Tag Archives: climate action

Weekly News Check-In 6/24/22

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Welcome back.

We’re kicking off this week with a fabulously informative article by DeSmog Blog’s Stella Levantesi, who takes us through the rapidly-evolving climate disinformation and propaganda campaigns coming at us from the fossil fuel industry and public relations firms that support them. This is an article worth reading in its entirety.

Once you digest that, you’ll spot industry fingerprints all over the place. Start with the financial industry’s claims of greening up their investment portfolios. Ask yourself who’s behind state-level campaigns to punish funds that wish to divest from fossils. Natural Gas utilities lean heavily on this deceptive toolkit. Sabrina Shankman’s excellent Boston Globe article pulls the curtain back on strategies discussed at a recent gas industry conference, aimed at perpetuating business as usual. Take a peek inside this article too – the slides showing industry projections of future gas use are jaw-dropping.

We can add the U.S. Supreme Court to the list of institutions working against climate action, with a decision expected soon that could severely limit the federal government’s authority to reduce carbon dioxide from power plants. It’s part of a concerted conservative effort to delay climate action by hobbling regulators and protecting polluting industries.

Even our Clean Energy section includes a spot on emerging natural gas power plant technology being positioned as a demonstration of that fuel’s rightful place in our energy future. Sounds great till you think about it. (The section is redeemed by an article about promising developments in tidal power off Scotland’s Orkney Island.)

Interestingly, the steel industry – generally held up as an example of a legitimate application for fossil fuels at least until clean hydrogen becomes a viable alternative – may go all-electric sooner than expected. Boston Metal, a company that spun out a decade ago from MIT, has developed a way to use electricity to separate iron from its ore, making steel without releasing carbon dioxide. This creates a path to cleaning up one of the world’s worst industries for greenhouse gas emissions.

Sophisticated disinformation and propaganda strategies are a direct response to the solid science-based imperative to disrupt the fossil business model, the onset of alternative technologies, and strong public support for change. Protesters who gathered this week in Longmeadow, MA to voice opposition to a proposed Eversource natural gas pipeline are one example. Folks argue that the logical outcome of greening the economy will be to cut reliance and demand for all kinds of fuel. That includes gasoline – so cities are starting to ban construction of new gas stations.  We have some catching up to do… a recent report on sustainable cities puts Europe and Canada well ahead of the U.S. in key metrics like energy efficiency and air quality.

Maine scores some points for being on the right track. Its utility regulators have approved the state’s latest three-year energy efficiency plan, a set of programs and incentives that should make it easier for low-income and rural residents to weatherize their homes and access electric vehicle chargers, while building on the state’s already nation-leading heat pump incentives.

Energy storage is critical to a net-zero emissions future, and lots of it needs to come online quickly to accommodate all the wind and solar generation we’re building. We found an article by an expert in the field, who explains how it works and what’s missing to make it all come together. Related to that, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently proposed requiring transmission providers to adopt “first-ready, first-served” interconnection requirements in an effort to bring proposed renewable generation and energy storage projects online more quickly – key requirements for a clean, modern grid.

Before we leave the technology topics, we’ll take a look at how the growing popularity of e-bikes is shaping clean transportation. Many states have noticed, and are passing laws to incentivize their use.

We’ll end where we started, but with a focus shift to the fossil fuel-related plastics industry. You can see where industry lobbying has the most influence by comparing different approaches to bans of single-use plastics. Two articles contrast Virginia’s recent reversal of a planned plastics phase-out, with Canada’s new regulations banning the manufacturing and import of a number of “harmful” single-use plastics. We also look at plastics in the environment – specifically the tiny plastic packets known as sachets. They’ve allowed companies to tap millions of low-income customers in the developing world but also unleashed a global pollution crisis.

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PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Longmeadow pipeline protest
Protesters gather over proposed Eversource pipeline extension
By Matt Sottile and Ryan Trowbridge, Western Mass News
June 21, 2022

LONGMEADOW, MA (WGGB/WSHM) – There was a large gathering on Tuesday in Longmeadow as people voiced their opposition to a proposed Eversource natural gas pipeline.

State environmental protection officials were at Longmeadow Country Club and they were greeted by neighbors, as well as a number of elected officials, who have been strongly opposed to this proposal for years and are continuing to fight it.

“I will be very angry and upset and I will do everything I can to fight it for as long as I can,” said Vicki Deal from Longmeadow.

Deal is one of the Longmeadow residents who has been fighting a proposed Eversource natural gas pipeline for years. The planned route is from Longmeadow Country Club to West Columbus Avenue in Springfield and would serve 58,000 customers.

“It’s terrifying. They shouldn’t be allowed to build it. It’s not needed,” said Jane Winn with the Berkshire Environmental Action Team.

On Tuesday, officials from the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act visited the site and answered questions from the large group of protestors about environmental and health concerns.

“This is a good part of the process. It’s a robust conversation and we’re listening,” said Eversource spokesperson Priscilla Ress.

Ress told Western Mass News the current pipeline is over 70 years old and there’s no backup system currently in place.

“We evaluated the entire system for safety and this is a project that rose right to the top. This is a priority for us,” Ress added.

State Senator Eric Lesser, a candidate for lieutenant governor, was also in attendance and said he’s drawing up formal opposition to the project.

“I would much rather see us investing in alternative forms of energy, whether that’s wind weather, that’s solar…ways we can power homes and provide energy to people and a renewable way,” Lesser explained.

Another point of concern is placing a pipeline in a residential neighborhood after natural gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley killed an 18-year-old and injured 22 others in 2018.

“We’ve already seen what happens in the Merrimack Valley when their nice little station doesn’t correctly assess what the pressure is…There’s obviously a lot of anger at an unnecessary project that’s being proposed,” Winn added.
» Read article    

» More about protests and actions

DIVESTMENT

stop funding climate death
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Wall Street’s Climate Promises
Within three months of the IEA’s announcement, Citi, Chase, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley helped facilitate $36 billion in financing to the corporations most rapidly opening new oil and gas fields, including Exxon-Mobil, Aramco, and BP.
By Alec Connon, Common Dreams
June 17, 2022

You could be forgiven for thinking that Wall Street has experienced a climate epiphany. Bank of America brags about its environmental credentials; Citigroup’s new CEO announces on her first day that achieving net-zero emissions is a top priority. The onslaught has convinced many in even the left-leaning media that Wall Street will lead the way to a better, greener version of capitalism.

Unfortunately, if you look beyond the green veneer, you’ll find a different story. In 2021, JPMorgan Chase provided $61.7 billion in financing to the fossil fuel industry, Citigroup loaned $15.1 billion to the corporations most rapidly expanding their oil and gas operations, Wells Fargo and Bank of America provided the fracking industry with $12.9 billion.

In May 2021, the IEA, the world’s most respected energy modeler, announced that to have a fifty percent chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, there can be no new oil and gas fields developed. Yet, within three months of the IEA’s announcement, Citi, Chase, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley helped facilitate $36 billion in financing to the corporations most rapidly opening new oil and gas fields, including Exxon-Mobil, Aramco, and BP.

But let’s pause here. Maybe we’re being unfair. Leading climate scientist, James Hansen, may have testified to Congress in 1988 that global warming required urgent action, but banks have only recently promised to act on climate. Maybe we shouldn’t judge them on what they did last year, but on what they say they’re going to do in the years ahead. Fortunately, as the largest banks have all now set 2030 climate targets, we’re able to do that. Unfortunately, this is where banks’ climate pledges turn from bad to ugly.

Four of the largest US banks—Chase, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs—have set 2030 climate targets for the fossil fuel sector using a metric known as “carbon intensity,” pledging they will achieve anywhere between a fifteen percent and twenty-nine percent reduction in the “carbon intensity” of the oil and gas firms they finance.

The thing to know here is that reductions in “carbon intensity” and reductions in “actual greenhouse gas emissions” are not the same thing.
» Read article    

empire strikes back
West Virginia may boycott 6 finance firms over fossil-fuel lending stance
By Robin Bradley, Utility Dive
June 16, 2022

The West Virginia State Treasury is slated to blacklist six of the nation’s largest financial firms from accessing state contracts, in view of perceived lending discrimination against the fossil-fuel industry.

