Tag Archives: clean energy

Weekly News Check-In 6/12/20

WNCI-3

Welcome back.

This week mainstream news coverage of protests and social unrest sparked by the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis broadened its focus to acknowledge that the issues go well beyond police brutality against black and brown people. Longstanding, systemic racial and social injustices are being named and discussed – even by some conservatives. So this seems like an appropriate moment to review a pillar of the proposed Green New Deal legislation – that the crises of climate and social justice are so closely connected that they must be solved at the same time.

We begin this week’s Greening the Economy section with an article from The Guardian’s archives. A year ago, reporter Julian Brave NoiseCat explained the critical connection between climate and social justice – it’s a great reminder of how we arrived at this place in history, and where we hope to go.

Unfortunately, participating in climate-related protests and actions has become increasingly complicated. Two stories look beyond the obvious risk of COVID-19 exposure to describe both legal and extralegal tactics now deployed by state governments and private interests against activists.

Reports from Washington show the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doing all it can to greenlight pipeline projects, while the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is under court order to halt pipeline projects while landowner complaints are considered.

Our Climate and Clean Energy sections further illuminate the connection between systemic racism and the environment, advancing the discussion we opened with.

In more signs of trouble for the fossil fuel industry, Moody’s downgraded its outlook for the ‘midstream’ sector (pipelines and storage tanks). And fracking pioneer Chesapeake Energy appears to be on the verge of bankruptcy. Meanwhile, a new report names the major banks financing environmentally catastrophic oil extraction operations in the western Amazon.

We close with an unnerving report on microplastics in the environment. They are airborne, and they are everywhere….

— The NFGiM Team

GREENING THE ECONOMY

AOC for SJ
No, climate action can’t be separated from social justice
Elites who divorce climate policy from social justice are almost as out of touch as those who deny climate science altogether
By Julian Brave NoiseCat, The Guardian
June 11, 2019 (This article is more than 1 year old)

If you set aside Republicans’ obsession with cow farts, perhaps the most prevalent criticism of the Green New Deal is its emphasis on social justice. Critics contend that the far-reaching climate agenda is far too concerned with extraneous issues such as jobs, infrastructure, housing, healthcare and civil and indigenous rights. Stick to greenhouse gases, they say; reforming the energy system is utopian enough.

This criticism crosses the aisle among elites. In February, the New York Times editorial board wondered whether addressing the climate crisis was “merely a cover for a wish-list of progressive policies and a not-so-subtle effort to move the Democratic Party to the left?” A day later, the Washington Post editorial board opined that serious policymakers should not “muddle” decarbonization with social programs that “divert money and attention from the primary mission”.

But here’s the thing: social justice concerns are always intertwined with public policy – and absolutely central to climate policy.

Experts agree that we must quickly deploy vast resources to mitigate and adapt to global warming. If the United States aims to shift to 100% clean and renewable energy, we will need to build solar and wind farms across the country along with a national grid to connect them. Such a transformative investment could create a boom in jobs. But who would those jobs go to? Where would we build all of this new, green infrastructure, and who should own it? Which communities get energy first? How do we keep it affordable?

And that’s just the energy sector. To decarbonize our economy, we must make equally challenging choices across many other sectors – transportation, agriculture, buildings, manufacturing. In this vast and tangled web of society-wide choices, questions of social justice are everywhere.
Blog editor’s note: Because social justice leads so many news reports these days, this year-old article is worth another look. It does a great job explaining why there can be no climate solution without equitable resolution of social justice issues.
» Read article       

RJ podcast
Racial Justice Protests Put a Spotlight on Pollution and Clean Energy Solutions
On this episode of Political Climate, National Wildlife Federation’s Mustafa Santiago Ali connects the dots between the clean air, affordable energy and the racial justice movement.
By Julia Pyper, GreenTech Media
June 11, 2020

Deep-seated racial justice issues have been brought to the fore in recent weeks by a series of nationwide protests over police violence. These protests are taking place in the midst of a global pandemic, which has exposed, and in many cases exacerbated, longstanding issues of racial inequality.

The energy and climate space is not immune to racial discrimination. But some politicians have questioned whether this is the right moment to talk about issues such as pollution, calling it a misplaced political move.

Mustafa Santiago Ali has been on the front lines of the fight for environmental justice since he was a teenager and throughout his 24 years at the EPA. Now, as vice president of environmental justice, climate and community revitalization for the National Wildlife Federation, Ali says he’s hopeful this historic moment will accelerate equitably energy solutions.

On this episode of Political Climate, Ali connects the dots between the clean air, affordable energy and the racial justice movement. We also discuss the implications of recent environmental rollbacks by the Trump administration and take a hard look at how the clean energy industry can promote greater diversity.
» Listen to podcast      

large and small
Europe Goes Big on Green Recovery Package While America Pushes the Status Quo
This week on The Energy Gang: We’re back with another live show from quarantine.
By Stephen Lacey, GreenTech Media – Podcast
June 11, 2020

Europe is crafting a €750 billion recovery package in response to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It will devote more than €200 billion directly to low-carbon infrastructure projects. That could enable hundreds of billions more for renewables, efficiency, clean public transport and hydrogen.

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., our recent stimulus package sent billions of dollars to debt-laden oil producers. With potentially one shot left to pass another recovery package, everyone seems to be afraid to utter the word “climate.”

The coronavirus crisis highlights a number of political and economic divides. Is America squandering a historic opportunity?
» Listen to podcast      

Norway oil tax break
Post-COVID-19: Norwegian oil industry plans huge offshore expansion after tax break by Gov.
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
June 11, 2020

We are living in a climate crisis, yet we still carry on digging for more oil to make that crisis worse. There is growing international pressure for Governments to center any COVID-19 recovery programmes on a green transition, including through supporting a managed phase-out of oil and gas production.

However even countries that champion their so-called green credentials are failing. Norway is one of those countries.

On Monday this week, Reuters reported that Norway’s parliament had “agreed additional tax breaks for the oil industry on top of those proposed by the minority government to spur investment and protect jobs”, the ruling Conservative Party said on Monday.

Equinor and other oil companies had complained that the government’s plan to postpone tax payments of 100 billion crowns ($10.8 billion) was “not enough.”

The industry aggressively lobbied the Government, which “relented” according to Reuters. The new rules will cover the taxable profits of future projects.

And no sooner had the Government given more favourable tax incentives than the following day, Aker BP and Equinor confirmed they would go ahead with several new offshore oil and gas projects.
» Read article       

just transition already
A ‘Just Transition’ for Fossil Fuel Workers
This week on The Interchange podcast: If we phase out fossil fuels, what happens to the industry’s workforce?
By Stephen Lacey, GreenTech Media – podcast
June 5, 2020

We use the term “energy transition” to define markets, technology, business models. But what about people?

The transition away from fossil fuels isn’t a nice-to-have. It’s a must-have. The hardest part isn’t building out the clean resources. It’s shutting down the dirty stuff at a pace the science demands. And that means disrupting entire classes of employment and communities that depend on fossil fuel extraction — in other words, helping people find work in another sector. The phrase often used to describe this approach is “just transition.”
» Listen to podcast       

» More about greening the economy

PROTEST AND ACTIONS

dark basin hack
Research Finds Hacking Operation Targeted Climate Action Groups
By Julia Conley, Common Dreams, in EcoWatch
June 12, 2020

The Canadian digital watchdog group Citizen Lab reported Tuesday that a hack-for-hire group targeted thousands of organizations around the world, including climate advocacy groups involved in the #ExxonKnew campaign.

Groups that have asserted ExxonMobil knew about and hid data linking fossil fuel extraction to the climate crisis for years were among those that faced phishing attempts by a group dubbed “Dark Basin” by Citizen Lab. According to the research, numerous progressive groups—including Public Citizen, Greenpeace, 350.org, and Oil Change International—were among those targeted.

After an extensive multi-year investigation, Citizen Lab reported that it has linked Dark Basin “with high confidence” to BellTroX InfoTech Services, a technology company based in India which has publicly stated its hacking capabilities.

In 2017 when Citizen Lab began its investigation, the group believed Dark Basin could be state-sponsored, but soon determined it was likely a hack-for-hire operation. Its targets—which also included journalists, elected officials, and digital rights groups that have lobbied for net neutrality—”were often on only one side of a contested legal proceeding, advocacy issue, or business deal.”
» Read article       
» Read the Citizen Lab report

states criminalizing protests
US states have spent the past 5 years trying to criminalize protest
By Naveena Sadasivam, Grist
June 4, 2020

The Minnesota legislature has spent the last five years preparing for the kind of protests that have rocked the city over the past week in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd — by attempting to criminalize them.

From 2016 through 2019, state lawmakers introduced ten bills that either made obstructing traffic on highways a misdemeanor or increased penalties for protesting near oil and gas facilities. Most of these legislative proposals were introduced in response to ongoing protests against a controversial oil pipeline as well as those following the police killing of Philando Castile in a St. Paul suburb in 2016. The bills would have allowed protesters to be jailed for up to a year, fined offenders up to $3,000 each, and allowed cities to sue protesters for the cost of police response. Many of the bills were introduced in 2017 after racial justice activists in the state made headlines shutting down a major highway. A couple others were in response to protests in 2016 and 2019 against the energy company Enbridge’s planned replacement of a pipeline running from Alberta to Wisconsin.

Over the past half-decade, a wave of bills that criminalize civil disobedience has swept state legislatures across the country — particularly those controlled by Republican lawmakers. According to a new report by PEN America, a nonprofit advocating for First Amendment rights, 116 such bills were proposed in state legislatures between 2015 and 2020. Of those, 23 bills in 15 states became law. While there is no comprehensive count of the number of people arrested and prosecuted under these new laws, activists protesting oil and gas activity have been charged with felonies in Houston and Louisiana.
» Read article       
» Read the PEN America report

» More about protests and actions

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

climate schlimate
Trump’s New Clean Water Act Rules Could Affect Embattled Natural Gas Projects on Both Coasts
Trump’s EPA administrator said the changes would stop states from citing “climate change” in blocking pipelines and federally approved infrastructure.
By Kristoffer Tigue, InsideClimate News
June 9, 2020

Just weeks after the state of New York cited climate change among its reasons for blocking a natural gas pipeline to be built beneath New York Harbor, the Trump administration finalized changes to federal regulations aimed at limiting states’ ability to stop federally approved pipelines and other infrastructure under the Clean Water Act.

The rule change, which Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler signed on June 1, will restrict states and authorized tribes from citing anything other than a narrow pollution discharge when denying a permit to a federally approved infrastructure project, such as a pipeline or dam. The new rule will also limit the permitting process to a year for states and tribes, which would waive their rights to block a project if they exceeded that time limit.

