Category Archives: Weekly News Check-In

Weekly News Check-In 6/5/20

WNCI-2

Welcome back.

Our friends in Weymouth are celebrating a court victory in their fight against the compressor station. The First Circuit Court vacated MA-DEP’s controversial air quality permit pending further study. Since construction was predicated on having that permit, local mayors petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to halt activities. In related good news, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled last week to maintain a lower court’s block on federal fast-track permits, which continues to hold up further construction on Keystone XL and other pipelines.

But the Trump/Wheeler Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is counter-punching. A rule change on Monday to the Clean Water Act limits the rights of states and native American tribes to block pipelines.

The articles we selected for this week’s Greening The Economy section continue that good news / bad news dynamic. While the arc of history seems to be bending toward sustainability and social/environmental justice, progress is opposed by well-funded and entrenched supporters of the status quo. Kudos to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, for petitioning the Department of Public Utilities this week to begin planning an orderly transition away from natural gas.

The climate urgently needs more of that kind of leadership. Atmospheric CO2 levels hit another record high in May. It’s been 23 million years since Earth last hosted a concentration of 415ppm. Meanwhile, satellite images show rampant deforestation in the Amazon, and some of last summer’s unusual arctic wildfires are reigniting after a winter spent smoldering in the peat under snow cover.

On a brighter note, energy efficiency is looking like a good investment in Europe. Renovating existing homes and businesses for improved energy efficiency will be a huge market, and investors are taking notice. We found signs of progress in clean energy and energy storage, too.

We close with news from the fossil fuel industry. BP seems to want to rebrand itself as a green company while keeping much of its planet-killing business model intact. The oil majors are rethinking their big bet on petrochemicals. And the whole house of cards could come down to the tune of $25 trillion in lost equity on the cratering value of reserves.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

permit vacated till do-over
Weymouth Gas Compressor Station Opponents Gain Big Court Victory
The First Circuit Court vacates the air-quality permit issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
By Scott Souza, Patch
June 4, 2020

The First Circuit Court ruled Wednesday that “because we find that the (Department of Environmental Protection) did not follow its own established procedures for assessing whether an electric motor was the Best Available Control Technology, we vacate the air permit and remand the agency to redo that analysis.”

While the decision does not halt the Fore River project, obtaining the air-quality permit was a significant hurdle for Algonquin Gas Transmission in the approval process of the station, and a main source of attack from those who want to see the project modified or shut down.

Algonquin Gas Transmission had argued in front of the DEP that the electric motor was not viable because it was not cost effective and put too much strain on the surrounding electrical grid.
» Read article     

Braintree Mayor Charles C. Kokoros Shares Update on Weymouth Compressor Station Project Following Court Ruling
By Matthew Reid Client News, City/Town News
June 3, 2020

Since the Court has now vacated DEP’s air permit approval and is requiring further administrative review, the air permit is no longer in effect, and the FERC condition requiring DEP’s approval for the compressor station has not been met.

Therefore, Braintree intends to join with the other municipalities in demanding that FERC order the immediate cessation of construction work on the station.

“The Town has continued to raise concerns regarding the public health and safety impacts the construction of the compressor station will have on our residents and remain committed to stopping construction,” Mayor Kokoros said.”
» Read article     

tossed for now
Mayor Hedlund: Court ruling won’t stop compressor project
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
June 3, 202
0

WEYMOUTH — While it could delay the project from coming online and cost the gas company money, Mayor Robert Hedlund said a federal appeals court decision to throw out an air permit issued by state regulators will not stop ongoing construction of a natural gas compressor station on the banks of the Fore River.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit on Wednesday overturned the air permit for the natural gas compressor station Enbridge is currently building in North Weymouth, ordering the state Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a new analysis of what would be the best available control technology to limit air pollution.

Judge William Kayatta in his decision said the state did not follow its own procedures when it approved a gas turbine, rather than an electric motor, to cut emissions at the station. The state will need to hold proceedings regarding the control-technology for the project.
» Read article     

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

PIPELINES

still no fast-track
Fast-Track Permits Stay Blocked for Keystone XL, Other Pipes
By Ellen M. Gilmer, Bloomberg Law
May 28, 2020

The Ninth Circuit delivered a major blow to the energy industry Thursday, refusing to freeze a lower court’s decision to block a streamlined permit for Keystone XL and other pipelines.

The Trump administration and energy industry players lost their bid to sideline the ruling, which bars the Army Corps of Engineers from using a fast-track water permitting approach for new oil and gas lines.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said the government and energy companies “have not demonstrated a sufficient likelihood of success on the merits and probability of irreparable harm to warrant a stay pending appeal.”

Barring any Ninth Circuit reconsideration or a successful petition to the Supreme Court, the decision means the streamlined permitting process will remain off-limits for new pipelines while the parties file briefs and argue the broader appeal to the Ninth Circuit—a process that takes months.
» Read article     

» More about pipelines

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

401 reg rollbackClean Water Act Rollback: Trump’s EPA Limits States’ and Tribes’ Rights to Block Pipelines
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
June 2, 2020

The Trump administration has finalized a rule making it harder for states and tribal communities to block pipelines and other infrastructure projects that threaten waterways.

The change concerns Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, which essentially gives states and tribes veto power over projects that would hurt their water quality, The Hill explained. The changes, announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Monday, give states and tribes a one-year deadline for reviewing projects and narrow the scope of what they can consider to only water issues, The New York Times reported. They may no longer block projects because they would contribute to the climate crisis.
» Read article     
» Read the NY Times article        

new look same villain
E.P.A. Limits States’ Power to Oppose Pipelines and Other Energy Projects
The agency tweaked the rules on how to apply the Clean Water Act, which New York and other states have used to fight fossil-fuel ventures.
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
June 1, 2020

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday announced that it had limited states’ ability to block the construction of energy infrastructure projects, part of the Trump administration’s goal of promoting gas pipelines, coal terminals and other fossil fuel development.

The completed rule curtails sections of the U.S. Clean Water Act that New York has used to block an interstate gas pipeline, and Washington employed to oppose a coal export terminal. The move is expected to set up a legal clash with Democratic governors who have sought to block fossil fuel projects.

Specifically, it limits to one year the amount of time states and tribes can take to review a project and restricts states to taking water quality only into consideration when judging permits. The Trump administration has accused some states of blocking projects for reasons that go beyond clean water considerations, such as climate change impacts.
» Read article     

EPA’s new rule limits states’ ability to regulate pipelines under the Clean Water Act
By Susan Phillips, NPR
June 1, 2020   

A new EPA rule reverses 50 years of practice under the Clean Water Act by diminishing a state’s ability to reject large energy infrastructure projects like interstate pipelines.

It requires states to make decisions within a year on water quality permits related to those projects. Yet states have limited resources to conduct the necessary reviews of such large and complicated projects in that time, and are dependent upon companies providing timely information. As seen with Sunoco’s Mariner East project, permit applications repeatedly fell short of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s requirements to review whether the project would preserve water quality.

A wave of new pipeline projects designed to transport shale gas, as well as shale oil and tar sands oil across state lines, has generated massive environmental opposition. One of the few avenues of influence states have over those projects are water pollution permits under section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act. Although the CWA is a federal environmental rule, states and some tribes have enforcement authority.

The new rule stems from an executive order issued by President Trump in April 2019 entitled “Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth.”  When he issued that order, Trump called the federal guidance “outdated” and said it was “causing confusion and uncertainty” and hindering development of energy infrastructure.

But lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the move are sure to follow. Environmental lawyers say it undermines the power of the states to enforce the Clean Water Act that was outlined by Congress when the law was passed in 1972.

“The Trump Administration is trying to re-write the Clean Water Act,” said Maya van Rossum of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “This is an absolutely unveiled effort to rob the states of their legal authority protected under the Clean Water Act when it comes to pipelines.”
» Read article     

» More about the EPA

GREENING THE ECONOMY

NEPA bypass EO‘Another Blow to the Black Community’: Trump Waives Environmental Law That Gives Public a Voice in Infrastructure Projects
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
June 5, 2020

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday mandating federal agencies bypass key environmental reviews of energy and infrastructure projects.

Trump said the rule was designed to stimulate the economy in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but critics say the move will disproportionately impact communities of color amidst ongoing national protests following the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many other Black Americans. The order instructs agencies to work around the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which gives communities a chance to weigh in on projects that would impact them, as NPR explained. Fossil fuel projects and highways tend to have a greater effect on Black and Brown communities, as HuffPost pointed out.

“Today President Trump is dealing another blow to the Black community, during a worldwide pandemic and nearly a week into nationwide Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and structural racism,” House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said in a statement reported by HuffPost. “Gutting NEPA takes away one of the few tools communities of color have to protect themselves and make their voices heard on federal decisions impacting them.”
Blog editor’s note: We try to provide examples in this section of movements and policies that benefit future generations and provide hope for those frustrated and alarmed by the status quo. This and the following article is the opposite: a reminder that we are engaged right now in a struggle for that brighter future and the outcome is not yet determined. Your actions matter.
» Read article     
» Read the Executive Order        

one trick pony
Besieged by Protesters Demanding Racial Justice, Trump Signs Order Waiving Environmental Safeguards
Critics said the move to speed pipeline construction would harm minority communities. But one legal expert said the order would be “a sitting duck” in court.
By Marianne Lavelle, InsideClimate News
June 5, 2020

With the nation convulsed by multiple crises, President Donald Trump returned to a favorite stand-by of his presidency—asserting his authority to sweep aside environmental restraints and speed up construction of oil and gas pipelines.

But the executive order that he signed Thursday night—the third of his presidency aimed at expediting pipelines—is destined to spur more of the type of litigation that has rendered his previous directives ineffective so far.

The White House invoked the same legal authority the president has to expedite hurricane and flood response actions to declare an “economic emergency,” that requires the waiving of environmental reviews and other regulations.
» Read article     

AG Healey planning ahead
Healey calls for orderly transition away from natural gas
Petition raises host of questions that need to be answered
By Bruce Mohl, Commonwealth Magazine
June 4, 2020

ATTORNEY GENERAL MAURA HEALEY petitioned the Department of Public Utilities on Thursday to investigate how the state’s natural gas utilities should transition to a future where the fuel they are selling no longer fits in with the state’s carbon emission goals.

Massachusetts has set a goal of zero carbon emissions by 2050, and Healey argues the state, natural gas utilities, and their customers need to start planning. The petition said California and New York have already launched similar investigations.

“As electrification and decarbonization of heating increases, the Commonwealth’s natural gas demand and usage from thermal heating requirements will decline substantially and could be near zero by 2050,” the petition says. “As the Commonwealth reduces its fossil fuel consumption, the Department should establish a consistent regulatory framework that protects customers and maintains reliability and safety during the transition.”

Healey recommended the investigation be conducted in two phases – one phase focusing on utility forecasts about their role in a decarbonized economy and the second on the policies needed to reach the state’s emission mandates. Her petition raises a host of questions that need to be answered, including whether renewable natural gas (gas made from cow manure) has potential.

The attorney general’s petition comes at a time when environmental advocates are pressing for a reduction in natural gas usage even as industry officials say the fuel is cheap, plentiful, and gaining market share.
» Read article     
» Read the AG’s press release        
» Read the petition   

racism and climate
As Protests Rage Over George Floyd’s Death, Climate Activists Embrace Racial Justice
Friends of the Earth tweeted #BlackLivesMatter, and the head of the NRDC promised “to be fully and visibly committed to the fight against systemic racism.”
By ILANA COHEN, EVELYN NIEVES, JUDY FAHYS, MARIANNE LAVELLE, JAMES BRUGGERS, InsideClimate News
June 3, 2020

When New York Communities for Change helped lead a demonstration of 500 on Monday in Brooklyn to protest George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis, the grassroots group’s activism spoke to a long-standing link between police violence against African Americans and environmental justice.

Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE, Brooklyn’s oldest Latino community-based organization, said she considers showing up to fight police brutality and racial violence integral to her climate change activism.

Bronx Climate Justice North, another grassroots group, says on its website: “Without a focus on correcting injustice, work on climate change addresses only symptoms, and not root causes.”
» Read article     

push and pull
Covid-19 has given us the chance to build a low-carbon future
Lockdown won’t save the world from warming, but the pandemic is an opportunity to pursue a green economic recovery
By Christiana Figueres, The Guardian
June 1, 2020

The recovery packages designed and implemented by governments to rescue the ailing global economy could rise as high as $20tn over the next 18 months. The scale of this stimulus will shape the contours of the global economy over the next decade, if not longer. This is precisely the decade when climate scientists have warned global emissions will need to be cut by half in order to reach a sustainable trajectory. In the midst of the crisis wreaked by the pandemic is an opportunity: to ensure rescue packages don’t merely recover the high carbon economy of yesterday, but help us build a healthier economy that is low on carbon, high in resilience and centred on human wellbeing.

The case for rebuilding our economies in line with environmental targets has broad public support. A recent poll from Ipsos Mori shows that 71% of the global population understands that climate change is as at least as serious a crisis as Covid-19, and 65% think the former should be prioritised in the economic recovery. This is not only in industrialised countries that can more easily afford to green their economies; 81% of the citizens in India and 80% of people from Mexico were also strongly in favour of a green and healthy economic recovery.

A growing number of corporate leaders are also calling for government stimulus packages to have green strings attached. In the UK, the call from a group of major business leaders for the government to embrace a green recovery was answered by the prime minister’s statement that the UK’s commitment to delivering net zero emissions “remains undiminished”. In Europe, 180 business leaders, policymakers and researchers explicitly urged the EU to build the recovery package around the Green Deal. Meanwhile the Spanish government recently released a draft law banning all new coal, oil and gas projects, establishing the direction of the Covid-19 recovery effort. In Canada, more than 320 signatories representing more than 2,100 companies have signed on to support a resilient recovery.

But it’s not all good news. For every corporate actor that has shown a commitment to greening the economy, there are many that haven’t adhered to these values. Some have used the crisis as an opportunity to roll back environmental commitments or push through controversial projects and laws. Plastic companies in the US have lobbied to reverse single-use plastic laws, while three states have criminalised environmental protest. In Europe, car manufacturers are pushing to loosen emissions standards; globally, airlines are lobbying to stop using 2020 as a baseline emissions year, and China has announced it will loosen environmental legislation to boost the post-coronavirus recovery.

This is the moment to raise voices everywhere and remind leaders of their chief responsibility: protecting their citizens and putting human wellbeing at the centre of the decision-making process.
» Read article     

CA conundrum
How Should California Wind Down Its Fossil Fuel Industry?
California has long had it both ways: pursuing green ambitions while remaining a major oil-producing state. Pressure to change is building.
By Justin Gerdes, GreenTech Media
June 01, 2020

California’s energy past is on a collision course with its future.

Think of major oil-producing U.S. states, and Texas, Alaska, or North Dakota probably come to mind. Although its position relative to other states has been falling for 20 years, California remains the seventh largest oil-producing state, with 162 million barrels of crude coming up in 2018, translating to tax revenue and jobs.

At the same time, California leads the nation in solar rooftops and electric vehicles on the road by a wide margin, and ranks fifth in installed wind capacity. Clean energy is the state’s future. By law, California must have 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045, and an executive order signed by former Governor Jerry Brown calls for economywide carbon neutrality by the same year.

So how can the state reconcile its divergent energy path? How should green-minded lawmakers wind down California’s oil and gas sector in a way that aligns with the state’s long-term climate targets while providing a just transition for the industry’s workforce?

Any efforts to reduce fossil fuel supply must run parallel to aggressive demand-reduction measures such as California’s push to have 5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030, said Ethan Elkind, director of Berkeley Law’s climate program. After all, if oil demand in California remains strong, crude from outside the state will simply fill the void.
» Read article     

just transition chartCountries need to phase out fossil fuels. Here’s how to do it fairly.
Staying within climate limits requires restricting fossil fuel extraction as well as demand. But where and how should it be restricted? Our new paper proposes five principles for equitably managing a phase-out of extraction.
By Greg Muttitt and Sivan Kartha, Oil Change International, blog post
June 1, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up the global energy economy. Wealthy countries have scrambled to support their own fossil fuel industries: Another tar sands pipeline bought with public money in Canada. Bailout funds earmarked for oil and coal companies in the United States. New oil tax reliefs in Norway.

Meanwhile, poor countries are reeling. Nigeria, facing cuts of 25% to government spending, will now fall deeper into debt to pay for dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. Iraq’s salaries and social benefits – which depend on oil revenues for 90% of their funding –  will inevitably be slashed this year. And Ecuador, hobbled by budget cuts, has struggled even to bury the dead.

This contrast of Northern governments propping up oil companies, while Southern societies face devastating disruption, shows the perversities of an energy transition that is unmanaged, unjust, and unsustainable.

So what would a sustainable and just energy transition look like? Our new study – published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Climate Policy – aims to answer that.
» Read article     
» Read the study        

no jobs on a dead planet
Economic Giants Are Restarting. Here’s What It Means for Climate Change.
Want to know whether the world can avert catastrophe? Watch the recovery plans coming out now in Europe, China and the United States.
By Somini Sengupta, New York Times
May 29, 2020

As countries begin rolling out plans to restart their economies after the brutal shock inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic, the three biggest producers of planet-warming gases — the European Union, the United States and China — are writing scripts that push humanity in very different directions.

Europe this week laid out a vision of a green future, with a proposed recovery package worth more than $800 billion that would transition away from fossil fuels and put people to work making old buildings energy-efficient.

In the United States, the White House is steadily slashing environmental protections and Republicans are using the Green New Deal as a political cudgel against their opponents.

China has given a green light to build new coal plants but it also declined to set specific economic growth targets for this year, a move that came as a relief to environmentalists because it reduces the pressure to turn up the country’s industrial machine quickly.
» Read article     

» More about greening the economy       

CLIMATE

23 million year recordAtmospheric Carbon Dioxide Levels Are at Their Highest in 23 Million Years
By Madison Dapcevich, EcoWatch
June 4, 2020

Human activity has pushed atmospheric carbon dioxide to higher levels today than they have been at any other point in the last 23-million-years, potentially posing unprecedented disruptions in ecosystems across the planet, new research suggests.

Understanding atmospheric concentrations of CO2 is “vital for understanding Earth’s climate system” because it “imparts a controlling effect on global temperatures,” said scientists in a study published in Geology.

Previous measurements have turned to ice cores to determine CO2 levels present in the atmosphere throughout Earth’s history, but have only pieced together the last 800,000 years. To expand upon this record, researchers at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette used fossilized remains of ancient plant tissue to produce a record of atmospheric CO2 dating back 31 million years of “uninterrupted Earth history.”
» Read article     
» Read research paper

deforestation Alto Paraiso 2001
deforestation Alto Paraiso 2019
‘Going in the Wrong Direction’: More Tropical Forest Loss in 2019
Brazil was responsible for more than a third of the total global loss in 2019.
By Henry Fountain, New York Times
June 2, 2020

Destruction of tropical forests worldwide increased last year, led again by Brazil, which was responsible for more than a third of the total, and where deforestation of the Amazon through clear-cutting appears to be on the rise under the pro-development policies of the country’s president.

