil companies and their trade association, the American Petroleum Institute, saying the industry failed to warn the public that its products were dangerous, and sought instead to sow public doubts that fossil fuel emissions were linked to climate change.

“They went to great lengths to hide the truth and mislead the people of New Jersey and the world,” Platkin said, in launching the suit against ExxonMobil,  Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP and the API. “These companies put their profits ahead of our safety.”

The suit, filed in New Jersey Superior Court, seeks an injunction ordering the companies to “stop deceiving” New Jersey consumers about the destructive environmental impacts of fossil fuels. It is also asking the court to impose unspecified monetary penalties for the loss of natural resources such as coastal wetlands that are shrinking as seas rise in response to the changing climate.

Casey Norton, a spokesperson for ExxonMobil, said the suit will do nothing to combat climate change.

“Legal proceedings like this waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money and do nothing to advance meaningful actions that reduce the risk of climate change,” Norton said in a statement. “ExxonMobil will continue to invest in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while meeting society’s growing demand for energy.”

Shell and the American Petroleum Institute did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The action follows around 20 similar suits by states, cities and counties around the United States, seeking compensation from the fossil fuel industry for damages such as sea-level rise, bigger storms, wildfires and flooding, all attributable to climate change.

The earlier plaintiffs include nearby Delaware, a low-lying coastal state which in 2020 sued 31 fossil fuel companies, claiming their products have contributed to sea-level rise that is forecast to inundate large areas of the state in coming decades.
» Read article     

» More about protests and actions


stop and listen
Study: Climate anxiety is spreading all over the planet
The broadest look yet shows it’s not just a Western worry.
By Kate Yoder, Grist
October 17, 2022

If you’re feeling anxious about climate change, the common wisdom goes, there’s an antidote: Take action. Maybe you can alleviate your worries by doing something positive, like going to a protest, becoming an advocate for mass transit, or trying to get an environmental champion elected.

New research reveals that these anxieties are not just Western concerns — they’re common among young people on nearly every continent — but that the ability to do something about them depends on where you live. “The question is whether you have the opportunity or not to engage in those behaviors,” said Charles Ogunbode, a psychologist at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, takes the broadest look yet at climate anxiety around the globe. Ogunbode and researchers all over the world surveyed more than 10,000 university students in 32 countries, asking how climate change made them feel. They found that it was hurting people’s mental health virtually everywhere, from Brazil to Uganda, Portugal to the Philippines.

Almost half of the young people surveyed said they were “very” or “extremely” worried about climate change. Nearly a quarter felt “terrified,” and even more felt either “very” or “extremely” anxious. Previous research has suggested that climate anxiety is widespread: Last year, a survey in 11 countries around the world found that 45 percent of teens and young adults said that climate anxiety was affecting their daily lives and ability to function.

“Climate anxiety” has become a catch-all for how worries about our overheating planet affect people’s mental health. Experts say that feeling grief, fear, and anxiety is a logical response to the catastrophic situation. But some researchers have argued that the phrase “climate anxiety” is ambiguous — a buzzword, not a clinical diagnosis — and that it tends to resonate more with white and wealthy people than those experiencing the most severe effects of climate disasters.

While the study didn’t look at how people respond to the phrase itself, the results show that it’s not just those in wealthier countries like the United States who are wrestling with tough emotions as a result of climate change. Ogunbode thinks developing countries should play a bigger part in the conversation, since the link between emotions and mental health is “just as strong” as it is in rich countries.
» Read article     

» More about climate


storm surge
How the DPU is preventing communities from lowering utility bills — and carbon emissions
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
October 16, 2022

After a series of powerful nor’easters pounded its shores and flooded its streets in recent years, the oceanfront town of Scituate decided it needed to do everything in its power to push back against the planet-warming forces driving such destructive weather. Near the top of its list: greening its electricity supply to move away from fossil fuels.

Fortunately, there was a state-sanctioned program that does just that — and can even slash residents’ electricity bills in the bargain. Grass-roots leaders scrambled to earn support across the community, completed the application, and in February 2020 sent it off for approval by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities.

And that’s where it sat. For two and a half years.

It turned out that 31 other communities were in the same boat, waiting at least a year and a half for the state regulator to review and approve their new or updated plans to choose their own supplier instead of the local utility and buy electricity in bulk. This despite the program, known as municipal aggregation, being in place since 1997, with nearly 160 Massachusetts communities already using it.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, which have similar programs, make it a point to process applications within 60 days.

Now, with the major utilities implementing significant rate hikes, many communities that are still in limbo with the DPU will probably be stuck with electric rates three times higher than if they had received earlier approvals, according to clean-energy advocates.

“It’s just very frustrating,” Lisa Bertola, the chair of Scituate Community Choice Electricity, said of the delays. “It seems like an unreasonable amount of time.”

Frustrated officials from Scituate, Cohasset, Uxbridge, and Westwood, which had all filed with the DPU in February 2020, sent a scathing letter to the agency on Sept. 30, noting a back-and-forth process that took as long as 930 days. They said 790 of those days were spent waiting for the DPU to respond to them, according to their compilation.
» Read article

keep for now
Thunberg Backs German Nuclear Plants as Russia’s War Raises Risk
By The Energy Mix
October 16, 2022

Fridays for Future founder Greta Thunberg has come out in favour of Germany extending the life of its controversial nuclear plants, just days after a news analysis traced the decades-long history of nuclear facilities threatened by war or terrorism.

“It’s a very bad idea to focus on coal when this is already in place,” Thunberg told TV station ARD last week. “If we have them already running, I feel like it’s a mistake to close [nuclear plants] down.”

Germany “is in the midst of debating how to postpone its nuclear exit scheduled for the end of this year, in a reaction to the energy crisis and a looming shortage of gas,” Clean Energy Wire explains. “Only three nuclear plants remain in operation and under current law will be decommissioned in December. The country has already agreed to put decommissioned coal power plants back on the grid to secure energy supply in the short term.”

Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck announced in early September that the country would keep two of its three remaining nuclear plants on standby through the winter before decommissioning them in April. That was after a power grid stress test “found that keeping the two nuclear plants in the south of the country operational could help avoid grid bottlenecks in extreme situations during the upcoming winter,” Clean Energy Wire wrote at the time. “The plants would only be reactivated to produce electricity if other instruments are not sufficient to avert a supply crisis” in the country’s industrialized southern region.

But now, one of the three parties in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s governing coalition, the pro-business Free Democrats, wants all three plants kept open until the energy shortages brought on by Russia’s war in Ukraine have ended. Already, Clean Energy Wire writes, “Thunberg’s remarks [have drawn] support from nuclear advocates not usually associated with strong climate action.”
» Read article     

» More about clean energy


Nich Falkoff
Nick Falkoff is constructing climate change solutions
The general manager of construction company Auburndale Builders is expanding what it means to be a climate activist.
By Janelle Nanos, Boston Globe
October 20, 2022

Nick Falkoff believes that climate activists can come in many forms. As the general manager of Auburndale Builders, he’s helping construct a path forward for tradespeople to learn the skills they’ll need to build the homes of tomorrow.