For years, Republicans supporting fossil fuel development have cried foul over states’ use of the Clean Water Act’s Section 401, which gave state and tribal governments broad authority to block federally approved infrastructure projects that threaten their waters. States like New York and Washington have in recent years used the authority under that section to block high-profile natural gas pipelines, coal terminals or other fossil fuel infrastructure—often in the name of larger environmental goals like tackling climate change.
» Read article       

» More about the EPA

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

pipeline purgatoryFERC prohibits pipeline construction, allows land seizures as court weighs ‘legal purgatory’ of rehearing delays
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
June 11, 2020

Language in the Federal Power Act (FPA) and the Natural Gas Act (NGA) prevents litigation on an order until the commission makes a ruling on requests for rehearing, but FERC is able to delay those requests through tolling orders.

Critics say the practice has led to a legal “purgatory” of opposition to critical orders on wholesale power markets, and favors pipeline developers by allowing projects to move forward despite legal challenges.

“Tolling is a Kafkaesque process that should have no place in how FERC operates. It makes no sense to allow land to be seized and construction to proceed before a FERC decision can be challenged in court,” John Moore, director of the Sustainable FERC Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Utility Dive in an email.
» Read article       
» Read the order

» More about FERC

CLIMATE

reading list
Read Up on the Links Between Racism and the Environment
By Somini Sengupta, New York Times
June 5, 2020

This week, amid a surge of protests over police violence against black Americans, there’s been renewed scrutiny on the links between racism and environmental degradation in the United States.

To help readers understand those links, I put together a quick reading list about climate change and social inequities. These suggestions are meant to be starters, laying out a few entry points.
» Read article       

what justice is
I’m a black climate expert. Racism derails our efforts to save the planet.

Stopping climate change is hard enough, but racism only makes it harder
By Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Washington Post
June 3, 2020

Here is an incomplete list of things I left unfinished last week because America’s boiling racism and militarization are deadly for black people: a policy memo to members of Congress on accelerating offshore wind energy development in U.S. waters; the introduction to my book on climate solutions; a presentation for a powerful corporation on how technology can advance ocean-climate solutions; a grant proposal to fund a network of women climate leaders; a fact check of a big-budget film script about ocean-climate themes, planting vegetables with my mother in our climate victory garden.

Toni Morrison said it best, in a 1975 speech: “The very serious function of racism … is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.” As a marine biologist and policy nerd, building community around climate solutions is my life’s work. But I’m also a black person in the United States of America. I work on one existential crisis, but these days I can’t concentrate because of another.

The sheer magnitude of transforming our energy, transportation, buildings and food systems within a decade, while striving to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions shortly thereafter, is already overwhelming. And black Americans are disproportionately more likely than whites to be concerned about — and affected by — the climate crisis. But the many manifestations of structural racism, mass incarceration and state violence mean environmental issues are only a few lines on a long tally of threats. How can we expect black Americans to focus on climate when we are so at risk on our streets, in our communities, and even within our own homes? How can people of color effectively lead their communities on climate solutions when faced with pervasive and life-shortening racism?
» Read article       

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

employment and deployment
Inside Clean Energy: The Racial Inequity in Clean Energy and How to Fight It
The industry is growing, but jobs and financial benefits are not distributed equally.
By Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
June 11, 2020

In this moment of reckoning and reflection about racial inequity in our country, it’s time to be forthright about the inequalities in the rapidly expanding business of clean energy.

This industry is providing economic opportunities, but the benefits are not distributed fairly across races and income levels. Predominantly white and affluent communities are getting most of the jobs in the solar industry, and also most of the clean air and financial benefits of having solar on their homes.

“Today the solar industry has to reckon with the fact that we do have an industry that is trying to play within a system that is built on structural racism and we have to think more holistically about how to change that system,” said Melanie Santiago-Mosier, managing director of the access and equity program for Vote Solar, who described the industry’s problem of “employment and deployment.”
» Read article       

EA released
Feds release Vineyard Wind environmental assessment
Project 2,000 turbines along E. Coast over next 10 years
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
June 9, 2020

FEDERAL REGULATORS on Tuesday released a detailed, 420-page environmental assessment of the proposed Vineyard Wind project that includes predictions about the future of wind energy along the East Coast and suggests the impact on commercial fishing of six possible wind farm configurations would be roughly the same.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management put Vineyard Wind on hold last year to take a look at the project through the broader lens of what’s going on in offshore wind overall along the East Coast.  The resulting assessment, called a supplemental to the company’s draft environmental impact statement, forecasts 22 gigawatts of offshore wind development along the East Coast over the next 10 years, the equivalent of about 2 percent of current electricity production. The analysis estimates as many as 2,000 wind turbines will be installed over the 10-year period.
» Read article       
» Read the environmental assessment

Sterling College
Falling renewable, storage costs make 90% carbon-free US grid feasible by 2035, UC Berkeley finds
By Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive
June 9, 2020

The U.S. can deliver 90% of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2035, according to a new report from the University of California, Berkeley, and experts say accelerating clean energy deployments could also play an important role in the country’s economic recovery.

Building out renewables to achieve this target will add more than 500,000 jobs per year as well as $1.7 trillion in investments into the economy, without raising customer bills, the report found.

The country is experiencing a cost-crossover, as clean energy resources become cheaper than continuing to run existing fossil fuel resources, Sonia Aggarwal, vice president at Energy Innovation and co-author of an accompanying report outlining policy measures to achieve the 2035 target, told Utility Dive. “I see it as an amazing opportunity for America to create a bunch of jobs to decarbonize our electricity sector, and do all of that without raising electric bills for customers at a time when budgets are awfully tight,” she said.
» Read article       
» Read the UC Berkeley report
» Read the Energy Innovation report

» More about clean energy

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

midstream malaise
Report: Oil bust is catching up to pipeline companies
By Sergio Chapa, Houston Chronicle
June 11, 2020 

An oil and gas industry bust caused by the coronavirus pandemic is beginning to spill into the pipeline and storage tank business, a new report from New York credit rating firm Moody’s shows.

Moody’s downgraded its outlook for the midstream sector, which includes pipeline and storage terminal operators, to negative from stable. The rating marks the first time that the firm has given a negative outlook for the midstream sector.

Record low oil prices caused by the pandemic and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia prompted producers to slash their budgets while oil field service companies laid off tens of thousands of people.

The midstream sector put plans for several new pipeline projects on hold, but earnings largely had been insulated from the downturn as oil companies sought to move and store crude until higher prices return.
» Read article       

Chesapeake reeling
Chesapeake Energy, a Fracking Pioneer, Is Reeling
The company, which has said it could file for bankruptcy protection, helped turn the U.S. into a gas exporter but became known for an illegal scheme to suppress the price of oil and gas leases.
By Clifford Krauss, New York Times
June 9, 2020

HOUSTON — Shares of Chesapeake Energy, a pioneer in extracting natural gas from shale rock that came to be known for its excesses, including a scheme to suppress the price of oil and gas leases, went on a wild ride on Tuesday amid reports that it was preparing a bankruptcy filing.

Trading was halted for more than three hours in the morning. After buying and selling resumed, the trading was quickly interrupted again by circuit breakers. The company’s shares closed just below $24 for a loss of about 66 percent for the day.

Chesapeake’s successes at using hydraulic fracturing to produce gas helped convert the United States from a natural gas importer into a major global exporter. But the company overextended itself by amassing a large debt and has been struggling to survive over the last decade. It is the latest of more than a dozen heavily indebted oil and gas businesses to seek bankruptcy protection since the coronavirus pandemic took hold and Saudi Arabia and Russia flooded the global market with oil this spring.
» Read article       

amazon watch report
Report names the banks financing destructive oil projects in the Amazon
By Maurício Angelo, Mongabay
June 9, 2020

Five of the biggest financial institutions in the world invested a combined $6 billion in oil extraction projects in the western Amazon between 2017 and 2019, according to a study recently published by the NGO Amazon Watch.

Leading the race to underwrite this resource rush are some of the most powerful banks and investment funds in the world: Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, HSBC and BlackRock financed oil companies including GeoPark, Amerisur, Frontera and Andes Petroleum.

The area is known as the Sacred Headwaters of the Amazon: it is here where the Amazon River, the largest on Earth by discharge volume, is born. But oil projects abound here, in a region considered the most biodiverse section of the Amazon and the world, and that’s home to around 500,000 indigenous people.
» Read article      
» Read the Amazon Watch report

» More about fossil fuels

PLASTICS / ENVIRONMENT

microplastic everywhere
Where’s Airborne Plastic? Everywhere, Scientists Find.
There’s “no nook or cranny” on the planet where it doesn’t end up, the lead researcher on a new study said.
By John Schwartz, New York Times
June 11, 2020

Plastic pollution isn’t just fouling the world’s oceans. It is also in the air we breathe, traveling on the wind and drifting down from the skies, according to a new study. More than 1,000 tons of tiny fragments rain down each year on national parks and wilderness areas in the American West alone, equivalent to between 123 million and 300 million plastic bottles worth.

“There’s no nook or cranny on the surface of the earth that won’t have microplastics,” said Janice Brahney, a Utah State University scientist who is lead author on the new study. “It’s really unnerving to think about it.”
» Read article       

» More about plastics, health, and the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 4/17/20

WNCI-3

Welcome back.

We kick off with a note acknowledging that the relentless drive to build pipelines hasn’t yielded to a mere pandemic. The Keystone XL is pushing south into Montana with an initial work crew of 100 – many more to come.

Our climate section leads with a remembrance from Drilled News of notorious climate change denier Fred Singer, who passed away at 95. During his long career he spun layers of falsehoods and confusion in service of the planet’s biggest polluters.

Because improving the energy efficiency of buildings is critical to achieving necessary emissions reductions, it’s notable that the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulation and Standards (BBRS) appears skeptical of building design experts – apparently favoring developers who prefer existing methods and performance levels. We offer an excellent CommonWealth Magazine article to explain the headwinds faced by the net-zero building code campaign.

The pandemic highlights a multitude of fractures in American society. Clean energy development may offer a rare opportunity to lift people up from under-served and vulnerable communities. The economic potential is huge for post-pandemic recovery. We found a hopeful vision of how benefits might be broadly shared.

Now that the Trump administration has gutted vehicle emissions requirements, clean transportation may still be saved by California’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) standards, combined with the likelihood that a future administration will put transportation sector decarbonization back on track.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been busy under Administrator Andrew Wheeler – continuing its planetary assault while a raging pandemic diverts public attention. In a particularly elegant bit of regulatory jujitsu, the agency rewrote a mercury pollution rule by leaving current standards in place but changing “how their benefits are calculated so that the economic cost takes precedence over public health gains.” This subtle language has significant implications for many classes of pollutants and their future environmental impact.

