The big news this week is the US Senate compromise that revived, in the eleventh hour, significant federal climate legislation. What this means, from our Director:
July Surprise: the Inflation Reduction Act is an unexpected opportunity
Though we’re still sorting through the finer details of the Inflation Reduction Act here in the climate and clean energy advocacy sector, the overall picture is clear. There are some strong giveaways to the fossil fuel industry that threaten to negate the climate positive provisions of this bill, including expanded drilling for gas and oil.
But on the other hand, these very bold measures have a chance to get on the books:
— Reducing emissions by 40% by 2030 across all sectors
— $60B for Environmental and Climate Justice Block Grants for pollution reduction, access to clean energy options, and transportation
— $60B to bring clean energy manufacturing to the US, including $30B for wind turbines, solar panels and battery storage
— 10-year (instead of two year) tax credits for home and car owners to switch to electric options like EVs, electric HVAC, and solar
— $20B for adoption of climate-positive agricultural practices
— almost $6B for a new Advanced Industrial Facilities Deployment Program to reduce emissions from the largest industrial emitters like chemical, steel and cement plants
» Senate Summary of Energy Security and Climate Change Investments (download)
We join many other organizations (350.org, Sierra Club, EarthJustice, Bill McKibben, Al Gore and others) in support of the Inflation Reduction Act. If it passes, it will allow many much needed climate-positive provisions to become law.
As for the fossil fuel provisions, these are forces we have been fighting for a long time, and we will continue to push for a just transition and end to the industry. This is coming as that groundswell is growing from all corners. There will still be the ability for the president to use executive actions like declaring a climate emergency, and having a commitment to strong climate action will give us more leverage in the push for global agreements.
In addition, the bill has many positive provisions for making healthcare available and affordable to more Americans, lowering prescription drug prices, assuring that corporations pay their fair share in taxes and more.
Please take action today by calling your Senators and urging them to pass the Inflation Reduction Act.
— Rosemary Wessel, Program Director, No Fracked Gas in Mass
As Rose says, we’re continuing to take the fight to fossil fuels, even as we celebrate this potential progress on the sustainability front. Examples include developments at the Weymouth compressor, the Longmeadow-Springfield gas pipeline, and policies related to fixing gas leaks by building more infrastructure.
There’s also a lot of progress already underway from ongoing state and federal efforts. For instance, there’s an excellent climate bill awaiting Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s signature right now. The Biden administration is figuring out how to make “community solar” power available to lower-income households. Fans at the Newport Folk Festival not only had the pleasure of watching Joni Mitchell return to the stage after a long absence, but some of them added pedal power to help run the show. New data out of Maine is showing that air source heat pumps are capable of heating homes without fossil-fueled backup, even through that state’s notoriously frigid winters.
We’re seeing that offshore wind power has the potential side benefit of creating an anchor for reef habitat at the base of turbine towers – a boon to biodiversity during challenging times. And a new study finds that a rapid switch to electric vehicles has the global potential to avoid one-tenth of anticipated cropland expansion by reducing the need for crop-based biofuels like ethanol.
In energy storage, Sweden’s Northvolt has created an innovative battery that uses lignin, sustainably sourced from harvested trees, as anode material – avoiding the use of metals with greater environmental impact.
Even with all this good news, it’s best to remember we’re still in a race and still not moving fast enough. Already, heat waves are buckling and melting infrastructure that was built to withstand the previous century’s weather. Poor countries, tired of wealthy nations’ empty and inadequate promises to help mitigate damage caused by their disproportional emissions, are threatening to throw their doors open to fossil fuel development. And proponents of potentially catastrophic deep-seabed mining are gathered right now with delegates of the International Seabed Authority to decide the fate of our oceans.
There’s so much to celebrate, and so much to do.
— The NFGiM Team
Senate Democrats Produce a Far-Reaching Climate Bill, But the Price of Compromise with Joe Manchin is Years More Drilling for Oil and Gas
The legislation includes unprecedented tax incentives for renewable energy and electric vehicles but requires additional oil and gas leasing on millions of acres of federal land for a decade.
By Marianne Lavelle and Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News
July 28, 2022
To seal their surprise climate deal with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Senate Democrats conceded that their only hope for advancing a plan for a clean energy future in Congress was to bind it up in a lifeline for fossil fuels.
The legislation they propose to bring to the Senate next week still contains the heart of President Joe Biden’s climate plan—an historic $370 billion investment in transforming the U.S. power and transportation sectors and more than $60 billion in grants to help pollution-burdened disadvantaged communities achieve environmental justice.
But the package—now called the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022″—also would invest in ensuring a future for U.S. fossil energy in a carbon-constrained world. The legislation hikes tax incentives for expensive carbon capture technology 70 percent. It also requires that, for the next decade, the federal government offer tens of millions of acres offshore for oil and gas drilling as a prerequisite to the expansion of offshore wind energy development.