Most people don’t realize the role that construction plays in climate change. But by some estimates, buildings account for 40 percent of all energy related carbon emissions globally, when factoring in the carbon released in the creation of buildings and the lighting, heating, and cooling of them once they’re completed. That’s why Falkoff is among the region’s leaders in pushing for high performance techniques in homebuilding, and why he’s creating educational opportunities for people to learn how construct buildings in ways that are better for the planet.

“The construction industry is one of the most energy intensive industries in the world, and we generate huge amounts of waste, and so the more I understand about the industry the more it makes me aware of all the actions we’re taking,” Falkoff said. “It’s a balancing act of trying to figure out how to balance making a living and providing good work for people, but also trying to limit that damage.”

He was fortunate when a client seeking a state-of-the-art home helped pay for his training in passive house construction, which involves installing significantly more insulation to walls and buildings, high performance windows and doors, high efficiency all-electric mechanical systems, and creating an airtight envelope and a balanced ventilation system to bring in filtered fresh air to buildings. But after learning the tricks of the trade, he wanted to extend that education to others. Now he’s created a course for local tradespeople to learn how to learn passive house techniques. People in construction learn by doing, he reasoned, let’s give them a chance to see it firsthand.

This fall, he opened up the company’s barn in Newton to construction workers that want to learn these new skills, offering a training course over several weeks in passive house construction. The course is designed in a way “that’s accessible and interactive and tactile,” he said. “That’s the way carpenters already know how to do their work.”

The ultimate goal, he says, is to make high-efficiency construction more available and affordable, and for that there needs to be far more people able to do the work. “To bring down overall cost we need more people in the trades,” he said. “Right now it’s very small niche of people who know how to do high-performance and it’s limiting access.”
» Read article     

HP pilot
Heat pumps can be standalone solutions even in cold climates
The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) showed, through a pilot incentive program, that whole-home heat pumps are a feasible solution for heating when switching from gas. Project costs, however, were found to be higher than expected.
By Emiliano Bellini, PV Magazine
September 17, 2021

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) has implemented a pilot program for residential heat pumps, between May 2019 and June 2021, to ascertain if these systems are able to meet 100% of a household’s heating needs in cold climates.

Through the Whole-Home Heat Pump pilot program, the research center offered existing homes that switched from gas, or new and rebuilt homes with no fossil fuel appliances, a flat incentive of $2,500 per home to install a whole-home system, which it claims eliminates the need to maintain fossil fuel pipes or tanks and a second heating system.

The pilot program also provided higher incentives for lower-income customers and, at its final stage, included other efficiency or electrification measures as part of the heat pump project. Overall, funds were awarded to 68 whole-home heat pump projects, of which 31 were new construction projects and 137 retrofit projects, with a total of 39 installers participating in the pilot.

“The primary lesson learned is that whole-home heat pumps are a feasible solution, not only for new construction but also for retrofitting existing buildings, including older homes,” the MassCEC said. “We surveyed pilot customers six months after project completion and 95% of respondents were somewhat, or fully satisfied with the level of comfort for heating, while all were somewhat, or fully satisfied with the level of comfort for cooling.”

The institute’s experts, however, found that heat pump project costs were higher than expected, at $18,400 per system, with projects being less expensive in new homes than in retrofits, which they explained by the smaller loads of new constructions and the smaller size of the required heat pumps.
» Read article     
» More about the pilot program

» More about energy efficiency


New Zinc Energy Storage System Beats Supply Chain Blues
Zinc-based energy storage systems could soon join chicken, pots, and cars in the list of must-haves for US households.
By Tina Casey, CleanTechnica
October 19, 2022

Lithium-ion technology has long been the gold standard for a rechargeable energy storage system, but the lithium supply chain is not up to snuff here in the US and elsewhere around the world. That leaves room for alternative systems to edge into the market. The latest development on that score comes from the Canadian company Salient Energy, which is offering a new zinc-ion battery that relies on abundant materials in the US.

Salient sailed onto the CleanTechnica radar last spring, when it announced a partnership with the US building contractor Horton World Solutions. CleanTechnica’s Steve Hanley took note:

“Salient Energy says its zinc-ion batteries are the solution to all those issues. They use no lithium, no cobalt, and no nickel. The zinc and manganese are obtained from North American sources. Furthermore, the risk of fire is eliminated. The manufacturing process emits 66% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the process that makes lithium-ion batteries. And oh, yeah, they cost less as well. What’s not to like?”

That’s all well and good, but the devil could be in the details. For example, a rechargeable energy storage system would be not likeable if it eliminated fire risks but took days to recharge, or lost capacity after only a few dozen charging cycles.

Apparently, Salient has that all figured out. The company pledges the same “power, footprint, and service life as lithium-ion based systems.”
» Read article    

rust colors
Form Energy wins $450M to rust iron for multiday energy storage
The long-duration storage startup is on a fundraising tear as it validates its iron-air battery technology and scouts locations for a U.S. factory.
By Julian Spector, Canary Media
October 4, 2022

Form Energy​’s effort to commercialize multiday clean energy storage got a major boost from a $450 million fundraise Tuesday.

The Series E round, which brought in a staggering sum for an unconventional grid-storage hardware startup, will carry Form out of its current precommercial state. The company, which produces iron-air batteries, will double its staff headcount from its current level of 326 as it plows through the validation and testing required to sell a warrantied product. Simultaneously, Form is finalizing the location for its first commercial factory, which will begin manufacturing batteries in the U.S. within two years, CEO and co-founder Mateo Jaramillo told Canary Media.

“We expect to be generating meaningful revenue in 2025,” said Jaramillo, who led Tesla’s energy-storage business before leaving in 2016 to tackle the challenge of multiday energy storage.

The business proposition at Form is essentially to rebut the tired critique of renewable energy — that the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. If Form’s battery works like it’s supposed to, it will store renewable energy so cheaply that a power plant can deliver emissions-free energy around the clock for days on end. That could create a viable alternative to fossil-fueled plants for ensuring a 24/7 supply of reliable electricity as the grid decarbonizes.

Lithium-ion batteries are used for nearly all new grid-storage installations today, but they cannot cost-effectively store energy for more than a few hours. Long-duration energy storage that can deliver power for days represents a fundamentally new type of product.
» Read article     

» More about energy storage


inaction on renewables
No more excuses: New England’s power grid operator needs to bring renewables online
But if history is any guide, we shouldn’t hold our breath for ISO-New England to take climate change seriously.
By Bradley Campbell, Boston Globe | Opinion
October 17, 2022
Bradley Campbell is president and CEO of the Conservation Law Foundation.

Over the summer, ISO-New England, the independent system operator for the six-state electrical power grid, reached out to regional utilities and fuel suppliers to determine the risks to the power supply for the coming winter. This comprehensive audit of energy supply, according to ISO-New England, comes at the request of the states themselves, and could determine “whether we plan to stay the course with the current market structures or take an updated proposal through the process.”

What the six New England states have requested of ISO-New England is the inclusion of more wind and solar power in the energy mix that fuels the grid.

But if history is any guide, we shouldn’t hold our breath for ISO-New England to take climate change seriously and make changes during this review process that would lead to more solar- and wind-generated energy in our electricity mix.