Our fossil fuel industry section is particularly interesting. We found the usual press coverage of its precarious financial condition – already on the edge of insolvency even before the Saudi-Russian price war and sudden economic shutdown. Now there are emerging calls for a federal government takeover. And why not? The whole industry is in crisis, and a bargain at current share prices. If it were under federal control, a climate-minded administration could manage the phase-out and transition to a carbon-free future. It’s arguably a good investment, considering the massive costs associated with alternative, business-as-usual or go-slow climate scenarios.

We close on a  related topic. The pandemic and global economic crash have dealt a serious blow to expansion plans for the liquefied natural gas market. Australia is feeling that now, with LNG exports facing an uncertain future down under.

— The NFGiM Team

PIPELINES

Keystone corona style
Construction Begins on Keystone XL Pipeline in Montana
By Jordan Davidson, EcoWatch
April 07, 2020

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has restricted the ability to gather in peaceful assembly, a Canadian company has moved forward with construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, according to the AP.

As EcoWatch reported, last week Canada-based TC Energy said it would start construction despite the climate impacts of the pipeline and the concerns about transporting construction crews during the coronavirus outbreak.

The construction that began yesterday involved around 100 workers in a remote border crossing between Montana and Canada, which is home to cattle ranches and wheat fields, according to a spokesperson from TC Energy, as the AP reported. The number of people involved in the construction is supposed to grow into the thousands as construction advances.
» Read article     

» More about pipelines    

CLIMATE

ding dong FSFred Singer Has Passed. He Took Pleasure In Bullying Scientists. May He Rest.
­Why speak well of the late climate denier Fred Singer, who spent over half a century attacking credible science and scientists?
By Paul Thacker, Drilled News
April 16, 2020

A chief talent of Fred Singer, the world-famous climate denier who died on April 6 at 95, was bullying scientists whose work he could never match, and whose findings threatened the bottom lines of his corporate polluter clients.

Singer was a physicist, whose most notable scientific work involved contributions to planetary science, as well as early satellite and rocket technologies. But beginning in the 1950s, and for a half-century thereafter, Singer offered up to the media his takes on the shortcomings of other sciences and scientists, especially those studying the impacts of toxic chemicals, air pollution, and smoking on the environment or public health. Singer’s opinion pieces appeared in newspapers all across the country, and he relished providing that perfect contrarian quote to a reporter on deadline who needed to “balance” a story about environmental regulations.

Singer seemed to take special pleasure in discrediting scientists who investigated the ways that human activity threatens public health and the safety of our planet, the sort of research that informs regulations to solve problems ranging from acid rain’s toll on forests to DDT’s impacts on wildlife, as well as — of course — the effects of climate change on us all.
» Read article     

cooperate and commit
Strengthen worldwide climate commitments to improve economy, study finds
Global economy could lose out by $600tn by end of century on current emissions targets
By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
April 14, 2020

Every country in the world would be economically better off if all could agree to strengthen their commitments on the climate crisis through international cooperation, new research has found.

But if countries go no further than their current CO2 pledges – which are too weak to meet the goals of the Paris agreement, and would lead to dangerous levels of global heating – then they face steep economic losses.

The global economy would lose out by as much as $600tn (£476tn) by the end of the century, on current emissions targets, compared with its likely growth if countries meet the Paris goals, according to a paper published in the journal Nature Communications.
» Read article     
» Download the study       

credibility gap
To advise on green stimulus, the IEA needs to upgrade its own climate toolbox
By Kelly Trout, Oil Change International / Blog Post
April 9, 2020

Oil Change International (OCI) has tracked how the IEA has historically hindered the bold climate ambition we need by normalizing and promoting fossil fuel-friendly scenarios and investments. In this post, we delve deeper into key shortcomings the IEA needs to correct in its own modelling toolbox in order to credibly advise governments on crafting ambitious, climate-proof economic recovery plans.
» Read article     

» More about climate    

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

BBRS and Net Zero
Cracking the climate code
Battle raging over building energy standards
By Andy Metzger, CommonWealth Magazine
December 8, 2019

AN ARCANE STATE BOARD, known to few outside the world of design and construction, is the setting of a furious clash the outcome of which could influence the amount of climate-curdling emissions that pour out of chimneys, as well as the future supply of housing in Massachusetts, where affordable homes are already scarce.

The Board of Building Regulation and Standards might seem an odd venue for the drama that has unfolded there. The BBRS adopts and administers the statewide building code and the building energy code, sets of rules that are important but would bore the average reader to tears. It is the domain of professionals who think in cubic feet, seismic loads, and kilowatt hours. Now, the problems of the world are before it.
» Read article     

» More about energy efficiency      

CLEAN ENERGY

get it right
Advocates call for methodical approach to make sure offshore wind benefits all
Low-income populations and people of color were largely left out of Massachusetts’ biotechnology and cannabis booms.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
Photo by Wind Denmark / Flickr / Creative Commons
April 13, 2020

With offshore wind expected to add as much as $100 billion to the economy along the East Coast over the next 30 years, activists and business leaders in Massachusetts are urging the state to take steps ensuring that low-income populations and people of color are able to share in the benefits of the burgeoning industry.

“There will be a lot of economic opportunity and jobs,” said Elizabeth Henry, executive director of the Environmental League of Massachusetts. “Think about what even just a fraction of that could do for communities that have been persistently left behind — it’s really exciting.”
» Read article     

» More about clean energy        

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

impact on EVs
Trump’s new fuel-efficiency rule: The devil is in the details for electric cars
By Bradley Berman, Electrek
April 10, 2020

It’s well known that on March 31, the Trump administration gutted fuel-economy and greenhouse gas rules for model years 2021 to 2026. But what does it mean specifically for electric vehicles? Environmental law firm Beveridge & Diamond broke down the new rule, shedding light on provisions for EVs.

Beveridge & Diamond warns that automakers who immediately start disregarding California ZEV standards “do so at their own risk.” The lawsuits are only beginning, and if the administration changes next year, it will likely invalidate the rules.
» Read article     

» More about clean transportation    

EPA

change in calculations
Trump’s EPA Weakens Justification for Life-Saving Mercury Pollution Rule
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
April 17, 2020

As many Americans fight for their lives in the midst of a respiratory pandemic, the Trump administration Thursday axed the justification for a mercury pollution rule that saves more than 10,000 lives and prevents as many as 130,000 asthma attacks each year.

The new rollback leaves mercury emission standards in place for now, but changes how their benefits are calculated so that the economic cost takes precedence over public health gains, The New York Times reported. The move provides a legal opening to challenge other pollution controls even as evidence suggests that exposure to air pollution might increase one’s chances of dying from the new coronavirus.

“This is an absolute abomination,” former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head under Obama and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) president Gina McCarthy said in a statement. “This final rule will increase the risk of more kids with asthma and brain damage, and more people with cancer. Undermining these vital safeguards now also directly threatens the people hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, making it even harder to breathe and putting people with respiratory illnesses at even higher risk.”
» Read article    

quicksilver play by EPA
E.P.A. Weakens Controls on Mercury
The agency is changing the way it calculates the benefits of mercury controls, a move that would effectively loosen the rules on other toxic pollutants.
By Lisa Friedman and Coral Davenport, New York Times
April 16, 2020

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Thursday weakened regulations on the release of mercury and other toxic metals from oil and coal-fired power plants, another step toward rolling back health protections in the middle of a pandemic.

The new Environmental Protection Agency rule does not eliminate restrictions on the release of mercury, a heavy metal linked to brain damage. Instead, it creates a new method of calculating the costs and benefits of curbing mercury pollution that environmental lawyers said would fundamentally undermine the legal underpinnings of controls on mercury and many other pollutants.

By reducing the positive health effects of regulations on paper and raising their economic costs, the new method could be used to justify loosening restrictions on any pollutant that the fossil fuel industry has deemed too costly to control.

“That is the big unstated goal,” said David Konisky, a professor of public and environmental affairs at Indiana University. “This is less about mercury than about potentially constraining or handcuffing future efforts by the E.P.A. to regulate air pollution.”
» Read article     

science schmience
Ignoring Scientists’ Advice, Trump’s EPA Rejects Stricter Air Quality Standard
The decision flies in the face of large-scale studies that indicated tightening the standard would save tens of thousands of lives.
By Marianne Lavelle, InsideClimate News
April 15, 2020

Sweeping aside a broad body of evidence that air pollution is killing as many as 52,100 Americans prematurely each year, the Trump administration on Tuesday rejected government scientists’ recommendation that it strengthen the national air quality standard for fine soot.

The proposal to maintain the current standard for PM 2.5—microscopic particles known as fine particulate matter—in the face of alarming new science documenting its potentially deadly health effects, is a win for the fossil fuel industry. It comes amid a frenzy of major decision-making at the Environmental Protection Agency that critics say is designed to secure the Trump administration’s pro-industry legacy in the face of an uncertain future.

The Trump EPA has raced to loosen or reject a slew of clean air protections, even as the nation has been brought to a virtual standstill by a highly contagious virus that can produce serious or even fatal respiratory symptoms. In the last month, the Trump EPA has weakened fuel economy standards, advanced a proposal to discount the findings of scientific studies on health in rulemaking and announced a blanket suspension of the enforcement of environmental laws.

The decision to maintain the status quo on PM 2.5 was especially striking in the context of the pandemic, and came just days after Harvard researchers released preliminary results of a study showing that U.S. counties with high PM 2.5 levels have higher coronavirus death rates.
» Read article     

fine particles - EPA
Trump administration declines to stiffen US clean air standards
EPA chief Wheeler says current soot regulations are adequate despite research that shows stricter rules could save thousands of lives
By Emily Holden, The Guardian
April 14, 2020

The Trump administration has said it will not tighten rules for soot pollution, despite research showing that doing so could save thousands of lives each year.

The fine particles, which come from the burning of coal, oil and wood, penetrate the respiratory system and are linked with heart and lung diseases, higher rates of asthma, bronchitis and cancer.

Under the current standard, which was set in 2012, polluters can emit enough soot to measure 12 micrograms per cubic meter. Strengthening the standards to 11 micrograms could save about 12,000 lives per year, according to one Harvard study of US seniors.

Other research, noted in the government’s own analysis, found that maintaining the soot standard at its current level could allow as many as 52,000 deaths a year in just 47 urban areas.
 » Read article     

evidence
‘Unbelievable’ Timing: As Coronavirus Rages, Trump Disregards Advice to Tighten Clean Air Rules
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
April 14, 2020

WASHINGTON — Disregarding an emerging scientific link between dirty air and Covid-19 death rates, the Trump administration declined on Tuesday to tighten a regulation on industrial soot emissions that came up for review ahead of the coronavirus pandemic.