The worldwide total loss of old-growth, or primary, tropical forest — 9.3 million acres, an area nearly the size of Switzerland — was about 3 percent higher than 2018 and the third largest since 2002. Only 2016 and 2017 were worse, when heat and drought led to record fires and deforestation, especially in Brazil.
» Read article     

zombie firesZombie Fires Could Be Awakening in the Arctic
By Mark Kaufman, EcoWatch
June 1, 2020

Some fires won’t die. They survive underground during the winter and then reemerge the following spring, as documented in places like Alaska. They’re called “overwintering,” “holdover,” or “zombie” fires, and they may have now awoken in the Arctic Circle — a fast-warming region that experienced unprecedented fires in 2019. The European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service is now watching these fires, via satellite.

Zombie fires smolder underground for months, notably in dense peatlands (wetlands composed of ancient, decomposed plants), and then flare-up when it grows warmer and drier. “Zombie” is fitting.

“It really does describe what these fires do,” said Thomas Smith, an assistant professor in environmental geography at the London School of Economics. “They recover and they’re difficult to kill.”

In April, two snowmachine-riding fire technicians found a zombie fire still smoldering near Willow, Alaska. The fire started in August 2019.

This smoldering can quickly escalate to new blazes. “Zombie fires start burning as soon as the snow melts,” said Jessica McCarty, an Arctic fire researcher and assistant professor in the Department of Geography at Miami University.
» Read article     

» More about climate

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

old and leaky
Renovation firms’ stock rises on EU ‘green recovery’ boost
By Kate Abnett, Reuters
May 29, 2020

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – A pledge from European policy-makers to pour funds into energy-saving refurbishments of old, draughty buildings has boosted the outlook for the green construction sector as it seeks to shake off the impact of the coronavirus, fund managers said.

Buildings absorb 40% of energy consumed in Europe – much of it produced by fossil fuels – threatening the European Commission’s push to cut net European Union emissions to zero by 2050.

The European executive’s stimulus package unveiled on Wednesday to battle the pandemic’s economic fall-out, resolved to fix this.

Investors said the prospect of EU support made firms specialising in renovations more attractive.

It signals “a significant change in terms of the potential growth rates of those companies,” Charlie Thomas, head of strategy and sustainability at London-based Jupiter Asset Management, told Reuters.
» Read article     

» More about energy efficiency      

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

building electrification series
So, What Exactly Is Building Electrification?
Only one of the most important pieces of the decarbonization puzzle. A new GTM series helps explain the weird and wonderful world of clean energy.
By Justin Gerdes, GreenTech Media
June 5, 2020

Buildings were first electrified nearly 150 years ago. So, why is it that “building electrification” is now among the energy industry’s most popular buzzwords?

Most buildings run on multiple fuels. They use electricity to power lights, refrigerators and electronic devices. And they consume fossil fuels such as natural gas or propane to power furnaces, boilers, and water heaters.

That persistent reliance on fossil fuels makes buildings one of the largest sources of planet-warming pollution. In the United States, buildings account for roughly 40 percent of the country’s energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and nearly half of homes rely on natural gas as their primary heating fuel.

“Building electrification,” “beneficial electrification,” or “building decarbonization” all describe shifting to use electricity rather than fossil fuels for heating and cooking. The goal of such a transition: all-electric buildings powered by solar, wind, and other sources of zero-carbon electricity.
» Read article     

NERA taking flakUtilities stay silent on proposal to federalize net metering as states call it a ‘threat’ to solar policy
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
June 4, 2020

Opposition is growing against a proposal that would effectively allow any customer-sited generation to be subject to federal regulation, and it’s unclear who outside the petitioner will support the proposal.

States have been particularly vocal in their opposition to the NERA petition, joined by Democratic federal lawmakers, clean energy advocates and others. Power trade associations, including Edison Electric Institute, Electric Power Supply Association and American Public Power Association have stayed largely quite thus far on how they’ll weigh in.

“APPA is still developing its response to the petition and receiving input from members,” John McCaffrey, senior regulatory counsel for APPA said Wednesday during the webinar, though public power utilities across the country do have net metering programs that would be “jeopardized” by the NERA filing.

“At a very high level, when it comes to distributed energy resources, generally APPA has consistently supported policies that allow decisions to be made at the local level,” he said, adding that “granting the petition would be essentially the opposite of that position.”

EPSA said it’s also still developing its response to the petition and EEI did not respond to a request for comment.
» Read article    

Floaty McFloatface
A New Weapon Against Climate Change May Float
The wind power industry sees an opportunity in allowing windmills to be pushed into deeper water.
By Stanley Reed, New York Times
June 4, 2020

Generating electricity from wind began on land, but developers, led by Orsted of Denmark, started venturing into the sea in the early 1990s as they sought wide-open spaces and to escape the objections of neighbors to having a twirling monster next door.

Three decades later, offshore is now the fastest-growing segment of the wind business, but marine wind farms have been limited to water shallow enough to allow turbines to sit on piles or other supports on the sea bottom. About 200 feet in depth is the outer limit for such devices, people in the industry say.

If platforms could be put almost anywhere at sea, “we can go to areas where we have never before harnessed the wind,” said José Pinheiro, the project director of WindFloat Atlantic.

How large a weapon in the battle against climate change could this industry become? Analysts at the International Energy Agency, a Paris-based group, estimated that if floating technology were widely adopted, the industry would have the technical potential to eventually supply the equivalent of 11 times the world’s demand for electric power. Electricity generation is both a source of emissions and a potential means of reducing them. Many analysts say that powering everything from cars to factories with clean electricity will need to play a big role in achieving climate goals.
» Read article     

NGrid slow jamNational Grid Releases Latest Results on Massachusetts Distributed Solar ‘Cluster’ Study
Most, but not all, of the studied solar projects can move forward without added cost.
By Emma Foehringer Merchant, GreenTech Media
May 29, 2020

National Grid on Friday released results of the second phase of an extended solar interconnection study that has entangled nearly 1 gigawatt of projects in Massachusetts over the last year, and stymied development for some.

Over 300 megawatts of projects may move forward without additional costs, the utility said, while another 90 megawatts of distributed solar projects will require developers to shoulder some transmission-level investments in order to connect projects to the grid.

Those extra costs range from less than $1 million for a group of five projects up to a maximum of $75 million for another set of 12 projects that total 45.8 megawatts. National Grid estimated the latter group would need to wait five to seven years to interconnect while those updates happen.

The significant costs and extended timeline will almost certainly push developers to drop projects in that 45.8-megawatt group, said Austin Perea, a senior solar analyst at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. Already, attrition has shrunk the second phase of the study from 565 megawatts last August to its current total of 391 megawatts.
» Read article     

» More about clean energy

ENERGY STORAGE

bring yer own
Green Mountain Power expands BYOD and Tesla battery programs as it targets fossil peakers
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
May 26, 2020

Vermont regulators approved on Wednesday a Green Mountain Power program that offers rates for customer-sited battery storage, including a bring your own device (BYOD) option.

Starting June 5, customers can enroll in GMP’s Tesla Powerwall program or subscribe to rates with their own storage system for the next 15 years, based on GMP’s previous pilots. The utility claims to be the first in the country to use customer-sited stored energy to lower peak energy use across its system, lowering costs for all customers.

GMP has 13 to 14 MW of distributed, small-scale residential batteries on its grid, and about 100 MW of peaking facilities, [Josh Castonguay, chief officer of innovation at GMP] said. The utility partnered with Tesla nearly five years ago, to unlock the potential of small-scale storage to address energy demand peaks, but discussions with local installers led to the creation of a BYOD pilot and program as well.

The BYOD tariff could add up to 5 MW of stored energy annually. On the Tesla Powerwall partnership, the utility would add up to 1,000 Powerwall batteries per year, totaling 5 MW and just over 13 MWh.
» Read article     

battery storage on landfills
Landfills emerge as promising battery storage sites to back up renewable energy
Like solar panels, batteries may present a new revenue stream for closed landfills. Projects are complete, or underway, in multiple states.
By Matthew Bandyk, Utility Dive
May 26, 2020

Solar panel installations have been one of the fastest-growing types of energy infrastructure in recent years and landfills have become fitting sites due to the sheer amount of land required. Now, for many of the same reasons, energy project developers are looking to landfills for a technology growing even faster than solar: battery storage.

States like California, New York and Massachusetts have embraced aggressive goals for reducing carbon emissions, requiring a quick transition to renewable energy as the primary source of electricity over the next several decades. That shift will require storage, such as large lithium-ion batteries, to compensate for the intermittency of wind and solar. Batteries can charge up from solar panels when the sun is shining, and then dispatch that energy at other times — at night or on cloudy days — when the panels are not producing energy.
» Read article     

» More about energy storage

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

what authentic means
Is BP Really Changing? Or Is Its New Climate Message Just “Beyond Petroleum” All Over Again?
By Amy Westervelt, Drilled News
June 6, 2020

Bernard Looney has had a pretty wild first six months as the new CEO of BP. Just two months after taking the helm of the world’s fifth largest oil major, an international price war spilled over into a global pandemic, sending the price per barrel of oil into negative numbers for the first time ever.

Before all that, Looney had been gearing up to take on the issue everyone presumed would dominate his first few years: climate change. Or to put a finer point on it: balancing the need to act on climate change, or at least appear to be acting on climate change, with continuing to pay shareholders the dividends they expect. BP is on the hook for about $8 billion in dividends a year. The pandemic makes it that much harder to balance the two, but Looney is still talking as though leading the world’s transition to cleaner energy is his primary goal. Let’s take a closer look.

Looney’s repositioning of BP started with a February announcement that BP would achieve “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050. He also said that he planned to end the firm’s controversial “Keep Advancing” and “Possibilities Everywhere” ad campaigns, and swore off putting a fake green sheen on the company’s image forever more. These ads had been the focus of a suit filed in December 2019 against BP by the environmental law non-profit Client Earth, accusing the company of misleading consumers about not only its efforts to reduce emissions, but also the climate benefits of natural gas, and the need for it alongside renewables.
» Read article     

petrochem pausePandemic exposes cracks in oil majors’ bet on plastic
By Joe Brock, Reuters
June 4, 2020

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The energy industry’s bet that a petrochemicals boom would support decades of oil and gas sales growth is on shaky ground as an already saturated plastic market is hit by a coronavirus demand shock.

While soaring demand for personal protective equipment and takeaway food containers has boosted sales of some plastics, it is likely to be only a temporary spike, say analysts.

In the longer term, a virus-led hit to economic growth in Asian, African and Latin American markets threatens demand at a time when the industry is already facing bans on single-use plastic that are spreading across the world.

Plastic resin prices, which have been declining over the past two years, have plunged further since the coronavirus hit, an added challenge for investments of hundreds of billions of dollars in petrochemical capacity over the past decade.

“The petrochemicals world has been hit by a double whammy,” said Utpal Sheth, Executive Director, Chemical and Plastics Insights at data firm IHS Markit.

“Capital investment has been slashed by all companies. This will delay the projects under construction and new projects.”
» Read article     

crashable
Coronavirus crisis could cause $25tn fossil fuel industry collapse
Value of reserves could fall by two-thirds as Covid-19 hastens peak in demand, study shows
By Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian
June 3, 2020

The coronavirus outbreak could trigger a $25tn (£20tn) collapse in the fossil fuel industry by accelerating a terminal decline for the world’s most polluting companies.

A study has found that the value of the world’s fossil fuel reserves could fall by two-thirds, sooner than the industry expects, because the Covid-19 crisis has hastened the peak for oil, gas and coal demand.

The looming fossil fuel collapse could pose “a significant threat to global financial stability” by wiping out the market value of fossil fuel companies, according to financial thinktank Carbon Tracker.

The report predicts a 2% decline in demand for fossil fuels every year could cause the future profits of oil, gas and coal companies to collapse from an estimated $39tn to just $14tn.

It warns that a blow to fossil fuel companies could send shockwaves through the global economy because their market value makes up a quarter of the world’s equity markets and they owe trillions of dollars to the world’s banks.
» Read article     

» More about fossil fuels

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Weekly News Check-In 5/29/20

WNCI-1

Welcome back.

This week’s post is all about opposing forces.

Presumed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden promised to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit if elected – signaling an about-face from the Trump administration’s blanket support for fossil fuel infrastructure build out. We explored further to look broadly at the road to a greener economy – finding obstacles already positioned by financial, corporate, and political interests deeply invested in the high-carbon status quo.

An interesting article describes how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) embraced the discredited research findings of contrarian scientist James Enstrom to justify its recent refusal to tighten clean air regulations of fine particulate pollution – ignoring the strong recommendations of credible environmental scientists. Also on the subject of federal regulatory agencies disregarding public interest, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is being challenged by Congress and environmental groups on net metering and gas infrastructure issues.

The idea that the climate crisis can be resolved by simply planting a trillion trees has gained traction recently, especially among groups who see it as a free pass from having to decarbonize the economy. We offer an article that looks under the surface of that appealing message to reveal a much more complicated reality. Spoiler alert: we need to decarbonize the economy and do lots of work on forests.

Along those lines, our clean energy and clean transportation sections offer some looks ahead, and we take a peek backward to review the recent history of high performance batteries.

Last week, we carried an article about solar and wind projects on Federal lands, blindsided by a sudden demand for retroactive rent payments. In a pairing that puts fossil fuel industry influence into perspective, a report shows that public lands managers bypassed normal processes to provide royalty relief for oil and gas companies during the coronavirus pandemic. Life is bland without irony, so we provide links to both stories.

We close with a report on emerging plastics alternatives from sustainable sources like seaweed and mushrooms.

— The NFGiM Team

PIPELINES

XL pull the plug
Biden White House would yank Keystone XL permit
The Monday statement is the first from Biden’s campaign about how he would handle the project.
By Ben Lefebvre, Politico
May 18, 2020

Joe Biden would rescind President Donald Trump’s permit allowing the Keystone XL oil pipeline to cross the border into the U.S., a move that would effectively kill the controversial project, his campaign told POLITICO on Monday.

The statement is the first from Biden’s campaign about how the presumptive Democratic nominee would handle the project that has been stalled for over a decade if he wins the White House in November.

Biden’s opposition also raises the stakes for the TC Energy’s efforts to start construction on the cross-border portion of the pipeline this year that would carry 830,000 barrels of crude oil from Canada to the U.S.
» Read article      

» More about pipelines            

GREENING THE ECONOMY

G20 fossil finance
New Report Details How G20 Nations Spend $77 Billion a Year to Finance Fossil Fuels
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams, in EcoWatch
May 28, 2020

Even after the world’s largest economies adopted the landmark Paris agreement to tackle the climate crisis in late 2015, governments continued to pour $77 billion a year in public finance into propping up the fossil fuel industry, according to a report released Wednesday.

Despite their public commitments to the Paris agreement, “G20 countries continue to subsidize the fossil fuel industry even as it makes bad business decisions that hurt people and the planet,” FOE U.S. senior international policy analyst Kate DeAngelis said in a statement.

“Our planet is hurtling towards climate catastrophe and these countries are pouring gasoline on the fire to the tune of billions,” she said. “We must hold G20 governments accountable for their promises to move countries toward clean energy. They have an opportunity to reflect and change their financing so that it supports clean energy solutions that will not exacerbate bad health outcomes and put workers at greater risk.”
» Read article      
» Read the report

bad bet on fossils
Propping Up the Fossil Fuel Industry Is a Bad Bet
The Fed should not be directing money to further entrench the carbon economy.
By Sarah Bloom Raskin, New York Times – Opinion
May 28, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare just how vulnerable the United States is to sudden, catastrophic shocks. Climate change poses the next big threat. Ignoring it, particularly to the benefit of fossil fuel interests, is a risk we can’t afford.

The Fed is singularly poised to seed strategic investments in future economic stability. Oil, gas and coal companies are set or are seeking to receive billions in federal aid — including at least $3.9 billion from the Paycheck Protection Program and at least $1.9 billion in tax credits tucked into the CARES Act passed by Congress. Their allies in Congress and the administration have lobbied for changes to several of the Fed’s lending programs, including relaxing the Main Street Lending Program. Among those eligible for government assistance are many fossil fuel companies that were in deep financial trouble long before the pandemic began.

These concessions to the fossil fuel industry are a risky investment in the past. The Fed is ignoring clear warning signs about the economic repercussions of the impending climate crisis by taking action that will lead to increases in greenhouse gas emissions at a time when even in the short term, fossil fuels are a terrible investment.
» Read article       

Spain to join group of first movers off oil and gas
By Romain Ioualalen, Oil Change International
May 26, 2020

On May 19, 2020, the Spanish Council of Ministers approved a Draft Bill on Climate Change and Energy Transition which sets out the country’s overarching climate policies. If the law is adopted, Spain will join a growing group of countries and financial institutions putting an end to oil and gas production.

Faced with the twin challenges of an unprecedented economic and social crisis and an ever-worsening climate emergency, governments have a duty to build a resilient economic model that protects their citizens’ future. There is no room in that future for a volatile industry whose products are directly responsible for the climate crisis and that is faced with a bleak future as demand for oil reaches its peak.

While the proposed emissions reductions trajectory is not in line with the cuts required to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement, Spain’s proposed measures are nonetheless a welcome example of how countries can plan a fossil-free recovery. Under the proposed law, Spain would tackle both the demand for (by promoting electric vehicles, establishing alternative fuel targets for the air transport) and supply of fossil fuels thus highlighting the need to combine both approaches to address fossil fuel lock-in.
» Read article       

far out
Labor Helps Obama Energy Secretary Push and Profit from ‘Net Zero’ Fossil Fuels
By Steve Horn, DeSmog Blog
May 24, 2020

Progressive activists have called for a Green New Deal, a linking of the U.S. climate and labor movements to create an equitable and decarbonized economy and move away from fossil fuels to address the climate crisis. But major labor unions and President Barack Obama’s Energy Secretary have far different plans.