State Treasurer Riley Moore alerted BlackRock, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and U.S. Bank they would be placed on West Virginia’s restricted financial institution list within 45 days, according to letters sent Friday and seen by Politico.

The firms have 30 days to provide the treasury with proof they have not turned their back on the coal, oil and natural gas industries.

As the second-largest producer of coal and the fifth-largest producer of energy overall in the country, West Virginia is pushing back against an emerging trend among financial institutions to slash fossil-fuel funding to assuage activist investors concerned about environmental, social and governance issues.

Moore announced in November he formed a 15-state coalition, with each member assessing whether financial institutions were boycotting their state’s traditional energy industry. The group represents more than $600 billion in public assets under management.

“I’m proud to continue to stand with my colleagues against these attacks on our states’ coal, oil and natural gas industries,” Moore said in the press release at the time. “These industries — which are engaged in perfectly legal activities — provide jobs, paychecks and benefits to thousands of hard-working families in our states and we will not stand idly by and allow our peoples’ livelihoods to be destroyed to advance a radical social agenda.”
» Read article    

» More about divestment

GREENING THE ECONOMY

the bag
Cities are banning new gas stations. More should join them

Gas stations are environmental liabilities and hugely expensive to remediate. Electric cars are making gas stations obsolete
By Nathan Taft, The Guardian | Opinion
June 21, 2022
Nathan Taft is the digital and communications lead for Stand.earth’s Safe Cities initiative

Whether or not we’ve all realized it, the era of gasoline-powered cars is rapidly winding to a close – and with it, gas stations and the pollution they bring to communities.

People are tired of being forced to pay obscene amounts of money for fuel every time there’s an international incident. Meanwhile, the cost of battery tech is just 10% of what it was a decade ago, and is expected to continue dropping as the decade wears on. And just this month the Biden administration announced its plan for making EV charging stations accessible across the US.

Climate change concerns have led to governments in California, Canada and the EU mandating an end to new gas car sales by 2035, while other places are going even further and implementing sales bans as soon as 2030 or even 2025. Car companies like GM, Mazda, Volvo and others see the writing on the wall and are following suit by setting dates for when their last gasoline vehicles will be sold.

And now, local governments are taking action as well.

In 2021, Petaluma in California became the first city in the world to prohibit new gas stations. Since then, at least four more cities have prohibited new gas stations permanently and at least six more (including Los Angeles, the city of cars!) are developing policies now. Much as in 2019, when Berkeley kicked a wave of cities passing building electrification policies, the movement to stop new gas stations has arrived – and local elected officials everywhere would be wise to take notice.
» Read article   

way to be
Europe Outshines North America in New Sustainable Cities Ranking
By The Energy Mix
June 19, 2022

When it comes to sustainable cities, Scandinavia is knocking it out of the park, according to the world’s first-ever crowdsourced urban sustainability index, with Stockholm scoring highest and Oslo, Copenhagen, and Lahti, Finland close behind on a list of 50 high- and middle-income cities.

Developed by Toronto-based Corporate Knights, the 2022 Sustainable Cities Index responds to the urgent need to boost cities’ sustainability amid rising urban populations. The index is seeded with publicly-sourced data on 12 key indicators like per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and consumption emissions, air quality, climate change resilience, water access, and vehicle dependency, among others.

Vancouver and Toronto rank eighth and ninth, and Canadian cities are generally the highest-scoring North American cities on the index, Corporate Knights finds. But seven of the top ten cities are in the United Kingdom and Europe, a result “attributable to sustainability leadership,” the report states. Tokyo ranks seventh, first among cities in Asia and Oceania, and well ahead of San Francisco and New York City, which place sixteenth and nineteenth on the index as the most sustainable cities in the United States.

While cities with smaller populations tend to score higher, the fact that London ranks fifth with a population of eight million, and Tokyo comes in seventh with its population of 13 million, shows that megacities can be highly sustainable.

Dhaka, Bangladesh, ranks at the top of the list of cities with low per capita emissions, with Scope 1 emissions of 0.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per capita, while Houston does far worse at 8.5 tonnes. Cities like São Paulo fare very well against places like Canberra on consumption-based GHG emissions (5 and 22 tonnes CO2e per capita, respectively), confirming a clear correlation between wealth and high per capita emissions.

Corporate Knights cites air quality as an important indicator, with fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution from cars and industries “the single biggest threat to human health”. Only Canada demonstrates “consistently acceptable” indicators for urban air quality, while Dhaka and cities in China show up worst in the category.
» Read article    

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

hemmed in
Republican Drive to Tilt Courts Against Climate Action Reaches a Crucial Moment
A Supreme Court environmental case being decided this month is the product of a coordinated, multiyear strategy by Republican attorneys general and conservative allies.
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
June 19, 2022

Within days, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is expected to hand down a decision that could severely limit the federal government’s authority to reduce carbon dioxide from power plants — pollution that is dangerously heating the planet.

But it’s only a start.

The case, West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, is the product of a coordinated, multiyear strategy by Republican attorneys general, conservative legal activists and their funders, several with ties to the oil and coal industries, to use the judicial system to rewrite environmental law, weakening the executive branch’s ability to tackle global warming.

Coming up through the federal courts are more climate cases, some featuring novel legal arguments, each carefully selected for its potential to block the government’s ability to regulate industries and businesses that produce greenhouse gases.

“The West Virginia vs. E.P.A. case is unusual, but it’s emblematic of the bigger picture. A.G.s are willing to use these unusual strategies more,” said Paul Nolette, a professor of political science at Marquette University who has studied state attorneys general. “And the strategies are becoming more and more sophisticated.”

The plaintiffs want to hem in what they call the administrative state, the E.P.A. and other federal agencies that set rules and regulations that affect the American economy. That should be the role of Congress, which is more accountable to voters, said Jeff Landry, the Louisiana attorney general and one of the leaders of the Republican group bringing the lawsuits.

But Congress has barely addressed the issue of climate change. Instead, for decades it has delegated authority to the agencies because it lacks the expertise possessed by the specialists who write complicated rules and regulations and who can respond quickly to changing science, particularly when Capitol Hill is gridlocked.

[…] At least two of the cases feature an unusual approach that demonstrates the aggressive nature of the legal campaign. In those suits, the plaintiffs are challenging regulations or policies that don’t yet exist. They want to pre-empt efforts by President Biden to deliver on his promise to pivot the country away from fossil fuels, while at the same time aiming to prevent a future president from trying anything similar.
» Read article    

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

supercritical
Can Natural Gas Be Used to Create Power With Fewer Emissions?
One company says it has the technology. And though investors looking for cleaner power generation are lining up, some environmentalists are skeptical.
By John Schwartz, New York Times
June 21, 2022

[…] Most electrical plants boil water by burning coal or natural gas, or through nuclear fission; the resulting steam then spins a turbine. The burning of those fossil fuels yields greenhouse gases, the primary culprits in climate change. Scientists warn that if we cannot stop those emissions, increasingly dire disasters lie ahead.

Renewable energy (like solar, wind and geothermal power) has grown tremendously as its price has dropped. But many experts suggest that the grid will still need electricity sources that can be started up quickly — what the trade calls “dispatchable” power — to fill gaps in the supply of sunshine and wind. And while some researchers have suggested that the electric grid can be built completely on renewable energy and storage, Professor Jenks said, “I think fossil will continue to be in our energy system in the near future.” And so “you need a host of solutions for us to be able to keep moving on the path we need to go now. We don’t yet know what the silver bullet is — and I doubt we’ll ever find a silver bullet,” she said.

That’s where fans of NET Power say the company can make a difference: its technology burns natural gas without causing the biggest problems fossil fuels typically do. It combusts a combination of natural gas and oxygen inside a circulating stream of high-temperature carbon dioxide under tremendous pressure. The resulting carbon dioxide drives the turbine in a form known as a supercritical fluid.