Beginning in 2005, ISO-New England has issued regular media alerts that grimly predict New England will have outages of heat and power. It warns it may have to shut the electricity off in controlled, rolling blackouts. But that has not occurred.

This strategy has helped ISO-New England throw roadblocks in the way of what we need most: more clean energy. ISO-New England recently postponed by two years the removal of a long-standing rule that prevents clean energy from competing in the New England energy market, a move that was a last-minute about-face for ISO-New England.

As for why ISO-New England is dragging its feet on bringing renewable energy like wind and solar onto the power grid, the organization claims it’s because this energy infrastructure would be too complicated and expensive to build. Unfortunately, the costs of not making these changes will be much higher for the environment and New England’s economy. Rising tides and heat, and situations like the ones we face today where global forces skyrocket the costs of fossil fuels, are already taking a toll. Meanwhile, wind and solar combined account for only 7 percent of the New England energy mix while gas makes up 53 percent and nuclear energy 27 percent.

There’s an irony to all this. While New Englanders have not experienced controlled blackouts because of a lack of fossil fuels, we are experiencing more climate-related events — heat waves, flooding, and strong winds.

Officials at ISO-New England have complained in recent months about demands from across the region that they stop crying wolf, stop postponing rule changes that would lead to more renewable energy, and make fighting climate change a core part of its mission. But ISO-New England’s role — obscure as it is to most of us when we turn on the lights or charge the car — is crucial in the fight to cut pollution and avoid climate catastrophe.

New Englanders need what ISO-New England controls — a grid reliably producing increased electricity, for cars and trucks, for heating homes and businesses, and for public transportation. But that grid needs to transition more rapidly to renewable power sources.
» Read article    

» More about modernizing the grid      


As offshore wind plans grow, so does the need for transmission
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
October 18, 2022

Offshore wind has a problem: electrical transmission.

Wind developers can fairly easily run high voltage cables from their offshore projects to land, but once that power comes ashore it encounters an electrical grid that wasn’t set up to handle it.

East coast states could rebuild the onshore power grid to accommodate this power, or they could put the bulk of their effort into building an “ocean grid” — something experts say may be cheaper, faster and better for the environment.

The current approach

Lawrence Mott stands by a tall metal fence surrounding the electrical substation at Brayton Point in Somerset. Mott works for the offshore wind developer Mayflower Wind, and his specialty is the transmission system, the substations and high voltage power lines that move electricity long distances.

The humming equipment behind him, which once served as the link between New England’s largest coal-fired power plant and the grid, is about to get a new green life, he says.

It will all begin 30 miles offshore, where someday in the not-too-distant future, strong winds will spin the project’s turbines to generate electricity. Each turbine will send the power it generates to a nearby offshore platform, and from there, the electricity gets sent to shore through big cables buried six feet beneath the ocean floor.

Those cables will resurface at a beach near Brayton Point, and the electricity will eventually make its way to the substation.

“And from there, it goes into the public’s grid system,” Mott says, gesturing to the big overhead power lines in the distance. “Then the electrons are out and spreading the green energy around.”

To date, all offshore wind projects in the U.S. use this design, running the equivalent of a high-voltage extension cord from wind farms to open substation near the coast. Experts say this so-called “project-by-project” approach is fine for now, but very soon, there will be two big problems.

First, we are going to run out of places like Brayton Point to plug into — in fact, almost all of the most desirable locations have already been claimed along the southern New England, New York and New Jersey coastlines.

And second, it will require really costly upgrades to the onshore transmission system.

» Read article      

NREL study
Solar panels and crops can coexist, but more study needed on how and where

With mixed and sometimes puzzling results, researchers need more time and resources to figure out how to maximize agrivoltaics’ potential.
By Kari Lydersen, Energy News Network
October 17, 2022

A recent analysis reveals the daunting number of variables that need to be considered when attempting to pair agricultural production and solar generation.

Federal researchers know that solar panels and crops can coexist and provide mutual benefits in certain scenarios. A recent study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) confirms this but also shows that such co-location can lead to crop or financial losses, including from complications like mold-causing dew accumulation and soil damage from construction equipment.

Advocates who see the concept as a potential solution to land-use constraints are now pushing for more funding and collaboration with farmers to test and document outcomes in as many different settings as possible. The hope is that they can prove benefits in enough scenarios to help the solution scale beyond the handful of small farms that have currently implemented it.

“We know we can grow food under solar projects,” said the NREL paper’s lead author, Jordan Macknick. “What remains to be seen is if we can scale up agrivoltaics in a way that meaningfully improves local food production and farmers’ bottom lines while also aligning with the realities of solar development costs, timelines, and practices.”

NREL defines agrivoltaics as the “sharing of sunlight between the two energy conversion systems: photovoltaics and photosynthesis,” and notes that “the solar and agricultural activities [must] have an influence on each other.”

Agrivoltaics includes planting pollinator habitat in and around solar panels, and allowing animals to graze around panels. But the sector with the most variables to study is arguably the growing of crops under and between solar panels.
» Read article     
» Read the NREL study

» More about siting impacts of renewables


coming Soon
A solar-powered electric car comes to Boston
A German company is showing off a prototype of its $25,000 vehicle, which is outfitted with solar panels.
By Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe
October 17, 2022

Drivers often try to park their cars in the shade. But that’s the last thing you’d want to do with a new vehicle from Germany called Sion.

Munich-based Sono Motors showed off a prototype of the vehicle at Boston’s High Street Place on Friday, the second stop on a tour of five US cities. With its dull black exterior and bare-bones passenger cabin, the Sion would never be mistaken for a Tesla. Then again, it’s priced at only $25,000, much cheaper than most electric vehicles. And it’s also one of several electric cars that use solar panels to help with recharging the battery.

Dozens of photovoltaic cells are embedded in the Sion’s roof, hood, doors, and fenders. The cells deliver enough energy per day for about 10 miles of driving, far below the Sion’s maximum range of 190 miles. But Sono cofounder Laurin Hahn said that Sion owners won’t have to plug in their cars as frequently as other electric vehicles. “It just reduces your hassle to recharge every day, and that’s convenience,” said Hahn.

They’ll also save money. Hahn estimated that a Sion owner would get enough energy from the solar panels to drive 5,000 free miles per year.

The arrays of solar cells are clearly visible on the Sion prototype, giving the car a rumpled, unfinished look, but Hahn said the imperfections will be corrected before the car goes into production in the second half of 2023. Hahn said the company already has 20,000 pre-orders from customers in Europe who have pre-paid 2,000 Euros — about $1,970 — to reserve their cars. In addition, businesses that want to electrify their vehicle fleets have ordered 22,000 Sions. The vehicles will be assembled by Valmet Automotive, a Finnish firm that also builds cars for Mercedes-Benz.
» Read article     

Launches: SpinLaunch plans a slingshot to space!
By Dave Adalian, EarthSky
October 9, 2022

Late last month (September 2022), a plucky group of aerospace engineers and techs using an oversized centrifuge successfully tested their idea to throw a demo payload – including a NASA test package – high into the sky, at high speeds. The payload went up (and was later recovered) from the Jornada del Muerto desert in the U.S. state of New Mexico. SpinLaunch says its goal is to provide affordable and rapid cargo launches to space. And to that end the team has constructed an enormous centrifuge – inside a disk-shaped vacuum chamber – which the company says will eventually be able to fling an unpowered vehicle up into Earth-orbit.