Andrew R. Wheeler, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said his agency will not impose stricter controls on the tiny, lung-damaging industrial particles, known as PM 2.5, a regulatory action that has been in the works for months. The scientific evidence, he said, was insufficient to merit tightening the current emissions standard.
» Read article     

» More about the EPA        

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

CARES Act oil bailout
Fed’s Corporate Debt-Buying Could Mean Billion-Dollar Big Oil Bailout
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams in EcoWatch
April 16, 2020

As calls for a People’s Bailout in response to the coronavirus pandemic continue to grow across the United States, a new analysis warns that the country’s Big Oil companies “stand to reap yet another billion dollar bailout” thanks to the Federal Reserve’s plans to buy up to $750 billion in corporate debt.

The analysis (pdf), released Wednesday by the advocacy group Friends of the Earth (FOE), explains that this expected bailout for polluters relates to a controversial $500 billion corporate slush fund included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that Congress passed in March.
» Read article     
» Read FOE analysis         

the case for public ownership
Discussion Paper: The Case for Public Ownership of the Fossil Fuel Industry
By Collin Rees, Oil Change International
April 14, 2020

The U.S. fossil fuel industry continues to seek bailouts during the COVID-19 crisis, as global oil demand craters and crude oil floods an already oversupplied market.

During this crisis, the U.S. government should assert long-term ownership and control over fossil fuel companies to safeguard long-term economic security for workers, avoid taxpayer-funded windfalls for fossil fuel executives, restore communities exploited by fossil fuel corporations, save taxpayer dollars, and ensure an eventual managed phase-out of coal, oil, and gas production.

Bailing out the oil, gas, and coal industries with no strings attached would return our economy to a precarious status quo in which the fossil fuel industry’s volatile and environmentally destructive business model worsens our economic and environmental crises. It would allow a handful of executives and wealthy shareholders to continue to extract the vast majority of profits, while taxpayers, workers, and exploited communities shoulder the burden of corporate and social risks and externalities.
» Read overview    
» Download discussion paper
» Read related press release        

late 80s bad
Big Banks Pull Financing, Prepare To Seize Assets From Collapsing Oil and Gas Industry
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
April 13, 2020

While banks seizing assets from borrowers who can’t repay loans is common for industries like real estate — especially residential real estate — it is an unusual move for the oil and gas industry. Reuters reported that the last time it happened was during the oil price crash of the late 1980s. In the most recent oil price crash, when oil dropped from prices over $100 a barrel to $40 a barrel, there was a rash of bankruptcies, but the banks did not seize assets.

One difference now is that shale oil companies have continued to increase debt — thanks to loans from the banks — to the point where most of these companies are not viable with low oil prices. As one industry observer recently noted in the New York Times, “This is late ’80s bad.”

One new angle that didn’t exist in the 1980s is a dramatic change in sentiment from parts of the investment community about the viability of the oil industry as an investment. Television investment advisor Jim Cramer of CNBC was saying oil stocks were in the “death knell phase” in January, before oil prices crashed to the current lows and the coronavirus had crushed global oil demand.

More recently, in a remarkable opinion piece for Seeking Alpha, Kirk Spano advised investors to get out of the industry now with a unique twist on why this was urgent.

“We are about to see a massive wave of shale oil bankruptcies by thieving executives who have borrowed against assets and paid themselves bonuses for years without regard to shareholder value.”

While DeSmog has commented on issues of potential industry fraud and executives paying themselves while the companies they ran lost money, it is a decided shift in sentiment when sites like SeekingAlpha are calling for investors to get out and then “sue the dirt out of the executives who have almost all broken fiduciary duties.”

Which is why banks are now considering seizing the assets of the failed oil  companies — it is a bad option for the banks but it is the best one left.
» Read article     

cuts are complicated
Oil Nations, Prodded by Trump, Reach Deal to Slash Production
The deal will reduce output by 9.7 million barrels a day. While significant, the cut falls far short of what is needed to bring oil production in line with demand.
By Clifford Krauss, New York Times
April 12, 2020

HOUSTON — Oil-producing nations on Sunday agreed to the largest production cut ever negotiated, in an unprecedented coordinated effort by Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States to stabilize oil prices and, indirectly, global financial markets.

Saudi Arabia and Russia typically take the lead in setting global production goals. But President Trump, facing a re-election campaign, a plunging economy and American oil companies struggling with collapsing prices, took the unusual step of getting involved after the two countries entered a price war a month ago. Mr. Trump had made an agreement a key priority.

It was unclear, however, whether the cuts would be enough to bolster prices. Before the coronavirus crisis, 100 million barrels of oil each day fueled global commerce, but demand is down about 35 percent. While significant, the cuts agreed to on Sunday still fall far short of what is needed to bring oil production in line with demand.
» Read article     

wink and nod
Coronavirus May Kill Our Fracking Fever Dream
America’s energy independence was an illusion created by cheap debt. All that’s left to tally is the damage.
By Bethany McLean, New York Times Opinion
April 10, 2020

Ever since the oil shocks of the 1970s, the idea of energy independence, which in its grandest incarnation meant freedom from the world’s oil-rich trouble spots, has been a dream for Democrats and Republicans alike. It once seemed utterly unattainable — until the advent of fracking, which unleashed a torrent of oil.

In reality, the dream was always an illusion, and its collapse was already underway. That’s because oil fracking has never been financially viable. America’s energy independence was built on an industry that is the very definition of dependent — dependent on investors to keeping pouring billions upon billions in capital into money-losing companies to fund their drilling. Investors were willing to do this only as long as oil prices, which are not under America’s control, were high — and when they believed that one day, profits would materialize.

Even before the coronavirus crisis, the spigot was drying up. Now, it has been shut off.
» Read article     
Ms. McLean is the author of “Saudi America: The Truth About Fracking and How It’s Changing the World.”

climate deception
Baltimore, Rhode Island Argue They’re Suing Fossil Fuel Companies Over Climate Deception
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
April 10, 2020

At a time when fossil fuel companies are using a public health crisis to demand financial and regulatory support, the governments of Baltimore and Rhode Island are calling out a “decades-long campaign of deception” by these companies in urging courts to advance lawsuits trying to hold polluters responsible for climate damages.

Over a dozen of these climate liability lawsuits are currently pending, brought by cities, counties, one state, and one trade association seeking payments to help cover climate change-related costs. The lawsuits target major fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, and BP, alleging they deliberately deceived the public and policymakers on the dangers of fossil fuels.
» Read article     

» More about fossil fuels        

LNG

LNG hits pause down under
Australia’s booming LNG industry stalls after fall in oil prices amid coronavirus
More than $80bn of investment decisions are delayed due to a collapsed oil price and a geopolitical price war
By Adam Morton, The Guardian
April 12, 2020

The extraordinary growth in Australia’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry, the main cause of recent rises in national greenhouse gas emissions, has stalled indefinitely, with decisions on more than $80bn of investments delayed due to a collapsed oil price sunk by coronavirus and a geopolitical price war.

The price of Brent crude oil is less than half what it was in early January, having fallen again on Friday despite the Opec oil cartel and its allies reaching a supply deal to stop Saudi Arabia and Russia flooding the world with more oil than it can use. The Asian spot price for LNG, which is linked to the oil benchmark, is down about two-thirds in six months.

The unprecedented crash had already prompted oil and gas giants to defer investment decisions on projects including Woodside’s massive Burrup Hub expansion off the Western Australian coast and Santos’ $7bn Barossa project 300km north of Darwin. A decision on the first parts of the Burrup Hub expansion, including a $17bn development of the Scarborough gas field, has been pushed to 2021.
» Read article     

» More about LNG         

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Weekly News Check-In 3/6/20

WNCI-5

Welcome back.

Pipeline litigation is before the US Supreme Court. The case concerns whether the US Forest Service has authority to allow the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail – but the implications are much broader.

We offer two more articles on plans for the troubled Columbia Gas to sell its Massachusetts business to Eversource.

In climate news, we found a report on the expanding practice of cloud seeding to increase snowfall in mountains where snow pack serves both the ski industry and also provides a critical water source for downslope communities. Also, a recently discovered peat bog in central Africa could release massive amounts of carbon to the atmosphere if oil development is allowed to proceed.

The US Energy Information Agency released information on the growth of renewable energy. Wind and solar are coming on strong, but there’s a long way to go. A niche market for high temperature industrial processes and some transportation applications could provide an opportunity for renewable hydrogen – where the energy to split hydrogen atoms from water molecules comes from wind or solar sources. Today’s conventional hydrogen is far from “green”, and is derived from natural gas.

The regional Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) is being undermined by David Schnare and the Koch-tied think tank Center for Environmental Stewardship at the Thomas Jefferson Institute. We found an excellent bit of investigative reporting on this extensive disinformation campaign.

The fossil fuel industry is having a hard time explaining why investors keep losing their shirts in fracking plays. With new investors increasingly hard to come by, calls for financial fraud investigations grow louder. Meanwhile, the new coronavirus is hammering away at global energy demand – unsettling oil markets.

New York’s statewide plastic bag ban is now in effect, knocking a 23 billion bag per year hole in that market.

— The NFGiM Team

PIPELINES

Gorsuch opines
Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch warns of unintended consequences in Atlantic Coast Pipeline case
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
February 25, 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments from two consolidated cases on Monday, regarding a lower court’s decision to reject the U.S. Forest Service’s authority to issue a key permit for the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

One extreme-case scenario, Justice Neil Gorsuch warned, is that if the lower court’s decision is upheld, more pipelines could inadvertently be “invited” along the Pacific Crest Trail, along the West Coast. The environmental advocates responding in the Supreme Court case and several environmental groups dispute the legal and actionable feasibility of this argument.
» Read article        

» More about gas pipelines  

COLUMBIA GAS

eversource expanding
Eversource to buy Columbia Gas following plea agreement
By Danielle Eaton, the Reminder
March 4, 2020

GREATER SPRINGFIELD –  Nearly two years after the tragic gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts (CMA) admitted fault for the tragedy, will pay millions of dollars in fines and sell their Massachusetts business.

The explosions, which took place on Sept. 13, 2018, killed one person, injured 22 and damaged 131 homes and commercial buildings, according to a press release from U.S. attorney Andrew Lelling’s office. The plea agreement and its terms were announced on Feb. 26.