In other power plants, capturing carbon dioxide means adding separate equipment that draws considerable energy. NET Power’s system captures the carbon dioxide it creates as part of its cycle, not as an add-on. The excess carbon dioxide can then be drawn off and stored underground or used in other industrial processes. The plant’s operations produce none of the health-damaging particulates, or the smog-producing gases like oxides of nitrogen and sodium, that coal plants spew.

Its only other byproduct? Water.

With commercial success, NET Power believes it will meaningfully reduce global carbon emissions, said Ron DeGregorio, the company’s chief executive. Many potential customers could still opt for coal power, but “bring this credibly to market, and this changes the world.”

[…A] project proposed in Louisiana would use NET Power’s technology to produce various products, including hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Known as G2 Net-Zero, it would also include an export terminal for liquefied natural gas, or L.N.G. Charles E. Roemer IV, the company’s chairman, said that while many L.N.G. export terminals were planned or under construction in coastal Louisiana, building a cleaner alternative could create a new paradigm.

The technology has spawned criticisms, particularly of its reliance on methane infrastructure and of the present-day limitations of carbon storage. Many environmentalists oppose L.N.G. terminals, in large part because they extend the use of fossil fuels; the Sierra Club recently targeted those planned for Cameron, in Southwest Louisiana, including G2 Net-Zero, arguing that they will cause grave environmental damage to the area.

“As long as a power plant is being powered by methane gas, it will continue to harm our climate and communities,” said Jeremy Fisher, senior adviser for strategic research and development for the Sierra Club. “This technology would do nothing to protect families living with pollution from fracking wells or next to dangerous gas pipelines, and it would continue to allow for the massive — and often undercounted — amount of climate-warming methane leaked from wellheads, pipelines and plants.”
» Blog editor’s note: This technology may have a place, for now, in providing power to applications that are hard to decarbonize. The danger is the gas industry wants to promote it for widespread use – a way to keep us hooked up to the gas pipeline.
» Read article    

Orbital 02
Heat wave: how Orkney is leading a tidal power revolution
Strong tides make conditions in the Scottish islands ideal, but can the UK grasp the opportunity to become a leader in the sector?
By Eve Livingston, The Guardian
June 18, 2022

On a small passenger boat about 10 miles north of Kirkwall, Orkney, at the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the North Sea, an immense yellow structure heaves into view. This is the world’s most powerful tidal stream energy generator, Orbital Marine Power’s O2. Its shadow quickly dwarfs the tiny vessel.

Today, the generator’s turbines are raised above sea level for maintenance. It is difficult to comprehend the O2’s scale until a worker appears, a tiny stick figure against the hulking turbine.

Orkney, chosen as the European Marine Energy Centre’s (Emec) headquarters for its combination of strong tides and waves as well as connection to the energy grid, has become a hub for tidal power innovation. Alongside Scottish company Orbital, Spain-based Magallanes is also testing at Emec and US company Aquantis has just signed up to a six-month demo programme.

Tidal power, while not yet widely commercialised, is seen by many as the next frontier in global renewables. It’s the only renewable power source that comes from the moon’s pull on the Earth. “Unlike other renewables which rely on, for instance, the sun or the wind, tidal resources are predictable and continuous,” says Prof AbuBakr Bahaj, head of the energy and climate change division at the University of Southampton.

Harnessing power from the waves can be done in three ways: tidal barrages, in which turbines are attached to a dam-like wall; tidal lagoons, where a body of water is enclosed by a barrage-like barrier; and tidal stream, where turbines are placed directly into fast-flowing bodies of water.

Only tidal barrages are used commercially – most notably at Lake Sihwa in South Korea and La Rance in northern France – but it is tidal stream technology that is being tested in Orkney. Tidal stream is cheaper to build and has less of an environmental impact than barrages, which alter tidal flow and can affect marine life and birds.

Tidal stream power alone could provide 11% of the UK’s current electricity needs, according to 2021 research from Plymouth University.
» Read article    

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

sloppy install
Maine energy efficiency plan puts priority on equity, electrification

As the state increasingly feels the strain of rising energy prices, the $300 million plan includes commitments to helping low-income and rural residents weatherize homes and access electric vehicle chargers.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
June 17, 2022

Maine’s utility regulators have approved the state’s latest three-year energy efficiency plan, a set of programs and incentives that environmental and community advocates say will make it easier for low-income and rural residents to weatherize their homes and access electric vehicle chargers.

The plan substantially increases funding for programs serving low- and moderate-income households, continues efforts to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure into more sparsely populated areas, and builds upon the state’s already nation-leading heat pump incentives. In total, the plan calls for spending just under $300 million over three years and projects a lifetime benefit totaling $1.5 billion for the state, in addition to the environmental gains it is expected to produce.

“We think that these benefits extend beyond the economic savings to include really important progress with carbon reductions and improving our energy independence, which has never been more important,” said Michael Stoddard, executive director of the Efficiency Maine Trust, the quasi-governmental agency that administers the bulk of the state’s efficiency programs.

Efficiency Maine puts out a new plan every three years, outlining its intended goals, spending, and programs. The newly approved plan, called Triennial Plan V, covers the years 2023 to 2025 and has been widely praised.

“This is a wonderful plan,” said Jeff Marks, Maine director for climate and energy nonprofit the Acadia Center. “This gets at a lot of the priorities in Maine.”
» Blog editor’s note: photo shows the ugliest heat pump installation job I’ve ever seen. Why it was selected is a mystery….
» Read article   
» Read the plan

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

storage graphic
‘All hands on deck’ for the energy storage industry
By Kelly Sarber, CEO of Strategic Management Group, in Utility Dive
June 21, 2022

Energy storage technology may be the singular, most important component in our nation’s transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, since utility-scale, battery systems provide the flexibility to absorb, store and deploy energy at locations where and when the power is most needed. Energy storage is crucial to replacing America’s fleet of polluting, fossil fuel plants because they integrate the increasing amounts of wind, solar and hydropower being transmitted hundreds of miles without jeopardizing grid reliability — sometimes the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining where and when the power is most needed.

For example, in New York City alone, there are plans to construct more than 9,000 MW of offshore wind projects that will connect to land, replacing more than 8,000 MW of an aging fleet of natural gas plants while adding more electrification capacity for vehicles. These goals cannot be accomplished without deploying utility-scale storage to connect new, intermittent offshore wind power that will take years to develop. More importantly, energy storage projects need to be constructed and operational before these new, planned renewable energy resources come online, making sure intermittent resources are balanced against demand.

Unfortunately, and like every segment of our nation’s economy, the energy storage industry is reeling from unforeseen costs and supply chain delays, facing uncertain, external risks and market-based obstacles that must be acknowledged and addressed if we are to stay on track to aggressively fight climate change by investing and constructing energy storage projects that support dual goals of renewable energy and grid resiliency.

Utility-scale, battery systems operating today are quickly proving themselves to be a reliable and resilient workhorse for grid support in locations where projects have come online. California leads the nation in deploying energy storage because the state’s climate change policies are complemented by market incentives that reward grid resiliency, reliability, resource adequacy, voltage support and energy islanding. In most other states, energy markets do not compensate developers of energy storage with the same benefit-based approach — policies that need to be immediately remedied if they hope to attract similar investment.
» Read article    

» More about energy storage

BUILDING MATERIALS

hot stuffThe race to produce green steel
The steel industry is testing new technologies that don’t rely on fossil fuels.
By Marcello Rossi, Ars Technica
June 19, 2022

In the city of Woburn, Massachusetts, a suburb just north of Boston, a cadre of engineers and scientists in white coats inspected an orderly stack of brick-sized, gunmetal-gray steel ingots on a desk inside a neon-illuminated lab space.

What they were looking at was a batch of steel created using an innovative manufacturing method, one that Boston Metal, a company that spun out a decade ago from MIT, hopes will dramatically reshape the way the alloy has been made for centuries. By using electricity to separate iron from its ore, the firm claims it can make steel without releasing carbon dioxide, offering a path to cleaning up one of the world’s worst industries for greenhouse gas emissions.