On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the AFL-CIO and the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) — a nonprofit founded and run by former Obama Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz — launched the Labor Energy Partnership. Unlike those calling for a Green New Deal, though, this alliance supports increased fracking for oil and gas, as well as other controversial technologies that critics say prop up fossil fuels. It’s also an agenda matching a number of the former Energy Secretary’s personal financial investments.
Blog editor’s note: There will be headwinds on the way to a greener economy. Not all will originate from the usual suspects – here’s something to keep an eye on.
» Read article       

» More about greening the economy

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

J Enstrom
How a Contrarian Scientist Helped Trump’s EPA Defy Mainstream Science
James Enstrom’s work on particle pollution’s health effects contradicts the findings of dozens of studies, but that hasn’t stopped the agency from relying on it.
By Marianne Lavelle, InsideClimate News
May 28, 2020

When, last month, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the agency’s decision that it would not raise the standards for air pollution because the science of PM 2.5 was too uncertain to justify doing so, he was relying in part on Enstrom’s work. Enstrom’s research was among the studies cited by Wheeler’s hand-picked committee of science advisers to raise doubts about the PM 2.5 consensus.

More broadly, Enstrom’s work has helped provide the underpinning for the Trump administration’s wide-ranging assault on environmental protection policy, from its retreat on climate change to its current effort to restrict the type of science used by the EPA by disqualifying studies that critics say are some of the most important in human health science.
» Read article       

» More about EPA        

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

net metering and FERC
24 Congressional Democrats urge FERC to reject net metering overhaul
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
May 28, 2020

A group of Democratic senators and representatives on Tuesday wrote to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, urging the regulatory body to shut down a net metering proposal that experts say would effectively overturn the policy nationally.

The proposal at hand would subject any behind-the-meter, or customer-sited, energy generation to FERC jurisdiction, arguing that power production constitutes a wholesale sale. In the letter, Congress Members questioned FERC’s authority to make such a rule and also asked the commission to ask the petitioner, New England Ratepayers Association (NERA), to disclose its members.

“If FERC granted NERA’s petition, it would overturn long-held precedent and give the federal government decision-making power that has long belonged to the states, including the authority to set rates, terms, and conditions for programs,” the letter reads. “These decisions are best left to state regulators.”
» Read article      
» Read the letter

drilled podcast
The U.S. Government Has Been Rubber-Stamping New Oil and Gas Projects—This Lawsuit Hopes to Change That
By Amy Westervelt, Drilled News podcast
May 8, 2020

A lawsuit filed against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) over a small project in Massachusetts could have big implications. It aims to force FERC to comply with an order the courts gave it back in 2017, and that it’s been ignoring ever since: to evaluate the overall emissions and climate change impact of any new energy project. The case has particular relevance right now as FERC has been rapidly approving every project that crosses its desk. Adam Carlesco, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, joins to walk us through the case.
» Listen to podcast       

» More about FERC      

CLIMATE

trillion tree diversion
Can Planting a Trillion Trees Stop Climate Change? Scientists Say it’s a Lot More Complicated
Compared with cutting fossil fuels, tree planting would play only a small role in combating the climate crisis.
By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
May 27, 2020

It seems simple. Plant enough trees to soak up all the carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels and people can forget about global warming and get on with their lives.

Climate scientists and many Democrats on the House committee greeted… proposed tree planting legislation skeptically, saying that the only real climate solution is to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero as soon as possible.

Forests can only be part of a long-term plan to curb global warming after that happens, Yale evolutionary biologist and ecologist Carla Staver testified at the Trillion Trees Act hearing.

“Our primary focus must be reducing our dependence on fossil fuels,” she said, adding that any plausible attempt to limit global warming within our lifespan must also include forest protection and reforestation. “However, it is also crystal clear that tree planting alone will not fix our ongoing climate emergency,” she said.

In February, a coalition of 95 environmental groups sent a letter to Congress opposing the Trillion Trees Act as the “worst kind of greenwashing and a complete distraction from urgently needed reductions in fossil fuel pollution.”
» Read article      
» Read the letter        

seafloor ripples
Antarctic Ocean Reveals New Signs of Rapid Melt of Ancient Ice, Clues About Future Sea Level Rise
A study of seafloor ripples suggests that ice shelves can retreat six miles per year, a quantum increase over today’s rates.
By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
May 28, 2020

Climate researchers racing to calculate how fast and how high the sea level will rise found new clues on the seafloor around Antarctica. A study released today suggests that some of the continent’s floating ice shelves can, during eras of rapid warming, melt back by six miles per year, far faster than any ice retreat observed by satellites.

As global warming speeds up the Antarctic meltdown, the findings “set a new upper limit for what the worst-case might be,” said lead author Julian Dowdeswell, director of the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge.

The estimate of ice shelf retreat is based on a pattern of ridges discovered on the seafloor near the Larsen Ice Shelf. The spacing and size of the ridges suggest they were created as the floating ice shelves rose and fell with the tides while rapidly shrinking back from the ocean. In findings published today in Science, the researchers estimate that to corrugate the seafloor in this way, the ice would have retreated by more than 150 feet per day for at least 90 days.
» Read article       

9th circuit
Climate Liability Cases Score a Win with 9th Circuit Decision to Keep Them in State Court
By Karen Savage, Drilled News
May 26, 2020

Six California municipalities scored crucial wins on Tuesday when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent their climate liability suits against several fossil fuel companies back to state court, rejecting the companies’ arguments that the cases belong in federal court.

The 9th Circuit is the second appellate court to rule that climate-related lawsuits brought by municipalities across the country belong in state court. The 4th Circuit ruled earlier this year that a case filed by Baltimore against more than two dozen fossil fuel producers and distributors belongs in state court. The 10th Circuit is currently considering whether a suit filed by three Colorado communities belongs in state or federal court, and the 1st Circuit is reviewing the issue in a case filed by Rhode Island.

“I think a lot of plaintiffs were watching very carefully to see what happened in the 9th Circuit to see how this question of jurisdiction was resolved,” said Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law.
» Read article

» More about climate     

CLEAN ENERGY

PTC guidelines
US Treasury Gives Renewables More Time to Meet Tax Credit Deadlines
The wind and solar sectors both got something to like in new tax-credit guidelines issued by the Treasury Department.
By Emma Foehringer Merchant, GreenTech Media
May 28, 2020

The U.S. Treasury Department released much-anticipated guidance Wednesday that offers onshore wind and solar projects more time to meet tax credit deadlines.

Wind was the big winner: onshore projects that started construction in 2016 and 2017 will now have five rather than four years to finish projects, while still receiving production tax credit (PTC) benefits. But solar developers got some help too, with the IRS allowing for investment tax credit-qualified equipment bought in 2019 to be delivered into October and providing added assurance that developers will receive benefits as long as they have “reasonable” expectation that equipment will be delivered in the required timeframe.

The guidance, requested by members of Congress and encouraged by the clean energy industry, should offer developers comfort as they recover from extended coronavirus-related shutdowns.
» Read article       

» More about clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

morning traffic
States Sue to Block Trump From Weakening Fuel Economy Rules
At stake in the lawsuit is the single biggest effort by the United States to fight the climate crisis.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
May 27, 2020

Led by California, nearly two dozen states sued the Trump administration on Wednesday over its reversal of fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks, arguing that the move is based on erroneous science, and endangers public health.

The lawsuit escalates a standoff between President Trump, who has moved to undo a long list of environmental regulations since taking office, and a coalition of Democratic states, which have gone to court to stop him.
» Read article      
» Read the petition     

CAL
California Leads Multi-State Lawsuit Against Trump Admins’ Clean Car Rollback
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
May 27, 2020

A coalition of 23 states plus the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging the Trump Administration’s rollback of the Obama-era clean car standards. Those standards mandated stronger reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from new light-duty cars and trucks — reductions equivalent to corporate average fuel economy improvements of 5 percent annually.

But on March 31 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a final rule requiring only minimal fuel economy increases of 1.5% annually, which the agencies’ own analyses showed would result in more pollution and premature deaths.
» Read article       

» More about clean transportation

ENERGY STORAGE

better and cheaper
The story of cheaper batteries, from smartphones to Teslas
The economics of cheaper batteries—and why they’re good news for the planet.
By Timothy B. Lee, ARSTechnica
May 22, 2020

In 2010, a lithium-ion battery pack with 1 kWh of capacity—enough to power an electric car for three or four miles—cost more than $1,000. By 2019, the figure had fallen to $156, according to data compiled by BloombergNEF. That’s a massive drop, and experts expect continued—though perhaps not as rapid—progress in the coming decade. Several forecasters project the average cost of a kilowatt-hour of lithium-ion battery capacity to fall below $100 by the mid-2020s.

That’s the result of a virtuous circle where better, cheaper batteries expand the market, which in turn drives investments that produce further improvements in cost and performance. The trend is hugely significant because cheap batteries will be essential to shifting the world economy away from carbon-intensive energy sources like coal and gasoline.
» Read article       

» More about energy storage

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

public lands fossil giveaway
Ailing Oil Companies Get a Pass on Royalties
Federal public lands managers bypassed normal processes to provide pandemic relief, according to documents obtained by High Country News.
By Nick Bowlin, High Country News, in Drilled News
May 27, 2020

The day after oil futures went negative, Nicholas Douglas, a top-ranking national BLM official, emailed the agency’s Western state directors. This email thread, obtained by High Country News, shows the agency encouraging public-land drilling, despite the continued glut in the global market.

The new policies instruct state offices to let companies apply for lease suspensions and avoid royalty payments, which are the legally mandated taxes on the revenue from resources drilled or mined on public lands. Several BLM state offices confirmed to High Country News that they are carrying out these policies.

These new directives are not outliers. Despite the pandemic, the BLM appears to be encouraging public-lands drilling, rather than pressing operators to shut in wells and not produce oil. In the past few months, the BLM held lease sales in Colorado, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming. A September auction could make more than 100,000 acres of public land available for drilling just outside Canyonlands and Arches national parks in Utah. No such aid has been offered to renewable energy industries, which have also suffered in the downturn. Instead, the Interior Department hit solar and wind projects on federal land with large retroactive rent bills in mid-May, Reuters reported.
Blog editor’s note: we recently carried that Reuters story about retroactive rents for green energy installations on public lands. Refresh your memory here.
» Read article      

» More about fossil fuels

PLASTIC ALTERNATIVES

 

tired of plastic
Tired of Plastic? These Businesses Have Ideas for You
Companies are developing alternatives to single-use plastic, and with options including seaweed and mushroom tissue, consumer interest isn’t disappearing, even during the coronavirus pandemic.
By Tatiana Schlossberg, New York Times
May 27, 2020

The pandemic came at a time when momentum was building for a shift away from plastic, with many consumers demanding alternatives or halting use of products (plastic straws) altogether. Although about 72 percent of Americans say they actively try to limit their plastic use, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, the amount of plastic waste per person has remained constant: about 4 ounces per person every day, for a total of about 15.6 million tons in 2017.

But to those who are working on alternatives to single-use plastic, the consumer momentum is not disappearing. In fact, founders of several plastic-alternative companies said that they had seen even more interest from consumers in their products, and a renewed commitment from some of the larger companies they work with to press on.
» Read article      

» More about plastics alternatives

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Weekly News Check-In 5/22/20

WNCI-9

Welcome back.

This was a big week in news, and we ranged widely.

A longstanding pipeline battle concluded in New York, when the state Department of Environmental Conservation denied permission for the Williams pipeline to run from New Jersey and connect with another pipeline under Long Island Sound. DEC spokesperson Erica Ringewald said in a statement, “New York is not prepared to sacrifice the State’s water quality for a project that is not only environmentally harmful but also unnecessary to meet New York’s energy needs.” While we applaud New York for asserting its right to stop this unnecessary interstate gas infrastructure project, we wonder how Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker can continue to claim his hands are tied regarding the dangerous and unnecessary Weymouth compressor station.

Other stories related to pipelines (both real and virtual) include new evidence that dying urban trees suffered exposure to gas leaks from under the streets, and a head-spinner from Washington state where an attempt to regulate oil trains was overruled by the Trump administration. Apparently public safety is not a sufficient pretext for regulation that might inhibit market growth….

The effectiveness of persistent, youth-led activism is on display in New York, as long-stalled legislation to divest the state pension fund from fossil fuels has found traction this legislative session. The bill was introduced each session for the past four years.

Transitioning to a greener economy may be most effective if governments take control of the fossil fuel phase-out, worldwide. We posted an excellent summary argument for why this should happen, along with peeks into policy proposals taking shape in the U.S. and Europe. For folks who might be tempted to think the pandemic-induced economic recession has set us tentatively on a path to heal the climate, we note that atmospheric CO2 levels are still rising.

In a move that’s arguably the opposite of economic relief, the Trump administration struck a blow against clean energy by suddenly and retroactively requesting rent payments from wind and solar developers using federal lands. The pettiness of that double-cross is countered by inspiring innovations in energy efficiency, energy storage, and clean transportation.

The last day for public comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed “secret science” rule didn’t pass quietly. A joint letter from 39 top scientific organizations and academic institutions stated that the rule would greatly diminish the role of science in EPA decisions concerning the environment and public health.

It’s interesting to compare fossil fuel corporate spending on green technologies, especially during a recession. At some point investments move beyond cynical greenwashing to something that might signal a course change toward sustainability. We found reporting that shows European oil majors are investing significantly more than their U.S. counterparts. This may be driven by the home country political and regulatory landscape, but even a pro-fossil American administration can’t protect the liquefied natural gas industry from market headwinds.

New rules proposed in April under the Clean Air Act would define biomass, when burned to produce energy, as being carbon neutral. Some 200 U.S. environmental scientists sent a letter to congressional committee chairs urging they reject these new rules. It’s important to note that the science on biomass has advanced considerably in recent years, and consensus is now firmly established that burning biomass for energy is neither clean nor carbon neutral.

We wrap up with a couple interesting reports on plastics. One describes a biodegradable plant-based alternative for beverage bottles, and another profiles efforts to use satellite data to detect plastic pollution in oceans.

— The NFGiM Team

PIPELINES

Williams canned
New York Rejects Williams Pipeline Over Water, Climate Concerns
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
May 18, 2020

New York state has rejected the controversial Williams pipeline that would have carried fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania through New Jersey, running beneath New York Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean before connecting to an existing pipeline system off Long Island.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) announced the decision Friday, arguing that pipeline construction would have harmed water quality and threatened marine life.

“New York is not prepared to sacrifice the State’s water quality for a project that is not only environmentally harmful but also unnecessary to meet New York’s energy needs,” DEC spokesperson Erica Ringewald said in a statement reported by POLITICO.

The decision is a victory for grassroots activists who have long campaigned against the pipeline. After Oklahoma-based company Williams submitted its most recent application, New Yorkers sent in more than 25,000 comments opposing the pipeline in two weeks, according to the Stop the Williams Pipeline Coalition.

“We know [New York State Gov. Andrew] Cuomo only did this because we pressured him to do so,” anti-pipeline campaigner Lee Ziesche told HuffPost. “At the end of the day, he still needs to make a plan to get New York off of gas.”
» Read article      

» More about pipelines

GAS LEAKS

gas leaks kill trees
Tree Deaths in Urban Settings Are Linked to Leaks from Natural Gas Pipelines Below Streets
A new study finds dying trees are 30 times more likely to have been exposed to methane-contaminated soil, confirming long-held suspicions that gas leaks kill plants.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
May 20, 2020

Natural gas leaks from underground pipelines are killing trees in densely populated urban environments, a new study suggests, adding to concerns over such leaks fueling climate change and explosion hazards.

The study, which took place in Chelsea, Massachusetts, a low-income immigrant community near Boston, also highlights the many interrelated environmental challenges in a city that faces high levels of air pollution, soaring summer temperatures and is now beset by one of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the nation.

Dead or dying trees were 30 times more likely to have been exposed to methane in the soil surrounding their roots than healthy trees, according to the study published last month in the journal Environmental Pollution.
» Read article      
» Read the study

» More about gas leaks

VIRTUAL PIPELINES

safety schmafety
Safety Can’t Be a ‘Pretext’ for Regulating Unsafe Oil Trains, Says Trump Admin
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
May 20, 2020

The federal agency overseeing the safe transport of hazardous materials released a stunning explanation of its May 11 decision striking down a Washington state effort to regulate trains carrying volatile oil within its borders. A state cannot use “safety as a pretext for inhibiting market growth,” wrote Paul J. Roberti, the chief counsel for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

The statement appeared in the Trump administration’s justification for overruling Washington’s oil train regulation, which was challenged by crude-producing North Dakota and oil industry lobbying groups. The Washington rule seeks to limit oil vapor pressure unloaded from trains to less than 9 pounds per square inch (psi) in an attempt to reduce the likelihood that train derailments lead to the now-familiar fireballs and explosions accompanying trains transporting volatile oil.
» Read article

» More about virtual pipelines

DIVESTMENT

NY pension divest
Could New York’s Youth Finally Convince the State to Divest Its Pension of Fossil Fuels?
One analyst says oil, gas and coal were the biggest pension contributors for 30 years, but now are the worst performing sector—and there are no signs of improvement.
By Kristoffer Tigue, InsideClimate News
May 15, 2020

In April, a day before Earth Day’s massive virtual gathering, Penna and about 150 other youth met with nearly 40 New York lawmakers or their staff online, asking them to support a bill that would force the New York Common Retirement Fund to divest from fossil fuel companies within five years. As of last year, the fund had nearly $211 billion in assets under management and currently has about $5 billion in fossil fuel holdings, according to the New York State Comptroller’s office.

The bill, known as the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act, has been introduced in the New York Senate four years in a row but has never made it out of committee. But as youth climate strikers who are sheltering in place seek ways to spread their message without marching in the streets, the once stalled legislation has quickly gained support this year.
» Read article      
» Read the Act

» More about divestment

GREENING THE ECONOMY

five reasons for managed phaseout
Deep Dive: 5 reasons governments must act now to phase out oil and gas production
By Kelly Trout, Oil Change International – blog post
May 20, 2020

Since the Paris Agreement was signed, Oil Change International (OCI) has been making the case that meeting its goals will require governments to proactively manage the phase-out of fossil fuel production. In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis and sudden cratering of the oil economy, that is more true than ever.

Low oil prices and a near-term drop in demand are causing immediate financial and logistical stress for the industry. But current events provide no guarantee that the industry will stay in long-term decline, especially at the pace needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C).

Now is precisely the time for governments to pursue a carefully planned exit from oil and gas production: to systematically disentangle their economies from this volatile and toxic industry in a way that lines up with global climate goals, invests deeply in a just transition for workers and local communities, and builds the clean energy sectors we will need long into the future.
» Read article

Inslee plan promoted
Former Inslee Staffers Urge Biden and House Dems to Embrace $1.2 Trillion Green Stimulus as Part of COVID-19 Recovery
By Julia Conley, Common Dreams – reprinted in DeSmog Blog
May 15, 2020

Staffers who helped develop Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s widely-praised climate policy during his 2020 presidential run are now calling on congressional Democrats to adopt the bold initiatives included in the plan to make a shift to a renewable energy economy within coronavirus relief legislation.