And Manchin said that he has obtained a commitment from Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that they will advance separate legislation this fall that streamlines the permitting process for energy infrastructure, including pipelines and export facilities.
“It is truly all of the above, which means this bill does not arbitrarily shut off our abundant fossil fuels,” Manchin said in a statement.
Climate action advocates were poring over the 725-page draft text, coming to varying conclusions as they tried to weigh the bad against the good.
“This is the ultimate clean energy comeback—the strongest climate action yet at the moment we need it most,” said Manish Bapna, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement. “This is not the bill we would have written. It’s time to break, not deepen, our dependence on fossil fuels and all the damage and danger they bring. But this is a package we can’t afford to reject.”
He urged the Senate to pass it without delay, while the climate movement continues to work on other steps “to ensure a just and climate-safe future.”
Meanwhile, other environmental groups were drafting a letter urging the Senate to reject the compromises for fossil fuel development as incompatible with goals to eliminate greenhouse gases.
“This is a climate suicide pact,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
Here are the key elements that make the deal a boon to both clean energy and the fossil fuel industry:
» Read article
Climate activists mixed hardball with a long game. Now they’re vindicated
By David Wallace-Wells, New York Times | Opinion
July 29, 2022
[…] In less than five years, a new generation of activists and aligned technocrats has taken climate action from the don’t-go-there zone of American politics and helped place it at the very center of the Democratic agenda, persuading an old-guard centrist septuagenarian, Biden, to make a New Deal-scale green investment the focus of his presidential campaign platform and his top policy priority once in office. This, despite a generation of conventional wisdom that the issue was electorally fraught and legislatively doomed. Now they find themselves pushing a recognizable iteration of that agenda — retooled and whittled down, yes, but still unthinkably large by the standards of previous administrations — plausibly forward into law.
It has been less than four years since the most outspoken of the new activist groups, the Sunrise Movement, even announced itself, protesting with Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the office of Nancy Pelosi, who later seemed to diminish the protesters’ ambitions as “the Green Dream or whatever.”
If you believe that climate change is a boutique issue prioritized only by out-of-touch liberal elites, as one poll found, then this bill, should it pass, represents a political achievement of astonishing magnitude: the triumph of a moral crusade against long odds. If you don’t — if you believe there is quite a lot of public support for climate action, as other polls suggest — then this bill marks the success of outsider activists in holding establishment forces to account, both to their own rhetoric and to the demands of their voters.
The choose-your-own-adventure aspect can be frustrating; if you’re trying to piece together a coherent model of exactly where the country is on green-energy policy, good luck. But whatever your read of public sentiment, what is most striking about the news this week is not just that there is now some climate action on the table but also how fast the landscape for climate policy has changed, shifting all of our standards for success and failure along with it. The bill may well prove inadequate, even if it passes. It also represents a generational achievement — achieved, from the point of view of activists, in a lot less time than a full generation.
» Read article
Activists clamor for Baker to sign climate bill
By SAM DORAN, State House News Service, Gazettenet.com
July 26, 2022
With five days remaining for Gov. Charlie Baker to act on a major climate and energy bill that hit his desk late last week, advocates lobbied for the governor’s signature on the front steps of the State House on Tuesday morning, and some speakers tied their pitch to the heatwave that hit the Bay State in recent days.
“We know that our weather is getting hotter, we know we are facing devastating heatwaves with greater frequency and greater severity,” Environment Massachusetts State Director Ben Hellerstein said. “Now is the time for us to act on climate. And right now, the ball is in Gov. Baker’s court.”
Sen. Becca Rausch and Rep. Tommy Vitolo joined the group on the steps, and Rausch said state-level climate action was necessary “as we are seeing the Supreme Court roll back the federal government’s powers to regulate in this space.”
The advocates lauded aspects of the bill (H 5060), like provisions that would require reporting of energy usage by buildings larger than 20,000 square feet and require that all new vehicles sold in Massachusetts be zero-emissions models by 2035.
The governor can act on the bill up until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, the final day of the Legislature’s formal sessions for this term.
If Baker sends it back with an amendment or veto toward the end of that window, it would leave lawmakers with a razor-thin timeline to respond to his action.
MASSPIRG Executive Director Janet Domenitz pointed to Baker’s five or so months remaining in the corner office and suggested his limited time left as governor could factor into his decision.
“And he must be thinking — at the risk of sounding like I can see into his mind — he must be thinking about the legacy he’s going to leave behind,” Domenitz said. “And signing this bill would be hugely important and powerful for the future of Massachusetts.”
» Read article
What to know about the climate bill on Gov. Baker’s desk
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
July 22, 2022
It came down to the wire and required suspending some parliamentary rules, but the Massachusetts Legislature got a robust climate bill to Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday night.
