Tag Archives: carbon neutral

Weekly News Check-In 5/20/22

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Welcome back.

Just about every Friday, we publish this newsletter with links to a host of great articles that discuss current important climate and energy issues. There’s often a pattern – science jacking up the alarm level, industry spinning the message, and politics gridlocked between competing interests. While each issue can feel like another trip through the spin cycle, we’ve been at this a few years now and can definitely see positive progress – invariably driven by people who have chosen to engage, to work with others who haven’t given up, who are determined to take whatever action they can to meet the climate crisis. So we’re leading today’s issue with one person’s account of how getting involved, getting active, makes her feel hopeful.

Now that we’re fired up and ready to go… let’s jump right in with an observation that the Federal Reserve has yet to see a role for itself in addressing the financial risks associated with climate change. Even though these hazards are well documented and increasingly urgent, Fed Chair Jerome Powell recently said, “Today, climate change is not something that we directly consider in setting monetary policy.” Pension funds are an example of an investment that responds to monetary policies. Ones that still hold a lot of fossil fuel securities are directly exposed to climate risks. But some of these funds are resisting divestment efforts by circulating misinformation that exaggerates the expected costs associated with eliminating fossils from portfolios. This is a replay of tactics previously deployed when resisting calls to dump tobacco and firearms.

Financial risks mentioned above come in two main flavors: the risk to life, property, and business from extreme weather events and other climate-related disasters, and the risk of stranded assets, typically associated with fossil fuel infrastructure that has to be retired earlier than expected. A new scientific study draws a line under the stranded asset issue, concluding that approximately 40% of all existing fossil fuel production sites must be retired early for us to hang on to a 50-50 chance of achieving the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting heating to 1.5C.

Last among this week’s finance-related news is consideration of the effectiveness of purchasing carbon offsets as a way to green up air travel. Bottom line: not much. But with time and better regulation, the carbon offset market is expected to improve. For now, buy them if they make you feel better. Fly less if you can.

We’ll close out this section with a couple of excellent articles describing how the same technical loophole that allows European biomass plants to claim their energy is carbon neutral (and to devastate forests in the U.S. southeast), is being used to grow the biomass energy industry in Japan and South Korea – with similar pollution and deforestation consequences. Also, a heads up on the next industry-driven false solution for the single-use plastics problem: “advanced recycling“.

On the positive side, floating offshore wind turbines have come a long way in the past five years. Now, the first commercial deployment is happening off Scotland and strong industry growth is expected to follow. We also found a podcast about the new documentary “Empowered”, focused on the long and checkered history of energy production in Somerset on Mount Hope Bay, near Fall River, MA. Long-serving state representative Patricia Haddad is central to the story.

Across the pond, Norway is seeing the commercial launch of the Hydrovolt battery recycling plant. It’s Europe’s largest facility for recycling electric vehicle and stationary energy storage batteries. Between its initial capacity and plans for growth, it is expected to handle all of Norway’s end-of-life battery market.

On the topic of batteries, it’s certain that long-duration energy storage will involve (among other technologies) some form of flow batteries. We offer a great basic primer on what these are and how they’re being used. And right on queue, a new report by researchers at MIT finds that with today’s available methods, it’s technologically and financially feasible to use energy storage systems to almost completely eliminate the need for fossil fuels to operate regional power grids.

Let’s make it happen.

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

— The NFGiM Team

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

involved
When You Can’t Read Anymore About Climate, Take Action
By Meredith Rose, Yes! | Opinion
May 18, 2022
Meredith Rose has taught composition and literature at San Francisco City College. Her short stories have been published in a handful of literary magazines. With her life partner, she is raising two teenaged kids in Pasadena, CA.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done? It might have been something reckless or impulsive, adventurous, or just plain stupid. Here’s mine: I joined a group that works on creating solutions to climate change. Nuts, right? Who does stuff like that when the headlines remind us daily of our impending doom? Well, I did, and I’m learning that it’s not so crazy after all. I admit that when I simply recycled toilet paper rolls and bought LED lights, life was easier. Joining an organization and showing up was definitely out of my comfort zone, let alone actually meeting with my congresswoman. But it seems that every summer where I live in Southern California, the thermometer tops 100 degrees for days on end, and I’m pretty uncomfortable then too.