The agreement, according to Lelling’s office, requires the company to pay a $53 million fine, which is “the largest criminal fine ever imposed under the Pipeline Safety Act.” The fee “represents twice the amount of profits CMA earned between 2015 and 2018 from a pipeline infrastructure program called the Gas System Enhancement Plan (GSEP).”
» Read article       

Columbia gas to Eversource - questions
Eversource purchase of Columbia Gas: Councilor Jesse Lederman calls for hearing in Springfield
By Jim Kinney, MassLive
March 03, 2020

SPRINGFIELD — City Councilor Jesse Lederman has asked state regulators to host here in Springfield at least one of the hearings on the pending purchase of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts by Eversource Energy.

Eversource, a company made up of the former Western Massachusetts Electric Co., announced last week its plan to buy Columbia Gas’ Massachusetts operations now owned by NiSource for $1.1 billion.

Lederman said more clarity is needed on the future of the proposed “Greater Springfield Reliability Project,” a proposal Columbia Gas has been pursuing to construct new infrastructure off the Tennessee Gas Pipeline in Longmeadow and route it into Springfield.

“Will Eversource continue this proposed expansion once they acquire Columbia Gas?” Lederman wrote. “If so, will they follow the same timeline?”
» Read article        

» More about Columbia Gas

CLIMATE

cloud seeding
Helping the Snow Gods: Cloud Seeding Grows as Weapon Against Global Warming
New research supports seeding efforts to bolster water supplies in drying regions, but some scientists question its effectiveness in addressing climate change.
By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
March 4, 2020

Winter bonfires paying homage to snow gods have long been a tradition in cold weather regions around the world.

But in the last 70 years or so, communities in the western United States have gone beyond rituals and added a technological twist. Across hundreds of mountaintops, from the Sierra Nevada to the Sawtooths, Wasatch and Colorado Front Range, cloud seeding experts are now often burning small amounts of silver iodide with the aim of bolstering dwindling water supplies.

The vaporized metal particles are ideal kernels for new ice crystals. When moist, super-cooled air rises over mountain ranges under predictable winds, it sets up perfect conditions for the crystalline alchemy that creates snow, the white gold craved by ski resorts, ranchers and farmers and even distant cities that need mountain water to survive.

The scramble for water has intensified as global warming has battered much of the West during the last 20 years with heat waves, droughts and wildfires. With projections for declining snowpack and river flows, cloud seeding is becoming a regional climate adaptation measure costing several million dollars each year. In other regions, including parts of the central United States, seeding has also been used to try and enhance summer rains and to reduce the risk of severe hail storms.
» Read article        

Interior denialist
How a Trump Insider Embeds Climate Denial in Scientific Research
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
March 2, 2020

An official at the Interior Department embarked on a campaign that has inserted misleading language about climate change — including debunked claims that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is beneficial — into the agency’s scientific reports, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times.

The misleading language appears in at least nine reports, including environmental studies and impact statements on major watersheds in the American West that could be used to justify allocating increasingly scarce water to farmers at the expense of wildlife conservation and fisheries.

The effort was led by Indur M. Goklany, a longtime Interior Department employee who, in 2017 near the start of the Trump administration, was promoted to the office of the deputy secretary with responsibility for reviewing the agency’s climate policies. The Interior Department’s scientific work is the basis for critical decisions about water and mineral rights affecting millions of Americans and hundreds of millions of acres of land.
» Read article        

Congo bog play
Plan to drain Congo peat bog for oil could release vast amount of carbon
Drilling in one of the greatest carbon sinks on the planet could release greenhouse gases equivalent to Japan’s annual emissions, experts warn
By Phoebe Weston, The Guardian
February 28, 2020

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/28/ridiculous-plan-to-drain-congo-peat-bog-could-release-vast-amount-of-carbon-aoe
The world’s largest tropical peatlands could be destroyed if plans go ahead to drill for oil under the Congo basin, according to an investigation that suggests draining the area would release the same amount of carbon dioxide as Japan emits annually.

Preserving the Congo’s Cuvette Centrale peatlands, which are the size of England and store 30bn tonnes of carbon, is “absolutely essential” if there is any hope of meeting Paris climate agreement goals, scientists warn.

However, this jungle is now the latest frontier for oil exploration, according to an investigation by Global Witness and the European Investigative Collaborations network that questions claims by developers that the oil deposit could contain 359m barrels of oil.
» Read article       

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

clean energy snapshot
Inside Clean Energy: An Energy Snapshot in 5 Charts
New data from the Energy Information Administration show coal tanking, solar surging, wind growing fast and electricity usage remaining stable.
By Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
March 5, 2020

The electricity sector is responsible for more than one-fourth of all of U.S. carbon emissions, ranking just behind transportation as the leading emissions source.

For the country to stave off the most harmful effects of climate change, the sector would need to get its emissions to zero, or close to it, as soon as possible, and the transportation sector would have to make a shift to using electricity, rather than gasoline, as a default fuel.
» Read article        

green hydrogen
Green hydrogen gets real as utility business models and delivery solutions emerge

The fuel may be the only way to meet power system needs in zero emissions scenarios and the market signals to produce and use it are finally clear.
By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
March 2, 2020

Here are three things power sector policymakers are reaching agreement on: The mid-century goal is a zero emissions economy; wind and solar alone cannot do that; and green hydrogen may be a solution.

Green hydrogen is produced by a renewables-powered electrolyzer that splits water (H2O) to make hydrogen (H2) gas. The process makes renewable hydrogen (RH2) gas more expensive than the wind or solar used to create it, but it can generate zero emissions electricity in turbines or fuel cells, be stored in higher densities and lighter weights than batteries to meet long duration storage needs, and be used in high-heat industrial processes.

At a renewables penetration of “about 60%,” RH2, or comparable long duration storage, “will be necessary” for grid reliability, University of California, Irvine, Chief Scientist of Renewable Fuels and Energy Storage Jeffrey G. Reed told Utility Dive. Alternatives like overbuilding wind and solar or batteries would be much more expensive, he said.
» Read article        

» More about clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

David Schnare
Longtime Climate Science Foe David Schnare Uses “Scare Tactics” to Bash Transportation Climate Initiative for Koch-Tied Think Tank
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
March 3, 2020

Opponents of a regional proposal to curb transportation sector emissions in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are using a number of deceptive tactics to attack and criticize the Transportation and Climate Initiative. Groups tied to the oil industry have pointed to misleading studies, deployed questionable public opinion polling and circulated an open letter in opposition.

In Virginia, a conservative think tank is now touting a biased analysis, dismissed by critics as misleading “scare tactics,” authored by anti-environmental attorney David Schnare, that questions Virginia’s legal authority to participate in the regional program.

Schnare is currently the Director of the Center for Environmental Stewardship at the Thomas Jefferson Institute, and both he and TJI are part of a larger network linked with fossil fuel interests that work against climate and environmental protection policies.

The Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy is a member of the State Policy Network, a Koch-backed web of right-wing think tanks promoting climate science denial and other policy positions that benefit corporate donors.

Schnare is a former EPA scientist and attorney and initially was a member of President Trump’s EPA transition team. He is affiliated with climate denial groups like the Heartland Institute, and was a speaker at the 2017 Heartland Institute “America First Energy Conference,” where he discussed how to challenge the EPA’s 2009 endangerment finding that serves as the basis for regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
» Read article        

» More about clean transportation  

FOSSIL FUELS

fraudsters in frackland
Is the U.S. Fracking Boom Based on Fraud?
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
March 5, 2020

As more and more players in the fracking industry run out of options and file for bankruptcy, investors are beginning to ask questions about why all the money is gone.

“This is an industry that has always been filled with promoters and stock scams and swindlers and people have made billions when investors have lost their shirts.”
» Read article        

Coronavirus oil cuts
OPEC Proposes a Large Cut in Oil Output
The cartel wants to take 1.5 million barrels a day off the market as the coronavirus outbreak curbs demand. But the assent of Russia and others is needed.
By Stanley Reed, New York Times
March 5, 2020

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries proposed Thursday that oil output be curbed by 1.5 million barrels a day, or 1.5 percent of world oil supplies, to deal with the effects of the spreading coronavirus outbreak on demand.

The proposed cuts are more than most analysts expected but seem unlikely to change the gloomy sentiment in the oil market. After the announcement, prices for Brent crude, the international benchmark, fell about 0.8 percent to $50.71 a barrel.
» Read article        

BP change-up
BP’s Net-Zero Pledge: A Sign of a Growing Divide Between European and U.S. Oil Companies? Or Another Marketing Ploy?
Analysts say European companies are under greater social and governmental pressure to address climate change and reduce emissions. Environmentalists are skeptical.
By Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
February 29, 2020

In the last month, BP said it had “set a new ambition” to get to net-zero emissions by 2050, and the company withdrew from three oil industry trade groups that have a history of opposing action to fight climate change.

The announcements are the latest signs that a gap may be opening between European and U.S. oil giants over climate change, with the European companies—like the governments of their home countries—committing to much steeper emissions reductions than their American counterparts.

But it is far from clear whether the European companies will take action that matches their commitments.

Environmental advocates say they are skeptical, while energy analysts say the extent of the transformation by BP and others will depend on how well this strategy works in terms of profits and investor response.

“We don’t have time, given the urgency of the climate crisis, to give companies that have a history of spreading disinformation and seeking to block action, the benefit of the doubt,” said Kathy Mulvey, director of the corporate accountability campaign for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
» Read article        

» More about fossil fuels    

PLASTICS BANS

NY bag ban begins
New York: plastic bag ban takes effect to address ‘environmental blights’
Businesses will no longer be allowed to provide or sell plastic bags in third state after California and Oregon to enforce ban
By Miranda Bryant, The Guardian
March 1, 2020

Every year, New York state gets through a staggering 23bn plastic bags – the vast majority of which end up in landfill or polluting streets, green spaces and waterways.

But it is hoped the single-use carriers will become a relic, now a long-awaited state-wide ban on single use plastic bags has come into force.

The new law means most businesses will no longer be allowed to provide or sell plastic bags. However, it will not completely outlaw plastic bags. Notable exceptions include takeaway and delivery food, prescription drugs, rubbish bags, uncooked meat and fish and some non-film plastic “reusable” bags.
» Read article        

» More about plastics bans

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Weekly News Check-In 1/17/20

WNCI-6

Welcome back.

More Weymouth compressor station protesters have been arrested. They’re drawing attention to the documented failure of Enbridge contractors to follow required steps to avoid spreading soil contaminants through the community.

For those seeking effective actions in support of climate, we offer a report on the biggest banks supporting the fossil fuel industry. Bill McKibben has suggestions about how to deal with them.

The climate includes oceans, and new reports show their life support systems are highly stressed from all the heat they’ve absorbed. Meanwhile in the fact-free alternative universe, the Trump administration gutted NEPA, the 50 year old National Environmental Policy Act – dropping many requirements for environmental review of gas pipelines and other projects.