The bill represents a compromise between the House’s offshore wind-focused legislation and the Senate’s wider reaching clean energy and climate bill.
Baker now has 10 days — or until July 31 — to sign or veto the bill. July 31 is also the final day of the legislative session, meaning if there’s a veto, lawmakers might only have a few hours to override it.
Putting that drama aside for a moment, there’s a lot in this bill. And if it’s passed, it will have a big impact on climate and clean energy policy in the state. So here, in plain English, is what you should know about it:
» Blog editor’s note: It’s worth scanning Mariam Wasser’s excellent list of clearly described features of this legislation.
» Read article
» Read the climate bill
WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION
It’s back to the drawing board for Weymouth Compressor’s waterways permit
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
July 18, 2022
A new chapter has opened in the ongoing saga of the Weymouth Natural Gas Compressor Station. Late Friday afternoon, an adjudicator with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s appeals division recommended that the department re-evaluate a critical environmental permit that the compressor needs in order to operate.
Though the compressor station is still allowed to operate at this time, the decision represents “a major victory” for those who have been fighting the facility for over seven years, said Alice Arena, president of the group Fore River Residents Against the Compressor.
“It’s probably the first time that I feel as though there was some genuine, really genuine hope that they may have to close this facility,” she said. “In all of the years that we’ve been doing this, we have been through appeal and appeal and remand and appeal again, and every time it’s all for [the facility’s owner] Enbridge.”
A spokesperson for Enbridge said in a statement that the company is “reviewing the Presiding Officer’s recommended decision regarding the Weymouth Compressor Station’s Waterways License and will evaluate our next steps.”
Like all energy projects, the Weymouth Compressor needed several environmental permits and licenses in order for Enbridge to start construction. One of those permits was a “Chapter 91 Waterways License.”
Chapter 91 of the Massachusetts General Laws is all about protecting the public’s interest in waterways, and ensuring only things that are “water dependent” get built in tidelands or under bodies of water.
Enbridge never claimed the facility, which compresses gas to give it a boost and help it move through a pipeline into Canada, meets that definition. Instead, the company declared that the compressor was “ancillary” to an existing pipeline that runs underwater from Weymouth to Salem. That pipeline, known as the I-10 or HubLine, has a valid waterways license, and so, by declaring the then-proposed compressor was “ancillary” to it, the latter would not require its own review and license.
To be considered ancillary in this context, a project needs to meet two criteria: It must be operationally related to the original project. And second, it must require an adjacent location.
» Read article
Springfield City Council urges rejection of Eversource pipeline project
Utility seeks state approval for a new natural gas pipeline from Longmeadow to Springfield
By Paul Tuthill, WAMC Northeast Public Radio
July 27, 2022
The Springfield City Council has recorded an official protest to a controversial natural gas pipeline project in western Massachusetts.
Citing the need to rapidly transition from fossil fuels, the danger of explosion and fire, and the cost to ratepayers, the City Council passed a resolution stating its opposition to a plan by Eversource to build a high-pressure natural gas pipeline from Longmeadow to Springfield.
All nine Councilors present remotely when the vote was recorded Monday night supported the resolution. It was authored by City Council President Jesse Lederman and had 9 co-sponsors.
Councilor Zaida Govan said Springfield, and the state, need to stay on a course to greatly decrease dependency on fossil fuels.
“We need to start doing things to reach that goal and not putting in new pipelines,” Govan said.
Eversource has said the new pipeline is needed as a backup for infrastructure that is 70-years-old. If the existing pipeline is damaged, or needs to be shutoff for maintenance, 58,000 Springfield customers could be without natural gas service potentially for months, the utility has stated. The cost for the project is currently put at $65 million.
With the passage of the resolution, the Council joins a growing list of opponents to the pipeline project including the Longmeadow Selectboard and half-dozen members of the local state legislative delegation who recently sent a letter of opposition to state utility regulators.
Several rallies to protest the project have been put on by the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition.
“I think we are joining some good groups to make sure that we align our goal for the future and for our children and grandchildren,” Govan said.
Routes that have been proposed for the five-mile underground pipeline would take it through the densely populated Forest Park and South End neighborhoods.
» Read article
Could gas leak fixes thwart climate goals?
By Miranda Willson, E&E News
July 25, 2022
Boston University ecologist Nathan Phillips used to push for the rapid replacement of aging pipelines, convinced that the practice was a win-win: It snuffed out natural gas leaks and protected nearby trees from those leaks.
But today, Phillips — who has spent years researching leaks in the Boston area — is skeptical of such replacement, worried that it will thwart his state’s goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
“I was telling people that the way to fix the problem is to replace the pipelines,” Phillips said. “Now, I completely feel opposite to that.”