Now, I’m doing something, along with thousands of others, and together, we’re making a difference. I see it in the laws proposed in Congress and in state legislatures as well. By getting involved, I’ve also met a range of people who haven’t given up, who are determined to take whatever action they can to meet this crisis.

For years, the mainstream media told me who really cared about The Environment: latte-drinking, Volvo-driving elites, or else wild-haired, amoral, eco-terrorists. When I attended my local chapter meeting of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, I met folks who (possibly) drank lattes and (occasionally) had some hairs out of place, but who for the most part were passionate, clear-eyed, and determined. The more involved I got, the more inspired I became. I signed up to staff an info table at a local library event. With me was Rob, a scientist from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and then the head of the local chapter. He knew all the facts backward and forward, but when he talked to people, he spoke from the heart. He encouraged me when, for the first time ever, I talked to total strangers about climate change, and he thanked me for my efforts when my shift was over. I had wanted this scientist to tell me that everything was going to be OK, that the powers that be would figure it out in time, but he never did. Instead, he showed me that every contact with another person—listening first and then responding—was the key to addressing our challenge.
» Read article   

» More about protests and actions

DIVESTMENT

suspense
As California Considers Dropping Fossil Fuels from Major Pension Funds, New Report Calls Out ‘Misinformation’ on Costs
CalPERS and CalSTRS, which oppose fossil fuel divestment legislation, have “wildly exaggerated” divestment costs, according to Fossil Free California’s latest report.
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
May 13, 2022

A newly published report by Fossil Free California finds California’s pension fund managers are circulating divestment “misinformation” by exaggerating the costs involved in shedding their fossil fuel investments in documents prepared for state lawmakers.

California lawmakers are currently considering Senate Bill 1173 (SB-1173), California’s Fossil Fuel Divestment Act, which would require the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), to stop investing in fossil fuels before the decade is out. The move would impact billions of dollars currently invested in oil, gas, or coal on behalf of California’s teachers, firefighters, and other public employees.

The report titled “Hyperbole in the Hearings” found that the pension “funds have wildly exaggerated losses from past divestments” like those involving tobacco, firearms, and some forms of coal. It concludes that CalPERS and CalSTRS estimates for costs associated with fossil fuel divestment are also exaggerated.

Extraordinary sums of money, invested on behalf of California’s public employees and teachers, are on the line. The two pension funds have estimated holdings of $7.4 billion and $4.1 billion respectively in fossil fuel investments that would need to be divested if the law went into effect.

Before it’s enacted, SB-1173 has to survive what California lawmakers call “suspense,” where the fiscal impacts of the law are considered — and it’s become known in the state as the place where bills “are killed without public debate.” That’s because debate between lawmakers during the suspense process is done behind closed doors and there’s no public vote when a bill is killed “on the suspense file.”
» Read article   

» More about divestment

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Northvolt operational
Northvolt’s battery recycling plant Hydrovolt commences operations in Norway
By Cameron Murray, Energy Storage News
May 17, 2022

Commercial operations have begun at the Hydrovolt battery recycling plant in Norway, a joint venture (JV) between Norwegian materials processing company Hydro and Sweden-headquartered lithium battery manufacturing startup Northvolt.

The facility in Fredrikstad, southern Norway, has been under construction since February last year and its JV partners have invested NOK120 million (US$13.94 million) into the project while another NOK43.5 million was put in by Norwegian government enterprise Enova.

It is Europe’s largest electric vehicle battery (EV) recycling plant with the capacity to process approximately 10,900 tonnes (12,000 tons) of battery packs per year, equating to around 25,000 EV batteries. The batteries will be supplied by Batteriretur, a Norwegian company that collects batteries for recycling.

That is sufficient to recycle the entire end-of-life battery market in Norway, Hydrovolt said. CEO Frederik Andresen told Energy-Storage.news when construction started that, although it was EV-focused, the facility is also capable of recycling batteries from stationary energy storage systems (ESS).

Hydrovolt has a long-term aim of increasing its recycling capacity in Europe to 63,500 tonnes of battery packs by 2025 and 272,000 tonnes by 2030.

The Fredrikstad facility can recover and isolate some 95% of the materials in batteries including plastics, copper, aluminium and black mass, a compound containing nickel, manganese, cobalt and lithium. The recovered aluminium will be delivered to Hydro for recirculation into commercial grade aluminium products.
» Read article   

high pressure
Gas is a dangerous distraction for Africa
Arguments for gas exploration and gas-fired power infrastructure in Africa are robbing us of vital time to switch to clean energy.
By Vanessa Nakate, Al Jazeera | Opinion
May 16, 2022
Vanessa Nakate, 25, is a climate activist from Uganda and founder of the Africa-based Rise Up Movement.