An essential input for engineering and construction, steel is one of the most popular industrial materials in the world, with more than 2 billion tons produced annually. This abundance, however, comes at a steep price for the environment. Steelmaking accounts for 7 to 11 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions, making it one of the largest industrial sources of atmospheric pollution. And because production could rise by a third by 2050, this environmental burden could grow.

[…] Facing escalating pressure from governments and investors to reduce emissions, a number of steelmakers—including both major producers and startups—are experimenting with low-carbon technologies that use hydrogen or electricity instead of traditional carbon-intensive manufacturing. Some of these efforts are nearing commercial reality.

[…] Modern steelmaking involves several production stages. Most commonly, iron ore is crushed and turned into sinter (a rough solid) or pellets. Separately, coal is baked and converted into coke. The ore and coke are then mixed with limestone and fed into a large blast furnace where a flow of extremely hot air is introduced from the bottom. Under high temperatures, the coke burns and the mixture produces liquid iron, known as pig iron or blast-furnace iron. The molten material then goes into an oxygen furnace, where it’s blasted with pure oxygen through a water-cooled lance, which forces off carbon to leave crude steel as a final product.

This method, first patented by English engineer Henry Bessemer in the 1850s, produces carbon-dioxide emissions in different ways. First, the chemical reactions in the blast furnace result in emissions, as carbon trapped in coke and limestone binds with oxygen in the air to create carbon dioxide as a byproduct. In addition, fossil fuels are typically burned to heat the blast furnace and to power sintering and pelletizing plants, as well as coke ovens, emitting carbon dioxide in the process.

[…] Electricity can also be used to reduce iron ore. Boston Metal, for example, has developed a process called molten oxide electrolysis, in which a current moves through a cell containing iron ore. As electricity travels between both ends of the cell and heats up the ore, oxygen bubbles up (and can be collected), while iron ore is reduced into liquid iron that pools at the bottom of the cell and is periodically tapped. The purified iron is then mixed with carbon and other ingredients.

“What we do is basically swapping carbon for electricity as a reducing agent,” explained Adam Rauwerdink, the company’s senior vice president of business development. “This allows us to make very high-quality steel using way less energy and in fewer steps than conventional steelmaking.” As long as power comes from fossil-free sources, he added, the process generates no carbon emissions.

He said the company, which currently runs three pilot lines at its Woburn facility, is working to bring its laboratory concept to the market, using $50 million raised last year from an investor group including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, backed by Bill Gates, and the German carmaker BMW. A commercial-scale demonstration plant is expected to be up and running by 2025.
» Read article     

» More about building materials

MODERNIZING THE GRID

jammed
FERC proposes ‘first-ready, first-served’ interconnection rules to help spur new generation, storage
The federal agency also proposed extreme weather grid reliability requirements and reports from transmission providers on extreme weather assessments.
By Ethan Howland, Utility Dive
June 17, 2022

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday proposed requiring transmission providers to adopt “first-ready, first-served” interconnection requirements in an effort to bring proposed generation and energy storage projects online more quickly.

“Our [interconnection] queues are clogged, it takes forever to get new generation through,” FERC Chairman Richard Glick said during the commission’s monthly open meeting, noting the delays potentially hurt grid reliability and prevent lower-cost energy from reaching consumers.

There are about 8,100 proposed generation and storage projects in interconnection queues across the United States, totaling about 1,000 GW and 400 GW, respectively, Glick said. Regional transmission organizations and other transmission providers are studying what grid upgrades are needed to safely connect those projects to the grid and how much the upgrades would cost.

The review process takes about 3.7 years to complete, on average, and about three-quarters of the projects drop out before finishing it, Glick said.

FERC aims to help remove the interconnection logjam by adopting tactics already used by some grid operators: studying interconnection requests in groups, or clusters, instead of one by one, and imposing requirements, such as larger financial commitments, that aim to weed out speculative projects that have little chance of being built.
» Read article    

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

pedego
E-bike Sales and Sharing are Booming. But Can They Help Take Cars off the Road?
E-bikes, already taking off during the pandemic, are getting a big boost from states that hope they will reduce driving, energy consumption and emissions.
By James Pothen, Inside Climate News
June 23, 2022

Talk to Kiran Herbert and you might start to think that e-bikes cure cancer. She’s not just a writer and content manager at the bicycle advocacy group PeopleForBikes. She is a self-proclaimed e-bike evangelist on a mission to see electric bicycles spread across her home state of Colorado, then across the country and around the world.

[…] She has reason to be so giddy. Next week, the state of Colorado is set to release $12 million for e-bike ownership and rideshare programs. The funding comes as part of Colorado State Senate Bill 22-193, which was signed into law on June 2 and is among a host of state and local measures across the country that identify e-bikes as an essential tool for getting people to drive less, which will reduce emissions from transportation.

“I will say the Colorado bill…has a lot of people excited because it’s showcasing what’s possible,” said Herbert. “Because they have done all these pilot [programs], there’s just a lot of proof that this works and they’re pretty much going all-in on e-bikes, which is really exciting. And I think, honestly, that’s the strategy this country needs.”

Colorado is joining California, Connecticut and Vermont among states with statewide e-bike incentive programs, in addition to many local governments with programs, according to a database maintained by Portland State University in partnership with PeopleForBikes. Massachusetts may soon join them, with a bill making its way through the legislature that would provide rebates to consumers buying e-bikes.

Electric bicycles have been around for over a hundred years. But recent technological advances, including the development of lighter batteries, have helped make them easier to ride. And then, the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns pushed more people to ride, share and buy bikes.

[…] So e-bikes are popular. But are they good for the environment? Evangelists like Kiran Herbert say that they can replace a large number of car rides in cities. An e-bike uses less energy than a gas-powered or electric-powered car, so as people start to use e-bikes instead of their cars, they will save money as well as reduce emissions, and may even get rid of their automobiles completely.

There is some evidence to suggest this is true. For example, a 2020 study in Norway found that car owners who purchase an e-bike will drive less.
» Read article   
» Read the Massachusetts E-bike bill

» More about clean transportation

GAS UTILITIES

fenced in
As gas companies plan for a climate future, their vision: more gas
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
June 16, 2022

Up on the fourth floor of Westin Copley Place this week, hundreds of natural gas representatives mingled among glossy posters and tables littered with branded baseball hats and Oreos. Among the niceties and exchanges of business cards it became quickly clear — the climate crisis is very much on people’s minds. Another thing became clear, too. The solution, as they see it, is more gas.

“Additional natural gas pipelines are the answer to many of the questions we face today,” Amy Andryszak, chief executive of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, told a panel audience Tuesday.

It was the 27th annual gathering of the Northeast LDC Gas Forum — nicknamed the “Best Deal-Making Conference” in the industry, according to the organizers, and seemingly as good a place as any to get the gas industry’s view of the climate crisis as it is lived every day in the executive suites, field sites, and maintenance trucks of the scores of companies that operate in New England.

Elsewhere in the world, on this very day, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres issued the latest of his increasingly desperate pleas for world action, saying that the planet is headed toward climate chaos and that “new funding for fossil fuel exploration and production infrastructure is delusional.”

But the message on the convention floor was that the outside world just doesn’t understand.

In panels and presentations, industry representatives told the story of an industry in the cross-hairs, trying to solve the climate problem but getting interference from overly ambitious regulators, activist shareholders who want to see them slash emissions, and climate advocates and policy makers pushing to get off of fossil fuels.

[…] Nowhere was the tension felt by the industry more clear than in the framing of a panel called “Electrification — Not So Fast!”

Electrification — a plan for powering most vehicles and homes with energy from a clean electrical grid — is the path to net zero that clean energy advocates and many policy makers in Massachusetts and around the world generally agree is the best and most cost-effective. But the gas industry is pushing back hard, proposing its own scenarios, which generally involve expanding gas production and gas infrastructure, eventually replacing what flows through pipes with something less carbon-intensive.

A problem with those plans, many experts say, is that low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels are still new technologies that are expected to be low in supply, meaning they will need to be conserved for the parts of the economy that are the hardest to electrify, like steel production or heavy-duty transportation.