Phillips is among a growing number of climate advocates, researchers and state officials who worry that accelerated pipe replacement programs aimed at preventing gas leaks and explosions could complicate efforts to switch to electric heating and renewable energy.
Massachusetts is among 42 states with policies that encourage gas utilities to proactively replace aging or leaking pipes, according to the American Gas Association, a trade association for gas utilities and companies. It also is among a growing number of states that aim to transition away from fossil fuels.
The tension surrounding pipeline replacements and clean energy is part of a broader debate on the future of the natural gas system that heats many homes and businesses across the United States. About a dozen states have set goals to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in less than 30 years — and analysts say meeting those targets will likely mean using less natural gas.
[…] For climate advocates, that raises questions about whether it’s prudent to encourage the replacement of large networks of pipe and make ratepayers foot the bill.
[…] Climate advocates have begun analyzing state-level pipeline replacement initiatives, raising concerns about their cost and usefulness in the context of climate goals. Massachusetts’ Gas System Enhancement Program (GSEP) is one of several initiatives currently under the microscope.
Established in 2014, GSEP permits gas utilities to file annual plans to replace pipes that are leaking or could cause leaks in the future. Under a law enacted that year, participating utilities can recover money from consumers to pay for GSEP investments so long as the costs don’t exceed 1.5 percent of their annual revenue.
GSEP and similar state programs arose in the wake of deadly explosions linked to gas leaks from old steel and cast iron pipes. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration also released guidance in 2012 requesting state agencies to “consider enhancements to cast iron replacement plans and programs.”
[…] “The concern is that, normally, the life span of the gas infrastructure would extend, if we put it in this week, beyond 2050,” said Aladdine Joroff, a lecturer at Harvard Law School focused on environmental law and a member of Gas Leaks Allies. “We’re potentially replacing gas pipelines that are going to be some of the ones we’re going to want to stop using, at least significantly, by 2050 if we’re going to meet our climate mandate.”
Under the 2014 GSEP law, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities is required to consider whether investments made through the program would help prevent leaks of natural gas, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve public safety, among other factors, according to DPU spokesperson Troy Wall.
But Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy has suggested that the program should be changed to incorporate climate considerations, in line with the Bay State’s goal of slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Changes to the program would require action from the Massachusetts Legislature.
“The Commonwealth’s climate goals and market competition from new electric end-use heating technologies raise serious questions about the continued prudence of accelerated GSEP investment,” wrote Healy, who is also the presumptive Democratic nominee for this year’s gubernatorial election in Massachusetts.
Last week, the state Legislature passed a sweeping new clean energy bill that, among other things, calls on the DPU to develop a working group focused on GSEP. The group would study the program and recommend potential changes to fully align it with the state’s climate goals. But so far, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has not committed to signing the bill into law.
» Read article
GREENING THE ECONOMY
Joe Biden’s new plan: solar power for everyone, not just the rich
Solar energy is still out of reach for most Americans
By Justine Calma, The Verge
July 27, 2022
The Biden administration has new plans to get lower-income households hooked up to solar energy. The White House announced two new programs today aimed at expanding access to “community solar” projects among subsidized housing residents and households that receive federal assistance to pay their utility bills. It also launched a new rewards program for existing community solar projects.
“Community solar” essentially lets many different households share the benefits of one shared solar array. The most common way this takes shape is through a subscription program. A solar company or nonprofit organization will build out a solar farm, and then households that subscribe to the program get credit back on their electricity bills for the energy generated by the shared solar farm.
That’s supposed to reduce electricity bills while also promoting clean energy. And compared to traditional home solar setups, community programs are meant to reach way more people — particularly renters and anyone who can’t shell out some $25,000 to install PV panels on their home.
Homeowners face fewer barriers to install solar panels. But even among homeowners, just 6 percent have actually installed solar, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey. A much larger percentage — 46 percent — said they wanted solar panels at their home. Unsurprisingly, cost appears to be a big factor in whether or not people are taking the leap into solar power. Just 14 percent of households with residential solar in the US had annual incomes less than $50,000, according to recent research from the Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Today, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced new guidance that enables residents in subsidized housing to sign up for community solar. Crucially, the credits they receive from subscribing won’t count toward their household income, which might otherwise have affected their eligibility for rent assistance. The White House thinks the changes can help get 4.5 million families into community solar programs and shave an average of 10 percent off their electricity bills each year.
» Read article
‘Climate Catastrophe’ Feared as Congo Moves to Sell Critical Ecosystem for Oil Drilling
“It’s madness,” said Greenpeace Africa. “These plans must be scrapped immediately.”