At the start of this century, when much of the developed world woke up to the dangers of smoking, Big Tobacco turned to Africa to seek out new profits.

To this day, in my country, Uganda, and many others, foreign tobacco companies work to undermine regulations designed to protect people against the industry – they even market cigarettes to schoolchildren in some African countries.

Now, the same is happening in the context of the global fight against climate change.

As the world finally begins to wake up to the climate emergency, major oil and gas companies from Europe and North America are increasingly losing their licence to operate there, so they are turning to Africa to try and secure at least a few more years of extraction and profit.

Despite United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres recently warning that investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is “moral and economic madness”, leaders in Africa are being persuaded that extracting more gas is a prerequisite for the continent’s development.

It is true, at least in the short term, that encouraging people to use gas rather than wood fuel to cook is crucial to prevent indoor air pollution. We need to invest in local storage and bottling plants for cooking gas. However, such measures do not require new gas-fired power infrastructure and exploration. These are two completely separate issues.

Arguments for gas exploration and gas-fired power infrastructure in Africa are robbing us of vital time to switch to clean energy.

Decades of fossil fuel development in Africa have failed to bring prosperity and reduce energy poverty. African countries whose economies rely on the production and export of fossil fuels suffer slower rates of economic growth – sometimes up to three times slower – than those with more diverse economies. In Mozambique, where foreign companies have built a $20bn offshore natural gas field and onshore liquefied natural gas facility, 70 percent of the country still lives without access to electricity. The gas is not for local people.
» Read article   

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

hands off
The Fed Is Neglecting Its Duty on Climate Change
Global warming is introducing unprecedented risk into the financial system. The Fed has the power to limit that risk. Instead, Jerome Powell is sitting on his hands.
By Aaron Regunber, The New Republic | Opinion
May 19, 2022
Aaron Regunberg is a longtime progressive organizer, former Rhode Island state representative, and law student.

In early May, the United States Federal Reserve ordered the largest interest rate hike in over 20 years. This week, Fed Chair Jerome Powell declared he “won’t hesitate” to go even further, calling action on inflation an “unconditional need.”

This urgency to maintain price stability highlights a disturbing contrast at the heart of U.S. monetary policy: As the Fed goes all out to curb inflation, it continues to ignore a far more profound threat to our economic and financial stability—climate change.

By the year 2100, according to one study, the high-end cost of unchecked climate change could be $551 trillion. That’s more money than currently exists on earth. Yet just last year, Powell told a panel of his global colleagues, “Today, climate change is not something that we directly consider in setting monetary policy.”

Such a head-in-the-sand approach to climate is simply not compatible with a livable future, given the critical role that fossil fuel finance plays in driving this crisis. A recent report found that the world’s 60 largest banks invested $4.6 trillion in fossil fuels in the six years since the adoption of the Paris Agreement, with four U.S. banks—JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America—together accounting for one-quarter of all fossil fuel financing. The Fed has the power and the responsibility to rein in these disastrous investment patterns, both to insulate our financial system from the contagious collapse of a dead-end fossil fuel industry and to protect the U.S. economy from the ravages of climate change.

Thus far, however, the Fed has failed to take any meaningful action on climate. This contrasts sharply with its peer institutions around the world. The European Central Bank has announced policies that make green assets eligible for purchase or discount. The Bank of England is actively exploring climate-related capital requirements and has committed to reducing the carbon intensity of its corporate bond purchasing program. The People’s Bank of China and the Bank of Japan have launched dedicated lending facilities to offer discounted funding for clean energy—and the list goes on.

The Fed, alone, has refused to acknowledge that climate requires an active central bank response, with opponents arguing that such actions exceed the statutory limits placed upon the Fed by Congress. This argument both misreads the Fed’s legislative mandates and underestimates the profound havoc that climate devastation will wreak on our financial system. In truth, the Fed’s legislative directives not only allow it to take steps to prevent and mitigate climate change, they actually require the Fed to do so.
» Read article   

» More about climate change

CLEAN ENERGY

Hywind Scotland
Floating offshore wind prepares to go commercial
The recent ScotWind offshore wind leasing round heralds a step change for floating offshore wind as a vital renewable technology for energy transition and energy security. Costs are starting to come down but other hurdles remain.
By Jocelyn Timperley, Energy Monitor
May 16, 2022

Back in 2017, the world’s first floating offshore wind farm, a 30MW demonstration project, was installed off the east coast of Scotland.