The staffers formed an advocacy and political action group, Evergreen Action, on Thursday, a month after calling on former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden to adopt large portions of Inslee’s multi-trillion-dollar plan. Progressive groups including Justice Democrats asked that Biden work closely with Inslee’s team on climate action after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) suspended his presidential campaign.

Both Biden and Democrats in Congress must view the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to “jumpstart” the United States economy while transitioning away from fossil fuels and offering relief to the 36 million Americans who have lost their jobs so far as a result of the coronavirus, Evergreen Action says.
» Read article

EU green recovery previewLeaked Document Lifts Lid on EU’s Green Deal ‘Recovery’ Package
The EU has reshaped its Green Deal into a recovery package, with huge support for renewables, green hydrogen and EVs set to be announced next week.
By John Parnell, GreenTech Media
May 21, 2020

First revealed in December 2019, the EU’s Green Deal was initially structured as a roadmap for the bloc to achieve its goal of net-zero status by 2050. But early progress has been hampered since the Green Deal was revealed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The coronavirus outbreak and a failure to agree on the EU’s next seven-year spending framework have created division among some member states that are nervous about the economic fallout of COVID-19.

Next week, the reworked — and renamed — Green Deal Recovery package will be presented in full, with a string of near-term policies added to act as an economic stimulus. It will be an early indicator of policymakers’ willingness to act on promises of a “green recovery.”
» Read article

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

still filling the tub
Even with people staying in, carbon dioxide is breaking records
The coronavirus is doing little to slow down climate change
By Justine Calma, The Verge
May 7, 2020

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is still rising, even though people are driving and flying less during the COVID-19 pandemic. CO2 reached an all-time daily high on May 3rd, hitting levels that haven’t been seen in the more than 60 years since records began.

The annual average is also expected to rise, according to an analysis published today by scientists at the national meteorological service for the UK and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. They found that the overall amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is still climbing steadily, and that the dramatic changes from the pandemic barely slowed it down.

An important thing to keep in mind is that carbon dioxide can persist in the atmosphere for hundreds to thousands of years after it escapes our factories and tailpipes. “It’s like a bathtub and you’ve had the spigot on full blast for a while, and you turn it back 10%, but you’re still filling the bathtub,” says [Sean Sublette, a meteorologist at the nonprofit Climate Central]. “You haven’t really stopped filling the bathtub, you’ve just slowed it a tiny bit.”
» Read article      
» Read analysis

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

surprise rent
Trump administration slaps solar, wind operators with massive retroactive rent bills
By Nichola Groom, Reuters
May 18, 2020

The Trump administration has ended a two-year rent holiday for solar and wind projects operating on federal lands, handing them whopping retroactive bills at a time the industry is struggling with the fallout of the coronavirus outbreak, according to company officials.

The move represents a multi-million-dollar hit to an industry that has already seen installation projects cancelled or delayed by the global health crisis, which has cut investment and dimmed the demand outlook for power.

It also clashes with broader government efforts in the United States to shield companies from the worst of the economic turmoil through federal loans, waived fees, tax breaks and trimmed regulatory enforcement.
» Read article

electrify or fry
Electrifying Space Heating Will Require a Herculean Effort
The technology is here today, but the sector has a long way to go, according to Wood Mackenzie.
By Fei Wang, GreenTech Media
May 12, 2020

Natural gas and fuel oil satisfy 60 percent of heating needs of households in Europe. In the U.S., the share is about 75 percent. In China, coal and gas boilers make up more than 90 percent of heating sources.

To decarbonize space heating in residential and commercial buildings, several tools will need to work together: energy efficiency, electrification, and alternative fuels.

Building codes enacted and enforced by municipalities can also push forward all-electric new construction and retrofits. In California, 30 municipalities have started such initiatives encouraging or mandating building electrification, including San Francisco and San Jose.

In Europe, while the Green Deal recognizes buildings as a primary sector for decarbonization, several countries already enacted bans on fossil fuels for heating, such as Norway, Germany, and the Netherlands.
» Read article

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

NUS chilling outCooling with heat: Hybrid air conditioner that reduces electricity consumption
By National University of Singapore News
May 14, 2020

The innovative air conditioners comprise an unconventional electrical compression machine that uses the heat from the sun and ambient surroundings to ease the electrical load of energy-guzzling compressors by up to 55 per cent.

“As the global temperature rises, fuelled by urbanisation and exacerbated by climate change, so does the global demand for fuel to run energy-hungry air conditioning. Today’s conventional air conditioners require high electrical energy, yet at the same time, they also produce a high volume of heat which is released into the environment, causing the creation of undesirable heat zones,” explained Associate Professor Ernest Chua Kian Jon from NUS Mechanical Engineering who led the team.

The jointly-developed solution utilises a solar thermal collector (i.e. heat collector) comprising vacuum tubes filled with a novel medium specially designed and engineered by the NUS team to absorb more solar energy and ambient heat.

The harnessed energy is then recycled to assist in the superheating of the refrigerant in the system, converting it from a low pressure, low temperature gas into a high pressure, high temperature gas. This reduces the system’s reliance on the compressor that pumps the refrigerant through the system and, in turn, reduces the system’s overall electricity consumption and the harmful greenhouse emissions released to the environment.
» Read article       

» More about energy efficiency     

ENERGY STORAGE

EV charging with storage
Energy storage poised to tackle grid challenges from rising EVs as mobile chargers bring new flexibility
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
May 18, 2020

“One can expect that the number of EVs in fleets will grow very rapidly over the next ten years,” according to Rhombus’ report. But that means many fleet staging areas will have trouble securing sufficient charging capacity.

“Given the amount of time it takes to add new megawatt-level power feeds in most cities (think years), fleet EVs will run into a significant ‘power crisis’ by 2030,” according to Rhombus.

“Grid power availability will become a significant problem for fleets as they increase the number of electric vehicles they operate,” Rhombus CEO Rick Sander said in a statement. “Integrating energy storage with vehicle-to-grid capable chargers and smart [energy management system] solutions is a quick and effective mitigation strategy for this issue.”
» Read article

» More about energy storage      

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Wireless EV charging
HEVO to Launch US Manufacturing for Wireless Electric Vehicle Charger
The Brooklyn-based startup quietly finalized a product, working with limited funds and staff. Now the race is on for the wireless charging market.
By Julian Spector, GreenTech Media
May 21, 2020

Wireless electric vehicle charging carries a whiff of the future, akin to flying cars. But HEVO, a Brooklyn-based startup, aims to make it part of the present by emerging from obscurity with a commercially ready wireless charger this year.

The electric vehicle industry is scrambling to build out enough chargers to handle the expected wave of EV adoption. Wireless charging holds many potential advantages over the currently available wired systems.

Wired charging uses a smattering of different plugs, but automakers have already agreed to a universal wireless charging standard, eliminating interoperability challenges. Nobody can yank out the charging cable when a car is left to fill up at a wireless public station. Drivers don’t even need to get out of the car to charge, which is handy in a rainstorm.

From an urban-planning standpoint, wireless charging would allow a more seamless installation of charging equipment into existing paved surfaces, rather than sticking charging cables around town. And the technology could theoretically go into roadways to top up drivers on the go rather than making them park and wait.
» Read article

» More about clean transportation     

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

bad idea opposed
EPA’s ‘Secret Science’ Rule Meets with an Outpouring of Protest on Last Day for Public Comment
Among those opposing the proposed rule were nearly 40 top scientific organizations and academic institutions which jointly submitted a letter to the agency.
By Marianne Lavelle, InsideClimate News
May 19, 2020

As the deadline approached for public comment on a controversial “transparency” rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, 39 top scientific organizations and academic institutions joined together on Monday to warn that if finalized, the regulation would greatly diminish the role of science in decisions affecting the environment and the health of Americans.

In a letter submitted to the EPA, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest scientific society, and a wide array of other professional groups and universities, strongly opposed the rule, which they said is “not about strengthening science, but about undermining the ability of the EPA to use the best available science in setting policies and regulations.”
» Read article      
» Read the AAAS letter          

» More about the EPA

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

oil majors reveal fantasy gap
Coronavirus widens climate rift between European and U.S. oil majors
By Ron Bousso and Shadia Nasralla, Reuters
May 18, 2020

LONDON (Reuters) – Europe’s top oil and gas companies have diverted a larger share of their cash to green energy projects since the coronavirus outbreak in a bet the global health crisis will leave a long-term dent in fossil fuel demand, according to a Reuters review of company statements and interviews with executives.

Europe’s top five producers – BP, Shell, Total, Eni, and Equinor – are all focusing their investment cuts mainly on oil and gas activities, and giving their renewables and low carbon businesses a relative boost, according to Reuters calculations.

The biggest U.S. oil and gas companies are taking a different path, encouraged by a government that is a vocal supporter of expanding fossil fuel production: investment in business ventures outside petroleum hardly register, and that is not going to change without a shift in government policy.

Chevron CEO Mike Wirth told investors in a conference call on May 1 he expects demand for oil and gas to rebound after the coronavirus pandemic lifts.

“The world is not ready to transition to another source of energy in large part anytime soon,” he said.
» Read article

» More about fossil fuels

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

LNG unmasked
Failed Finances and ‘the Demonization of Gas’ Are Threatening the Future of US LNG
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
May 14, 2020

The U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) market, once the promising golden child of the fossil fuel industry, has a major long-term problem. While it’s facing financial disaster due to the current crash in oil and natural gas prices, that’s only the short-term threat.

The real issue for the LNG industry is an existential one: It’s a fossil fuel in a rapidly warming world, and these polluting fuels are losing public favor fast.

As DeSmog reported earlier this year, European LNG buyers are considering measuring the true climate impacts of U.S. LNG, which means considering methane emissions — another strike against the U.S. LNG industry.

Growing public awareness and concern about the climate impacts of natural gas apparently are frightening industry executives.
» Read article

» More about LNG

BIOMASS

biomass carbon accounting
Scientists warn U.S. Congress against declaring biomass burning carbon neutral
By Justin Catanoso, Mongabay.com
May 13, 2020

Some 200 U.S. environmental scientists have sent a letter to congressional committee chairs urging they reject new rules proposed in April under the Clean Air Act that would define biomass, when burned to produce energy, as being carbon neutral.

The scientists say that biomass burning — using wood pellets to produce energy at converted coal-burning power plants — is not only destructive of native forests which store massive amounts of carbon, but also does not reduce carbon emissions.

A long-standing UN policy, recognizing biomass burning as carbon neutral, has caused the U.S. forestry industry to gear up to produce wood pellets for power plants in Britain, the EU, South Korea and beyond. Scientists warn that the failure to count the emissions produced by such plants could help destabilize the global climate.
» Read article      
» Read the letter

» More about biomass      

PLASTICS ALTERNATIVES

better bottles
The end of plastic? New plant-based bottles will degrade in a year
Carlsberg and Coca-Cola back pioneering project to make ‘all-plant’ drinks bottles
By Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian
May 16, 2020

Beer and soft drinks could soon be sipped from “all-plant” bottles under new plans to turn sustainably grown crops into plastic in partnership with major beverage makers.

A biochemicals company in the Netherlands hopes to kickstart investment in a pioneering project that hopes to make plastics from plant sugars rather than fossil fuels.

The plans, devised by renewable chemicals company Avantium, have already won the support of beer-maker Carlsberg, which hopes to sell its pilsner in a cardboard bottle lined with an inner layer of plant plastic.

Avantium’s chief executive, Tom van Aken, says he hopes to greenlight a major investment in the world-leading bioplastics plant in the Netherlands by the end of the year. The project, which remains on track despite the coronavirus lockdown, is set to reveal partnerships with other food and drink companies later in the summer.
» Read article

» More about plastics alternatives

PLASTICS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

 

floating plastic
Satellite imagery is helping to detect plastic pollution in the ocean
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts, Mongabay
May 1, 2020

A new study illustrates how optical satellite imagery from the European Space Agency can be used to identify aggregates of floating plastic, such as bottles, bags and fishing nets, in coastal waters.

It is estimated that more than 8.3 billion tons of plastic waste enter the oceans each year, threatening global ocean health.

While plastic tends to get pushed around in the ocean, winds and ocean currents will propel it into clusters that stay in one place. [Lauren Biermann, an Earth observation scientist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the U.K.] says she hopes that optical satellite data can help identify these aggregates, and that people and organizations can use this information to work on solutions.

“There will be cleanup operations like the Ocean Voyages Institute, which we’d like to work with. They would then go to where we spotted things, and they would be able to remove tons of plastic at a time,” Biermann said. “This really is the first technical exercise, but we would then like to apply the method, far more broadly … to rivers and open waters.”
» Read article

» More about plastics in the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 5/15/20

WNCI-7

Welcome back.

Although the coronavirus put a temporary stop to protests and actions against pipeline projects, there’s still a lot of activity behind the scenes. Eversource’s planned Ashland pipeline was deemed unnecessary in a report by the town’s consultant. Meanwhile, with the Weymouth compressor station nearing completion, the mayor is negotiating funding for various projects as compensation for hosting the facility. Read Bill McKibben’s interview with compressor resistance leaders Alice Arena and the Reverend Betsy Sowers for useful insights.

The political right is spinning pandemic-related economic pain as a preview of conditions it claims would follow enactment of the Green New Deal. This may be a draft copy of the Republican playbook for resisting transition to a greener economy.

New climate models predict unbearable future heat waves, while a fresh look at existing data reveal that episodes of dangerously high temperatures have already begun in some locations. Never mind – fossil fuel supporters are out banging the drum about the agricultural benefits of even more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

For a peek at a brighter, science-based future, you’ll find reports about innovation and progress in our energy efficiency, clean energy, energy storage, and clean transportation sections. Plus an interesting article about Maine’s proposal to solve its electricity reliability problems through a public purchase of the delivery system. The move has potential to green the grid more quickly.

When Trump’s EPA replaced the Obama-era Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, we expected the “clean energy” part to be pretty meaningless. Confirmed – they just needed words that started with “C” and “E” so the rule could have a snappy acronym.

Our fossil fuel industry and LNG sections are all about exports of natural gas – especially to Europe. This ties into Bill McKibben’s interview about the Weymouth compressor station. Geopolitics (and the Trump administration’s desire to boost U.S. energy production) promote LNG exports to counter Europe’s dependence on Russian gas. At the same time, market headwinds are blowing strongly against LNG – and investors may ultimately decide it’s too risky. The Weymouth compressor is all about LNG exports, but five years of fierce and effective resistance has raised the stakes. If the global economic recession is deep and prolonged, Enbridge may have to choose between profit and pride.

— The NFGiM Team

ASHLAND PIPELINE

Ashland consultant says Eversource pipeline project is unnecessary
By Cesareo Contreras, MetroWest Daily News
May 11, 2020

Here a few of the key takeaways from the report:

Major growth in the area not expected any time soon

The clinic has concluded that Eversource’s new project is not needed to meet current demand, nor would it be needed in the long term.

In its application, Eversource notes that customer demand for natural gas has increased in the past five years in the towns of Ashland, Framingham, Holliston, Natick and Sherbon. The company argues demand will continue to grow as more people turn to its services in the area – requiring the need for the new pipes.

The clinic argues, however, that Eversource doesn’t provide any data to explain why demand has risen in recent years. The clinic argues the growth isn’t the result of new customers moving into those areas, but rather homes and businesses switching to natural gas from other forms of heating. The clinic further claims that the Greater Framingham region’s population will not grow quickly enough for the current pipeline to be overwhelmed anytime soon, noting that between the years of 2010 and 2017, growth in total households in the area only increased .8 percent per year.

“The expected future growth to 2030 in total households across these towns range from a low negative .02 percent year in Sherborn to a high of 1.5 percent per year in Ashland,” the report reads, citing information from the U.S Census Bureau, UMass Donahue Institute and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

Eversource’s projections in demand are higher than the federal or state government and do not comply with the state’s Global Warming Solution Act.
» Read article

» More about the Ashland Pipeline          

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

mitigation talks
Weymouth compressor station moves toward completion

Mayor Robert Hedlund said the town will need to work with the gas company to make sure the facility is as safe as possible.
By  Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
May 12, 2020

With the project allowed to proceed and construction well underway, Hedlund said there have been discussions about a mitigation payment from Enbridge to fund things such as improvements in North Weymouth and potential public safety resources. Hedlund said some residents are opposed to taking any money from the gas company, even as the compressor station becomes operational.

“Philosophically, do I work with them to address these things – things that will cost money? Do I put it on them, or do I put it on us?” he said.

Town officials have not had any discussions with Enbridge recently regarding mitigation, Hedlund said, but those talks are inevitable as the compressor nears completion. Hedlund said $10 million was a “marker thrown down” for a potential payment to the town, though there is no firm number.
» Read article      

One Crisis Doesn’t Stop Because Another Starts (scroll down to “Passing the Mic”)
By Bill McKibben, New Yorker
May 14, 2020


Enbridge hopes to move fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania to [eastern] Canada, for export as L.N.G. [liquid natural gas]. It’s a battle with Russia for the European market, even as Europe turns toward renewables and some of Enbridge’s contracts in Europe are disappearing. (A small amount of the gas is destined for local distribution in Canada.) Its only point is to set one precedent and prevent another. It would set a precedent as the only transmission compressor station sited in a designated port area, in a FEMA flood zone, in a densely populated urban area adjacent to two environmental-justice communities, on only 4.3 acres of land. It would avoid setting the precedent of losing to a ragtag citizens group and a few municipalities who have cost them millions in overruns and lost shipping capacity in a five-year legal battle. They would be pariahs at fossil-fuel cocktail parties.
» Blog editor’s note: the whole newsletter is worth reading, but we’re focused on the “Passing the Mic” section which features an email conversation between McKibben and two leading organizers of opposition to the Weymouth Compressor Station.
» Read article      

» More about the Weymouth compressor station       

GREENING THE ECONOMY

GOP gaslight gambit
G.O.P. Coronavirus Message: Economic Crisis Is a Green New Deal Preview
As the economy melts down, embattled conservatives are testing a political response: saying Democratic climate policies would bring similar pain.
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
May 7, 2020

WASHINGTON — The coronavirus and the struggle to contain it has tanked the economy, shuttered thousands of businesses and thrown more than 30 million people out of work. As President Trump struggles for a political response, Republicans and their allies have seized on an answer: attacking climate change policies.

“If You Like the Pandemic Lockdown, You’re Going to Love the Green New Deal,” the conservative Washington Examiner said in the headline of a recent editorial. Elizabeth Harrington, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, wrote in an opinion article in The Hill that Democrats “think a pandemic is the perfect opportunity to kill millions more jobs” with carbon-cutting plans.
» Read article      

» More about greening the economy 

CLIMATE

carbon candyClimate Deniers Argue Carbon Pollution Is Beneficial, Again Take Aim at EPA’s Endangerment Finding
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
May 12, 2020

Climate science deniers at think tanks with fossil fuel ties are doubling down on attempts to undermine the bases for regulating climate pollution, from attacking estimated carbon pollution costs used in regulatory analyses to urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse its own scientific finding that underpins federal climate rules.