By Kenny Stancil, Common Dreams
July 25, 2022
The Democratic Republic of Congo is set to begin selling huge tracts of land to oil and gas giants later this week—a move that is being decried by environmental justice campaigners and local communities because it would enable new fossil fuel extraction in the second-largest old-growth rainforest on Earth, further endangering the world’s chances of staving off the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
Twenty-seven oil and three gas blocks are scheduled to be auctioned off to the highest bidding corporations on July 28 and 29. The roughly 11 million hectares of land up for grabs in the Congo Basin—whose rainforest trails only the Amazon in size and is more intact—include parts of Virunga National Park, home to a key gorilla sanctuary, as well as tropical peatlands that prevent massive amounts of planet-heating carbon from reaching the atmosphere.
“If oil exploitation takes place in these areas, we must expect a global climate catastrophe, and we will all just have to watch helplessly,” Irene Wabiwa, international project leader for Greenpeace Africa’s Congo Basin forest campaign in Kinshasa, told the New York Times on Monday.
Greenpeace Africa on Monday submitted a petition with more than 100,000 signatures urging DRC President Félix Tshisekedi to halt the sale of land—”home to thousands of local and indigenous communities and countless animal and plant species”—to Big Oil.
“Sacrificing peatlands and protected areas in the Congo Basin forest,” the group tweeted, would be “a death blow to the Paris agreement,” which seeks to limit global warming to 1.5ºC over preindustrial levels. “It’s madness. These plans must be scrapped immediately.”
The DRC’s approval of new oil and gas drilling in the region comes eight months after Tshisekedi endorsed a 10-year agreement to protect the country’s rainforest—a major repository of biodiversity and the world’s largest terrestrial carbon sink—at the United Nations’ COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last December.
» Read article
James Lovelock, whose Gaia theory saw the Earth as alive, dies at 103
By Keith Schneider, New York Times, in Boston Globe
July 27, 2022
James Lovelock, the maverick British ecologist whose work was essential to today’s understanding of human-made pollutants and their effect on climate and who captured the scientific world’s imagination with his Gaia theory, portraying the Earth as a living creature, died on Tuesday, his 103rd birthday, at his home in Dorset, in southwest England.
[…His] global renown rested on three main contributions that he developed during a particularly abundant decade of scientific exploration and curiosity stretching from the late 1950s through the last half of the ’60s.
One was his invention of the Electron Capture Detector, an inexpensive, portable, exquisitely sensitive device used to help measure the spread of toxic man-made compounds in the environment. The device provided the scientific foundations of Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, “Silent Spring,” a catalyst of the environmental movement.
The detector also helped provide the basis for regulations in the United States and in other nations that banned harmful chemicals including DDT and PCBs and that sharply reduced the use of hundreds of other compounds as well as the public’s exposure to them.
Later, his finding that chlorofluorocarbons — the compounds that powered aerosol cans and were used to cool refrigerators and air conditioners — were present in measurable concentrations in the atmosphere led to the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer. (Chlorofluorocarbons are now banned in most countries under a 1987 international agreement.)
But Dr. Lovelock may be most widely known for his Gaia theory — that Earth functioned, as he put it, as a “living organism” that is able to “regulate its temperature and chemistry at a comfortable steady state.”
[…] As an expert on the chemical composition of the atmospheres of Earth and Mars, Dr. Lovelock wondered why Earth’s atmosphere was so stable. He theorized that something must be regulating heat, oxygen, nitrogen, and other components.
“Life at the surface must be doing the regulation,” he later wrote.
[…] A few scientists greeted the hypothesis as a thoughtful way to explain how living systems influenced the planet. Many others, however, called it New Age pablum.
The hypothesis might never have gained credibility and moved to the scientific mainstream without the contributions of Lynn Margulis, an eminent American microbiologist. In the early 1970s and in the decades afterward, she collaborated with Dr. Lovelock on specific research to support the notion.
Since then a number of scientific meetings about the Gaia theory have been held, including one at George Mason University in 2006, and hundreds of papers on aspects of it have been published. Dr. Lovelock’s theory of a self-regulating Earth has been viewed as central to understanding the causes and consequences of global warming.
» Read article
Newport Folk Festival includes stage powered by bicycles
By Pat Eaton-Robb, Associated Press, in WBUR
July 23, 2022
The Newport Folk Festival, known for creating electrifying musical moments — the most famous being Bob Dylan’s decision to plug in his guitar in 1965 — this weekend has a small outer stage that is being powered in part by festival-goers on stationary bicycles.
The Bike Stage is the brainchild of the band Illiterate Light, an environmentally conscious indie rock duo from Virginia, who has partnered with a company called Rock the Bike to create a pedal-powered sound system, which they have already been using at small club shows.
Frontman Jeff Gorman said the “Bike Stage” at the event in Rhode Island is the first time the system has been tried at a festival. About a dozen artists are scheduled to perform mostly acoustic sets on the stage.