At this panel, though, and at others throughout the conference, the message was to find a way to replace at least a portion of what flows through the pipes, while growing the footprint of natural gas infrastructure.
» Read article

» More about gas utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

reflecting on climate denial
Climate Deniers and the Language of Climate Obstruction
From narratives about fossil fuels as a solution to climate advocates as out of touch with reality, here’s how the fossil fuel industry and its allies are weaponizing words to delay climate action.
By Stella Levantesi, DeSmog Blog
June 16, 2022

On a recent episode of the Fox Business show “Mornings with Maria,” American Petroleum Institute CEO and President, Mike Sommers, said that “the most important environmental movement in the world is the American oil and gas industry.”

“A super absurd example of oil and gas companies appropriating and weaponizing the language of climate advocates for their own greenwashing,” commented author and climate activist Genevieve Guenther on Twitter.

Sommers’ statement may be, in fact, one of the most literal examples of how fossil fuel companies are using language to perpetuate their climate denial and fend off action. And because public perception and awareness of the climate crisis are, at least in part, driven by how we talk about it, the fossil fuel industry has used language “to create smoke and mirrors and false impressions around what they’re really doing,” said Christine Arena, author, expert on climate disinformation, and former Executive Vice President at the PR firm Edelman. Arena was one of six employees to resign in 2015 following revelations of the firm’s greenwashing work with fossil fuel lobbies and associations.

PR firms — or “the enablers,” as Arena calls them — have played a key role in exploiting communication and manipulating language to their advantage, all while working on behalf of the fossil fuel industry and using a tobacco industry playbook. Ultimately, they’ve been using it to obstruct climate action, a longtime goal of the oil, gas, and coal industries. “If we take a step back and ask ourselves, why has meaningful action to avert the climate crisis proven to be so difficult? It is at least in part because of communications and because of the language coming from the fossil fuel industry,” said Arena.

Today, the fossil fuel industry and its allies are “appropriating and weaponizing” language from climate advocates, usually in ways that are much less obvious than Sommers’ recent comment.

“The industry is repeating the same phrases it’s hearing from the climate movement to use for their own advertising purposes. They are commandeering the language of sustainability and of the climate movement,” Arena said of fossil fuel companies, adding that they are doing so “to create a false perception that they’re on our side.”

[…] From fossil fuel solutionism to adaptation-only narratives, these climate obstruction tactics commandeer language in an attempt to undermine one of the most urgent and far-reaching challenges of our day. And the momentum behind such deceptive language is only building.

“We are on a dangerous trajectory,” Arena said. “I would say broadly that climate disinformation and greenwashing are getting much worse, and today we have many more examples to point to than we even did back when the industry was trying to deny climate change altogether.”

Understanding how opponents of climate action employ these discourses of delay is essential to recognizing climate disinformation and misinformation, Arena said, and ultimately to disrupting it. “We have to redouble our efforts to hold these companies and their enablers accountable.”
» Read article    

» More about fossil fuels   

PLASTICS BANS

fails the sniff testVirginia governor rolls back plastics phase-out, seeking to court recycling
An executive order this spring by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin trumpeted efforts to boost recycling, but it also eliminated a commitment by his predecessor to phase out single-use plastics at state agencies and universities.
By Elizabeth McGowan, Energy News Network
June 21, 2022

At first whiff, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order centered on curbing food waste and boosting recycling across Virginia might pass an environmentalist’s sniff test.

Scratch a bit deeper, however, and that same nose detects a less-than-pleasant odor.

Conservationists have no quibble with order No. 17’s initiative to keep leftovers out of landfills by doubling down on composting efforts statewide.

Where they smell greenwashing is in the section that cancels an initiative by the previous administration to eliminate single-use plastics. Instead, the new order urges state agencies, parks, colleges and universities to encourage recycling of the ubiquitous plastics.

“I would love to be positive about this,” said Tim Cywinski, spokesperson for the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club. “Youngkin easily could’ve written an order that didn’t get rid of the plastics phase-out.

“But every time he does something that seems good, he does something else and goes two steps backward.”

What’s the harm in backtracking on plastics? The Sierra Club is among those claiming it’s an invitation for companies with questionable claims about recycling plastic into fuel or feedstock for more plastic to move into the state.

In fact, Youngkin’s early April order does just that. The state Department of Environmental Quality is required to lead research on a report due next spring that outlines how Virginia can attract entities that specialize in post-consumer recycled products.

That order refers to those businesses as “clean technology companies.”

The American Chemistry Council has lobbied for years to locate plastic recyclers in Virginia, according to the Sierra Club.

“This is investing in something that is just going to pollute again,” said Connor Kish, Sierra’s legislative and political director. “What is clear is that Gov. Youngkin’s executive order undoes a lot of good work.”
» Read article   
» Read Governor Youngkin’s executive order

collecting bottles
Canada announces ban on single-use plastics in ‘historic step’
New regulations will prohibit sale and import of ‘harmful’ plastics, with some time for businesses to adjust.
By Al Jazeera
June 20, 2022

The government of Canada announced that it will ban the manufacturing and import of a number of “harmful” single-use plastics, with several new regulations coming into place in December.

The new rules, announced Monday, will apply to checkout bags, utensils, food-service products with plastic that is difficult to recycle, ring carriers, stir sticks, and straws with some exceptions, the government announced in a release.

“Our government is all in when it comes to reducing plastic pollution …That’s why we’re announcing today that our government is delivering on its commitment to ban harmful single-use plastics,” said environment minister Steven Guilbeault in a press conference Monday.

“This is a historic step towards beating plastic pollution and keeping our communities, lands and oceans clean.”

The sale of such items will be prohibited starting in December 2023, a buffer period meant to give businesses time to adjust to the changes and wind down their existing supplies.

The government will also ban the export of six plastics by the end of 2025.

The federal government listed plastics as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act last year, which paved the way for regulations to ban some. However, a consortium of plastics producers is suing the government over the toxic designation in a case expected to be heard later this year.
» Read article    

» More about plastics bans

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

surf sachet
Explainer: Plastic sachets: As big brands cashed in, a waste crisis spiraled
By John Geddie and Joe Brock, Reuters
June 22, 2022

Tiny plastic packets known as sachets have allowed companies to tap millions of low-income customers in the developing world but also unleashed a global pollution crisis.

A Reuters investigation has found that London-listed Unilever plc (ULVR.L), a pioneer in selling sachets, has privately fought to derail bans on the problematic packaging despite saying publicly it wants to “get rid of” them.

Here’s what you need to know about sachets.

While commonly associated with ketchup or cosmetic samples in wealthy countries, sachets are widely used in emerging markets to sell inexpensive micro-portions of everyday products, from laundry detergent to seasoning and snacks.

These palm-sized pouches tend to be made up of multiple layers of plastic and aluminum foil, melded together using adhesives, according to Mark Shaw, technical sales manager at UK-based packaging firm Parkside Flexibles.

A typical sachet will have an inner plastic layer that makes an airtight seal around the product, a foil layer that provides an additional barrier against moisture and heat – an important factor in tropical climates – and an outer plastic layer that provides flexibility and can be printed on, he said.

[…] Proponents say sachets give low-income consumers access to high-quality, safe products. Critics say companies charge the poor a premium because products sold this way are more expensive by volume than bigger packages.

They also have created a massive environmental problem. Often sold in countries without proper waste collection, these single-use sachets end up as litter, clogging waterways and harming wildlife.

And even in countries with waste infrastructure, the complex design and small size of these packets makes them virtually impossible to recycle in a cost-effective way. It’s easier to bury or burn them.
» Read article    

» More about plastics in the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 8/28/20

banner 10

Welcome back.

The Department of Public Utilities held public hearings on the pending purchase of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts by Eversource. This follows the disastrous series of fires and explosions in the Merrimack Valley two years ago. Many commenters shared a skepticism that transfer of corporate ownership would result in any public safety improvement. And as a growing list of communities push back against Big Gas, the first half of 2020 resulted in more pipelines being scrapped than were put into service.

In fossil fuel divestment news, a large Nordic hedge fund dumped its stock in some of the world’s foremost oil and mining companies – calling out those firms’ lobbying efforts against climate action.