Even as experts’ understandings of climate science and the costs of carbon pollution have strengthened significantly, opponents of climate action are publishing flawed studies in scientific journals to support false claims that align with the fossil fuel industry’s deregulatory agenda.
» Read article      

wicked hot trending
Potentially fatal bouts of heat and humidity on the rise, study finds
Scientists identify thousands of extreme events, suggesting stark warnings about global heating are already coming to pass
By Nina Lakhani, The Guardian
May 8, 2020

Intolerable bouts of extreme humidity and heat which could threaten human survival are on the rise across the world, suggesting that worst-case scenario warnings about the consequences of global heating are already occurring, a new study has revealed.

Scientists have identified thousands of previously undetected outbreaks of the deadly weather combination in parts of Asia, Africa, Australia, South America and North America, including several hotspots along the US Gulf coast.

Humidity is more dangerous than dry heat alone because it impairs sweating – the body’s life-saving natural cooling system.

The number of potentially fatal humidity and heat events doubled between 1979 and 2017, and are increasing in both frequency and intensity, according to the study published in Science Advances.
» Read article     
» Read the study

» More about climate         

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

smart streetlights
Cities ‘finally waking up’ to the benefits of smart streetlights: survey
By Chris Teale, Utility Dive
May 7, 2020

Investments in smart street lighting could total $8.2 billion over the next decade, according to a survey from smart infrastructure market intelligence firm Northeast Group LLC. Utilities are considering more efficient and connected street lighting as a way to help manage system demand and lower carbon emissions.

Northeast Group surveyed 314 large U.S. cities and found 185 cities (59%) are in the process of converting streetlights to LEDs, while 59 cities (19%) are considering smart street lighting. While LED conversion is the “largest piece of the pie” in terms of smart streetlight investment, there is increasing interest in two other areas: remote streetlight monitoring, and using streetlights to support broader internet of things (IoT) applications like air quality or traffic sensors.
» Read article      

» More about energy efficiency     

CLEAN ENERGY

rural coal cleanup
Closing of North Dakota Coal Plant, Energy Transition Comes Home to Rural America
The move may signal a turning point for rural cooperatives, which have been slow to embrace renewable energy
By Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
May 14, 2020

Great River Energy has announced it will close the largest coal-fired power plant in North Dakota and replace it with renewable sources, an almost complete overhaul of the way the utility provides electricity to the smaller rural electric cooperatives it serves.

The plan made me sit up and take notice because rural electric cooperatives have been slow to move away from coal and embrace renewables. These cooperatives serve only about 12 percent of the nation’s customers, but they operate a disproportionately large share of coal-fired power plants across the country.

Great River says it is taking these actions because the coal plant has become too expensive and customers increasingly want renewable energy.
» Read article      

renewables matching coal
In a First, Renewable Energy Is Poised to Eclipse Coal in U.S.
The coronavirus has pushed the coal industry to once-unthinkable lows, and the consequences for climate change are big.
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
May 13, 2020

WASHINGTON — The United States is on track to produce more electricity this year from renewable power than from coal for the first time on record, new government projections show, a transformation partly driven by the coronavirus pandemic, with profound implications in the fight against climate change.

It is a milestone that seemed all but unthinkable a decade ago, when coal was so dominant that it provided nearly half the nation’s electricity. And it comes despite the Trump administration’s three-year push to try to revive the ailing industry by weakening pollution rules on coal-burning power plants.

Now the coronavirus outbreak is pushing coal producers into their deepest crisis yet.

As factories, retailers, restaurants and office buildings have shut down nationwide to slow the spread of the coronavirus, demand for electricity has fallen sharply. And, because coal plants often cost more to operate than gas plants or renewables, many utilities are cutting back on coal power first in response.
» Read article      

regional descrepancies - not
Duke CEO decries ‘assault’ on natural gas as shareholders, others blast company’s resource plans
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
May 13, 2020

Duke Energy faced tough questions from shareholders about its long-term resource plan last week, ahead of its Q1 earnings call on Tuesday.

Duke has been criticized by some for its plans to build out natural gas infrastructure, as well as its perceived slow progress on other clean energy investments. That concern was echoed by shareholders during the company’s 2020 shareholder meeting on Thursday, who asked the utility a number of questions related to its progress, especially relative to other utilities.
» Read article      

» More about clean energy         

ENERGY STORAGE

shiver and buzz
Cold storage: Organic proton batteries show disposal, solar pairing advantages in advance to market
A Sweden-based research team’s new battery can withstand low temperatures and more efficiently store renewable energy.
By Lynn Freehill-Maye, Utility Dive
May 11, 2020

Scientists in Sweden are stepping up in the global race to efficiently store renewable energy with an all-organic proton battery whose capabilities surprised even the researchers. Among them, the battery can be recharged directly from a solar cell within seconds, and can withstand temperatures of up to -24 degrees Celsius [-11.2 degrees F] without losing capacity.

The path to market remains long, but easier disposal compared to the hazardous-waste disposal challenges surrounding lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries could also provide a competitive advantage in the rapidly expanding energy-storage market, analysts say.
» Read article      

power to gas
Power-to-gas could be key to California’s long-duration storage needs, stakeholders say
By Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive
May 6, 2020

Power-to-gas technologies, which soak up excess renewables that would otherwise have been curtailed to produce methane or hydrogen, are an option that can be seriously considered for California’s path to carbon neutrality, Karl Meeusen, senior advisor of infrastructure and regulatory policy at the California Independent System Operator, said during a webinar Tuesday.

Wärtsilä’s roadmap — initially presented during a webinar in March and then updated with a scenario based on hydrogen production — could help California reach its clean electricity goal five years ahead of the 2045 deadline, according to the company. It requires a quicker build out of renewables and battery storage than is currently laid out by the state’s integrated resource planning process, and then deploying power-to-gas technology to siphon off the excess renewables closer to 2045.

Any power system moving closer to 100% renewables will have huge amounts of over-generation, which will then need to be dumped somewhere, Ferrari said. But with power-to-gas technology, excess renewables can be sucked up either to electrolyze water, creating hydrogen, or power a methanizer, which produces methane.
» Blog editor’s note: methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, and hydrogen reacts with atmospheric hydroxyl (OH) radicals, neutralizing them so they can’t do their work destroying greenhouse gases such as… methane. Since deployment of this technology would create methane and/or hydrogen leaks, any environmental analysis must consider a realistic accounting for the effect of these gases on climate. A word search through Wärtsilä Energy’s white paper turned up zero hits on “leak”.
» Read article     
» Read the Wärtsilä Energy
white paper

» More about energy storage   

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Rocky Mountain low carbon
Colorado Plans to Eliminate Emissions from Road Transportation
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
May 6, 2020

Colorado is moving ahead with a plan to get nearly 1 million electric vehicles (EV) on its roads by 2030 and, for the first time, has adopted a long-term goal of transitioning to 100 percent electric and zero-emission vehicles.

The state’s Energy Office recently released the Colorado Electric Vehicle Plan 2020, an update to the 2018 EV plan that established a target of 940,000 EVs by 2030. The new plan retains that target and lays out a vision for a “large-scale transition of Colorado’s transportation system to zero emission vehicles.” That vision includes electrifying all light-duty vehicles and making all medium and heavy-duty vehicles zero-emission (including electric, hydrogen, and other zero emissions technologies).

As noted in the 2020 EV Plan, transportation is projected to be the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state of Colorado by this year. Transitioning to to nearly a million EVs by 2030 could result in an annual reduction of 3 million tons of climate pollution in the state. De-carbonizing the transportation sector is a key strategy for meeting Colorado’s targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent (below 2005 levels) by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050, targets that are outlined in a state climate action law passed last year.
» Read article
» Read the plan

» More about clean transportation   

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

Maine proposes public utility
Maine utility critics plot public takeover of the state’s electric grid
Creating a publicly owned distribution utility could boost reliability and renewables, supporters of the proposal argue.
By Tom Perkins, Energy News Network
Photo by
Jim Bowen, Flickr / Creative Commons
May 13, 2020

Years of simmering frustration over power outages and transmission issues in Maine is fueling a pitch for a public takeover of the state’s electric grid.

Maine records longer and more frequent power outages than any other state, according to federal data. The state’s investor-owned utilities blame the state’s rugged topography, but critics say the companies have underinvested in the grid infrastructure that could improve reliability and better accommodate renewables.

Now, a bipartisan bill is proposing to buy the transmission and distribution infrastructure of Central Maine Power and Emera and create a new publicly owned utility to operate it.
» Read article      

» More about electric utilities     

EPA

intended consequences
EPA’s New ACE Rule for Power Plants Barely Decreases Emissions
By Yale Climate Connections, in EcoWatch
May 12, 2020

Last year, the EPA repealed the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era policy aimed at reducing carbon pollution from power plants.

The agency replaced it with the Affordable Clean Energy – or ACE – rule.

The new rule does not place limits on power plant pollution. Instead, it directs states to prioritize energy efficiency improvements at power plants. The idea is that more-efficient plants will burn less fuel.

“An unfortunate kind of unintended consequence of that approach is that those power plants then become more cost-effective to operate and tend to run more,” says Kathy Fallon Lambert of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment.

Her team analyzed EPA data about the expected impact of the ACE rule. Because some plants will likely run more and old power plants may be kept online longer, she says that over a fifth of power plants were estimated to have an increase in CO2 emissions.
» Read article
» Read the analysis          

» More about the EPA      

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

gas exports slow
Natural Gas Exports Slow as Pandemic Reduces Global Demand
Businesses in the United States, Israel and other countries were planning to invest billions in export terminals. Now, those projects are being canceled or delayed.
By Clifford Krauss, New York Times
May 11, 2020

HOUSTON — A few months ago, Israel and some Arab countries were laying the groundwork for an energy partnership that held the potential for economic cooperation between once-hostile neighbors.

Israel started selling natural gas to Egypt, which in turn was reviving two gas export terminals, attracting badly needed foreign investment and opening a path for Israeli gas to Europe. Lebanon was preparing to drill its first offshore gas well after years of delays. And Palestinian representatives joined a regional forum with officials from Israel and other countries to lift energy exports to Europe.

The damage to the gas trade goes well beyond the Middle East, hurting businesses from Australia to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The pandemic is putting the brakes on a two-decade-long global expansion for natural gas, which has been replacing coal for electricity and heating and even competing with oil as a transportation fuel in some developing countries.
» Read article      

» More about fossil fuels     

LNG

EU LNG from Russia
LNG Imports and New Supply Challenge Russia’s Hold on European Gas Market
By Yigal Chazan, Geopolitical Monitor
May 12, 2020

Russia’s dominance of Europe’s natural gas market, widely seen as threatening European energy security, is likely to be increasingly challenged as new suppliers establish a foothold in the region.

While Russia remains the European Union’s largest gas provider, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from the US and other sources, such as Qatar, coupled with the emergence of Azerbaijan as a major gas supplier, is creating real competition, reducing member states’ dependence on Russia.
» Read article      

US LNG tankers to Europe to see a bleak outlook starting June: traders
By Antoine Simon, S&P Global
April 29, 2020

London — With continued support in US Henry Hub natural gas prices reaching near parity with European gas benchmarks, Europe is set for far less US LNG imports starting in June, traders argue.

LNG prices have collapsed globally, as the fallout from the coronavirus continues to destroy demand in the fuels’s most significant geographic markets. Traders expect a diminishing fleet of US LNG tankers to Europe as a result.

Global LNG prices are not expected to recover significantly before next winter, further pressuring North American project developers that are trying to advance new liquefaction capacity at the same time the coronavirus pandemic is weakening demand, the International Gas Union said Monday.

An IGU report highlighted 907 million mt/year of liquefaction capacity that has been proposed and has yet to be sanctioned by a final investment decision.
» Read article      

» More about liquefied natural gas  

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Weekly News Check-In 5/8/20

WNCI-6

Welcome back.

A recent federal appeals court ruling against the water-crossing permit issued to Keystone XL by the Army Corps of Engineers may signal an end to easy pipeline permits in general. Big Oil is watching closely.

Our new section on greening the economy is a great place for thought-provoking articles, and this week is exceptional.  We include writing that discusses a potential green bias in future project financing, the issues surrounding “just transition” – compensation for displaced fossil fuel sector workers – and a must-read essay by science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson who suggests that the Covid-19 crisis and global response may open our collective imagination enough to tackle climate change.

Our climate section offers fresh examples of why we should hope Robinson is right. Unless we change our emissions trajectory soon, about one-third of humanity will find itself facing intolerable heat within 50 years. Unfortunately the Trump administration has pressed a sustained and effective attack on the very federal institutions that should be leading the climate fight.

That said, we have to give tentative credit to the Treasury Department for suggesting in a recent three-sentence letter that it will extend the federal renewable energy credit deadline for some projects delayed by the Covid-19 crisis. Stay tuned… this could be particularly beneficial to the wind industry.

We have some good/bad news on energy storage. Southern California Edison has commissioned a record amount of new capacity in an attempt to get ahead of planned natural gas power plant shut-downs. At the same time, Tesla has announced it will have trouble keeping up with demand.

The Environmental Protection Agency is a prime example of an agency that has been transformed under Trump to do industry’s bidding. Its latest attack on the use of science in the public interest involves an attempt to use a 19th century rule that legal scholars may not even apply to this agency. A court challenge is likely.

Regardless of all the help it gets from the federal government and its captured regulatory agencies, the fossil fuel industry as a whole is in deep trouble. We offer three insightful articles for a clear look at the situation from the oil patch to the securities trading floor.

Until recently considered a boon to shale gas producers, the dream of exporting liquefied natural gas to higher-priced foreign markets has sailed onto the rocks. Huge projects are being cancelled as investors and politicians recognize this new reality.

We close with an issue related to burning woody biomass for energy. A new United Nations report raises concern that global forest production can’t sustainably keep pace with all the various wood products a growing human population demands.

— The NFGiM Team

PIPELINES

big oil yellow light
Big Oil Fears Keystone XL Ruling Means End of Easy Pipeline Permits
By Steve Horn, DeSmog Blog
May 3, 2020

On April 15, Judge Brian Morris nullified water-crossing permits in Montana that were granted for the Keystone XL, a major setback for the long-embattled tar sands oil pipeline. The ruling came just days after Keystone XL owner TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada, obtained billions of dollars in subsidies from the Alberta government as global oil prices plummeted.

The oil and gas industry has taken notice. Seemingly just a ruling on Keystone XL — the subject of opposition by the climate movement for the past decade — the ruling could have far broader implications for the future of building water-crossing pipelines and utility lines.

In his decision, Judge Morris cited a potential violation of the Endangered Species Act when he ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do a deeper analysis of potential impacts to protected species. Morris required the Corps to demonstrate whether or not it could construct the pipeline without harming endangered species, such as the Pallid Sturgeon or the American burying beetle. Instead, the Army Corps “failed to consider relevant expert analysis and failed to articulate a rational connection between the facts it found and the choice it made,” Morris ruled, when the Corps gave Keystone XL the initial green light.
» Read article     

» More about pipelines

GREENING THE ECONOMY

financiers say rebuild green
Rich nations must make pandemic recovery plans green: global investors
By Simon Jessop and Kate Abnett, Reuters
May 4, 2020

LONDON (Reuters) – The world’s richest nations must ensure their COVID-19 recovery plans are sustainable and help meet the goals of the Paris climate accord, according to leading global investor groups that together manage trillions of dollars in assets.

While some members of the world’s 20 biggest economies such as Britain, France and Germany have made statements about doing just that, some of the biggest emitters such as China and the United States have yet to do so.

The intervention comes as more governments start to plan for the lifting of lockdown restrictions that have cratered the revenues of companies from airlines to retailers and radically changed the economics of the energy sector.

The groups said private capital would play a key role in the recovery, but investors needed long-term policies to be put in place that reflected the agreed move to a low-carbon economy.
» Read article     

one last puff
Looming Coal and Nuclear Plant Closures Put ‘Just Transition’ Concept to the Test
In Europe, the fate of displaced power plant workers is increasingly a matter of national concern. So far, things look very different in the U.S.
By Jason Deign, GreenTech Media
May 4, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has not changed the grim reality facing workers at coal and nuclear power plants in the U.S. and Europe. How those workers will fare in the years ahead will vary greatly based on where they live and the prevailing political winds.

In Europe, the retirement of aging plants is increasingly seen as a matter of national concern. Germany this year agreed to a €40 billion ($45 billion) compensation package for workers affected by the country’s planned phaseout of coal generation by 2038. Last month the Spanish authorities agreed a just transition plan affecting 2,300 workers across 12 thermal power plants that are due to close this year.

In contrast, there is no federal support plan for such workers in the U.S., said Tim Judson, executive director at the Maryland-based Nuclear Information and Resource Service, which lobbies for an end to nuclear and fossil-fuel power.
» Read article     

rewriting out imaginations
The Coronavirus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations
What felt impossible has become thinkable. The spring of 2020 is suggestive of how much, and how quickly, we can change as a civilization.
By Kim Stanley Robinson, The New Yorker
May 1, 2020

The Anthropocene, the Great Acceleration, the age of climate change—whatever you want to call it, we’ve been out of synch with the biosphere, wasting our children’s hopes for a normal life, burning our ecological capital as if it were disposable income, wrecking our one and only home in ways that soon will be beyond our descendants’ ability to repair. And yet we’ve been acting as though it were 2000, or 1990—as though the neoliberal arrangements built back then still made sense. We’ve been paralyzed, living in the world without feeling it.

Now, all of a sudden, we’re acting fast as a civilization. We’re trying, despite many obstacles, to flatten the curve—to avoid mass death. Doing this, we know that we’re living in a moment of historic importance. We realize that what we do now, well or badly, will be remembered later on. This sense of enacting history matters. For some of us, it partly compensates for the disruption of our lives.

Actually, we’ve already been living in a historic moment. For the past few decades, we’ve been called upon to act, and have been acting in a way that will be scrutinized by our descendants. Now we feel it. The shift has to do with the concentration and intensity of what’s happening.
» Read article     

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

diminished capacity
The Trump Administration Has “Corroded” Federal Environmental Science

A watchdog group’s new report documents the heavy toll that three and a half years of Trump-era attacks have had on environmental and public health research at government agencies.
By Emily Gertz, Drilled News
May 7, 2020

The Trump administration’s ongoing attacks on the budgets, staffing, and priorities of federal environmental agencies have “corroded our government’s ability to protect our nation’s ecology and public health,” according to a new report from Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, a government science watchdog.