About 1,300 of the festival’s 10,000 fans rode bicycles to Newport on Friday. Gorman said when he saw that sea of bikes during the band’s appearance in Newport in 2019, he and partner Jake Cochran approached festival director Jay Sweet about setting up the stage.
“It’s a way for them to just do something different and for us to start the conversation around energy use and just thinking differently and trying out new ways of creating electricity,” Gorman said.
The stage is equipped with solar panels that will provide most of the power to the equipment, with the bikes providing the rest.
When the show begins, fans jump onto five bicycles adjacent to the tent. The pedaling generates electricity, which is fed through wires to an electrical box on the stage. With temperatures in the upper 80s, fans take turns pedaling for about five minutes during the 20-minute sets. In exchange, they get a few spritzes of water from a spray bottle, a free can of iced tea and a front-row view of the performance.
Sarah Gaines, 44 of Wakefield, Rhode Island, pedaled for one song during a Friday set by singer Madi Diaz and came off the bicycle with a huge smile on her face.
» Read article
In Maine, heat pumps are proving themselves even against extreme cold
The state is well on its way to a goal of installing 100,000 heat pumps by 2025. New research by Efficiency Maine is showing that standalone systems can deliver comfort and cost savings even in subzero temperatures.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
July 27, 2022
Recent research by Efficiency Maine makes the case that replacing homes’ entire heating systems with heat pumps can be cost-effective and comfortable, even in Maine’s notoriously cold winters.
“Here, it got 21 below last winter,” said George Hardy, who participated in a pilot program as part of the research. “I was a little worried about the heat pumps, but they held out. They kept us warm.”
As Maine attempts to reach its ambitious goal of going carbon neutral by 2045, home heating is going to be a major problem to solve. More than 60% of the state’s home heating systems burn oil — one of the most carbon-intensive heating fuels — more than any other state.
Maine has made air-source heat pumps a centerpiece of its strategy. Heat pumps pull heat out of the surrounding air, even at cold temperatures, and transfer it into the home. The only fuel they use is the electricity needed to run the pump. Maine has set a goal of installing 100,000 heat pumps by 2025, a target it is well on its way to reaching: In 2021 alone, more than 27,000 new heat pumps came online in the state.
Often, however, homeowners install just one heat pump, but continue to use fossil fuel sources as a backup, an arrangement that can undercut the ability of heat pumps to save money and reduce emissions. Efficiency Maine, therefore, has been undertaking research to bolster the argument for jettisoning the oil and propane altogether and moving toward whole-home heat pump systems.
“We’re reaffirming our expectation that they work in cold climates and will keep you comfortable through the entire winter,” said Michael Stoddard, executive director of Efficiency Maine. “We want to see the heat pumps being used to their full capacity.”
» Read article
Vermont moves to become first state to phase out linear fluorescent lights
The new law prohibits the long, tube-shaped bulbs beginning in 2024 and was praised by energy efficiency advocates, who encourage LEDs as a safer, cheaper, longer-lasting, and widely available alternative.
By Lisa Prevost, Energy News Network
July 20, 2022
Aiming to reduce mercury hazards and boost energy efficiency, Vermont will prohibit the sale of the long, tube-shaped fluorescent lamps that light up supermarkets, office buildings and classrooms as of Jan. 1, 2024.
It is the first state to adopt a law phasing out linear fluorescents, but California and Rhode Island have similar legislation pending. Energy efficiency advocates say fluorescents can now easily be swapped out for LED lights, which, unlike fluorescents, do not contain mercury. LEDs also consume far less electricity and last at least twice as long.
“The LEDs have advanced so far and become so commonplace that the reaction now to this idea is, ‘Why wouldn’t we want to switch over?’” said Brian Fadie, a state policy associate for the Appliance Standards Awareness Project at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. “If states choose to act, they can achieve great energy and mercury savings by transforming the market faster than it will transform on its own.”
Vermont’s law specifically applies to the 4-foot linear fluorescents, which are by far the most common type on the market, Fadie said.
“LED sales have been increasing, but in 2021, 70% of linear lamp sales were fluorescent, with LEDs at 30%,” he said.
The “precursor” to this law was a law passed in 2011 that requires lighting manufacturers to arrange for the collection of expired fluorescent lamps at sites such as hardware stores and dispose of them safely, said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, known as VPIRG.
» Read article
Northvolt looks to develop wood-based batteries to keep supply chain local
By Joshua S Hill, Renew Economy
July 25, 2022
Swedish battery developer Northvolt has entered into a partnership with Finnish company Stora Enso to develop sustainable batteries using wood based products from Nordic forests in an effort to keep the supply chain local.
The two companies will work together to develop what they say will be the world’s first industrialised battery to use an anode sourced entirely from European raw materials, an innovation which is expected to help lower both the carbon footprint of the battery as well as its cost.