The launcher stands more than 50 meters (165 feet) high, slightly taller than the 46-meter (151-foot) Statue of Liberty. Basically, it’s the world’s biggest slingshot. And it’s located at Spaceport America, which is situated on 18,000 acres adjacent to the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico.

The company has now used the machine to launch payloads at speeds up to 4,700 mph (7,500 kph). That’s not fast enough to get into Earth-orbit yet. For that, you need speeds of 17,500 mph (28,000 km/hr). But the company says it is working toward developing an orbital version.

Another caveat. SpinLaunch’s A-33 Suborbital Mass Accelerator produced up to 10,000 gravities (Gs) during its September 2022 test launch. And it will need to provide still-greater gravities while achieving the speeds necessary to get to space. It’s clear the system will never be suitable for human passengers. Humans can only withstand about 10 Gs.
» Read article       
» Watch launch videos here and here.   

» More about clean transportation


West Eugene
Gas Utility Proposes Costly Hydrogen Project, Raising Environmental Justice Concerns
NW Natural aims to blend hydrogen with methane gas and pipe it to homes in the name of climate action. But community groups blasted the proposal as greenwashing that imposes safety and environmental risks on a working class community.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
October 17, 2022

A coalition of environmental and social justice organizations have filed a petition with state regulators to halt a hydrogen project by Oregon’s largest gas utility, alleging that the project poses health, safety, and environmental dangers to residents already living with polluting industries. The hydrogen project is also viewed by critics as a costly exercise in greenwashing that offers little climate benefit and is calculated to slow down momentum towards building electrification.

NW Natural, a gas utility that serves roughly 2.5 million customers in Oregon and Washington, has proposed building a hydrogen pilot project in the city of Eugene. The company aims to use renewable energy and water to create hydrogen, and then blend it into NW Natural’s gas supply. The utility will send that blend through its existing gas infrastructure into customers’ homes, with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The blend would use 5 to 10 percent hydrogen, with the remainder made up of conventional methane gas.

When burned, hydrogen does not emit carbon dioxide,* and NW Natural says that the pilot project will help it work towards complying with Oregon’s Climate Protection Program, which requires gas utilities to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2035 (NW Natural is suing to block the program). The utility also says that its pilot project in Eugene will help it scale up hydrogen blending statewide in the years ahead.

Hydrogen comes from various sources. This method of deriving it from water using renewable energy — known as “green hydrogen” — is the most climate-friendly way to make the fuel, but also requires significant amounts of renewable energy.

But a coalition of groups — Beyond Toxics, NAACP Eugene-Springfield, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, 350 Eugene, and Sierra Club — filed a petition to intervene, asking the Public Utilities Commission to reject the project.

They cite a long list of problems with hydrogen blending, starting with the fact that it is an extremely expensive way to try to cut greenhouse gas emissions. As the Oregon Capital Chronicle reported, the $10 million project will only eliminate 200 metric tons of carbon dioxide, or 0.003 percent of NW Natural’s annual emissions.

“The costs of producing the hydrogen are far greater than the costs of electrifying homes and powering them with emissions-free solar and wind energy,” the Oregon Capital Chronicle said, adding that each ton of emissions reduced by using hydrogen for residential use would be three times more expensive than sucking carbon directly from the atmosphere, which is itself an extremely expensive form of reducing carbon emissions.
» Read article     

» More about gas utilities


thirsty project
Louisiana project highlights unknowns of carbon capture
Louisiana utility Cleco wants to capture a power plant’s carbon emissions, but it would require huge amounts of water, raising supply concerns.
By Sara Sneath/Floodlight, in Energy News Network
October 17, 2022

A carbon capture project proposed for a central Louisiana power plant has been dubbed “Project Diamond Vault” by its owner, Louisiana utility Cleco. The utility says the project will have “precious value” to the company, customers and state.

Yet less than six months after announcing the project to capture carbon from the plant’s emissions and store them underground near the plant, Cleco revealed in a recent filing to its state regulator the $900 million carbon capture retrofit could reduce electricity produced for its customers by the plant by about 30%.

Cleco maintains it hasn’t committed to this path. But, if instead, it decides to produce additional power necessary to run the carbon capture process, it could increase the plant’s water use by about 55%, according to studies of similar power plants.

The Louisiana project is not an outlier.

Operating enough carbon capture to keep climate change in check would double humanity’s water use, according to University of California, Berkeley researchers. No matter what method of carbon capture — on a power plant or capturing carbon directly from the air — more power and more water will be needed.

The Cleco proposal provides an object lesson in how one solution can exacerbate another problem.

“These technologies to mitigate climate change have unintended environmental impacts, like water use and water scarcity,” said Lorenzo Rosa, a principal investigator at Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford. Carbon capture and sequestration increases water withdrawals at power plants between 25% to 200%, according to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that cites Rosa’s work.

It’s a lesson that likely will reverberate around the world as the same IPCC report states carbon capture could help to reduce the fossil fuel pollution that is heating the planet’s climate and causing more extreme weather.
» Read article     

» More about CCS


talent gap
Starved of new talent: Young people are steering clear of oil jobs
Who wants to work for the brands that brought you climate change?
By Kate Yoder, Grist
October 18, 2022

In late May, António Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, stood in blue graduation robes in front of a podium at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. Looking out at the thousand-plus graduating seniors, Guterres told them that the world was facing a climate catastrophe — and it was up to them to stop it.

“As graduates, you hold the cards. Your talent is in demand from multinational companies and big financial institutions,” Guterres said in the commencement address. “But you will have plenty of opportunities to choose from, thanks to the excellence of your graduation. So my message to you is simple. Don’t work for climate wreckers. Use your talents to drive us towards a renewable future.”

If they hadn’t heard the advice from Guterres, they might have gotten the idea that digging up ancient oil deposits was not a promising career path from somewhere else. The billionaire Bill Gates recently predicted that oil companies “will be worth very little” in 30 years; CNBC’s loudest finance personality, Jim Cramer of Mad Money, has declared he’s “done” with fossil fuel stocks.

It’s part of a larger social reckoning that threatens to make business harder for oil companies. Big Oil is becoming stigmatized as awareness grows that its environmentally-friendly messaging, full of beautiful landscapes and far-off promises to erase (some) of its emissions, doesn’t match its actions. Well over half of millennials say they would avoid working in an industry with a negative image, according to a survey in 2020, with oil and gas topping the list as the most unappealing. With floods, fires, and smoke growing noticeably worse, young people have plenty of reasons to avoid working for the brands that brought you climate change.

This poses a hiring challenge for oil companies, with much of their current workforce getting closer to retirement. For years now, consulting firms have been warning the industry that it faces a “talent” gap and surveying young people to figure out how they might be convinced to take the open positions.

Meanwhile, solar and wind power are booming and luring young people who want a job that fits with their values.  In 2021, according to the business group E2, 3.2 million Americans worked in clean energy industries like renewables, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency — 3.5 times the number that worked in fossil fuels. And this is likely just the beginning: Congress recently passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which is expected to cause an explosion of climate-related jobs.