“If there’s one overriding principle involved, it’s a pretty strategic taking-apart of government capacity to act in the public good,” said [the report’s lead author, Christopher Sellers, an environmental historian at Stony Brook University in New York].

The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative formed in late 2016 to archive and monitor federal climate and other environmental data, and to track changes to environmental, energy, and climate information on government websites.
» Read article     
» Read the report         

insufferable in fifty
One billion people will live in insufferable heat within 50 years – study
Human cost of climate crisis will hit harder and sooner than previously believed, research reveals
By Jonathan Watts, The Guardian
May 5, 2020

The human cost of the climate crisis will hit harder, wider and sooner than previously believed, according to a study that shows a billion people will either be displaced or forced to endure insufferable heat for every additional 1C rise in the global temperature.

In a worst-case scenario of accelerating emissions, areas currently home to a third of the world’s population will be as hot as the hottest parts of the Sahara within 50 years, the paper warns. Even in the most optimistic outlook, 1.2 billion people will fall outside the comfortable “climate niche” in which humans have thrived for at least 6,000 years.

The authors of the study said they were “floored” and “blown away” by the findings because they had not expected our species to be so vulnerable.
» Read article
» Read the study

leases vacated in Montana
Judge Vacates Oil and Gas Leases on 145,000 Acres in Montana
A federal judge, rapping the Trump administration for its weak environmental assessments, has vacated hundreds of oil and gas leases across a large swath of Montana.
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
May 1, 2020

WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Friday vacated 287 oil and gas leases on almost 150,000 acres of land in Montana, ruling that the Trump administration had improperly issued the leases to energy companies in 2017 and 2018.

The judge, Brian Morris of the United States District Court for the District of Montana, said the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management failed to adequately take into account the environmental impacts of the drilling. In particular, Judge Morris found that the officials had not accounted for the drilling’s impact on regional water supplies and the global impact that the increased drilling would have on climate change.

The decision is at least the third such legal loss that criticized the Trump administration for failing to consider the cumulative impacts of expanding fossil fuel production on the warming of the planet.
» Read article     

» More about climate

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

deadline relief for wind
US Treasury to Tweak Tax Credit Deadlines for Renewables Projects
A letter issued by the Treasury Department suggests relief may be on the way for an anxious renewables market, particularly wind developers.
By Emma Foehringer Merchant, GreenTech Media
May 7, 2020

A concise three-sentence letter sent by the U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday suggests relief may be on the way for a renewables industry concerned about meeting quickly approaching tax credit deadlines.

The letter came in response to a late April appeal from a bipartisan group of senators who asked that the department extend deadlines for solar and wind developers looking to qualify projects for the federal Investment Tax Credit and Production Tax Credit. In the letter, addressed to Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, a long-time champion of the U.S. wind industry, Treasury said that it “plans to modify the relevant rules in the near future.”

That statement, though short on detail, may give breathing room to developers scrambling to keep projects on track as COVID-19-fueled delays throw schedules into disarray.
» Read article     

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

hockey stick growth
SCE procures 770 MW of battery storage to bolster California’s grid as gas plants approach retirement
By Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive
May 5, 2020

Southern California Edison (SCE) is procuring a 770 MW/3,080 MWh package of battery resources to bolster grid reliability, the utility announced May 1, in what would be one of the largest storage procurements made in the United States to date.

The battery projects will “enhance electric grid reliability and help address potential energy shortfalls identified in California,” SCE said in a press release, adding that they would also help California’s broader clean energy transition as multiple coastal once-through-cooling (OTC) plants approach retirement dates in the next three years.

The scale of the projects is “hard to describe,” Daniel Finn-Foley, head of energy storage at Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables, told Utility Dive, since this single procurement is more than the entire energy storage market in the U.S. for all of 2019.
» Read article     

storage demand high
‘Tremendous demand for stationary storage’ outstrips Tesla’s 2020 supply capability, Musk says
By Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive
May 1, 2020

Tesla cannot meet the “tremendous demand” in 2020 for its energy storage products, like the large-scale Megapack battery systems, co-founder and CEO Elon Musk said during the company’s Q1 earnings call on Wednesday.

The company lists several COVID-19 impacts in its SEC filing, such as suspensions of operations at its facilities in Shanghai and New York, and deployment delays caused by closed government offices and businesses.

The pandemic is spurring the company to take a closer look at its cost structure, Musk said on the call.

“And we came to a conclusion that… the right move was actually to continue to expand rapidly, continue to invest in the future and in new technologies, even though it is risky. And we’ve talked to some of our key investors, and they support that approach as well,” he said, adding that long-term prospects for Tesla are extremely good.
» Read article     

» More about energy storage

EPA

bad housekeeping
Agency leans on 1870s ‘housekeeping’ law to block science
By Jean Chemnick, E&E News
May 8, 2020

EPA is trying to use a 19th-century statute giving department heads the right to manage personnel and internal record keeping to contain the science it uses when drafting regulations, including those on greenhouse gases.

The March supplementary proposal for a rule EPA bills as improving transparency of the science and modeling that underpin important agency work points to an obscure “housekeeping statute” enacted in 1874. It has roots in laws enacted under President Washington when early federal agencies were founded.

The agency’s gambit highlights the lengths to which the Trump administration will go, critics say, to cement the president’s anti-regulatory agenda ahead of a possible second term, or to try to tie the hands of subsequent administrations.
» Read article     

state enforcement lags
As EPA Backs Off Enforcement, States and Cities Have Little Capacity to Fill Gap
State and local governments often have authority but lack the resources and political will to enforce pollution rules.
By Kari Lydersen, Energy News Network
May 5, 2020

Since the Trump administration announced the suspension of much environmental enforcement during the coronavirus pandemic, advocates are calling on state and local regulators, as well as watchdog groups, to step up their efforts to fill the gap.

But that won’t be easy, whether in a Democratic-controlled state like Illinois or a Republican one like Indiana, given the impacts of the pandemic and past staffing and budget cuts that have curbed the ability of states to carry out enforcement.

In a March 26 letter, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicated that polluters won’t be fined for failure to meet federal standards during the pandemic. Some experts feel the administration is using the pandemic to continue a trend of backing off on enforcement.
» Read article     

fine particulates vs science
EPA Decides to Reject the Latest Science, Endanger Public Health and Ignore the Law by Keeping an Outdated Fine Particle Air Pollution Standard
By H. Christopher Frey, DeSmog Blog – Opinion
May 5, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdown have temporarily produced clearer skies across the U.S. Meanwhile, however, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been busy finding reasons not to pursue long-lasting air quality gains.

On April 30, 2020, the agency published a proposed new rule that retains current National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter without any revisions. It took this action after a five-year review process, in which scientific evidence showed unequivocally that these standards are not adequate to protect public health.
» Read article     

» More about EPA      

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

oil chaos
Oil chaos: Why is it so hard to cut production?
By Mike Lee and Carlos Anchondo, E&E News
May 6, 2020

Last week’s round of earnings reports shows that oil companies are finally starting to pull back on their production in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Big and small companies alike announced that they’re shutting down rigs and closing down wells. Exxon Mobil Corp. said it plans to mothball 75% of its rigs in the Permian Basin.

But the response came more than a month after oil prices started to fall, leaving many observers asking: Why didn’t the industry hit the brakes sooner?
» Read article     

feels different this time
‘This Feels Very Different’
For over a decade, the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico has been the epicenter of the American oil boom. Now, it’s the epicenter of its demise.
By Tamir Kalifa and Clifford Krauss, New York Times
May 1, 2020

The Permian Basin, which stretches across Texas and New Mexico and is almost as big as Britain, accounts for one out of every three barrels of oil produced in the United States.

The region has a storied history. It provided much of the oil for the American and Allied effort during World War II. In the 1970s, the basin created so many millionaires that many drank champagne out of cowboy boots and had trouble finding places to park their private planes.

That was followed by a crash, after which a popular bumper sticker appeared everywhere: “God Grant Me One More Oil Boom and I Promise Not to Screw It Up.”
» Read article     

From Supermajors to Superminors: the fall of Big Oil
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
May 1, 2020

It is increasingly looking like COVID-19 could be Big Oil’s Kodak moment. For over a century these firms have been titans of business, offering a steady financial return in good times and bad.

But most importantly, they have been immovable pillars of stone for investors in times of turmoil. Whatever the financial weather, the companies rewarded their investors.

Although we are in times of trouble now, the supermajor oil companies, which we often describe as Big Oil: BP, Chevron, Eni, Exxon, Shell, Total, and ConocoPhilips, are anything but a safe bet right now.
» Read article     

» More about fossil fuels

LNG

dead in the water
Irish LNG Plan That Would Allow US Fracked Gas Imports ‘Dead in the Water’
By John Gibbons, DeSmog Blog
May 4, 2020

It is increasingly unlikely that Ireland will develop new infrastructure to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) produced from fracked wells in the US, after the plans suffered a series of potentially fatal legal and political setbacks.

First, the European Court of Justice advocate general, Juliane Kokott, ruled that An Bord Pleanála, Ireland’s planning appeals body, erred in not requesting an up-to-date environmental impact study for the proposed Shannon LNG terminal before extending planning permission for a planned project. The decision means the case would have to be referred back to Ireland’s High Court.

Meanwhile, the political climate regarding the project has turned distinctly hostile, with the two major centrist parties Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil this week signing a joint letter that appears to signal the death knell for the LNG project.
» Read article     

» More about LNG

BIOMASS

not enough wood
Is There Enough Wood in the World to Meet the Sustainability Demand?
By Deutsche Welle, EcoWatch
May 4, 2020

According to the latest figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), global forest production hit record levels in 2018. Up 11% on the year before.

“We see an increasing demand for almost all of our products,” says Göran Örlander, strategist at Södra, Sweden’s largest association of forest owners. “The most obvious demand is for biofuels at the moment. Everybody wants to have biofuels to replace fossil fuels.”

The idea is that burning wood becomes close to carbon neutral if the forests from where it is taken are replenished at the same rate as they are felled for fuel.

But critics question whether this is the case in every country which claims to provide sustainable wood, and say some of what is supplying the current boom in biomass fuels comes from existing forests rather than sustainably managed plantations.

They also point to the carbon emitted from the soil of cleared forests, and to the emissions created in the felling and processing of wood products.
» Read article     

» More about biomass

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Weekly News Check-In 5/1/20

WNCI-5

Welcome back.

Construction on the Keystone XL and other major gas pipelines is currently on hold due to legal problems with a blanket nationwide permit administered by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Persistence by students spearheading the divestment movement has carried the day, with the University of Oxford announcing the greening of its portfolio. A couple of other prominent universities announced their own fossil fuel divestment shortly afterward.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), is being grilled by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in D.C. regarding its use of tolling orders, which effectively delay landowner legal action against pipelines, even while construction is allowed to proceed on their seized land.

An awful lot of climate-related reporting this week concerns Michael Moore’s documentary “Planet of the Humans”, released on Earth Day and viewed on YouTube over four million times by now. The overwhelming response from the environmental community is one of disappointment. We offer several articles that critique the film on its merits.

The economic and human devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has opened up a lively conversation in the media about greening the economy – imagining how we might leverage this singular moment to fundamentally change the contract between us and Earth. We’ve started collecting those stories in a new section.

Clean energy and clean transportation, while hampered by the Trump administration, are still moving ahead. We found articles that explain community solar and community choice aggregation of electricity supply. Also, the challenge of owning an electric car if you live in a city and don’t have a garage to charge it in.

Our fossil fuel industry section has another report on its crumbling finances. Also, there’s new satellite evidence of what ground-based investigations had already shown: the Permian Basin is emitting massive plumes of methane.

We keep an eye on developments in the biomass-to-energy industry. This week we found encouraging news from Virginia and North Carolina – two states that recently closed the door on further biomass development and debunked the idea that it’s a “clean” form of renewable energy. Meanwhile, an investigation in Vancouver, B.C. revealed that woody biomass suppliers are converting whole trees to pellets – not merely using the waste bits as promised.

We close with some good reporting on microplastics in the oceans and on the search for chemical methods of plastics recycling.

— The NFGiM Team

PIPELINES

NWP found illegal
After Keystone Ruling, Corps of Engineers Suspends Key U.S. Project Permit
By Mary B. Powers, Engineering News-Record
April 26, 2020

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has now temporarily halted permit approvals under its blanket process to allow energy, power and possibly other project construction that crosses streams and wetlands, after a federal judge on April 15 called the nationwide permitting method illegal and overturned the permit issued for the Keystone XL pipeline now under way in Montana.

The delay, of unspecified duration, was confirmed by the Corps to the Associated Press, it reported on April 23. The agency said notifications approving permits for at least 360 projects under the so-called Nationwide Permit-12 program are affected as it reviews new legal issues.
» Read article     

Keystone XL Pipeline Ruling Could Hamper U.S. Energy Project Permits
Federal judge vacates Army Corps Nationwide Permit 12
By Pam Radtke Russell, Engineering News-Record
April 17, 2020

A federal court ruling on April 15 halting construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline over U.S. water bodies could have far-reaching implications for all utility-related projects that need to quickly obtain a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ blanket permit—known as Nationwide Permit 12—to take construction across water.

“It has nationwide impacts. NWP 12 cannot be used going forward in expedited approval,” says Larry Liebesman, a senior adviser at Washington, D.C.-based water resources consulting firm Dawson & Associates.
» Read article     

» More about pipelines      

DIVESTMENT

Oxford divests
Oxford University bans investment in fossil fuels after student campaigns
Decision comes after high-profile protests that saw campaigners occupy St John’s College
By Samuel Lovett, Independent
April 22, 2020

The University of Oxford has agreed to divest from fossil fuels and commit to a net-zero investment strategy following extensive student-led campaigns and protests.

In a motion passed by Oxford’s governing body, the Congregation, which is made up of 5,500 academic and administrative members, the university is now required to cut all ties with fossil fuel firms and end future investment in these companies.

The resolution also dictates that managers of the university’s endowment, which amounts to £3bn, must acquire evidence of “net-zero business plans” from companies within Oxford’s portfolio of investments.
Note from Bill McKibben’s The Climate Crisis newsletter for New Yorker magazine: “Oxford’s action was followed, within twenty-four hours, by similar steps from American University, in Washington, D.C., and by the University of Guelph, in Ontario. In all three cases, several generations of students had pushed for the action, been rejected, and come back again.”
» Read article     

» More about divestment       

FERC

tolling orders in the dock
DC Circuit grills FERC on use of tolling orders on Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, other natural gas projects
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
April 28, 2020

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held an en banc hearing on Monday to examine federal energy regulators’ use of tolling orders, particularly regarding the approval of the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline.

Tolling orders are an accessible tool for FERC to delay judgement on rehearing requests when more time is needed to consider arguments regarding the legality of the commission’s actions. FERC attorney Robert Kennedy said tolling orders are “generally entered almost as a matter of routine.”

Petitioners argued that pipeline projects have been completed while opponents were unable to litigate because a tolling order was in place.

“This case is exceptionally important because it brings to light a habitual practice by [FERC] that raises serious questions of fairness, due process and legality. And the commission’s defense in no way addressed how [a FERC order] can be final for some but not for others,” NRDC’s Giannetti told Utility Dive.
» Merriam-Webster: en banc – in full court : with full judiciary authority (An en banc hearing is a kind of appeal in which a much larger group of judges hears a case.)
» Read article     

pipeline markers
Chatterjee defends how FERC treats protesting landowners
By Mike Soraghan, E&E News
April 28, 2020

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee says his agency has been doing a “great job” in speeding up the process for complaints from landowners in the path of pipelines.

But the agency won’t provide numbers to back that up, and an E&E News analysis of recent protests found many still move slowly. And landowner advocates say Chatterjee’s attempt at accelerating cases doesn’t get at the real problem.

Long-standing FERC practice allows the agency to stall the protests of landowners while allowing pipeline companies to seize their land for construction. But that practice has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months.

A House committee is investigating FERC’s treatment of landowners. And a federal appellate judge last August called the legal limbo created by the agency “Kafkaesque.”
» Read article     

» More about FERC     

CLIMATE

planet of the ecofascists
Planet of the Ecofascists
Almost everything in Michael Moore’s supposed documentary Planet of the Humans is out of date, which undermines any potential the film had to bring important critiques of technological solutions to climate change to light.
By Amy Westervelt, Drilled News
April 29, 2020

As of this writing, Planet of the Humans has been viewed more than four million times. Now that I’ve watched it myself, let me say up front that there are kernels of truth here that would have made for an important and interesting documentary, if Moore and director Jeff Gibbs had brought more intellectual honesty to bear on the project.

Good documentary filmmaking hews closely to the ethics of journalism. Sure, you’re looking for a narrative thread that keeps audiences engaged. But you don’t cherry-pick the facts to include only those people and data that prove the pre-determined point you want to make — unless you’re Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs, apparently. To justify their main argument, which is that the only way to address climate change is via population control, they veer sharply away from documentary and into commentary, leaning on wildly outdated information, often inaccurate data points and a bizarre obsession with Big Green as the real problem blocking action on climate. Let’s explore these issues in detail:
» Read article     

not even a documentary
Michael Moore produced a film about climate change that’s a gift to Big Oil
Planet of the Humans deceives viewers about clean energy and climate activists.
By Leah C. Stokes, Vox
Apr 28, 2020

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. To celebrate the occasion, filmmaker Michael Moore dropped a new movie he produced, Planet of the Humans. In less than a week, it has racked up over 3 million views on YouTube.

But the film, directed by Jeff Gibbs, a long-time Moore collaborator, is not the climate message we’ve all been waiting for — it’s a nihilistic take, riddled with errors about clean energy and climate activism. With very little evidence, it claims that renewables are disastrous and that environmental groups are corrupt.

What’s more, it has nothing to say about fossil fuel corporations, who have pushed climate denial and blocked progress on climate policy for decades. Given the film’s loose relationship to facts, I’m not even sure it should be classified as a documentary.
» Read article     

new low for MM
Climate experts call for ‘dangerous’ Michael Moore film to be taken down
Planet of the Humans, which takes aim at the green movement, is ‘full of misinformation’ says one distributor
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
April 28, 2020

A new Michael Moore-produced documentary that takes aim at the supposed hypocrisy of the green movement is “dangerous, misleading and destructive” and should be removed from public viewing, according to an assortment of climate scientists and environmental campaigners.

The film, Planet of the Humans, was released on the eve of Earth Day last week by its producer, Michael Moore, the baseball cap-wearing documentarian known for Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine. Describing itself as a “full-frontal assault on our sacred cows”, the film argues that electric cars and solar energy are unreliable and rely upon fossil fuels to function. It also attacks figures including Al Gore for bolstering corporations that push flawed technologies over real solutions to the climate crisis.