“The joint battery development with Northvolt marks a step on our journey to serve the fast-growing battery market with renewable anode materials made from trees,” said Johanna Hagelberg, executive vice president for biomaterials at Stora Enso.
“Our lignin-based hard carbon, Lignode by Stora Enso, will secure the strategic European supply of anode raw material, serving the sustainable battery needs for applications from mobility to stationary energy storage.”
Lignin is a plant-derived polymer found in the cell walls of dry-land plants such as trees, which are composed of between 20% to 30% of lignin where it acts as a natural and strong binder.
According to Stora Enso, lignin is one of the biggest renewable sources of carbon in the world.
Stora Enso already boasts a pilot plant for bio-based carbon materials, located at its Sunila production site in Filand and where lignin has been industrially produced since 2015 at an annual production capacity of 50,000 tonnes.
“With this partnership, we are exploring a new source of sustainable raw material and expanding the European battery value chain, while also developing a less expensive battery chemistry,” said Emma Nehrenheim, chief environmental officer at Northvolt.
» Read article
From Burst Pipes in Texas to Melted Roads in France, the Climate Crisis Is Too Much for Existing Infrastructure
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
July 25, 2022
As deadly heat waves continue around the world, the climate crisis is making itself evident on the very roads we drive on.
When the weather gets hotter, building materials including asphalt and concrete expand and crack, CNN explained. And this has led to incidents from London to China as aging infrastructure meets record high temperatures.
“Most of our physical infrastructure was built using the temperature records of the mid-20th century,” Costa Samaras, principal assistant director for energy with the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, told The Washington Post. “That is not the climate we have now.”
In China, high temperatures in mid-July melted tiles on the roof of a museum in Chongqing, as EcoWatch reported at the time. During the same heat wave, a road in a town in Jiangxi province buckled up six inches.
The high heat that brought the UK its first temperature reading higher than 40 degrees Celsius also melted a runway at Luton Airport, disrupting flights.
The high temperatures also inspired some interesting methods of protecting infrastructure in the usually mild island nation. Foil was wrapped around London’s Hammersmith Bridge in order to reflect sunlight and keep the structure itself cool, as CNN reported. Further, Network Rail began painting London railways white in order to prevent them from overheating.
“The rail temperature here is over 48 degrees Celsius so we’re painting the rails white to prevent them from getting hotter,” Network Rail tweeted.
Roads across the Channel in the EU have not been spared. Journalist Sasha Abramsky had a direct encounter with what high heat does to roads when his car overheated in the Pyrenees in France.
‘My personal experience of this week’s ‘heat apocalypse’ in Europe involved discovering large globs of hot, sticky tar stuck to my leg after I trod in melted asphalt on a mountain road in France on Sunday afternoon: The road that I was walking on had literally begun to melt,” he wrote for Truthout.
[…] Roads especially are so vulnerable to high heat because asphalt gets soft when it’s hot, while concrete can expand and buckle, according to The Washington Post. As the climate crisis makes heat waves more frequent and extreme, infrastructure will need to be updated to accommodate higher normal temperatures. However, simply redoing roads is not enough.
“The bottom line is: we are not going to only build our way out of this,” Samaras told The Washington Post. “We must decarbonize our energy uses and learn how to remove carbon we’ve already added to the atmosphere.”
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SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY RESOURCES
Offshore Wind Farms Could Be Boon for Marine Biodiversity
By The Energy Mix
July 24, 2022
Offshore wind proponents are exploring “turbine reefs”—coral habitats planted on wind turbine bases—as a solution to the intersecting crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.
“As we build out offshore wind energy, there is great potential to enhance and create new habitats,” said Carl LoBue, The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) New York oceans program director. “Offshore wind farms could support entire communities of marine life.”
Human activity—overfishing and unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions—is driving ocean heating and acidification that have left marine habitats in dire straits. Over the last 50 years, populations of species such as sharks and rays have withered by more than 70%, reports Energy Monitor. At a recent UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Secretary-General António Guterres lamented that humans have “taken the ocean for granted” and declared that humanity faces an ocean emergency. “We must turn the tide,” he warned.
Biologists are looking for solutions in a burgeoning offshore wind energy sector—expected to increase capacity from 40 gigawatts in 2020 to 630 gigawatts by 2050. Armed with the knowledge that coral reefs provide habitats for around 32% of marine species, they hope the bases of turbines can foster habitats as a bulwark against ocean biodiversity loss.
The science is still in its early stages, but several groups are already working on strategies to recreate marine ecosystems. In one prominent trial, Danish energy giant Ørsted’s ReCoral program is collecting indigenous coral spawn that washes up onshore and incubating the spawn in laboratories. After it grows to a viable larval stage, the spawn is then transported to wind turbine foundations where it can, theoretically, form a new coral reef.