“I do feel that there’s this big pincer movement coming for the fossil fuel industry — you know, they’re going to be pinched in lots of different directions,” said Caroline Dennett, a safety consultant who publicly quit working for Shell earlier this year because the company was expanding oil and gas extraction projects. “And that’s exactly what we need.”
» Read article     

» More about fossil fuels


Ballyfabs for Joe
That Reusable Trader Joe’s Bag? It’s Rescuing an Indian Industry.
India’s deep-rooted jute industry has struggled for decades, undercut by cheaper synthetics. Now its bags are a sought-after biodegradable alternative.
By Sameer Yasir, New York Times
October 10, 2022

NADIA, India — When shoppers in places like America take a woven reusable bag to the store, they aren’t just saving the planet. They are reviving a storied industry thousands of miles away in India.

Jute, a coarse fiber used to make fabrics like burlap, has been cultivated for centuries in the warm and humid climate of the Ganges Delta. Some of India’s jute factories have been in operation for more than a century, and today the country is the world’s largest producer.

But in recent decades, the industry has struggled as less expensive synthetic substitutes have flooded the market. Farmers turned to other crops, cheap labor moved elsewhere and mills deteriorated from lack of investment.

Now, though, what had been jute’s weakness is its potential strength. As much of the world seeks biodegradable alternatives to synthetic materials like plastics, Indian jute is making its way around the planet, from supermarkets in the United States to fashion houses in France to wine producers in Italy.

“Natural is fashion now,” said Raghavendra Gupta, a top official at the Indian Jute Mills Association, a trade body in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, which is home to 70 of the country’s 93 jute mills. “There is nothing more eco-friendly than jute.”

[…] On a recent morning, hundreds of workers, heads down, stitched bags made of jute and cotton inside the Ballyfabs factory in the Howrah district of the eastern state of West Bengal. The company exports jute bags to over 50 countries on five continents. Its customers include Trader Joe’s and E.Leclerc, a French supermarket chain.

Mr. Agarwala said that after his company had invested in updated machinery and robotic printing, a worker who once made 100 bags a day could now make 500 to meet demand. After an expansion in May, the company now has the capacity to produce 75 million bags per year.

Ballyfabs’s efforts are part of a modernization push by the industry and the Indian government. In recent years, the government has created several programs to help farmers improve production and companies purchase more modern machinery.
» Read article      

» More about plastics bans

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Weekly News Check-In 10/7/22

banner 05

Welcome back.

According to the United Nations website, next month’s 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – COP27 – “will build on the outcomes of COP26 to deliver action on an array of issues critical to tackling the climate emergency – from urgently reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building resilience and adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change, to delivering on the commitments to finance climate action in developing countries”.

Ahead of that, hundreds of activists from countries that are the least responsible for the crisis but are experiencing the worst impacts have gathered in Tunisia to prepare for what they say will be a collective fight for justice. Major issues include adaptation funding and recompense for damage from countries that have been the most responsible for global heating.

Senator Joe Manchin’s stalled fossil infrastructure permitting “reform” package is still looking for an open legislative lane. This has foes of his pet project, the Mountain Valley Pipeline watching closely to see what happens next. The “reforms” proposed in that bill would have gone to great lengths to sidestep legal challenges to the pipeline and authorize the project. Is it good policy to treat a pipeline carrying explosive gas, installed across unstable mountainous terrain, three and a half feet in diameter and designed for a maximum operating pressure of 1,480 pounds per square inch, like nothing more than a check box on a bureaucratic form? Folks living near its path disagree.

Related to gas – Rhode Island utility regulators are beginning to consider how the state’s mandate to zero out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 will affect its natural gas system. Hopefully they’re watching developments in Massachusetts which began a similar study into the future of gas in 2020. The process resulted in sharp criticism from climate advocates, who say it gave too much control to the gas utilities who wasted time arguing for a business-as-usual approach.

Natural Gas, being almost entirely methane, is a key target of last year’s Global Methane Pledge — an effort to cut global methane emissions by 30 percent in the next decade. But a new report finds that the U.S., E.U. members, and other nations that joined the pledge have plans to keep replacing their coal-fired power plants with natural gas plants — a trend the authors say will make meeting the pledge impossible. On the bright side, a different report singles out Colorado, Illinois and New Mexico as trailblazers in just-transition laws as the coal industry declines.

If you just look at declining US production, you’d probably conclude that King Coal’s long-predicted demise is just around the corner. But hundreds of coal companies around the world are developing new mines and power stations, something researchers describe as “reckless and irresponsible” in the midst of the climate emergency. Almost half the 1,000 companies assessed in a new study are still developing new coal assets, and just 27 companies have announced coal exit dates consistent with international climate targets.

Here’s where the climate crisis gets real: Hurricane Ian intensified by 67 percent in less than 22 hours. Then it quickly strengthened from a Category 3 storm to nearly a Category 5. Was it goosed by global warming? This kind of rapid intensification is becoming more common. And while Ian cut a wide and devastating path, the modern, solar-powered town of Babcock Ranch, near Fort Meyers, FL, successfully rode it out with little damage and no loss of power. Climate resiliency was built into the fabric of the town with stronger storms in mind.

Elsewhere, we take a look at efforts to harness wave energy, which can be more consistent than wind or solar. In the right locations, it may dramatically cut the costs of buying storage batteries needed to backstop intermittent renewables. An Australian company that has just finished a 12-month trial of its pilot plant on a beach at King Island, north of Tasmania.

Those stationary energy storage batteries can consist of banks of retired electric vehicle batteries, and a prototype system that can test and sort used battery cells for second life applications has been developed by four companies in the UK in a government-funded initiative. The system has the potential to significantly reduce the unnecessary waste of the raw materials used to build batteries.

Meanwhile, the EV boom is about to hit the US, just as its growing charging network wrestles with providing fast, reliable, curbside stations.

Closer to home, Efficiency Maine is kicking off a program with $4 million in grants to help communities with fewer than 5,000 residents install heat pumps and other energy saving measures in public buildings. The new program is intended to accelerate the transition to electric heat pumps in the state’s smallest towns.

We’ll wrap with a note about a recent major plastics industry conference in Chicago, where executives said they were betting on “advanced recycling” as a green response to the plastic waste problem, despite market headwinds and growing opposition from environmentalists. It’s no surprise that the industry’s solution to plastic waste involves making and using more plastic products. Observers outside the plastics industry are far less enthusiastic.

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


youth unite
Young people demand climate justice in run-up to Cop27 UN talks
Activists from global south demand recompense for damage from countries most responsible for crisis
By Sandra Laville, The Guardian
October 3, 2022

» Read article       

» More about protests and actions


sections of MVP
Pressing Safety Concerns, Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline Gear Up for the Next Round of Battle
Although a proposal to fast-track the natural gas project has been derailed in Congress, worries about pipe corrosion, landslides and other dangers remain omnipresent in West Virginia.
By Phil McKenna, Inside Climate News
October 7, 2022

[…] The 303-mile pipeline, which would carry fracked gas from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia, has stirred significant safety concerns and faced a series of legal and regulatory hurdles since it was first proposed in 2014. For those living near the pipeline, which is mostly completed, those worries remain front and center despite the latest political setback to the project.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed to a request by Manchin to withdraw a provision tying the pipeline’s approval to a must-pass budget bill, leaving the 8-year-old project’s completion in limbo. The provision, which had drawn bipartisan opposition, would have sped approval by revising the federal permitting process.