A letter written by Josh Fox, who made the documentary Gasland, and signed by various scientists and activists, has urged the removal of “shockingly misleading and absurd” film for making false claims about renewable energy. Planet of the Humans “trades in debunked fossil fuel industry talking points” that question the affordability and reliability of solar and wind energy, the letter states, pointing out that these alternatives are now cheaper to run than fossil fuels such as coal.

Michael Mann, a climate scientist and signatory to Fox’s letter, said the film includes “various distortions, half-truths and lies” and that the filmmakers “have done a grave disservice to us and the planet by promoting climate change inactivist tropes and talking points.” The film’s makers did not respond to questions over whether it will be pulled down.
» Read article     
» Read Josh Fox’s letter

stressed-out trees
‘We Need to Hear These Poor Trees Scream’: Unchecked Global Warming Means Big Trouble for Forests
New studies show drought and heat waves will cause massive die-offs, killing most trees alive today.
By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
Apr 25, 2020

“It’s our choice of how much worse we want it to get. Every little bit of reduction of warming can have a positive effect. We can reduce the tree die-off. Are we going to make the choices to try and minimize that?”

Breshears has used tree mortality data to try and make near real-time projections for tree die-offs in the Southwest. This would help adapt forest management, including firefighting, to rapidly changing conditions in a region where an emerging megadrought has already weakened and killed hundreds of millions of trees, including Rocky Mountain lodgepole and piñon pines, as well as aspens.

Elsewhere, African cedars and acacias are dying, South America’s Amazon rainforest is struggling, and junipers are declining in the Middle East. In Spain and Greece, global warming is shriveling oaks, and even in moist, temperate northern Europe, unusual droughts have stressed vast stands of beech forests.

At the current pace of warming, much of the world will be inhospitable to forests as we know them within decades. The extinction of some tree species by direct or indirect action of drought and high temperatures is certain. And some recent research suggests that, in 40 years, none of the trees alive today will be able to survive the projected climate, Brodribb said.
» Read article     

» More about climate       

GREENING THE ECONOMY

co-ops dah
Want to Rebuild the Economy with Clean Energy? Germany Offers 20 Years of Lessons
Hundreds of wind and solar co-ops have taken on big utilities and shown they can reliably power the grid—and hugely reduce emissions.
By Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
April 30, 2020

BERLIN—Twenty years ago, before climate change was as widely seen as the existential threat it is today, Germany embarked on an ambitious program to transform the way it produced electric power.

Over the next two decades, it became a model for countries around the world, showing how renewable energy could replace fossil fuels in a way that drew wide public buy-in by passing on the benefits—and much of the control—to local communities.

The steps Germany took on this journey, and the missteps it made along the way, provide critical lessons for other countries seeking to fight climate change.
» Read article     

Megalopolis coal smog
Emissions Declines Will Set Records This Year. But It’s Not Good News.
An “unprecedented” fall in fossil fuel use, driven by the Covid-19 crisis, is likely to lead to a nearly 8 percent drop, according to new research.
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
April 30, 2020

WASHINGTON — Global greenhouse gas emissions are on track to plunge nearly 8 percent this year, the largest drop ever recorded, as worldwide lockdowns to fight the coronavirus have triggered an “unprecedented” decline in the use of fossil fuels, the International Energy Agency said in a new report on Thursday.

But experts cautioned that the drop should not be seen as good news for efforts to tackle climate change. When the pandemic subsides and nations take steps to restart their economies, emissions could easily soar again unless governments make concerted efforts to shift to cleaner energy as part of their recovery efforts.

“This historic decline in emissions is happening for all the wrong reasons,” said Fatih Birol, the agency’s executive director. “People are dying and countries are suffering enormous economic trauma right now. The only way to sustainably reduce emissions is not through painful lockdowns, but by putting the right energy and climate policies in place.”
» Read article     

Merkel wants green recovery
Germany’s Merkel wants green recovery from coronavirus crisis
By Michael Nienaber, Markus Wacket, Reuters
April 28, 2020

BERLIN (Reuters) – Governments should focus on climate protection when considering fiscal stimulus packages to support an economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday.

Her comments are the clearest sign yet that Merkel wants to combine the task of helping companies recover from the pandemic with the challenge of setting more incentives for reducing carbon emissions.

Speaking at a virtual climate summit known as the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, Merkel said she expected difficult discussions about how to design post-crisis stimulus measures and about which business sectors need more help than others.

“It will be all the more important that if we set up economic stimulus programmes, we must always keep a close eye on climate protection,” Merkel said, adding the focus should be laid on supporting modern technologies and renewable energies.
» Read article     

climate-positive plan
A Time to Save the Sick and Rescue the Planet
With closer cooperation among nations, the head of the United Nations argues, we could stop a pandemic faster and slow climate change.
By António Guterres, New York Times Opinion
Mr. Guterres is the secretary general of the United Nations. Before that, he was the United Nations high commissioner for refugees.
April 28, 2020

Addressing climate change and Covid-19 simultaneously and at enough scale requires a response stronger than any seen before to safeguard lives and livelihoods. A recovery from the coronavirus crisis must not take us just back to where we were last summer. It is an opportunity to build more sustainable and inclusive economies and societies — a more resilient and prosperous world. Recently the International Renewable Energy Agency released data showing that transforming energy systems could boost global G.D.P. by $98 trillion by 2050, delivering 2.4 percent more G.D.P. growth than current plans. Boosting investments in renewable energy alone would add 42 million jobs globally, create health care savings eight times the cost of the investment, and prevent a future crisis.

I am proposing six climate-positive actions for governments to consider once they go about building back their economies, societies and communities.
» Read article     

Wellington cable car
New Zealand calls for thousands of new ‘green’ jobs in bold comeback plan
By Christian Cotroneo, Mother Nature Network
April 27, 2020

There’s plenty of speculation over the origins of the pandemic that has ground much of the world to a halt. But there’s little doubt about who caused it. As a panel of international scientists noted in a release issued this week, “There is a single species that is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic — us.”

The statement — authored by professors Josef Settele, Sandra Díaz, Eduardo Brondizio and zoologist Peter Daszak — goes on to point the finger squarely at our obsession with “economic growth at any cost.”

“Rampant deforestation, uncontrolled expansion of agriculture, intensive farming, mining and infrastructure development, as well as the exploitation of wild species have created a ‘perfect storm’ for the spillover of diseases from wildlife to people.”

Now, the real question is how do we make things right in the world, while avoiding the mistakes that brought us here in the first place? At least one major political party thinks it has the answer.
» Read article     
» Read the statement by Settele, et al.

» More about greening the economy  

CLEAN ENERGY

Dirty Energy Dan
Billions in Clean Energy Loans Go Unused as Coronavirus Ravages Economy
As Congress rushes out trillions of dollars to prop up businesses, the Energy Department is holding on to tens of billions in clean energy loans.
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
April 30, 2020

WASHINGTON — As the government struggles to keep businesses afloat through the pandemic, the Trump administration is sitting on about $43 billion in low-interest loans for clean energy projects, and critics are accusing the Energy Department of partisan opposition to disbursing the funds.

The loans — which would aid renewable power, nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage technology — had some bipartisan support even before the coronavirus pushed 30 million people onto the unemployment rolls. But some supporters of the program said it was being held back by a president who has falsely claimed wind power causes cancer and consistently sought deep cuts to renewable energy spending, including the loan program.
» Read article     

community solar explained
So, What Exactly Is Community Solar?
Not everyone can have solar on their own roof. A new GTM series helps explain the weird and wonderful world of clean energy.
By Emma Foehringer Merchant, GreenTech Media
April 30, 2020

Residential solar has grown by leaps and bounds in the U.S. over the past two decades, but let’s face it: Not everyone can have solar on their own roof.

As many as three-quarters of American households are unable to access rooftop solar — because they rent, or live in an apartment building, or a rooftop system is not affordable for them.

Enter community solar: a simple, even elegant concept. Neighbors who are unable to build their own solar systems can join together, build a larger and more cost-efficient solar array nearby, and use the energy it provides to power their homes. Like many simple concepts, however, the details can quickly become overwhelming.

In the first of a new series of explanatory articles, GTM will help you understand what community solar is and how it works.
» Read article

CCA trending
Community Choice Aggregation: A Local, Viable Option for Renewable Energy
By The Climate Reality Project, EcoWatch
April 25, 2020

Cities and counties across the country are choosing to create community choice aggregation (CCA) programs, sometimes known as community choice energy or municipal aggregation.

In this alternative system, municipalities can secure the electricity supply and determine the electricity portfolio on behalf of their customers, while still relying on existing infrastructure to deliver the electricity. By aggregating the demand for electricity, local communities can negotiate rates and increase their use of renewables. CCAs allow for communities to have more control over their electricity sources, lessening the control investor-owned utilities can exert on a community.
» Read article     

» More about clean energy     

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

charger desert
‘Charger Desert’ in Big Cities Keeps Electric Cars From Mainstream
For city dwellers who would love an E.V., the biggest hurdle might be keeping it juiced up without a garage or other convenient charging stations.
By Lawrence Ulrich, New York Times
April 16, 2020

There are people across America who would buy an electric car tomorrow — if only they had someplace to plug it in. Forget oft-cited “range anxiety,” many experts say: The real deal-killer, especially for city and apartment dwellers, is a dearth of chargers where they park their cars.

Call it the Great Disconnect. In townhomes, apartments and condos, in dense cities and still-snug suburbs, plenty of people, worried about climate change, would make for a potentially receptive audience for E.V.s. But without a garage, they often feel locked out of the game.
» Read article     

Transportation Electrification Partnership proposes $150B federal stimulus package
By Cailin Crowe, Utility Dive
April 27, 2020

The public-private Transportation Electrification Partnership (TEP), led by the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), wrote a $150 billion federal stimulus proposal to create jobs, reduce air pollution and build climate resilience in Los Angeles County and beyond, amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The proposal includes a call for a $10 billion investment in EV charging infrastructure for light duty vehicles. According to the proposal, 84,000 public and workplace chargers in LA County are needed by 2028 to support air pollution reduction and climate resilience. It suggests investing in initiatives like installing curbside charging infrastructure on streetlights for drivers who don’t have access to charging at home — an initiative the City of Los Angeles has already successfully put to use.
» Read article     

» More about clean transportation    

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Permian methane flare
New Satellite Data Reveals Dangerous Methane Emissions in Permian Region
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
April 25, 2020

New research based on satellite data confirms that the oil and gas industry in the Permian region of Texas and New Mexico is leaking record amounts of methane. The new research published in the journal Science Advances found that methane emissions in the Permian Basin were equivalent to 3.7 percent of the total methane produced by the oil and gas industry there.

In December DeSmog reported on the work of Robert Howarth, a biogeochemist at Cornell University, who has been studying the methane emissions of the oil and gas industry. Howarth’s latest research estimated that 3.4 percent of all natural gas produced from shale in the U.S. is leaked throughout the production cycle, which appears to be confirmed by this new research.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and makes up approximately 90 percent of what is known as natural gas. It’s a major contributor to global warming.

The oil and gas industry has long tried to sell the idea of natural gas, which is, again, primarily methane, as a clean energy climate solution. However, with a leakage rate of 3.7 percent, natural gas is actually worse for the climate than coal.
» Read article     
» Read the research paper

As BP’s profits plunge, analysts say we are entering the “end-game” for oil
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
April 29, 2020

Sometimes hyperbole is overused, but more and more commentators are saying that the COVID-19 pandemic is going to fundamentally redefine the global oil industry, with many companies not surviving the pandemic at all.

Investors are going to lose billions of dollars, which could be much better and wiser spent on investing in a just clean transition. But will they listen before the lose?

The warning signs are growing.
» Read article     

» More about fossil fuels         

BIOMASS

whole trees to pellets
Trees harvested for biomass energy under scrutiny
Environmental groups say wood pellet makers now using live, whole trees
By Nelson Bennett, BIV
April 26, 2020

One of the more contentious sources of renewable energy is biomass – i.e. burning wood pellets instead of coal or natural gas to generate heat or electricity.

The controversy could grow in B.C, as wood pellet producers appear to be resorting to using more live whole trees to produce wood pellets for export, as opposed to just wood waste.

Two B.C. wood pellet producers – Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. (TSX:PL) and Pacific BioEnergy – are being singled out by Stand.earth in a new report that suggests that the companies are now using what appears to be live, whole trees.

“Wood pellets are obviously the worst and lowest use of our last primary forests in the interior,said Michelle Connolly, director of Conservation North, which has documented the use of whole trees at B.C. pellet plants.

“The B.C. government assured us that green trees would not be used in pellet plants, and clearly that’s not true.”
» Read article     
» Read report

Virginia and North Carolina Show Biomass the Exits
By Sami Yassa, Natural Resources Defense Council / Expert Blog
April 26, 2020


Over the past 6 months, two southeastern states, Virginia and North Carolina, have taken landmark actions to ensure that dirty, destructive forest biomass for electricity has no place in the clean energy future of the region. In March, the Virginia legislature passed its landmark Clean Economy Act, which was signed into law by Governor Northam. Prior to that, North Carolina issued its final Clean Energy Plan under Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 80. In both cases, bold state action rejected biomass for electricity as a clean energy source and articulated compelling rationales to limit and restrict any future growth of the industry.

These back-to-back actions by neighboring states have created a long-overdue policy rejection of forest biomass for electricity driven by a groundswell of objection from concerned citizens. The actions send a clear signal that leaders in the region have no appetite for the unfounded subsidies and warped policies in the EU and UK. These subsidies drive the ecological destruction of the region’s forests, threaten their most vulnerable communities with disproportionate impacts, and accelerate climate change.
» Read article     
» Read VA’s Clean Economy Act
» Read NC’s Clean Energy Plan

» More about biomass     

PLASTICS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

microplastics on sea floorScientists Discover Highest Concentration of Deep-Sea Microplastics to Date
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
May 1, 2020

Scientists have discovered the highest concentration of microplastics ever recorded on the seafloor—1.9 million pieces in one square meter (approximately 11 square feet) of the Mediterranean.

But the finding, published in Science Thursday, suggests a much broader problem as deep-sea currents carry plastics to microplastic “hotspots” that may also be deep-sea ecosystems rich in biodiversity. For study coauthor professor Elda Miramontes of the University of Bremen, Germany, the results were a call to action.

Of the more than ten million tons of plastic that enter the world’s oceans every year, less than one percent of it stays on the surface. Researchers at the University of Bremen, IFREMER in France, the universities of Manchester and Durham and the National Oceanography Centre in the UK set out to discover what happens to the remaining 99 percent, a University of Manchester press release explained.

They determined that it doesn’t settle on the bottom evenly, but is instead pushed together with other sediments by deep-sea currents.
» Read article     

» More about plastics, health, and the environment      

PLASTICS RECYCLING

exploring chem recycling
Plastic pollution: why chemical recycling could provide a solution
By Alvin Orbaek White, The Conversation
April 21, 2020

The world is drowning in plastic. About 60% of the more than 8,700 million metric tonnes of plastic ever made is no longer in use, instead sat mostly in landfill or released to the environment. That equals over 400kg of plastic waste for every one of the 7.6 billion people on the planet.

One reason for this is that many plastics are not recyclable in our current system. And even those that are recyclable still go to landfill eventually.

Plastics cannot be recycled infinitely, at least not using traditional techniques. Most are only given one new lease of life before they end up in the earth, the ocean or an incinerator. But there is hope in a different form of recycling known as chemical recycling.
» Read article     

» More about plastics recycling    

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Weekly News Check-In 4/24/20

WNCI-4

Welcome back.

We lead with wonderful and informative conversation between Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and Alice Arena, Director of FRRACS, about efforts to stop construction of the Weymouth compressor station. Watch the Youtube video, and then please sign the Sierra Club petition asking the Baker administration to take action.

Earth day week happened mostly online. Bill McKibben wrote a remembrance of the original event, and described how to cut the money pipeline to industries that stand between people and a sustainable future.

Our climate section considers how best to move on from the current crisis. We include a seven-part overview of climate change itself, a profile of Earth Day’s visionary first organizer Denis Hayes, and articles about methane emissions and Antarctic ice melt.

The message from our clean energy section is one of abundant opportunity for post-pandemic economic recovery, coupled with warnings that “green” energy isn’t benign. We need to proceed carefully in its development while simultaneously reducing overall energy consumption through significantly increased efficiency in all sectors.

Some of that increased efficiency can be gained in transportation simply by providing infrastructure that allows for less travel. To this end, we offer a story on the need for universal broadband internet access across western Massachusetts. Among other things, this would allow many more people to work or study from home.

The fossil fuel industry is a mess. We found some great articles about what happens when you mix fracked-up finances, low-to-negative oil prices, and government bailout money. Recall that the industry’s troubles predate the coronavirus pandemic. It is time to consider how to wind this industry down.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) collected a couple more lawsuits challenging its preferential treatment of fossil fuel projects. This includes a potentially important action from Food & Water Watch in partnership with our own Berkshire Environmental Action Team. If successful, it will finally force FERC to consider the upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions associated with gas and oil pipeline projects.

Keeping with the theme of organizations behaving badly, we close with an article describing how Eversource is refusing to discuss its current rate hike plan with the Office of the Consumer Advocate in New Hampshire.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION


Earth Day conversation with Senator Ed Markey and FRRACS president Alice Arena
Youtube
April 22, 2020

The Weymouth compressor station is a public health hazard. Join me and Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station President Alice Arena for an EarthDay conversation about how we can stop the compressor station and hold Enbridge accountable.
» Sign Sierra Club’s petition, calling for Baker to bar construction on the compressor station
» Watch recorded video

Weymouth COVID plan
Markey, Warren seek Weymouth compressor station’s coronavirus plan
By Joe DiFazio, The Patriot Ledger
April 19, 2020

WEYMOUTH — The state’s two U.S. senators are asking Enbridge, the company currently building a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, what steps it is taking to mitigate potential risks to workers and the community as construction continues through the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter sent to the company on Friday, Democrats Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, are asking the company for “information about the measures that Enbridge is taking to protect workers and prevent the transmission of the coronavirus at the Weymouth construction site.”

“Given the highly contagious nature of this disease, public health experts have recommended social distancing measures that keep physical interactions to a minimum — a near-impossibility on a construction site,” the letter said. “Although compressor stations have been deemed essential services, thus allowing construction to continue, it is still important to take all possible steps to protect the workers and surrounding community members.”