We found some good news about clean energy alternatives, including a forecast for strong growth in US wind and solar in 2020. Also an interesting story about how gas utilities might transform their business model to provide infrastructure services supporting networked geothermal heating and cooling.

Articles about the fossil fuel industry ping-pong between energy producers pitching their polluting products into their vision of a bright future, and warnings from the financial industry that those investments are looking more and more risky.

We close with three articles from a 6-part series on the biomass-to-energy industry. The reporting shows how European “clean energy” climate goals are leading to massive deforestation in the American southeast and actually increasing carbon emissions. This is a cautionary tale for Massachusetts, given the Baker administration’s attempts to reclassify biomass as a clean renewable energy source.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

no trespassing - Weymouth
Nine more arrested in Weymouth compressor station protest
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
January 16, 2020

It was the third time protesters have been arrested at the construction site since work started in early December and brings the number of people arrested there to 19. In the past, protesters were either released without being charged or had their charges reduced from criminal trespassing to civil infractions.

The compressor station is being built by Algonquin, a subsidiary of Enbridge, and is part of the Atlantic Bridge project, which would expand the Houston company’s pipelines from New Jersey into Canada. Algonquin got the final go-ahead from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in November after a series of health, safety and environmental reviews.

The protestors said they were responding to the failure of Gov. Charlie Baker and the state Department of Environmental Protection to respond to the community’s advocacy to prevent more industrial environmental hazards from moving to the Fore River Basin.
» Read article

traffic plan
Weymouth council steers for safe compressor truck traffic
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local Weymouth
January 16, 2020

WEYMOUTH- Trucks leaving the construction site of a compressor station in the Fore River Basin often make illegal left turns onto Route 3A, according to a town council letter sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“Since the beginning of construction, residents have appeared before the town council to discuss traffic issues,” stated the council in a Jan. 14 letter to FERC. “It has come to our attention that several sub-contractors have not used the designated routes on the traffic plan.”

The letter, addressed to FERC Secretary Kimberly Rose, was written in response to truck movement from the compressor station site by Alice Arena, leader of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station during a Dec. 16 council meeting.
» Read article    

Weymouth assaultedWeymouth and Quincy communities assaulted by Enbridge’s reckless construction practices
By Peter Nightingale, Uprise RI
January 12, 2020

Construction of a fracked gas compressor station in Weymouth, MA, started after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Notice to Proceed with Construction on November 27, the day before Thanksgiving. A spokesman for the energy company Enbridge at the time wrote in an email: “We remain committed to ensuring construction activities are conducted in compliance with all applicable requirements, with public health and safety as our priority.”

This January 9, Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS) held an action in which residents called upon the Massachusetts Bureau of Waste Site Cleanup, because “Enbridge is exposing the community to additional toxins by digging up soil that is saturated with arsenic, oil, coal ash, and asbestos. They are not following any of the steps necessary to limit the exposure of toxins into the air, such as washing off tires before trucks leave the site.”

Construction of the Weymouth compressor station started after five years of protests and in despite numerous pending court appeals. To allow construction to start under these circumstances is standard procedure of FERC. Indeed the same happened in 2015 when Spectra Energy (since then taken over by Enbridge) expanded the compressor station on Wallum Road in Burrillville. Construction in both locations is part of Enbridge’s project to transport fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania via Canada to the world market.
» Read article    

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Want to Do Something About Climate Change? Follow the Money
Chase Bank, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Bank of America are the worst offenders.
By Lennox Yearwood Jr. and Bill McKibben, New York Times Opinion
January 11, 2020

JPMorgan Chase isn’t the only offender, but it is among the worst. In the last three years, according to data compiled in a recently released “fossil fuel finance report card” by a group of environmental organizations, JPMorgan Chase lent over $195 billion to gas and oil companies.

For comparison, Wells Fargo lent over $151 billion, Citibank lent over $129 billion and Bank of America lent over $106 billion. Since the Paris climate accord, which 195 countries agreed to in 2015, JPMorgan Chase has been the world’s largest investor in fossil fuels by a 29 percent margin.

This investment sends a message that’s as clear as President Trump’s shameful decision to pull America out of that pact: Short-term profits are more important than the long-term health of the planet.

Mr. Yearwood and Mr. McKibben are part of the organizing team at StopTheMoneyPipeline.Com.
» Read article    
» Read “Fossil Fuel Finance Report Card 2019”

» More about protests and actions

CLIMATE

blob victims
‘Scale of This Failure Has No Precedent’: Scientists Say Hot Ocean ‘Blob’ Killed One Million Seabirds
The lead author called the mass die-off “a red-flag warning about the tremendous impact sustained ocean warming can have on the marine ecosystem.”
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
January 16, 2020


On the heels of new research showing that the world’s oceans are rapidly warming, scientists revealed Wednesday that a huge patch of hot water in the northeast Pacific Ocean dubbed “the blob” was to blame for killing about one million seabirds.

The peer-reviewed study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, was conducted by a team of researchers at federal and state agencies, conservation groups, and universities. They tied the mass die-off to “the blob,” a marine heatwave that began forming in 2013 and grew more intense in 2015 because of the weather phenomenon known as El Niño.
» Read article     

bleached coral
2019 Was a Record Year for Ocean Temperatures, Data Show
By Kendra Pierre-Louis, New York Times
January 13, 2020

The past 10 years have been the warmest 10 on record for global ocean temperatures. The increase between 2018 and 2019 was the largest single-year increase since the early 2000s, according to Dr. Hausfather.

Increasing ocean temperatures have harmed marine life and contributed to mass coral reef bleaching, the loss of critical ecosystems, and threatened livelihoods like fishing as species have moved in search of cooler waters.

But the impacts of warming oceans don’t remain at sea.

“The heavy rains in Jakarta just recently resulted, in part, from very warm sea temperatures in that region,” said Dr. Trenberth, who also drew connections between warming ocean temperatures to weather over Australia. The recent drought there has helped to propel what many are calling the worst wildfire season in the nation’s history.
» Read article

sixth extinction 2030
UN draft plan sets 2030 target to avert Earth’s sixth mass extinction

Paris-style proposal to counter loss of ecosystems and wildlife vital to the future of humanity will go before October summit
By Patrick Greenfield, The Guardian
January 13, 2020

Almost a third of the world’s oceans and land should be protected by the end of the decade to stop and reverse biodiversity decline that risks the survival of humanity, according to a draft Paris-style UN agreement on nature.

To combat what scientists have described as the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history, the proposal sets a 2030 deadline for the conservation and restoration of ecosystems and wildlife that perform crucial services for humans.

The text, drafted by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, is expected to be adopted by governments in October at a crucial UN summit in the Chinese city of Kunming. It comes after countries largely failed to meet targets for the previous decade agreed in Aichi, Japan, in 2010.
» Read article

rogue's gallery
Fossil Fuel Interests Applaud Trump Admin’s Weakening of Major Environmental Law
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
January 10, 2020

Industry groups including oil and gas trade associations were quick to pile on the praise following President Trump’s announcement Thursday, January 9 of major overhauls to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The 50-year-old bedrock environmental statute requires federal agencies to review the environmental impacts of major actions or projects, and has been a key tool for advocacy groups to challenge harmful infrastructure, from fossil fuel pipelines to chemical plants.

And in the Trump administration’s hasty efforts to assert “energy dominance,” judges have halted fossil fuel projects on grounds that the government did not adequately consider how those projects contribute to climate change.

For the fossil fuel industry, these court rulings, and the environmental law underpinning them, are an annoying setback. The industry has long been irked by NEPA, especially when it is used to delay petroleum-related projects because of climate concerns.

On Thursday, the Trump administration announced major revisions to the NEPA statute that shrink the scope and timeline of environmental review. Under new regulations proposed by the Center for Environmental Quality, the White House agency that implements NEPA, “cumulative effects” — such as how fossil fuel expansion contributes to climate change — would not need to be considered.
» Read article     

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

big wind parts
Three-Quarters of New US Generating Capacity in 2020 Will Be Renewable, EIA Says
2020 will be a record year for U.S. renewables construction as 6 gigawatts of coal capacity goes offline, according to new government figures.
By Jeff St. John, GreenTech Media
January 14, 2020

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has confirmed what it and industry watchers predicted a year ago — that wind and solar power will expand on their already-large share of new U.S. generation capacity in 2020.

According to EIA data released Tuesday, wind and solar will make up 32 of the 42 gigawatts of new capacity additions expected to start commercial operation in 2020, respectively, dwarfing the 9.3 gigawatts of natural-gas-fired plants to come online this year.

EIA’s numbers also break records for both wind and solar in terms of annual capacity additions. The 18.5 gigawatts of wind power capacity set to come online in 2020 surpasses 2012’s record of 13.2 gigawatts and pushes total U.S. production well past the 100-gigawatt milestone set in the third quarter of 2019.
» Read article

networked geothermal
How A Climate Change Nonprofit Got Eversource Thinking About A Geothermal Future
By Bruce Gellerman, WBUR
January 13, 2020

“Geothermal ground source heating has been around a long time, and it has usually been installed one house by one house individually,” she said. “It works. However, it is a fairly high up-front cost, and you have to have the means and motivation to be able to do it.”

Magavi, a clean energy advocate, said she asked herself: Who already digs holes and puts pipes in the ground, has big money and is motivated to find a new business model? Her answer: natural gas distribution companies.

“The idea is that a gas utility takes out its leaky gas pipe and, instead of putting in new gas pipe, we put in a hot water loop,” Magavi said. “If we’re going to invest in infrastructure, let’s invest in infrastructure for the next century. Let’s not invest in infrastructure that was hot in 1850.”

HEET commissioned a study to investigate if there were a way to make geothermal energy appealing to both utilities and environmentalists.

Under a networked system, homes and businesses would own the geothermal heat pumps, while Eversource would own and manage the system of pipes, sensors and pressure regulators, Conner said. That would convert the gas utility into a networked, thermal management company.
» Read article

» More about clean energy

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

business as usual
U.S. Energy Industry Looks for Clarity in China Trade Deal
Oil and gas companies may see an export revival from the accord, but they seek commitments that tariffs will be dropped.
By Clifford Krauss, New York Times
January 15, 2020

On paper, China and the United States should fit nicely as energy trading partners. China is a fast-growing energy market, while the United States is a fast-growing energy exporter. China is trying to clean up the air of its polluted cities by burning less coal, and the United States is producing an enormous surplus of cleaner-burning natural gas. So any sign of an improvement in trade relations was viewed positively by executives.