Still, foes of the pipeline are bracing for more. Manchin, who chairs the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has vowed to continue to push for a permitting bill that would speed approval of the $6.6 billion project. And Schumer, a New York Democrat, is in his corner: Over the summer, he pledged to help ease the way for the pipeline’s completion in exchange for Manchin’s recent support of the Inflation Reduction Act, which included more than $350 billion in climate and clean energy funding.

Although the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project is 94 percent complete, according to its developer, it still needs final approval from multiple federal agencies.

Johnson and many other landowners along the pipeline’s route are campaigning to block those approvals: Already they view the project as a scar across two states that cuts through forests and farmland and fouls mountain streams and wells with construction sediment. They also worry about a potential for a rupture in the high-pressure pipeline, which measures three and a half feet in diameter.

[…Safety] experts cite two factors that could make the Mountain Valley Pipeline prone to rupturing: aging sections of pipe that have been stored for years above ground, and the region’s steep, unstable terrain.

If the Mountain Valley Pipeline were ever to explode, they warn, the impact could be catastrophic. When a Pacific Gas and Electric gas pipeline ruptured in San Bruno, California, on Sept. 9, 2010, the explosion killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

That pipeline, measuring two and a half feet in diameter, was transporting gas that was pressurized to less than 400 pounds per square inch, according to the PHMSA. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is three and a half feet in diameter and is designed for much higher pressures, with a maximum operating pressure of 1,480 pounds per square inch, allowing it to ship higher volumes of gas.
» Read article      

MVP sections
With Manchin’s Permitting Reform on Ice, Mountain Valley Pipeline Again Faces Uncertain Future
Senator Joe Manchin’s proposed permitting reform would have fast-tracked the troubled gas pipeline. The bill’s failure throws the project back into limbo.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
September 29, 2022

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) pulled the plug on his permitting reform bill on Tuesday, ending what would have been a major overhaul of bedrock environmental laws that date back to the 1970s. The demise of Manchin’s bill also means that a long-distance fracked gas pipeline named in the proposed reform is once again facing long odds of moving forward.

Framed by Democratic leadership as a companion piece to the Inflation Reduction Act, and as a “dirty side deal” by activists, Senator Manchin’s permitting reform legislation sought to streamline the regulatory and legal process in order to speed up the construction of a variety of energy, minerals, and electric transmission infrastructure projects, both clean and dirty. It would have placed time limits on environmental reviews, shortened the window for legal challenges, curtailed the ability of states to use the Clean Water Act to reject projects, and created a list of vital energy projects in the national interest that would be prioritized.

One of the more controversial elements of Manchin’s package was the explicit greenlighting of the Mountain Valley pipeline (MVP), a long-distance pipeline that would carry fracked Marcellus shale gas from West Virginia through Virginia, with a possible extension into North Carolina.

[…] The Mountain Valley pipeline has been bogged down in legal problems, delays, and ballooning costs for several years. Even though the pipeline had not cleared all the regulatory and legal hurdles, it began construction anyway. It was originally expected to be completed by 2018, but has been repeatedly pushed back by federal court decisions.

In the course of construction, the project has racked up more than 500 violations of permit conditions, environmental laws, and regulations, according to a recent report from Appalachian Voices, a regional group opposed to the project.

The original price tag was $3.7 billion, but that has since exploded to at least $6.6 billion. “The Mountain Valley Pipeline project is a financial debacle, and forcing through permits for the project will not change that basic fact,” Suzanne Mattei, an energy policy analyst with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), told DeSmog in an email.

The company claims that it is over 90 percent completed, but local activists say that figure overstates the progress of the project. The most technically complex sections of construction remain, and Appalachian Voices estimates that the project is only 55 percent complete.

[…] In a highly unusual move, Manchin’s permitting reform went to great lengths to sidestep legal challenges to the pipeline and authorize the project. The bill would have required federal agencies to issue “all approval and permits necessary” for the construction of the project and then prevented any judicial review of those permits. It would have also shifted legal questions regarding the legislation out of the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit — where MVP has repeatedly run into a brick wall — and into the D.C. Circuit Court, where it might receive more favorable treatment.
» Read article       

» More about pipelines


Rhode Island starts to wrestle with what its net-zero goal means for natural gas
The state has a mandate to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A discussion is underway about where that will leave the state’s natural gas distribution industry, which heats about half of the state’s homes.
By Lisa Prevost, Energy News Network
October 3, 2022

Rhode Island utility regulators are beginning to consider what the state’s mandate to zero out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 means for its natural gas system.

The state Public Utilities Commission, or PUC, has opened a docket to investigate the future of the gas distribution business, a response to the passage last year of the Act on Climate.

The investigation could bring about “wide-ranging and significantly impactful” changes, such as moratoriums on new hookups, incentives for renewable natural gas, and transitioning customers to alternative heating fuels like electricity, the commission said in its notice of the proceeding.

Hank Webster, Rhode Island director for the Acadia Center, a clean energy advocacy organization, said it’s crucial for the state to start this discussion now.

“The gas distribution system is one of the major sources of greenhouse gasses,” he said. “Every time a new gas connection is made, adding to ratepayer costs, it locks in long-term fossil fuel use.”

Building emissions, including those that result from the use of natural gas, account for about 35% of Rhode Island’s total emissions, according to the most recent state inventory. About half of the state’s households are heated with gas.

The neighboring state of Massachusetts began a similar study into the future of gas in 2020. But that process has resulted in sharp criticism from climate advocates, who say it gave too much control to the gas utilities. Earlier this year, Attorney General Maura Healey — who is running for governor — filed a scathing set of comments on the proposals emerging, saying the result would be an energy system that “pumps more money into gas pipelines and props up utility shareholders.”

Massachusetts “almost wasted a year by putting it in the hands of the utilities to control things from the beginning,” said Larry Chretien, executive director of the Green Energy Consumers Alliance. “No consensus has been reached, not even close.”

The Rhode Island PUC is currently seeking public comment on the scope of its gas docket — what questions the investigation should seek to answer and what goals it should meet. Chretien said he is encouraged that they “are asking a lot of the right questions.”
» Read article      
» Read the docket

» More about gas bans


gas plant
Countries pledged to slash methane — but they’re still replacing coal with natural gas
A new report argues that countries shutting down coal plants should ‘leapfrog’ to renewables.
By Emily Pontecorvo, Grist
October 5, 2022

Just over a year ago, President Joe Biden joined with Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, to announce the Global Methane Pledge — an effort to cut global methane emissions by 30 percent in the next decade. Methane is a greenhouse gas some 80 to 90 times more powerful than carbon dioxide during the first 20 years it spends in the atmosphere. It’s emitted by many diffuse sources, the biggest culprits being farms and oil and gas infrastructure. More than 100 countries signed onto the pledge.