On Tuesday, U.S. Senate Democrats published a plan for achieving a net-zero energy economy – offering a more general outline than the much more detailed work recently published by the House. Of course, any transformation of this magnitude displaces workers from mothballed industries. We’re keeping an eye on coal country where the upheaval is already underway, and where public support for a green future depends on jobs.

This week’s climate news features three separate studies, including a surprising revelation of global ice lost in recent decades, expanding tropical and arid climate zones, and techniques for optimizing carbon sequestration in natural forest systems.

The shear volume of reporting on clean energy makes it difficult to understand and prioritize the trends. We found an article that highlights the five most important technologies driving the energy transition. New York City has an immediate opportunity to apply some of these technologies as it grapples with plans to replace aging oil-burning “peaker” power plants. Meanwhile, New Hampshire is looking at ways for utilities to compensate operators of battery storage facilities for the services they provide the grid.

Not exactly green, but better than status quo is this week’s theme for clean transportation. We looked at aviation and heavy shipping and found news about cleaner, lower-carbon fuels being developed for both sectors.

The Environmental Protection Agency under President Trump has become a polluter’s best friend. The non-profit EcoWatch reports ten ways life has become more hazardous as a result.

The Guardian published an important report this week, detailing how the natural gas industry is working against climate action in a desperate and coordinated bid to uphold the fiction that it is a clean, low-emission “bridge fuel”. Meanwhile, in a not-so-subtle indicator of Big Oil’s declining power, the Dow Jones Industrial Average kicked ExxonMobil off the index – replacing it with Salesforce.com.

We wrap up with two stories from the liquefied natural gas beat. DeSmog Blog makes a case that the industry’s economics just don’t add up, so LNG can’t be profitably exported – especially to China. But it can be used to move natural gas domestically where pipelines aren’t available. If the Trump administration has its way, this highly concentrated and volatile fuel will soon be rumbling along in cryogenic train cars on a rail line near you.

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

— The NFGiM Team

COLUMBIA GAS INCIDENT / EVERSOURCE PURCHASE

EverColumbia
Not everyone happy about Columbia Gas deal
By Bill Kirk, Eagle-Tribune
August 25, 2020

Different company, same end result?

That pretty much sums up the fears of some Merrimack Valley residents who testified in front of the Department of Public Utilities during a Zoom public hearing Tuesday night to get input on the proposed buyout of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts by Eversource Energy.

“It feels like more of the same thing with a different name,” said Lawrence resident Justin Termini, who lived through the Sept. 13, 2018 gas explosions, fires and evacuations that left one dead and dozens injured. “I don’t feel safe. I’m disappointed in the whole idea. We want to feel safe and not get hurt again.”

The deal, prompted by the 2018 calamity, was crafted by the Massachusetts Attorney General with the cooperation of NiSource — the parent company of Columbia Gas — and Eversource, which currently has gas customers throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

This deal will double the number of its customers, as Eversource will take over all Columbia Gas customers in three regions of the state — Brockton, Springfield and Lawrence — if the deal is approved by the DPU.
» Read article          

» More about the Columbia Gas disaster     

PIPELINES

H1 2020 scap
More Gas Pipelines Scrapped Than Put In Service In H1 2020
By Charles Kennedy, oilprice.com
August 24, 2020

Some 5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of new pipeline capacity was placed into service in the United States in the first half this year, but an estimated 8.7 Bcf/d of pipeline projects have been canceled so far in 2020, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Monday.
» Read article          

» More about pipelines            

DIVESTMENT

holding us backMajor investment firm dumps Exxon, Chevron and Rio Tinto stock
Storebrand says corporate lobbying to undermine climate solutions is ‘unacceptable’
By Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian
August 24, 2020

A Nordic hedge fund worth more than $90bn (£68.6bn) has dumped its stocks in some of the world’s biggest oil companies and miners responsible for lobbying against climate action.

Storebrand, a Norwegian asset manager, divested from miner Rio Tinto as well as US oil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron as part of a new climate policy targeting companies that use their political clout to block green policies.

The investor is one of many major financial institutions divesting from polluting industries, but is understood to be the first to dump shares in companies which use their influence to slow the pace of climate action.

Jan Erik Saugestad, the chief executive of Storebrand, said corporate lobbying activity designed to undermine solutions to “the greatest risks facing humanity” is “simply unacceptable”.
» Read article          

» More about divestment        

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Sen Dem plan
US law makers must ‘use every proven tool’ to create net zero economy
By Liam Stoker, PVTech
August 26, 2020

The US federal government must use every tool available, and do so at an unprecedented scale, if it is to sufficiently tackle the climate crisis and stimulate a clean economy.

The benefits of doing so, a new report published by the Senate Democrats claimed, would pose multiple benefits for US citizens, ranging from public health benefits to enormous job creation.

Yesterday (25 August 2020) the Senate Democrats published the report, dubbed ‘The Case for Climate Action’, which provides detailed recommendations on how the country could establish a clean economy for the good of its people.

The document claims that the federal government must “use every proven tool at its disposal”, and at a scale not seen before, in order to accelerate the decarbonisation of the US’ power supply. Included within these tools are;

  • Direct spending and financing of new build renewable generation
  • Investments in transmission to increase the effectiveness of the grid across the entire US
  • Ramp up the use of market mechanisms such as a federal clean energy standard or carbon price to scale-up clean technologies over fossil fuels
  • Predictable, technology-neutral tax incentives focused on reducing emissions
  • Increased R&D spending aimed at reducing the cost of associated technologies

The benefits of doing so, the senate democrats have argued, would be plentiful and extensive, ranging from reducing emissions, allowing consumers to save money on energy bills, improving health and wellbeing and creating sustainable jobs for US citizens in the wake of COVID-19.

Amongst specific recommendations included within the report is policy to make the adoption of solar, energy efficiency retrofits and electric vehicles more accessible to US citizens. Senate Democrats point to institutions created by the US government in the 1930s, which increased home ownership by making available more affordable mortgages. Similar institutions could and should be created today for this purpose.
» Read article 
» Read ‘The Case for Climate Action’

reclamation opportunities
Survival is anything but certain for coal country

Coal country is not without options. But coal’s long legacy of hope, promises and failure has instilled a political inertia that won’t soon be overcome.
By Dustin Bleizeffer and Mason Adams, Energy News Network
Photo By Dustin Bleizeffer / WyoFile
August 25, 2020

Perhaps the biggest factor when it comes to efforts to transition, for both Wyoming and Appalachia, is whether voters will continue to endorse efforts to save coal or help coal-dependent communities move beyond it.

States actively seeking coal transition strategies, such as Colorado, are looking toward securitization. It’s a refinancing tool that can help reduce the ratepayer impact of retiring coal units early. Portions of savings from securitization go toward renewable energy and community development projects, which can in turn attract additional funds from the federal government.

Grassroots nonprofit groups such as the Powder River Basin Resource Council (which hosted a series of four webinars this summer focusing on communities in transition), Appalachian Voices and others have generated a font of ideas for assisting communities in transition from coal.

In late June, a range of local, tribal and labor leaders from coal communities across America endorsed the National Economic Transition (NET) Platform, developed through a process led by the Just Transition Fund. (The Just Transition Fund also provided a grant to fund this series.) The platform outlines principles and processes, but largely leaves specific details to be developed by local communities.

Coalfield communities “literally fueled the growth of the nation,” said Peter Hille, president of the community economic development nonprofit Mountain Association in eastern Kentucky. “There is a debt to be paid. Justice demands we bring new investment to these places: to build a new economy, to revitalize communities and to educate people of all ages to be ready.”
» Read article          

» More about greening the economy      

CLIMATE

mushing for miraclesEarth has lost 28 trillion tonnes of ice in less than 30 years
‘Stunned’ scientists say there is little doubt global heating is to blame for the loss
By Robin McKie, The Guardian
August 23, 2020

A total of 28 trillion tonnes of ice have disappeared from the surface of the Earth since 1994. That is the stunning conclusion of UK scientists who have analysed satellite surveys of the planet’s poles, mountains and glaciers to measure how much ice coverage lost because of global heating triggered by rising greenhouse gas emissions.