Jack Fusco, chief executive of Cheniere Energy, the liquefied natural gas exporter with perhaps the most to gain from the deal, characterized it as “a step in the right direction that will hopefully restore the burgeoning U.S. L.N.G. trade with China.”
» Blog editor’s note: this is a window into the gas industry’s world – one that ignores the climate effects of continued natural gas production and consumption. To Big Gas, the object is to displace Big Coal. Decarbonization can wait until the gas runs out.
» Read article

boiler Bob2020 outlook: Natural gas faces regulatory, environmental scrutiny but still wants role in carbon-free grid
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
January 15, 2020

“We see a really strong role for natural gas now and in the future,” Natural Gas Supply Association Executive Vice President Patricia Jagtiani told Utility Dive. “Not only through the way it currently has contributed to reducing carbon emissions, but through its partnership with renewable energy, and how we work together to make each other more reliable and affordable.”

But an increased push on climate and clean energy goals means more states, cities and utilities are aiming for carbon-free power mixes in the next few decades, and some industry observers worry utilities are over-purchasing on natural gas — and will soon be left with the same stranded asset burdens that now plague the coal industry.

There are $70 billion worth of planned natural gas plants in the pipeline through 2025 and 90% of those investments are more expensive than clean energy portfolios, which include a combination of demand response, energy efficiency, storage and renewables, according to a September 2019 report from the Rocky Mountain Institute. Seventy percent of those investments will be rendered uneconomic by 2035, posing a serious question for investors and utilities about the prudence of some of those buildouts, and that question will only grow more urgent in 2020, according to the report’s authors.
» Read article

BlackRock C.E.O. Larry Fink: Climate Crisis Will Reshape Finance
In his influential annual letter to chief executives, Mr. Fink said his firm would avoid investments in companies that “present a high sustainability-related risk.”
By Andrew Ross Sorkin, New York Times
January 14, 2020

Laurence D. Fink, the founder and chief executive of BlackRock, announced Tuesday that his firm would make investment decisions with environmental sustainability as a core goal.

BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager with nearly $7 trillion in investments, and this move will fundamentally shift its investing policy — and could reshape how corporate America does business and put pressure on other large money managers to follow suit.

“Awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” Mr. Fink wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times. “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.”

The firm, he wrote, would also introduce new funds that shun fossil fuel-oriented stocks, move more aggressively to vote against management teams that are not making progress on sustainability, and press companies to disclose plans “for operating under a scenario where the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees is fully realized.”
» Read article

pipeline stop-ped
Editorial: Vir. gas pipeline ruling reverberates in Bay State
Greenfield Recorder Editorial
January 14, 2020

Many in Franklin County think the prospect of a natural gas pipeline through our towns is not dead, but only resting until the price of natural gas goes up enough to make it look profitable to a utility. Indeed, with heightened tension in the Middle East, the price of crude oil has already risen — and with it the renewed specter of a natural gas pipeline through our area. That’s why a court ruling in Virginia against Dominion Energy for its Atlantic Coast Pipeline is reverberating through the Bay State.

Last week’s court ruling vacating a permit for a natural gas compressor station in Virginia, as reported by State House News Service, is being analyzed in Weymouth, where a natural gas compressor station has been opposed by residents. In a ruling issued last Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said Virginia’s State Air Pollution Control Board did not sufficiently consider the consequences a proposed natural gas compressor station would have on the predominantly African-American community near its site.

Whether the case in Virginia relies more on Virginia law than Federal law remains to be seen. But any ruling on behalf of local factors and environmental justice is good news for Franklin County in the event that a natural gas pipeline should arise, vampire-like, from its defunct state.
» Read article

DoJ on industry team
Emails Reveal U.S. Justice Dept. Working Closely with Oil Industry to Oppose Climate Lawsuits

DOJ attorneys describe working with industry lawyers as a ‘team,’ raising questions about whether government was representing the American people.
By David Hasemyer, InsideClimate News
January 13, 2020

In early 2018, a few months after the cities of Oakland and San Francisco sued several major oil companies over climate change, attorneys with the U.S. Department of Justice began a series of email exchanges and meetings with lawyers for the oil companies targeted in the litigation.

Legal experts say the conversations raise questions about the federal government’s objectivity and whether the Department of Justice, in these cases, was acting in the best interest of the country’s people.
» Read article

the price of coalAustralia’s Fires Test Its Winning Growth Formula
The country’s vulnerable environment and growing dependence on China have raised questions about the sustainability of its economic success.
By Keith Bradsher and Isabella Kwai, New York Times
January 13, 2020

Australia’s leaders face growing pressure to address climate change, as scientists blame the country’s increasingly hot and dry conditions for the disastrous blazes. That would mean reckoning with Australia’s dependence on providing China and other countries with coal.

The fossil fuel, used to fire many of the world’s power plants and steel mills, is one of Australia’s biggest exports. Coal is also one of the biggest sources of climate change gases, and produces most of Australia’s own electricity.
» Read article

» More about fossil fuels

BIOMASS

NC to Drax
SLOW BURN (Part 3): World’s largest wood pellet maker both welcomed and condemned in NC
By Richard Stradling, The News & Observer
January 03, 2020

Tractor-trailer trucks carrying timber arrive one after another at a factory in Northampton County, where logs are piled up to 35 feet high in rows as long as two football fields. Still more trucks come, carrying sawdust and wood chips from lumber mills or from shredded limbs and small trees those mills won’t buy.

The logs and chips will be ground up, dried and turned into cylindrical pellets about as big around as a pencil. Every day of the year, barring any breakdowns at the plant, a truckload of these pellets leaves about every 24 minutes for the Port of Chesapeake in Virginia, where they’re loaded onto ships bound for Europe to be burned for heat and electricity.

John Keppler, the CEO of the mill’s owner, Enviva, calls this an environmentally friendly solution to climate change, and he’s not alone. Ten years ago, the European Commission directed its member countries to derive 20% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020 and said the burning of biomass such as wood pellets was one way to meet that goal.
» Read article

SLOW BURN (Part 2): From Poland to NC, activists plea for reduced carbon dioxide
By Justin Catanoso, The News & Observer
January 03, 2020

Just over a year ago, people from 196 countries were gathering in Katowice, Poland, for the 24th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Climate scientists and environmental activists approached the meeting with something close to desperation. They viewed it as perhaps their last best chance to repair what they saw as an obvious policy flaw that allows nations to greatly underreport their emissions of carbon dioxide — the gas most responsible for climate change.

Peg Putt, a former member of Tazmania’s parliament and now a carbon emissions expert with the international Climate Action Network, was one of the activists in Katowice. She pleaded with delegates from around the world to consider her research.

“We’ve published a new report,” Putt said, brandishing a six-page, full-color pamphlet titled, “Are Forests the New Coal?”

“Countries are going from burning coal to burning wood pellets in their power plants,” Putt said. They say that by doing so they are eliminating all of the carbon dioxide that would have come from the coal. They don’t have to measure the carbon dioxide they are adding when they burn wood pellets because the European Union has declared wood pellets to be “carbon neutral” — as if they gave off no gas at all.

That decision, Putt said, is “not doing anything for the environment. It’s actually making things worse.”
» Read article

SLOW BURN: Europe uses tons of NC trees as fuel. Will this solve climate change?
By Saul Elbein, The News & Observer
January 03, 2020

From the outskirts of Selby, a 1,200-year-old former coal-mining town in northern England, you can see the smokestack and the dozen cooling towers of the Drax Power Station, the largest power plant in the United Kingdom.

For much of its 45-year-history, Drax burned coal mined from the nearby Selby coalfield. But the last coal mine closed in 2004 and now Drax says it has gone green — with help from the trees of North Carolina.

Thousands of acres’ worth of North Carolina trees have been felled, shredded and baked into wood pellets, which have mostly replaced coal as Drax’s fuel.

In 2009, members of the European Union agreed to obtain 20% of their energy needs from renewable sources by 2020.

About half of those “renewables” are the familiar ones: wind, solar, tidal, hydropower. But the other half is biomass: energy derived, ultimately, from plants. In the case of Drax and other converted coal plants in Denmark and the Netherlands, biomass means energy that comes from trees.
» Read article

» More about biomass

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Weekly News Check-In 11/22/19

WNCI-9

Welcome back.

Massachusetts’ two US Senators are sticking with opponents of the Weymouth compressor station. This week they sent a letter to FERC chairman Chatterjee requesting a new assessment the certificate of public convenience and necessity. Their argument is simple – nearly all of the potential customers that the compressor would serve have dropped out. Remaining ones have stated publicly that the compressor is unnecessary.

On climate, a new UN report details the dangers of completing all the fossil fuel production projects currently underway. We include links to the article and the actual report. The alternative to  producing  all that fossil fuel is to drive hard on clean energy, clean transportation, and energy storage.

There’s been interesting news in what we call the regional energy chess game. In particular, ISO-New England is the subject of a couple articles critical of how they manage capacity, and pointing out that they could do a better job incentivizing the transition to renewable energy.

We found reports of protests against a huge natural gas power plant under construction in New York’s Hudson Valley. The article illuminates what a difference just a few years has made in our thinking about natural gas as a “bridge” fuel versus identifying it as a dangerous and toxic obstruction to our clean energy future. More broadly in the fossil fuel industry, we see the Bureau of Land Management having second thoughts about the legality of recent oil and gas leases on federal lands. And a play by the coal industry to promote its product as a source of rare earth elements.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

U.S. senators call for 11th-hour review of compressor station proposal
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
November 20, 2019

WEYMOUTH — Massachusetts’ two U.S. senators are pushing federal energy regulators to hold off on issuing their final approval for a 7,700-horsepower natural gas compressor station and reconsider whether the project is necessary.

U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey sent a letter to Neil Chatterjee, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, on Wednesday asking that the commission reject a request from gas company Enbridge to start construction of the compressor station, and instead reopen its decision to issue a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the project.

In its [2017] decision, the commission said the project is justified because five local distribution companies, two manufacturing companies and a municipal utility have contracted for the gas that would come from the Atlantic Bridge project.

But two companies that had signed on to ship natural gas made available through the Atlantic Bridge project have withdrawn and assigned their rights to the gas to National Grid, which has stated it does not need the compressor station to deliver the gas. Several other project shippers have said the compressor station is not necessary for their use of the increased capacity.