[…] If it works, establishing habitats on wind turbines could also help stabilize turbine foundations, which are threatened by erosion at their base. A recent TNC report studied nature-based designs for offshore wind structures and identified ways to stabilize turbines alongside a “massive opportunity to create, enhance, and expand marine habitat for native fish, shellfish, and other species.”
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Electric cars sales in the US ‘could prevent one-tenth of global cropland expansion’
A faster shift to electric vehicles (EVs) in the US would avoid around 10% of the global cropland expansion expected over the next 30 years, according to a new study.
By Josh Gabbatiss, Carbon Brief
July 18, 2022
Instead of growing maize (corn) to make biofuel for US cars, modelling in the Ecological Economics paper suggests large swathes of land could be left to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2).
This land sparing would bring “substantial” emissions savings, in addition to the direct benefits of electrifying US road transport, the researchers say.
The findings come as campaigners and some governments have been pushing to end the use of crops for biofuels in the face of soaring food prices and fears of global hunger.
One scientist not involved with the study tells Carbon Brief it highlights an “understudied” benefit of vehicle electrification, which “could have important indirect effects on agricultural production and greenhouse gas emissions globally”.
Shifting to 100% electric vehicle sales is a long way from reality in the US. However, the study suggests that, by choosing cleaner transport, Americans could significantly slash global demand for maize, cutting both emissions from agriculture and food prices.
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Concerns over transparency and access abound at deep-sea mining negotiations
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts, Mongabay
July 26, 2022
Delegates of the International Seabed Authority are currently meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, to negotiate a set of rules that would pave the way for a controversial activity: mining the seabed for coveted minerals like manganese, nickel, copper, cobalt and zinc. But scientists and conservationists say there are considerable transparency issues at the meetings that are restricting access to key information and hampering interactions between member states and civil society.
The ISA is the U.N.-mandated body responsible for overseeing the development of deep-sea mining in international waters, but also tasked with protecting the marine environment. Very little is actually known about the deep ocean, yet countries and corporations have set their sights on exploiting three deep-sea environments — abyssal plains, seamounts, and hydrothermal vents. They argue that doing so is necessary to produce batteries for electric cars and other green technologies, which would, in turn, help combat climate change. Yet scientists and conservationists say that mining the seabed would cause the planet far more harm than good, disrupting and destroying the very ecosystems that support life on Earth, and that green technologies do not require minerals from the ocean.
The ISA usually holds its meetings at the Jamaica Conference Centre, a complex with five large conference rooms, each of which can hold hundreds of people. But this year, due to renovations at the usual venue, the meetings were moved to a local hotel that’s unable to accommodate all delegates and observers in the same room, and has generally limited the number of attendees. For instance, the ISA only permits one observer per civil society group in the building at a time, which was the same restriction enforced at the ISA meetings that took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, there were no restrictions on observers.
“We’re seeing huge restrictions on access,” Diva Amon, a marine biologist and deep-sea expert who is attending the ISA meetings as a representative of the Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI), told Mongabay. “We are literally in this basement room, where we have a screen in front of us — a TV screen — and we’re only able to see the person who’s speaking. Usually we’re all in a room together, and as observers, we can read the room, we can interact with delegates really easily, and it’s just a lot more interactive. This time, it feels very siloed, which is unfortunate.”
Arlo Hemphill, a senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace who is also attending the current meetings, said that the new venue was unacceptable due to the limitations it created.
“They’re basically negotiating rules that are going to govern the surface area of almost half the planet and the people with the most at stake are being denied a seat at the table,” Hemphill told Mongabay.
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FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY
Revealed: oil sector’s ‘staggering’ $3bn-a-day profits for last 50 years
Vast sums provide power to ‘buy every politician’ and delay action on climate crisis, says expert
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
July 21, 2022
The oil and gas industry has delivered $2.8bn (£2.3bn) a day in pure profit for the last 50 years, a new analysis has revealed.
The vast total captured by petrostates and fossil fuel companies since 1970 is $52tn, providing the power to “buy every politician, every system” and delay action on the climate crisis, says Prof Aviel Verbruggen, the author of the analysis. The huge profits were inflated by cartels of countries artificially restricting supply.
The analysis, based on World Bank data, assesses the “rent” secured by global oil and gas sales, which is the economic term for the unearned profit produced after the total cost of production has been deducted.
The study has yet to be published in an academic journal but three experts at University College London, the London School of Economics and the thinktank Carbon Tracker confirmed the analysis as accurate, with one calling the total a “staggering number”. It appears to be the first long-term assessment of the sector’s total profits, with oil rents providing 86% of the total.
Emissions from the burning of fossil fuels have driven the climate crisis and contributed to worsening extreme weather, including the current heatwaves hitting the UK and many other Northern hemisphere countries. Oil companies have known for decades that carbon emissions were dangerously heating the planet.
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