Five years on, the UK is targeting 5GW of floating offshore wind by 2030, which is equal to half its current total offshore wind capacity. In the recent ScotWind offshore wind leasing round – the world’s first fully commercial leasing round to support large-scale floating wind – the technology was awarded 14.5GW out of a total 25GW. The Crown Estate is planning a further 4GW of leasing for floating wind in the Celtic Sea.

Five years ago floating offshore wind was seen as potentially interesting and able to play a role in the UK’s renewable energy mix, says Rhys Wyn Jones, director of RenewableUK Cymru, the Wales branch of trade association RenewableUK. “It is now seen as absolutely central to offshore renewables’ contribution to the energy transition between now and 2050. We are on the cusp, and I think ScotWind puts rocket boosters underneath floating wind.”

[…] Floating wind offers several advantages over conventional fixed-bottom offshore wind, the most obvious of which is that floating turbines can be located in seabed depths of several hundred metres, compared with a maximum of around 65m for fixed-bottom. This allows far more flexibility in where it is put. Offshore wind can already access higher wind speeds than onshore, but this allows floating wind to take advantage of the very best spots.

“The fact that you can operate floating wind in much deeper waters gives you access to a far larger resource,” says Wyn Jones. “Stronger winds out in deeper waters have a huge benefit.”
» Read article   

Empowered
Rep. Haddad is star of energy documentary
‘Empowered’ places Somerset’s struggles in historical context
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
May 16, 2022

REP. PATRICIA HADDAD of Somerset, long a powerful figure in the Massachusetts House, is now also the star of a new documentary written, directed, and produced by California-based filmmaker Kiki Goshay about America’s love affair with energy.

The documentary’s strength is the long look it takes at the country’s haphazard energy evolution from one president to the next, and from one crisis to the next. The story is told using Haddad and Somerset as the laboratory where those twists and turns play out – often with devastating personal and environmental consequences.

“It is a microcosm of all of America,” Goshay says of Somerset on The Codcast.

Somerset is a small community located on Mount Hope Bay across from Fall River. Electricity has long been its chief export, but the fuel used to produce the power has changed with the times. At Brayton Point, the power plant started with coal, shifted to oil when that fuel was cheap and plentiful, and then reverted to coal with the formation of OPEC and the run-up in oil prices in the 1970s.

Then came the environmental movement and the discovery that the Brayton Point plant was polluting the air and killing off the fish in the bay. That led to expensive scrubbers and cooling towers, which made the plant too costly to operate when cheap fracked natural gas came along. The plant was torn down and the cooling towers were imploded in April 2019, paving the way for a turn to offshore wind that has taken far longer than planned with the foot-dragging of the Trump administration finally giving way to the full-speed-ahead approach of the Biden administration.

[…] Goshay said she felt she needed to push ahead with the project for personal reasons as she watched the country fail to wake up to the dangers of climate change. She interviewed scientists, entrepreneurs, and policymakers like Haddad and came away far more optimistic about the nation’s future.

“I called [the documentary series] ‘Empowered’ because it’s exactly how I felt personally,” she said. “When I did this deep dive and met all of these people over the course of two years, I felt this excitement for the future for the first time. I really thought, wow, things are going to be better in five years and even better than that in 10 years because I met the people that are doing the work and I realized we have the tools.”
» Read article or listen to The Codcast

» More about clean energy

ENERGY STORAGE

flow battery graphic
Inside Clean Energy: Flow Batteries Could Be a Big Part of Our Energy Storage Future. So What’s a Flow Battery?
A battery project uses a technology that could be vital for meeting the need for long-duration energy storage.
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
May 19, 2022

A clean energy development this week in the San Diego area isn’t much to look at. Workers will deliver four white shipping containers that house battery storage systems. Soon after, workers will hook up the containers so they can store electricity from a nearby solar array.

The part that I care about is the “flow battery” technology inside those shipping containers, developed by ESS Tech Inc., an Oregon startup. Flow batteries have the potential to be an important part of the energy transition because they can provide electricity storage that runs for much longer than the typical four hours of the dominant technology, lithium-ion batteries.