But a new report out this week finds that the U.S., E.U. members, and other nations that joined the pledge have plans to keep replacing their coal-fired power plants with natural gas plants — a trend the authors say will make meeting the pledge impossible. Methane is the main component in natural gas and is known to leak out of wells, pipelines, and other infrastructure on the way to natural gas power plants.

“Calling gas ‘clean’ or ‘green’ will never change the fact that it’s just as bad for the climate, and in some cases worse, than coal,” said Jenny Martos, a project manager at Global Energy Monitor and one of the authors, in a press release. Global Energy Monitor is a nonprofit research organization that identifies and maps existing and proposed energy projects. The new report is based on data from its Global Gas Plant Tracker.

[…] The report found that East Asia has the most coal-to-gas switching projects, followed by Europe and North America. However, of the three regions, the U.S. is investing the most money in new natural gas infrastructure — an estimated $389 billion, with $257 billion going toward new liquified natural gas export terminals. The Biden administration has promised to expedite permitting of these facilities in order to send more natural gas to Europe in an effort to help the region reduce its dependence on Russian natural gas in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
» Read article      
» Read the report

Craig Station
The best policies to help coal towns weather the switch to renewables
A new report singles out Colorado, Illinois and New Mexico as trailblazers in just-transition laws. Could fossil strongholds Wyoming and West Virginia follow suit?
By Alison F. Takemura, Canary Media
October 3, 2022

In the face of competition from cheaper and cleaner sources of energy, coal mines and plants have been shutting down across the U.S. for the past decade.

“We’ve lost 45,000 coal [mining] jobs since 2012,” said Jeremy Richardson, manager of the carbon-free electricity program at RMI, a clean-energy think tank. The energy transition ​“is already happening.” (Canary Media is an independent affiliate of RMI.)

For towns living through this transition, it can be devastating. Coal workers lose well-paying jobs, and communities lose a bedrock of their economies. How communities weather these choppy seas depends on the level of support they receive, which varies from state to state. That’s one of the takeaways of a new report by RMI, which analyzed 16 bills passed by states since 2011, all aimed at easing the transition away from fossil fuels and into the clean energy economy.

The report’s findings enable lawmakers to learn from what has been done before to support a just transition for coal communities, Richardson told Canary Media.

Three states in particular stand out for their policies, according to Richardson: Colorado, New Mexico and Illinois. Here’s what they’re getting right.
» Read article     
» Read the RMI report

» More about greening the economy


Ian aftermath
How climate change is fueling destructive storms like Ian
By Dharna Noor, Boston Globe
September 29, 2022

Tropical Storm Ian charted a path of destruction across Florida on Thursday. It’s now headed up toward the Carolinas, where it’s expected to wreak more havoc.

Scientists haven’t yet attributed the storm to climate change, but it certainly bears hallmarks of the crisis.

Ian intensified by 67 percent in less than 22 hours from Monday to Tuesday. Then, from Tuesday night to Wednesday morning, Ian quickly strengthened from a Category 3 storm to nearly a Category 5.

This kind of “rapid intensification,” as scientists call it, used to be exceedingly rare. But it’s becoming more common amid the climate crisis, which is pushing up ocean temperatures.

Technically, rapid intensification indicates an increase of at least 35 miles per hour in the maximum sustained winds over 24 hours. Ian officially met that threshold on Monday.

Storms pick up speed when they move over warm parts of oceans — it’s why they so often form in the tropics. Ian, in particular, gained steam fast when it moved over warm waters in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

As we burn fossil fuels and spew out greenhouse gases, oceans are heating up, so this kind of intensification is happening more.

Since the 1980s, the likelihood of a hurricane undergoing rapid intensification has increased from 1 percent to 5 percent, studies show. Since 2017, 30 other Atlantic tropical storms have undergone rapid intensification.

Climate change is also heating up air temperatures. Warmer air can hold more water vapor, meaning storms are getting wetter, raising the risk of damages from floods.
» Read article       

» More about climate


Babcock Ranch solar
This 100% solar community endured Hurricane Ian with no loss of power and minimal damage
By Rachel Ramirez, CNN
October 2, 2022

Anthony Grande moved away from Fort Myers three years ago in large part because of the hurricane risk. He has lived in southwest Florida for nearly 19 years, had experienced Hurricanes Charley in 2004 and Irma in 2017 and saw what stronger storms could do to the coast.

Grande told CNN he wanted to find a new home where developers prioritized climate resiliency in a state that is increasingly vulnerable to record-breaking storm surge, catastrophic wind and historic rainfall.

What he found was Babcock Ranch — only 12 miles northeast of Fort Myers, yet seemingly light years away.

Babcock Ranch calls itself “America’s first solar-powered town.” Its nearby solar array — made up of 700,000 individual panels — generates more electricity than the 2,000-home neighborhood uses, in a state where most electricity is generated by burning natural gas, a planet-warming fossil fuel.

The streets in this meticulously planned neighborhood were designed to flood so houses don’t. Native landscaping along roads helps control storm water. Power and internet lines are buried to avoid wind damage. This is all in addition to being built to Florida’s robust building codes.

Some residents, like Grande, installed more solar panels on their roofs and added battery systems as an extra layer of protection from power outages. Many drive electric vehicles, taking full advantage of solar energy in the Sunshine State.

Climate resiliency was built into the fabric of the town with stronger storms in mind.

So when Hurricane Ian came barreling toward southwest Florida this week, it was a true test for the community. The storm obliterated the nearby Fort Myers and Naples areas with record-breaking surge and winds over 100 mph. It knocked out power to more than 2.6 million customers in the state, including 90% of Charlotte County.

But the lights stayed on in Babcock Ranch.
» Read article       

Wave Swell Energy
Wave energy machines on Australian south coast would slash renewable energy costs, CSIRO says
Report commissioned by Wave Swell Energy says the machines would make a future clean electricity grid more stable and more reliable
By Graham Readfearn, The Guardian
October 4, 2022

» Read article       

» More about clean energy


Norridgewock PL
Maine program aims to help small towns electrify heat in public buildings
Efficiency Maine announced the availability of $4 million in grants to help communities with fewer than 5,000 residents install heat pumps and other energy saving measures in public buildings.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
October 4, 2022

A new grant program in Maine aims to help accelerate the transition to electric heat pumps in the state’s smallest towns.

In August, Efficiency Maine announced a $4 million program to help towns with fewer than 5,000 residents cut energy use in public buildings.

Though the plan is modest in size, organizers hope it will help accelerate the move from fossil fuels to electrified heat across the state.

“We just need to spur this market transformation,” said Michael Stoddard, executive director of Efficiency Maine. “These public dollars are incredibly helpful to get that going.”

The program, funded through the federal American Rescue Plan, is part of a recent focus by Efficiency Maine on helping underserved communities access the benefits of energy efficiency and clean energy technology. This summer, the agency announced an $8 million initiative to help pay for electric vehicle chargers in rural areas.

The latest program focuses on a particularly pressing issue for Maine: The need to transition to a cleaner heating fuel. The state experiences cold winters – temperatures routinely drop below zero – and some 60% of households in the state use heating oil to stay warm, the highest proportion of any state in the country. Heating oil is among the dirtiest heating fuels available and prices, which have long been volatile, have doubled in the past year.