The senators said they wanted a copy of a pandemic plan from Enbridge and all on-site contractors by April 25, detailing steps taken to protect workers and the surrounding communities, and how Enbridge would monitor and ensure compliance for the measures.
» Read article

» More about the Weymouth compressor station           

DIVESTMENT

Earth Day stop the money pipeline
This Earth Day, Stop the Money Pipeline
By Bill McKibben, DeSmog Blog
April 21, 2020

It’s no wonder that people mobilized: 20 million Americans took to the streets for the first Earth Day in 1970 — 10 percent of America’s population at the time, perhaps the single greatest day of political protest in the country’s history. And it worked. Worked politically because Congress quickly passed the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act and scientifically because those laws had the desired effect. In essence, they stuck enough filters on smokestacks, car exhausts, and factory effluent pipes that, before long, the air and water were unmistakably cleaner. The nascent Environmental Protection Agency commissioned a series of photos that showed just how filthy things were. Even for those of us who were alive then, it’s hard to imagine that we tolerated this.

And so we are. Stop the Money Pipeline, a coalition of environmental and climate justice groups running from the small and specialized to the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, formed last fall to try to tackle the biggest money on earth. Banks like Chase — the planet’s largest by market capitalization — which has funneled a quarter-trillion dollars to the fossil fuel industry since the Paris Agreement of 2015. Insurers like Liberty Mutual, still insuring tar sands projects even as pipeline builders endanger Native communities by trying to build the Keystone XL during a pandemic.
» Read article     

» More about divestment       

CLIMATE

normal was a crisis
Earth Day Message to Leaders: After Coronavirus, Rebuild Wisely
Activists and scientists called on world leaders to shift the global economy onto a healthier, more sustainable track.
By Somini Sengupta, New York Times
April 22, 2020

Activists and scientists worldwide, mostly prevented from demonstrating publicly because of the coronavirus pandemic, marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with online events on Wednesday, and their message was largely one of warning: When this health crisis passes, world leaders must rebuild the global economy on a healthier, more sustainable track.

That was highlighted by an influential scientific body, the World Meteorological Organization, which forecast that the pandemic would drive down global greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent this year, the biggest yearly decline in planet-warming carbon dioxide since the Second World War. But the group said that would be nowhere near the reductions needed to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change.

The agency went on to caution that, while the short-term reductions are largely a result of the sharp decline in transportation and industrial energy production, emissions are likely to rise in the coming years unless world leaders take swift action to address climate change.
» Read article     

Permian twice estimated
Super-Polluting Methane Emissions Twice Federal Estimates in Permian Basin, Study Finds
The methane is a byproduct of fracking for oil, often burned off at well heads or emitted into the atmosphere instead of being captured for use as fuel.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
April 22, 2020

Methane emissions from the Permian basin of West Texas and southeastern New Mexico, one of the largest oil-producing regions in the world, are more than two times higher than federal estimates, a new study suggests.

Using hydraulic fracturing, energy companies have increased oil production to unprecedented levels in the Permian basin in recent years.

Methane, or natural gas, has historically been viewed as an unwanted byproduct to be flared, a practice in which methane is burned instead of emitted into the atmosphere, or vented by oil producers in the region. While new natural gas pipelines are being built to bring the gas to market, pipeline capacity and the low price of natural gas has created little incentive to reduce methane emissions.

Daniel Jacob, a professor of atmospheric chemistry and environmental engineering at Harvard University and a co-author of the study, said methane emissions in the Permian are “the largest source ever observed in an oil and gas field.”
» Read article     
» Read report

climate crash course
A crash course on climate change, 50 years after the first Earth Day
The science is clear: The world is warming dangerously, humans are the cause of it, and a failure to act today will deeply affect the future of the Earth.
By Henry Fountain, Kendra Pierre-Louis, Hiroko Tabuchi, Brad Plumer, Lisa Friedman, Christopher Flavelle, and Somini Sengupta, New York Times
April 20, 2020

This is a seven-day New York Times crash course on climate change, in which reporters from the Times’s Climate desk address the big questions:
1.How bad is climate change now?
2.How do scientists know what they know?
3.Who is influencing key decisions?
4.How do we stop fossil fuel emissions?
5.Do environmental rules matter?
6.Can insurance protect us?
7.Is what I do important?
» Read article     

Denis Hayes
The ‘Profoundly Radical’ Message of Earth Day’s First Organizer
By John Schwartz, New York Times
April 20, 2020

In recent days, Mr. Hayes has drawn a connection between the coronavirus and climate change, and the failure of the federal government to effectively deal with either one. In an essay in the Seattle Times, he wrote that “Covid-19 robbed us of Earth Day this year. So let’s make Election Day Earth Day.” He urged his readers to get involved in politics and set aside national division. “This November 3,” he wrote, “vote for the Earth.”
» Read article
» Read Seattle Times essay

doomsday glacier
The Doomsday Glacier
In the farthest reaches of Antarctica, a nightmare scenario of crumbling ice – and rapidly rising seas – could spell disaster for a warming planet.
By Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone
May 9, 2017

With 10 to 13 feet of sea-level rise, most of South Florida is an underwater theme park, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s winter White House in West Palm Beach. In downtown Boston, about the only thing that’s not underwater are those nice old houses up on Beacon Hill. In the Bay Area, everything below Highway 101 is gone, including the Googleplex; the Oakland and San Francisco airports are submerged, as is much of downtown below Montgomery Street and the Marina District. Even places that don’t seem like they would be in trouble, such as Sacramento, smack in the middle of California, will be partially flooded by the Pacific Ocean swelling up into the Sacramento River. Galveston, Texas; Norfolk, Virginia; and New Orleans will be lost. In Washington, D.C., the shoreline will be just a few hundred yards from the White House.

And that’s just the picture in the U.S. The rest of the world will be in as much trouble: Large parts of Shanghai, Bangkok, Jakarta, Lagos and London will be submerged. Egypt’s Nile River Delta and much of southern Bangladesh will be underwater. The Marshall Islands and the Maldives will be coral reefs.
» Blog editor’s note: This article is three years old, but is worth another look. We have not changed our emissions trajectory, nor has the Trump administration altered its pro-fossil fuel position.
» Read article     

» More about climate       

CLEAN ENERGY

oldstyle rooftop wind
Rooftop Wind Power Might Take Off by Using Key Principle of Flight
By Scientific American, in EcoWatch
April 22, 2020

Past efforts to scale down the towering turbines that generate wind power to something that might sit on a home have been plagued by too many technical problems to make such devices practical. Now, however, a new design could circumvent those issues by harnessing the same principle that creates lift for airplane wings.

Houchens and his colleagues think they have engineered a solution that overcomes these obstacles by borrowing from a fundamental principle of air flight. The curved shape of an airplane wing—called an airfoil—alters the air pressure on either side of it and ultimately produces lift. Houchens’ colleague Carsten Westergaard, president of Westergaard Solutions and a mechanical engineer at Texas Tech University, says he hitched two airfoils together so that “the flow from one airfoil will amplify the other airfoil, and they become more powerful.” Oriented like two airplane wings standing upright on their side, the pair of airfoils directly face the wind. As the wind moves through, low pressure builds up between the foils and sucks air in through slits in their partly hollow bodies. That movement of air turns a small turbine housed in a tube and generates electricity.
» Read article     

green NRG eco-boost
Green energy could drive Covid-19 recovery with $100tn boost
Speeding up investment could deliver huge gains to global GDP by 2050 while tackling climate emergency, says report
Jillian Ambrose, the Guardian
April 20, 2020

Renewable energy could power an economic recovery from Covid-19 by spurring global GDP gains of almost $100tn (£80tn) between now and 2050, according to a report.

The International Renewable Energy Agency found that accelerating investment in renewable energy could generate huge economic benefits while helping to tackle the global climate emergency.

The agency’s director general, Francesco La Camera, said the global crisis ignited by the coronavirus outbreak exposed “the deep vulnerabilities of the current system” and urged governments to invest in renewable energy to kickstart economic growth and help meet climate targets.
» Read article     
» Read IRENA report: Global Renewables Outlook: Energy Transformation 2050

threat to net metering
Solar Net Metering Under Threat as Shadowy Group Demands Intervention in State Policies
A fast-tracked FERC petition during a pandemic could “end net metering as we know it,” one legal expert warns.
Jeff St. John, GreenTech Media
April 20, 2020

Solar net metering, the backbone of the U.S. rooftop solar market for the past two decades, may be facing its most important legal challenge in years — and it’s coming at a time when the industry is already reeling from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

A nonprofit group that’s spent years fighting clean-energy legislation in New England is pressing federal regulators to approve a legal argument that could lay the groundwork for challenges to the solar net metering policies now in place in 41 states.

Last week, the New England Ratepayers Association (NERA) filed a petition with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, asking it to declare “exclusive federal jurisdiction over wholesale energy sales from generation sources located on the customer side of the retail meter.” In other words, NERA is asking FERC to assert control over all state net-metering programs, which pay customers for the energy they don’t consume on-site but instead feed back to the power grid.

The day after NERA’s filing, FERC set a May 14 deadline for parties that might oppose or support it to file comments that could influence its decision.
» Read article     

magical NRG thinking
The Limits of Clean Energy
If the world isn’t careful, renewable energy could become as destructive as fossil fuels.
By Jason Hickel, Pocket
April 18, 2020

The phrase “clean energy” normally conjures up happy, innocent images of warm sunshine and fresh wind. But while sunshine and wind is obviously clean, the infrastructure we need to capture it is not. Far from it. The transition to renewables is going to require a dramatic increase in the extraction of metals and rare-earth minerals, with real ecological and social costs.

We need a rapid transition to renewables, yes—but scientists warn that we can’t keep growing energy use at existing rates. No energy is innocent. The only truly clean energy is less energy.

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t pursue a rapid transition to renewable energy. We absolutely must and urgently. But if we’re after a greener, more sustainable economy, we need to disabuse ourselves of the fantasy that we can carry on growing energy demand at existing rates.
» Read article     

» More about clean energy       

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

internet for a green planet
Internet Seen as Helping Save Planet, but Many in Mass Still Miss Out
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires
April 22, 2020

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — When the Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires last week hosted a virtual town hall with Berkshire County’s legislative delegation, the area’s elected officials got a little face time with their constituents to talk about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All but one. State Rep. Paul Mark, of  Peru, was an audio-only participant in the hourlong webinar. That is because Mark is among the many Massachusetts residents who are underserved by internet access.

It is a problem that local officials have been talking about for years. The deficiencies have never been more stark than during the “stay at home” guidelines instituted in Boston last month in response to the pandemic.

And on Wednesday’s 50th anniversary of Earth Day, one local climate change activist was thinking about the digital divide as an environmental issue.

“I knew it was a social issue and an important one but it was not one I was going to spend a lot of time on because I didn’t think it was a climate issue. And I take all of that back.

Where climate change comes in: All those Americans working from home are skipping their daily commutes, keeping cars in the garage and pollutants out of the air.
» Blog editor’s note: The greenest travel is to remain in place. Without broadband internet access, many people are forced to travel or commute to perform tasks that could be accomplished online.
» Read article     

» More about clean transportation      

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

no ff bailout
As Oil Prices Fall Below $0 Per Barrel, Climate Advocates Urge Against Fossil Fuel Industry Bailout
“The oil price collapse creates a historic opening: a public buyout of the fossil fuel sector to enact a managed decline of extraction and ensure a just transition for workers and communities.”
By Julia Conley, Common Dreams
April 20, 2020

The plummeting of oil markets on Monday, the last day oil producers can trade barrels for next month, solidified a trend which has been evident since the coronavirus pandemic brought economies around the world to a halt last month.

Critics urged U.S. policymakers not to approach the collapsing markets as a problem that can be solved by propping up the oil industry. As David Roberts wrote at Vox Monday, the sector has been in decline for years and any taxpayer funds which go to propping it up further would be “wasted.”

“First, fracking was a financial wreck long before COVID-19 hit. U.S. fracking operations have been losing money for a decade, to the tune of around $280 billion. Overproduction has produced a supply glut, low prices, and an accumulating surplus in storage.

Both oil and gas prices were persistently low leading into 2019. Due to oversupply and mild winters in the U.S. and Europe, there is a glut of both natural gas and oil, such that the entire world’s spare oil storage is in danger of being filled.”
» Read article     

negative future
What the Negative Price of Oil Is Telling Us
We’re in a deflationary moment that surpasses anything seen in most people’s lifetimes.
By Neil Irwin, New York Times
April 21, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a series of mind-bending distortions across world financial markets, but Monday featured the most bizarre one yet: The benchmark price for crude oil in the United States fell to negative $37.63.

That means that if you happened to be in a position to take delivery of 1,000 barrels of oil in Cushing, Okla., in the month of May — the quantity quoted in the relevant futures contract — you could have been paid a cool $37,630 to do so. (That is about five tanker trucks’ worth, so any joke about storing the oil in your basement will have to remain just that.)

In the oil market, even assuming the negative prices for the May futures contract can be viewed as a bizarre aberration, there is a deeper lesson. A steep rise in American energy production over the last decade has outpaced the world’s need for energy, especially if many of the changes resulting from the pandemic, like less air travel, persist for months or years.
» Read article

done with fossils
Coronavirus stimulus money will be wasted on fossil fuels
Oil and gas companies were already facing structural problems before Covid-19 and are in long-term decline.
By David Roberts, Vox.com
April 20, 2020

In this post, I want to take a look at why it is equally shortsighted for President Trump and congressional Republicans to remain so devoted to the fossil fuel industry.

The dominant narrative is still that fossil fuels are a pillar of the US economy, with giant companies like Exxon Mobil producing revenue and jobs that the US can’t afford to do without. Even among those eager to address climate change by moving past fossil fuels to clean energy — a class that includes a majority of Americans — there is a lingering mythology that US fossil fuels are, to use the familiar phrase, too big to fail.

But the position of fossil fuels in the US economy is less secure than it might appear. In fact, the fossil fuel industry is facing substantial structural challenges that will be exacerbated by, but will not end with, the Covid-19 crisis. For years, the industry has been shedding value, taking on debt, losing favor among financial institutions and investors, and turning more and more to lobbying governments to survive.

It is, in short, a turkey. CNBC financial analyst Jim Cramer put it best, back in late January, before Covid-19 had even become a crisis in the US: “I’m done with fossil fuels. They’re done. They’re just done.”
» Read article     

disconnected from reality
Demand For Oil Has Plummeted, But Industry Keeps Building New Infrastructure Anyway
Oil and gas companies are constructing pipelines and wells amid the pandemic, risking workers’ lives and depleting personal protective gear.
By Alexander C. Kaufman and Chris D’Angelo, Huffington Post
April 20, 2020

In February, CNBC anchor Jim Cramer took aim at the heart of the debate over fossil fuels with a bold declaration on his investment advice show: “I’m done with fossil fuels. They’re done. … We are in the death knell phase.”

That was before the coronavirus pandemic and a price war sent oil prices into a tailspin.

In one sense, the pandemic couldn’t have come at a better time for the oil industry. It was already deep in debt and facing its best-organized opposition in more than a decade as President Donald Trump’s brand of petro-state nationalism spurred an international movement for a Green New Deal. Then the coronavirus struck. Since the start of 2020, leading oil and gas companies have lost on average 45% of their value, according to a report published Thursday by the nonpartisan Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), which concludes that U.S. and overseas producers are “exploiting” the COVID-19 crisis to demand bailouts, regulatory relief and more in hopes of recovering from financial troubles that predate the pandemic.
» Read article     
» Read CIEL report

buy them out
Public Ownership of Fossil Fuels a Potential Solution to Multiple Crises, Says New Report
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
April 17, 2020

With each passing week, the U.S. oil and gas industry and its allies in Washington have used the COVID-19 pandemic and the unfolding economic crisis to gut important environmental protections and lobby for handouts.

Each newfangled idea is more brazen than the previous. On April 16, for instance, the Trump administration finalized rules to allow more toxic mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. Drilled News has a running tally of all the different ways the industry is trying to capitalize off of the coronavirus crisis, a list that has totaled about 60 different environmental rollback measures as of mid-April.

But one of the more outlandish ideas the administration has conjured up is to pay fracking companies to do nothing. Bloomberg reported that the Department of Energy was considering a plan to pay drillers to cut back on drilling, a sort of debauched version of “keep it in the ground.”

“That is actually an interesting step forward” in the sense that the government sets up a framework to keep oil and gas from being extracted in the first place, Johanna Bozuwa, co-manager of the Climate and Energy Program at the Democracy Collaborative, told DeSmog in an interview. She authored a new report called “The Case for Public Ownership of the Fossil Fuel Industry,” which was published jointly with Oil Change International.
» Read article     

» More about fossil fuels       

FERC

FERC HQ
Groups launch new legal attack on FERC climate policy
By Niina H. Farah, E&E News
April 22, 2020

Environmental groups yesterday asked a federal appeals court to take a fresh look at energy regulators’ duty to expand their consideration of climate change impacts from the projects they authorize.

Food & Water Watch and the Berkshire Environmental Action Team sued the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over its approval of a Massachusetts infrastructure upgrade that involves construction of 2 miles of new pipeline and a compressor station.

The challengers suggested a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in their favor could force FERC to broaden its climate analysis to include upstream and downstream climate effects for energy projects beyond the 261 Upgrade Project near Springfield, Mass.
» Blog editor’s note: Emphasis added above. This suite could have enormous implications for the country’s ability to reduce carbon emissions in line with international climate goals.
» Read BEAT’s announcement         
» Read article     
» Read petition

FREC Yes
Broad array of groups sue FERC over PJM MOPR decision as Chatterjee rejects cost, renewable concerns
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
April 22, 2020

A flurry of lawsuits hit the courts on Monday as industry and environmental groups reacted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Thursday decision to uphold a controversial December ruling.

Several groups had filed a request for rehearing with FERC following the commission’s Dec. 16 order that would effectively raise the floor price for all new resources receiving a state subsidy in the PJM Interconnection wholesale power market.

Illinois regulators, the American Public Power Association (APPA), American Municipal Power and several environmental groups were among the parties who filed against FERC for its decision. Concerns largely surround long-term costs to customers and what is seen as unfair discrimination against new clean energy.
» Read article     

» More about FERC    

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

Eversource Slams the Virtual Door
By D. Maurice Kreis, NH Consumer Advocate, InDepthNH.org
April 17, 2020

We – the Office of the Consumer Advocate (OCA), representing residential utility customers, and the PUC Staff, which provides analytical and policy support to the three PUC commissioners – approached Eversource to talk about settling the big rate case that Eversource filed last summer.  The state’s largest electric utility asked for a nearly $70 million rate increase – a whopping 20 percent price hike for the monopoly provider of electric distribution service to 70 percent of the state.

The dark heart of any utility rate case is always the company’s request for an allowed return on equity (ROE) – basically, the profit guaranteed to the utility’s shareholders after the company covers its operating costs and pays back lenders with interest.  Eversource thinks its shareholders deserve an ROE of 10.4 percent.

Profits of ten point four percent!  At the start of a global economic depression, triggered by a planetary pandemic, that has left thousands of Eversource customers in New Hampshire wondering how they’ll cover the mortgage payments and buy groceries!
» Read article     

» More about electric utilities      

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