So what is a flow battery? A key design element is the use of two external tanks that contain electrolyte fluids that get pumped through the battery as it charges and discharges.

The duration of the battery, which is how long it can run before recharging, increases based on the size of the tanks. Think of this as the battery equivalent of one of those novelty baseball helmets that hold two cans of soda. If you switch out cans of soda for two-liter bottles, you can drink a lot more.

“For the whole machine, what you need to do is add more liquid rather than adding many, many more batteries,” said Jun Liu, a University of Washington professor and a fellow at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. He also is director of the federal government’s Battery500 Consortium, which develops next-generation batteries for electric vehicles.

In contrast to flow batteries, lithium-ion batteries and most other batteries are self-contained, with less flexibility in their design, he said.

[…] And one of ESS’ selling points to investors and customers is that it doesn’t rely on rare metals like lithium or vanadium at all. The main ingredients of its fluid are iron, salt and water.
» Read article   

fuel storage tanks
More energy storage is needed to support wind and solar power, MIT study finds
By David Abel, Boston Globe
May 16, 2022

A new report released Monday by researchers at MIT finds that it’s technologically and financially feasible to use energy storage systems, such as massive batteries or hydroelectricity, to almost completely eliminate the need for fossil fuels to operate regional power grids.

Such systems are becoming in greater demand in New England, and beyond, as more renewable energy powers homes and businesses and they require ways to keep the lights on when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.

“Our study finds that energy storage can help [renewable energy]-dominated electricity systems balance electricity supply and demand while maintaining reliability in a cost-effective manner,” said Robert Armstrong, director of the MIT Energy Initiative, which commissioned the three-year study.

The authors of the report estimated that the costs of transforming power grids in the Northeast, Southeast, and Texas will range between 21 percent and 36 percent higher than if nothing was done to promote storage-backed renewable energy. The costs will be higher in the Northeast, where there are greater energy demands in the winter.

But they described those costs as “relatively modest” and noted there would be many hours when the costs of electricity would be near zero. That means future power grids are more likely to enable the low-cost charging of increased numbers of electrical vehicles and homes with electrical heating systems. They will be able to be charged when prices dip.

“These cost increases are relatively modest compared to the costs of not doing anything, and especially compared to the costs of climate change, which is an existential threat,” said Dharik Mallapragada, one of the authors of the report.
» Read article   
» Read the MIT report

» More about energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

guilt money
Do Airline Climate Offsets Really Work? Here’s the Good News, and the Bad.
Carbon credits could eventually play an important role in fighting climate change, but right now a few dollars’ worth won’t change much.
By Maggie Astor, New York Times
May 18, 2022

Carbon offset programs have become ubiquitous. You’ve probably seen them as check-box options when booking flights: Click here to upgrade to a premium seat. Click here to cancel your greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s an appealing proposition — the promise that, for a trivial amount of money, you can go about your business with no climate guilt. But if it sounds too good to be true, that’s because, at least for now, it is.

The New York Times asked readers this spring to submit their questions about climate change, and several asked about carbon offsets. How do they work? Do they work at all, or, as one reader put it, “is it just guilt money?”

The idea of carbon offsets, sometimes called carbon credits or climate credits, is simple. We know human activity releases tens of billions of tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases every year. We also know it is possible to remove or sequester carbon from the atmosphere by, for example, planting trees.

Offsets seek to compensate for emissions in one place — for example, from passenger airplanes — by funding emission reductions or carbon removal somewhere else, like forests.

Some experts see them as an essential tool to limit environmental damage, at least in the short to medium term, until the world can make a full transition to renewable energy. Governments including California, the European Union and Australia are relying on them to meet their national goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

At some point, carbon offset programs will have to become more transparent and effective, said Bruce M. Usher, a professor of professional practice at Columbia Business School and the former chief executive of EcoSecurities Group, which has designed emissions-reduction projects in developing countries.

Scientists are clear that the world needs to reach net-zero emissions — the point where we either stop pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, or fully counteract the gases that we do produce — by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and “it’s virtually impossible to get to zero” without offsets, he said.

But that doesn’t mean offsets work today, and Professor Usher’s advice to people right now is hardly a ringing endorsement. “If you wish to because it aligns with your values, sure, you should buy carbon credits,” he said. “But don’t be under the illusion that, for every credit you buy, it’s absolutely 100 percent reducing emissions by an equal amount.”