“There is to be a high bar for public convenience and necessity when the proposed facility will also be posing a serious risk of inconvenience and harm to the surrounding public,” the letter from Warren and Markey reads. “Based on this new information illustrating the lack of need for the Weymouth compressor station, FERC should reject the request for a Notice to Proceed and reexamine its issuance of the certificate of public convenience and necessity.”
» Read article      

» More on Weymouth compressor station

CLIMATE

production gap
Here’s What Will Happen to Climate if Every Planned Fossil Fuel Project Goes Ahead
By Carly Cassella, ScienceAlert.com
November 21, 2019

As the world races to mitigate a climate crisis, too many nations are having their cake and eating it too. If nothing is done to curb the global extraction of fossil fuels, commitments to the Paris agreement and other national goals will mean very little.

In just ten years, the United Nations estimates the world will produce 50 percent more oil, gas and coal than is necessary to keep temperatures below 2°C, and there will be 120 percent more fossil fuel production than we can have if we want to limit warming to 1.5°C.

“Indeed, though many governments plan to decrease their emissions, they are signalling the opposite when it comes to fossil fuel production, with plans and projections for expansion,” reads a recent report from the UN Environmental Program (UNEP).
» Read article     
» Read UNEP Production Gap 2019 Report

» More on climate

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Rock Port wind
Road to 100: How one man’s mission to power his hometown by wind created a Northwest Missouri boon
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
November 21, 2019

Chamberlain has helped bring a number of projects to wind-heavy northwestern Missouri, generating $6 million annually in tax benefits for Atchison County, adding dozens of jobs and giving landowners predictable annual lease payments at a time when heightened floods and storms can devastate an agricultural community.

Conservative political commentator Rush Limbaugh made fun of the town in a July 2008 episode, after the city had made headlines. But Chamberlain said Limbaugh’s key punchline was something the city never claimed.

“Rock Port has the capacity to produce more energy in a year than they use. Does it happen on a daily basis? Absolutely not. Does it happen on a weekly or monthly basis? No,” he said.

When the wind doesn’t blow, the local co-op that manages Rock Port and other Missouri cities’ electricity demand and production pulls power from traditional sources. In Missouri, that could easily be coal, which makes up the majority of the state’s power.

“But it doesn’t negate the fact that a very, very significant majority of our power comes from renewable resources and any of that renewable that we don’t use, we’re providing to somewhere else,” said Chamberlain. “So that was the point that Mr. Limbaugh did not understand. And he didn’t ever call and ask me. He just thought that we were so stupid that when the wind wasn’t blowing, we couldn’t watch TV.”
» Read article      

Can America’s First Floating Wind Farm Help Open Deeper Water to Clean Energy?
The floating turbines off Maine’s coast could be operational by 2022. The technology could be a model for other states with deep waters, and deep local opposition.
By Kristoffer Tigue, Inside Climate News
November 20, 2019

The state with perhaps the greatest untapped potential for harnessing its ocean breezes for electricity could soon have turbines spinning off its coast after years of political resistance.

It’s a small project—up to two offshore wind turbines serving as many as 9,000 homes—but it would blaze a new trail: If all goes as planned, in 2022, Aqua Ventus will become the first floating offshore wind farm in the nation.
» Read article       

green bonds
New money: Green banks and green bonds are bringing billions to utilities for the energy transition
The financial mechanisms are bringing investors to renewables and distributed energy as utilities, co-ops and munis move away from uneconomic legacy assets.
By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
November 19, 2019

Hundreds of billions of dollars in untapped new money can finance the U.S. power system’s transition away from legacy fossil assets to renewables and distributed generation.

Utilities like Duke Energy and Xcel Energy have issued billions in green bonds to fund renewables development. Green banks in New York, Connecticut and other states are backing investments in distributed resources and energy efficiency. It appears much more institutional money wants in on the green opportunity.
» Read article       

» More on clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

California to Stop Buying From Automakers That Backed Trump on Emissions
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
November 18, 2019

California’s government has hit back at automakers that sided with President Trump over the state on fuel efficiency standards, saying Sacramento will halt all purchases of new vehicles from General Motors, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and other automakers that backed stripping California of its authority to regulate tailpipe emissions.

The ban, which the California governor, Gavin Newsom, plans to implement in January 2020, is the latest shot in the intensifying battle over climate change between Mr. Trump and the state, which he appears to relish antagonizing.

“Carmakers that have chosen to be on the wrong side of history will be on the losing end of California’s buying power,” Governor Newsom said in a statement on Monday.
» Read article       

» More on clean transportation

ENERGY STORAGE

CSP image
Can concentrated solar power act as energy storage? DOE wants to know more
By Matthew Bandyk, Utility Dive
November 19, 2019

The DOE wants information from industry, academia, laboratories and other stakeholders on “accelerating the commercialization of [supercritical carbon dioxide] power cycles that are appropriate for near-term integration with [CSP]” with a focus on “near-term commercial deployment,” according to a notice published in the Nov. 19 Federal Register.

CSP, in which a field of mirrors concentrate the sun’s rays onto a central point like a “power tower” to generate tremendous amounts of heat, can be paired with insulated tanks that absorb the thermal energy. Like a battery, that energy can be deployed at a later time, including at night when there is no PV solar energy.
» Blog editor’s note: CSP kills birds – incinerating them if they fly into the concentrated energy near boiler towers. They are often in pursuit of insects that have been drawn toward the towers’ bright light. This is an example of complex environmental costs associated with any energy source.
» Read article       

In search for cheaper, longer energy storage, mountain gravity could eventually top lithium-ion
By Matthew Bandyk, Utility Dive
November 12, 2019

Mountain gravity energy storage could be a viable way to store electricity for longer durations and at larger scales than lithium-ion battery storage can, according to a study recently published in the academic journal Energy.

The researchers propose that a motorized system similar to a ski lift could pull containers full of sand to a crane at the top of a mountain. The sand can then be sent back down the mountain propelled only by the force of gravity, generating electricity in the process.

The basic concept is similar to a gravity storage technology proposed by the Swiss company Energy Vault, which recently received a greater than $100 million equity investment from SoftBank’s Vision Fund. That technology generates electricity through gravity by lowering concrete blocks in a tower.

Lithium-ion battery storage is the fastest-growing storage type and utilities across the U.S. have procured battery storage as a way to back up intermittent renewable energy. But the length of time that they can deploy energy — typically four hours or shorter for — may not be long enough for the greater and greater amounts of solar and wind resources needed to come online to meet emissions reductions goals.
» Read article      
» Read the study

» More on energy storage

REGIONAL ENERGY CHESS GAME

excess grid capacity
PJM, NYISO and ISO-NE pay $1.4B annually for excess capacity: Report
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
November 22, 2019

PJM Interconnection, New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) and ISO-New England (ISO-NE) retain more control over resource adequacy than the states in their service areas, leading to higher reserve margins and higher capacity market prices, which favor incumbent assets, according to a paper published by Grid Strategies on Thursday.

The report, commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Sustainable FERC Project, estimated approximately $1.4 billion per year in total is wasted by the Northeast regional transmission operators and independent system operators by securing a combined 34.7 GW of excess capacity.
» Read article      
» Read Grid Strategies report

Sanders, Warren join fellow senators in urging New England to speed clean energy transition
Robert Walton, Utility Dive
November 20, 2019

The group of lawmakers pointed to recent market rule changes and specifically noted the ISO’s Competitive Auctions with Sponsored Policy Resources (CASPR), a program designed to prevent state subsidized resources from depressing capacity prices.

The officials, including Democratic presidential hopefuls Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., say the CASPR program forces state-sponsored renewable energy to “wait for incumbent fossil fuel generators to retire before these clean resources can enter the capacity market.”

They were also critical of the ISO’s Inventoried Energy Program, which they say will force consumers to pay millions of dollars to existing power plants with on-site fuel supplies, such as oil, coal or liquefied natural gas. Greentech Media reports the program could mean New England consumers spend $150 million more per year on energy.
» Read article    
» Read letter      

» More about regional energy

POWER PLANTS

Cricket Valley protesters
Citing Latest Climate Science, Nearly 30 Arrested Protesting New Natural Gas Plant in New York’s Hudson Valley
By Justin Nobel, DeSmog Blog
November 19, 2019

On Saturday, November 16, 29 people were arrested in a rally at a massive natural gas-fired power plant, the Cricket Valley Energy Center, that is being constructed in a picturesque rural valley of farms and forests near the New York-Connecticut border, about 80 miles north of New York City.

“This is my first arrestable action, I am definitely excited,” said 18-year-old Lucinda Carroll, who wore thick mittens and numerous layers to brace against the sub-freezing cold and was one of 10 people chained to a neon green and yellow tractor.

“With each new report that comes out, and each new article that comes out I get angrier and angrier,” said Carroll, a student at nearby Vassar College. “I’ve spent plenty of time going to marches and rallies, I think at some point you have to take a leap of faith.”
» Read article     

» More about power plants

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

BLM suspends leases
U.S. Suspends More Oil and Gas Leases Over What Could Be a Widespread Problem
Fossil Fuel leases totaling hundreds of thousands of acres have been suspended as courts rule against the BLM for ignoring climate impact.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News
November 17, 2019

The Trump administration’s relentless push to expand fossil fuel production on federal lands is hitting a new snag: its own refusal to consider the climate impacts of development.

The federal Bureau of Land Management’s Utah office in September voluntarily suspended 130 oil and gas leases after advocacy groups sued, arguing that BLM hadn’t adequately assessed the greenhouse gas emissions associated with drilling and extraction on those leases as required by law.

The move was unusual because BLM suspended the leases on its own, without waiting for a court to rule.

Some environmental advocates say it could indicate a larger problem for the bureau.
» Read article        

coal ash goes critical
Creating a New Market for Coal in the Push to Mine ‘Critical Minerals’ for National Security
By Laura Peterson, DeSmog Blog
November 15, 2019

With the backing of the mining industry and anti-regulatory groups, the Trump administration has been seeking to expand mining on public lands and further loosen environmental rules under the banner of weaning the United States off importing minerals deemed “critical” to national security.

This move may have particular implications for the struggling U.S. coal industry and its promoters, which have begun rallying behind efforts to extract some of these so-called “critical minerals” from coal and its by-products.

In 2017, President Trump issued an executive order demanding “recommendations to streamline permitting and review processes” for “critical minerals.” The current government list of critical minerals includes a group of rare earth elements often abundant in the waste materials from mining coal and hardrock minerals like phosphate, as well as in the coal ash produced from burning coal. But while the technology to pull these elements from such mining waste is not yet economically viable and can generate its own toxic pollutants, some see the push for it as a guise for justifying further mining.

“You’ll never make money at it,” said Kevin Ashley, a retired mining engineer and former energy policy advisor. “It’s an academic exercise that allows some people to say, ‘This is why we need to continue mining coal; so we can produce more coal ash.’”
» Read article       

» More on fossil fuels

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


» Learn more about Pipeline projects
» Learn more about other proposed energy infrastructure
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