The scientists – based at Leeds and Edinburgh universities and University College London – describe the level of ice loss as “staggering” and warn that their analysis indicates that sea level rises, triggered by melting glaciers and ice sheets, could reach a metre by the end of the century.

“To put that in context, every centimetre of sea level rise means about a million people will be displaced from their low-lying homelands,” said Professor Andy Shepherd, director of Leeds University’s Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling.

The scientists also warn that the melting of ice in these quantities is now seriously reducing the planet’s ability to reflect solar radiation back into space. White ice is disappearing and the dark sea or soil exposed beneath it is absorbing more and more heat, further increasing the warming of the planet.

In addition, cold fresh water pouring from melting glaciers and ice sheets is causing major disruptions to the biological health of Arctic and Antarctic waters, while loss of glaciers in mountain ranges threatens to wipe out sources of fresh water on which local communities depend.
» Read article          
» Read the study

parched zones expanding
Hotter oceans make the tropics expand polewards
The tropical climate zones are not just warmer, they now cover more of the planet. Blame it on steadily hotter oceans.
By Tim Radford, Climate News Network
August 27, 2020

The tropics are on the march and US and German scientists think they know why: hotter oceans have taken control.

The parched, arid fringes of the hot, moist conditions that nourish the equatorial forest band around the middle of the globe are moving, unevenly, further north and south in response to climate change.

And the role of the ocean is made even more dramatic in the southern hemisphere: because the ocean south of the equator is so much bigger than in the north, the southward shift of the parched zone is even more pronounced.

Across the globe, things don’t look good for places like California, which has already suffered some of its worst droughts and fires on record, and  Australia, where drought and fire if possible have been even worse.

In the past century or so, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have risen from what was once a stable average of 285 parts per million to more than 400 ppm, and global average temperatures are now at least 1°C higher than they have been for most of human history.

Now a new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres offers an answer. The expansion of the tropics has been driven by ocean warming.
» Read article         
» Read the study

faster recovery
Restoring forests can reduce greenhouse gases
In a way, money does grow on trees. So it could pay to help nature restore forests and reduce greenhouse gases.
By Tim Radford, Climate News Network
August 21, 2020

European and US scientists think they may have settled a complex argument about how to restore a natural forest so that it absorbs more carbon. Don’t just leave nature to regenerate in the way she knows best. Get into the woodland and manage, and plant.

It will cost more money, but it will sequester more carbon: potentially enough to make economic good sense.

Researchers from 13 universities and research institutions report in the journal Science that they carefully mapped and then studied a stretch of tropical forest in Sabah, in Malaysian Borneo: a forest that had been heavily logged more than 30 years ago, and converted to plantation, and then finally protected from further damage. The mapping techniques recorded where, and how much, above-ground carbon was concentrated, across thousands of hectares.

The researchers report that those reaches of forest left to regenerate without human help recovered by as much as 2.9 tonnes of above-ground carbon per hectare each year. But those areas of forest that were helped a little, by what the scientists call “active restoration”, did even better.

Humans entered the regenerating forests and cut back the lianas – the climbing plants that flourish in degraded forests and compete with saplings – to help seedlings flourish. They also weeded where appropriate and enriched the mix of new plants with native seedlings.

Where this happened, the forest recovered 50% faster and carbon storage above-ground per hectare was measured at between 2.9 tonnes per hectare and 4.4 tonnes.

The lesson to be drawn is that where a natural forest may be thought fully restored after 60 years, active restoration could make it happen in 40 years.
» Read article    
» Read the report

» More about climate   

CLEAN ENERGY

five key technologies5 technologies propelling the energy transition
By Utility Dive Editors – series
August. 24, 2020

As states continue efforts to pursue clean energy targets, new technologies are emerging to help usher sweeping changes.

Utility Dive spoke with a wide array of experts to identify five key technologies that will propel the power sector’s transformation: green hydrogen, distributed energy aggregation, transmission development, fine-tuning wind and solar power, and power sector digitization.

This series is focused on technologies that could strengthen the grid, increasing reliability and making clean energy more affordable and available. Such developments are crucial to deploying higher levels of renewable energy onto the grid.
» Read article        

low hanging fruit
New York City’s hottest new energy fight
By Alexander C. Kaufman, Huffpost, in Grist
August 23, 2020

NRG Energy has quietly revived plans to replace its 50-year-old oil-burning generators with new gas-fired units, part of a $1.5 billion makeover the utility giant says will allow it to comply with state pollution rules while meeting electricity demand.

But the new cadre of climate-change hard-liners who unseated incumbents in this summer’s primary wants to upend that. The group of more than half a dozen campaigned for the New York State Legislature on platforms that included shutting down fossil fuel generation and bringing private utilities under government control.

“This is what it means to live out your belief in the Green New Deal,” said Zohran Mamdani as he squinted through the fence on a sunny recent Saturday morning. The 28-year-old democratic socialist unseated 10-year incumbent Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas in the Democratic primary for the 36th Assembly District last month.

New York City’s roughly 15 “peaker” plants — which produce extra generating capacity when the city’s demand eclipses the regular supply, like during a heatwave — are aging, and they run primarily on oil and gas. As the city looks to shrink its output of planet-heating gases, the plants seem like low-hanging fruit.
» Read article           

» More about clean energy      

ENERGY STORAGE

Concord capitol
New Hampshire looks for ways to pay battery owners for benefits they provide
A new state law asks regulators to investigate options for compensating energy storage projects for avoided distribution and transmission costs.
By David Thill, Energy News Network
Photo By Alexis Horatius  / Wikimedia Commons
August 24, 2020

A well-placed battery has the potential to ease electric grid congestion, bolster resilience, and even postpone costly utility equipment upgrades.

Owners of energy storage systems are rarely compensated for all of that value, though, because most states simply haven’t calculated what it’s worth.

New Hampshire regulators will take a step toward fixing that problem as a new state law calls for them to study how energy storage projects might be made whole for the benefits they provide to the state’s electric grid.
» Read article           

» More about energy storage          

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

small steps
Sustainable aviation fuels could soon take flight
The Midwest is ready for takeoff as a leader in cleaner aviation, thanks to researchers in Ohio and elsewhere and a cleantech startup in Illinois.
By Kathiann M. Kowalski, Energy News Network
Photo by sigmama / Flickr / Creative Commons
August 28, 2020

Presentations at the American Chemical Society’s Fall 2020 conference last week outlined various approaches to developing sustainable aviation fuels and ways to reduce costs and time for approvals. So, even if rules for aircraft engines include a business-as-usual approach, the fuel they burn could have lower lifecycle emissions, compared to the current use of all fossil fuels.

“In most cases, the reductions come from the fact that our carbon molecules [are] pulled from the atmosphere by plants, or from other circular economy sources, instead of continuing to pull carbon molecules from the ground,” said research engineer Derek Vardon at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.

Vardon’s report at the American Chemical Society conference noted that while direct exhaust emissions would be generally comparable to those from regular jet fuel, the lifecycle emissions of greenhouse gases would be lower. Much of that could come from preventing emissions that would otherwise result from biogas feedstocks. Sustainable fuels would also avoid a chunk of emissions from fossil fuel extraction and production. And emissions of sulfur dioxide and other pollutants would be lower.
» Read article          

dirty fuelHydrogen Is Cleaning Up One Of The World’s Dirtiest Industries
By Haley Zaremba, Oilprice
August 27, 2020

“If all the ships on Earth were a single country, that country would be the sixth-largest polluter in the world.” This jaw-dropping fact comes from an NPR report from late last year. The shipping industry, by way of its massive scale and its dirty fuel, ranks just behind Japan in its pollution levels. But the shipping sector’s open approach to change makes it pretty unique.

Last year, Oilprice reported on what was then the most promising approach to provide the worldwide shipping industry with a meaner, greener fleet. This would be the implementation of hydrogen fuel cells, a technology that has already been around for decades. Experiments with hydrogen-powered yachts were already underway, and one poll showed that the industry as a whole largely favored the implementation and adoption of hydrogen fuel cells within the next five years.