Many offset projects do not even come close to 100 percent of the benefits they promise.
» Read article   

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

early retirement
Shut down fossil fuel production sites early to avoid climate chaos, says study
Nearly half existing facilities will need to close prematurely to limit heating to 1.5C, scientists say
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
May 17, 2022

Nearly half of existing fossil fuel production sites need to be shut down early if global heating is to be limited to 1.5C, the internationally agreed goal for avoiding climate catastrophe, according to a new scientific study.

The assessment goes beyond the call by the International Energy Agency in 2021 to stop all new fossil fuel development to avoid the worst impacts of global heating, a statement seen as radical at the time.

The new research reaches its starker conclusion by not assuming that new technologies will be able to suck huge amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere to compensate for the burning of coal, oil and gas. Experts said relying on such technologies was a risky gamble.

The Guardian revealed last week that 195 oil and gas “carbon bombs” are planned by the industry. This means projects that would each produce at least 1bn tonnes of CO2. Together, these carbon bombs alone would drive global heating beyond the 1.5C limit. But the dozen biggest oil companies are on track to spend $103m (£81m) a day until 2030 on climate-busting schemes.

Greg Muttitt, at the International Institute for Sustainable Development, was one of the leaders of the new research and said: “Halting new extraction projects is a necessary step, but still not enough to stay within our rapidly dwindling carbon budget. Some existing fossil fuel licences and production will need to be revoked and phased out early. Governments need to start tackling head-on how to do this in a fair and equitable way, which will require overcoming opposition from fossil fuel interests.”

Kelly Trout, at Oil Change International, the other lead author of the work, said: “Our study reinforces that building new fossil fuel infrastructure is not a viable response to Russia’s war on Ukraine. The world has already tapped too much oil and gas.” The researchers said governments should accelerate the introduction of renewable energy and efficiency measures instead.
» Read article   

fenceline benzene
US oil refineries spewing cancer-causing benzene into communities, report finds
Analysis shows alarming level of benzene at fence-line of facilities in Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Indiana and US Virgin Islands
By Aliya Uteuova, The Guardian
May 14, 2022

A dozen US oil refineries last year exceeded the federal limit on average benzene emissions.

Among the 12 refineries that emitted above the maximum level for benzene, five were in Texas, four in Louisiana, and one each in Pennsylvania, Indiana and the US Virgin Islands, a new analysis by the Environmental Integrity Project revealed on Thursday.

Benzene is a known carcinogen that is highly toxic and volatile when exposed to air. Much of the excess emissions come through leaks from valves, tanks, pumps and other means that are hard to detect.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 6.1 million people in the US live within three miles of a refinery, with low-income people and people of color represented at rates nearly twice that of the general population.

Out of 129 operable oil refineries in 2021, 118 reported benzene concentration registered at or near the site, otherwise known as the fence-line.

Nearly half of these refineries released benzene levels above 3 micrograms per cubic meter, which the Environmental Integrity Project defines as a long-term potential health threat.
» Read article   
» Read the EIP analysis

» More about fossil fuels

BIOMASS

ramping up
Missing the emissions for the trees: Biomass burning booms in East Asia [Part 1 of 2]
By Justin Catanoso, Mongabay
May 11, 2022

The European Union and the United Kingdom are ramping up controversial wood burning to generate energy and heat as they follow legal mandates to phase out coal. But this practice is leaving smokestack carbon emissions uncounted and the atmosphere in arguably worse shape.

Now, on the other side of the world, two industrial Asian giants are following Europe’s lead, though with less media scrutiny to date.

Japan and South Korea, the world’s third- and 10th-largest economies, have been increasingly relying on burning wood for energy since 2012, taking advantage of a United Nations-tolerated loophole that enables them, like the EU and the U.K., to allow emissions from biomass burning to be counted as carbon neutral, putting it in the same category as renewables such as solar and wind energy.

The result may be an undercounting of their actual greenhouse gas emissions, allowing them to meet their Paris Agreement goals — at least on paper. Both Japan and South Korea pledged in 2020 to reach net zero emissions by 2050; the EU and the U.K. have the same goal.