Widespread adoption of electric heat pumps is a major part of the state’s environmental agenda. The only emissions associated with heat pumps are those produced by the electricity that powers them. And the cost of using heat pumps is typically well below that of using heating oil. In 2019, Maine set a goal of installing 100,000 heat pumps by 2025, a target it is well on the way to meeting.

As adoption continues to grow, Efficiency Maine wants to make sure that smaller towns and cities have a chance to get in on the financial and environmental benefits.
» Read article       

NH flag
Investigation triggers fresh fight over New Hampshire efficiency programs
The state’s consumer advocate says an investigation into energy efficiency programs by state utility regulators “is a direct affront” to legislation from earlier this year that codified the programs into state law.
By Lisa Prevost, Energy News Network
October 5, 2022

An investigation by New Hampshire utility regulators into the state’s energy efficiency programs is drawing loud objections from the state consumer advocate, the utilities that operate the programs, and efficiency advocates.

It was less than a year ago that the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission issued a now infamous order that rejected the utilities’ proposed three-year plan to expand the ratepayer-funded programs, which operate under the umbrella NHSaves. Instead, the commission slashed the rates that support the programs and said cuts would continue in the future in order to transition to “market-based” programs.

That decision prompted lawsuits, widespread criticism and cries of foul from energy contractors with jobs in the pipeline. In response, state lawmakers came up with a legislative solution, passed early this year, that established funding levels going forward for NHSaves, although at levels considerably lower than had been anticipated.

The statute, known as House Bill 549, sets a deadline of July 1, 2023, for the utilities to submit their next Triennial Energy Efficiency Plan, which will outline the 2024-2026 spending plan for services such as energy audits, home weatherization, and appliance rebates, for commission approval.

But about two months ago, the commission issued a notice that it is opening an investigation ahead of that filing to explore “whether changes to current efficiency programming, planning, performance incentives, and evaluation are warranted.”

The proceeding “is a direct affront” to the legislative directives in HB 549, said Donald Kreis, the state consumer advocate, in a motion calling for the cancellation of the proceeding.

[…] HB 549 sets the parameters for NHSaves, including funding levels, the method for measuring cost-effectiveness, and utility filing requirements. Yet the investigative docket “seems to question what was set in statute,” said Nick Krakoff, a staff attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation, an intervenor in the proceeding.

For example, he said, “the statute establishes the primary test to be used to determine cost-effectiveness. So really that should be the end of the matter. That the commission seems to want to reexamine that is very concerning.”
» Read article      
» Read NH-PUC’s order
» Read HB 549     

» More about energy efficiency


getting sorted
Prototype system for sorting battery cells for second life energy storage systems developed in UK
By Cameron Murray, Energy Storage News
October 3, 2022

A prototype system that can test and sort used battery cells for second life applications has been developed by four companies in the UK in a government-funded initiative.

The system, pictured above, relies on a combination of robotics, software and automation to detect the health of individual cells taken from end-of-life battery projects like EVs.

The project has been underway since May 2021 and was part-funded by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency. It involved four companies and organisations including Aceleron, the battery energy storage system solution company which designs its systems to be easy to disassemble and re-purpose.

Other participants include Innvotek, a specialist in the automation of inspection, maintenance and the digitisation of processes; MEV, an ultrasonics specialist company providing equipment and expertise in operating systems and bespoke application software; and the Brunel Innovation Centre, part of Brunel University.

The companies said the prototype has the potential to significantly reduce the unnecessary waste of the raw materials used to build batteries.

Carlton Cummins, Aceleron’s CTO and co-founder said that at the end-of-life point, half of the battery cells in an EV battery will typically still have a state of health higher than 80% which could give them a lifetime of a decade or more in the stationary energy storage sector.

Second life solutions company Connected Energy’s CEO Matthew Lumsden, who recently interviewed, says that a 25% degraded battery is still good for ten years of energy storage.

Cummins added: “As we increasingly turn to electricity to power our lives, the issue of battery waste is of serious concern and this new system has the potential to preserve cells that would otherwise have been discarded. With Lithium shortages being forecast as soon as 2035, this machine has enormous potential to preserve what is left – and ensure that we maximise the use of the raw materials used to make battery products.”
» Read article       

» More about energy storage


charge expansion
The American EV boom is about to begin. Does the US have the power to charge it?
States have plans to ban gas-powered cars and the White House wants chargers along highways, but implementation is a challenge
By John Surico, The Guardian
October 3, 2022

» Read article       

» More about clean transportation


‘Reckless’ coal firms plan climate-busting expansion, study finds
Coal is the most polluting of all fossil fuels and investors must stop funding it, say campaigners
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
October 6, 2022

» Read article       

» More about fossil fuels


circular logic
The Plastics Industry Searches for a ‘Circular’ Way to Cut Plastic Waste and Make More Plastics
Environmentalists smell a ruse, saying the industry’s talk of “advanced recycling” is nothing more than a fancy approach to a dirty business, incinerating plastics.
By James Bruggers, Inside Climate News
September 30, 2022

CHICAGO—Plastics executives embraced climate solutions at a major industry conference here last week and said they were betting on “advanced recycling” as a green response to the plastic waste problem, despite market headwinds and growing opposition from environmentalists.

But their version of climate solutions involves making and using more plastic products, and their push for advanced recycling—also known as chemical recycling—will require industry-friendly legislation and subsidies, company officials said at GPS + PEPP, the industry gathering put on by a Dow Jones Company, Chemical Market Analytics by OPIS.

For too long, the plastics executives acknowledged, their industry has been a “linear” economy, in which plastic products are made from fossil fuels and then end up as litter or waste in landfills, waterways and incinerators. In the United States, less than 6 percent of plastic waste is recycled.

The alternative, they said, is a “circular” plastics economy that produces little or no waste once various plastic waste products are heated and treated with chemicals that turn them into fuels or new plastic feedstocks, although the processes for doing this are new and, so far, largely unproven.

[…] Inside a dimly lit conference room at the Radisson Blu Chicago hotel, speakers described the plastics industry as anything but an environmental health menace.

“It’s time for the industry to keep talking about not only are we against (plastics) bans, but what we can say ‘yes’ for,”  said John Thayer, senior vice president of sales and marketing for NOVA Chemicals, a plastics manufacturer owned by Mubadala Investment Company of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

And that, he said, includes defending plastics as a solution to climate change. Thayer cited a recent report from the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. that found in 13 of 14 applications it analyzed, plastics had a smaller carbon footprint than nonplastic alternatives, like paper, glass and wood.

Environmentalists say such life cycle analyses can be misleading and inaccurate because there are no widely agreed upon methods or standards for evaluation. Plastics, they note, are made from fossil fuels, which drive climate change.

The International Energy Agency has called plastics and petrochemical production “the blind spot” of the global energy system, with those sectors set to account for more than a third of the growth in world oil demand through 2030, and nearly half the growth through 2050, as well as spurring new natural gas production.

Other reports have found plastics production is actually replacing coal as a major climate threat.
» Read article       

» More about plastics recycling      

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