But the industry has not put all its eggs in one basket. Just this week the Maritime Executive reported on a brand new green shipping fuel option that South Korea is bringing to the table. “A new cooperation of South Korean companies is being formed to develop bio heavy fuel as an alternative for the shipping industry to meet its goal for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” wrote the Executive in its Monday report.

This marine biofuel would be created from biomass including “animal and plant oils, along with the production [residues] from the more common biodiesel fuel.” This reuse, reduce, recycle approach to shipping fuel would make for a much more eco-friendly shipping industry. As HMM has already found the materials as well as tested them out, all that’s left is bringing a product to market. “The partners will work together on R&D efforts to further establish standards for bio heavy oil and to commercialize the fuel through the development of a supply system,” reported the Executive. “If proven successful, the partners believe bio heavy fuel could become an alternative to the current fuels used in the shipping industry.”
» Read article          

» More about clean transportation         

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

toxic wake
Trump’s Toxic Wake: 10 Ways the EPA Has Made Life More Hazardous
By Melanie Benesh, Legislative Attorney with Environmental Working Group, in EcoWatch
August 23, 2020

From the beginning, the Trump administration has aggressively slashed environmental regulations. A New York Times analysis identified 100 environmental protections that have been reversed or are in the process of getting rolled back. The administration’s record on chemical safety has been especially hazardous for the health of Americans, especially children.

One year into President Trump’s term, EWG detailed how the Trump administration has stacked the Environmental Protection Agency with industry lawyers and lobbyists, undermined worker safety and cooked the books on chemical safety assessments. Midway through his second year, we reported how the EPA reversed a ban on a brain-damaging pesticide, delayed chemical bans and killed a rule to protect kids from toxic PCBs in schools. Last year, we reported that the EPA had rescinded safety rules at chemical plants, rubber-stamped untested new chemicals and silenced researchers.

As Trump’s first term nears its end, things are even worse. Here are 10 more ways the Trump administration has continued to make life more toxic for Americans.
» Read article           

» More about the EPA   

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Mentone flare
Revealed: how the gas industry is waging war against climate action
In a nationwide blitz, gas companies and their allies fight climate efforts that they consider an existential threat to their business
By Emily Holden, The Guardian
August 20, 2020

When progressive Seattle decided last year to wipe out its climate pollution within the decade, the city council vote in favor was unsurprisingly unanimous, and the easiest first step on that path was clear.

About one-third of the city’s climate footprint comes from buildings, in large part from burning “natural” gas for heating and cooking. Gas is a fossil fuel that releases carbon dioxide and far more potent methane into the atmosphere and heats the planet. It is plentiful and cheap, and it’s also a huge and increasing part of America’s climate challenge.

So, a city councilman drafted legislation to stop the problem from growing by banning gas hookups in new buildings. Suddenly, the first step didn’t look so easy.

“From there, we just ran into a wall of opposition,” said Alec Connon, a campaigner with the climate group 350 Seattle.

Local plumbers and pipe fitters warned of job losses. Realtors complained their clients would still want gas fireplaces. Building owners feared utility bills could soar.

The effort died. The ban wasn’t politically tenable, it seemed.

But internal records obtained by the Guardian show the measure’s defeat and the “wall of opposition” that advocates experienced were part of a sophisticated pushback plan from Seattle’s gas supplier, Puget Sound Energy.

Seattle’s story isn’t unique. In fact, it’s representative of a nationwide blitz by gas companies and their allies to beat back climate action they consider an existential threat to their business, according to emails, meeting agendas and public records reviewed by the Guardian.

The documents show the multibillion-dollar gas industry has built crucial local coalitions and hired high-powered operatives to torpedo cities’ anti-gas policies – sometimes assisted by money those same cities have paid into gas trade associations.
» Read article           

veggie oil refinery
Crude oil or cooking oil? For some U.S. refiners, it’s now a choice
By Stephanie Kelly and Laura Sanicola, Reuters
August 27, 2020

A slump in demand for gasoline since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic has several refining companies accelerating their plans to retrofit facilities to produce so-called renewable diesel made from, among other things, used cooking oil from fast-food restaurants.

The shift helps, they say, because it allows them to tap into lucrative federal and state incentives for production of low carbon fuels at a time when slumping fuel demand has squeezed profit margins for conventional fuels like gasoline.

Renewable diesel fuel burns cleaner than conventional diesel and can run without blending. Refiners can produce it by converting gasoline-making units to hydrotreaters that can process soybean oil or used cooking grease.
» Read article          

replaced by Salesforce on djia
An Oil Giant’s Wall Street Fall: The World is Sending the Industry Signals, but is Exxon Listening?
The company, which dropped off the Dow this week, has remained defiant as the oil market has plummeted and its competitors have begun to shift gears.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, InsideClimate News
August 26, 2020

In case anyone doubted the existential threats bearing down on the oil industry, Wall Street delivered another sign that oil and gas companies are in deep trouble this week, with the announcement that ExxonMobil was falling off the Dow Jones Industrial Average stock index. While the decisive blow might have come from the novel coronavirus, which has sent oil demand plummeting, it’s becoming harder to dispute that the industry may be in irreversible decline, as governments accelerate efforts to tackle climate change and move away from fossil fuels.

The companies included in the Dow Jones index are meant to represent the might of American commerce, and Exxon and its predecessor Standard Oil of New Jersey had held a secure place on the list since 1928, the longest run of any company.

On Monday, however, the keeper of the list announced Exxon would be replaced by Salesforce.com, the software company, as part of a shakeup prompted by a stock split by Apple. It’s hard to imagine a more symbolic end to Exxon’s tenure.
» Read article          

» More about fossil fuels

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

biz model blowupU.S. LNG Industry’s Business Model Doesn’t Work
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
August 25, 2020

In mid-July, Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette signed an order authorizing the export of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, from a proposed $10 billion terminal and gas pipline project in Oregon. The news release accompanying Brouillette’s order hailed the approval as having “profound economic, energy security, and environmental implications, both at home and abroad.”

Although the project, known as the Jordan Cove LNG terminal, has struggled to obtain state permits and faces vocal opposition from tribes and others, this consistent Trump administration refrain has not changed. The Obama administration made similar claims about natural gas production and energy security, jobs, and the environment, when it oversaw a rapid expansion of the LNG export industry.

President Obama and President Trump were on the same page about LNG exports. They also share something else in common: They were both dead wrong.

The LNG export industry is an economic disaster and is also a climate disaster, factors that are both contributing to its downward spiral. And while the Department of Energy has talked about exporting “freedom gas” to American allies to improve energy security, when the largest potential customer is China and current headlines highlight a potential new U.S.-China cold war, that isn’t a very credible argument, either.

Just two weeks after Brouillette signed his order, and toured the Jordan Cove site in Coos Bay, the project appears to be dead in the water because the economics don’t work.
» Read article           

LNG by rail challenged
Environmental groups, states sue feds over LNG by rail
Federal regulation on transporting liquefied natural gas by rail goes into effect Monday
By Joanna Marsh, FreightWaves
August 24, 2020

Environmental groups, 14 states and the District of Columbia are suing federal agencies over regulation allowing the transport of liquefied natural gas (LNG) via rail.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) in June authorized the bulk transportation of LNG by rail, and the rule was expected to take effect Monday, a month after it was published in the Federal Register.

The rule, which was made in consultation with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), allows for the bulk transportation of LNG using DOT-113 tank cars with enhanced outer tank requirements and additional operational controls.

But the states and the environmental groups argue that the rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act, the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

U.S. House Democrats have also criticized federal agencies for moving along with LNG-by-rail regulations, saying more reviews on the safety and operational practices to haul LNG via rail need to be conducted.

The environmental groups that filed the lawsuit before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last Tuesday include the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and Mountain Watershed Association.

The states bringing the lawsuit before the federal court are Maryland, New York, California, Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.

The Trump administration has been eager to export LNG. PHMSA and FRA have said previously that the regulation is the result of President Trump’s executive order recognizing the growing role of the U.S. as a producer of LNG in both domestic and international markets.
» Read article          

» More about LNG       

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