Western and Eastern biomass usage is creating a surging demand for wood pellets, putting even more pressure on native forests in the southeastern United States, western Canada, and Eastern Europe. Experts say this demand could lead to similar logging in Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Environmental Paper Network, a global coalition of forest advocates that tracks biomass usage, estimates that demand for pellets in Japan will rise to 9 million metric tons annually by 2027, up from 0.5 million metric tons in 2017.

[…] In South Korea, government subsidies for further biomass development have been so heavy that they are reducing investment in renewables such as wind and solar, according to a report by Seoul-based NGO Solutions For Our Climate (SFOC).

Meanwhile, “proposed Japanese demand for wood pellets would require the use of all the forests in Virginia,” Tim Searchinger, an expert on biomass for the World Resources Institute, told environmentalists in Japan during a recent presentation to forest advocates. More ominously for forests, his research indicates that “to provide 2% of global primary energy from wood requires doubling global commercial wood harvest.” Searchinger based the 2% prediction on current rising demand forecasts.

This trend comes even as nations proclaim the value in keeping forests intact. In November of last year, more than 100 nations agreed at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow to reduce global deforestation as a primary climate-mitigation strategy. But the nonbinding pledge left plenty of room for commercial logging, which feeds wood-pellet manufacture, to continue unabated.
» Read article   

chipster
As biomass burning surges in Japan and South Korea, where will Asia get its wood? [Part 2 of 2]
By Annelise Giseburt, Mongabay
May 19, 2022

Under the guise of “carbon neutral” energy, Japan and South Korea’s appetite for woody biomass for electricity generation has increased exponentially over the past decade and continues to grow. The two nations’ biomass subsidies are spurring an increase in the production of wood for burning in Southeast Asia and North America, putting pressure on forests in those regions.

Burning woody biomass for electricity takes stored CO2 out of trees and puts it back into the atmosphere. However, United Nations carbon accounting rules define burning woody biomass as carbon neutral because newly planted trees absorb CO2. As a result, neither Japan nor South Korea counts that CO2 among its emissions, despite the fact that numerous studies have challenged industry claims of biomass burning’s carbon neutrality.

In 2021, Japan and South Korea imported a combined 6 million metric tons of wood pellets, according to data compiled by the nonprofits Biomass Industry Society Network (BIN) and Solutions for Our Climate (SFOC). They both also import palm kernel shells, a byproduct of palm oil production. A smaller percentage of both countries’ biomass fuel, including wood chips, is sourced domestically.

Encouraged by generous subsidies and the long-standing carbon accounting loophole, wood pellet demand in Japan and South Korea is expected to rival that of the United Kingdom and European Union by 2027. The EU currently supplies 60% of its supposedly renewable energy through biomass.

Although Asian woody biomass sourcing is just one production demand being made on the world’s forestry industry (wood for pulp, paper and construction are others), experts warn that a surge in biomass production could lead to increased deforestation — for a fuel that, no matter what the carbon accounting rules say, emits higher levels of CO2 at the smokestack than even coal and large amounts of particulate air pollution.
» Read article   

» More about biomass

PLASTICS RECYCLING

Berawa Beach
Exxon doubles down on ‘advanced recycling’ claims that yield few results
The petroleum company is under investigation for misleading the public while exacerbating the global plastic pollution crisis
By Amy Westervelt, The Guardian
May 11, 2022

Accused of misleading the public for decades on the promise of plastic recycling, oil and chemical companies are pushing a new idea: “advanced recycling”. Environmental advocates, however, say it’s more of the same old greenwash and litigators hope holding companies accountable for past lies might prevent the spread of a new one.

In late April, California attorney general Rob Bonta launched an investigation into ExxonMobil for its role in exacerbating the global plastic pollution crisis. Bonta says he was partly inspired by a 2020 investigation from NPR and Frontline that showed how companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, Dow and Dupont were aware of the inefficacy of plastic recycling, yet they still strategized marketing campaigns that told a different story to the public.

For oil companies, those campaigns often included removing themselves from the story altogether. Even some climate advocates forget that plastic, which is made from either petroleum or ethane (a byproduct of fracking), is very much part of the climate crisis. Bonta says his investigation started with ExxonMobil because they’ve been a leader, in the plastics industry and in the messaging around recycling. A report out last year from the Mindaroo Foundation found that just 100 companies produce 90% of the world’s plastic pollution. It pinpointed ExxonMobil as the top producer in the world of single-use plastic.
» Read article   

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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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