Tag Archives: Enbridge

Weekly News Check-In 1/28/22

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Welcome back.

News broke just after the lackluster COP26 climate summit concluded, that the Biden administration would offer up the largest offshore oil and gas drilling lease in history. It was a huge carbon bomb lobbed at the climate, and it made the environmental community furious. Lawsuits came swiftly, and now we’re thrilled to report that the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia has revoked those leases. The ruling states that the Interior Department must consider the climate effects of fossil fuel extraction. Pipeline projects are bogging down in similar legal thickets, partly because of climate impacts, but also for direct environmental harms and safety hazards posed by their construction and operation.

Stanford scientist Robert Jackson took some of the shine off our beloved gas stove with a peer-reviewed study showing considerably higher rates of methane leakage than were previously understood. It’s challenging to send gas through pipes, valves, fittings, and appliances without at least a little bit leaking, and a little bit from a lot of places adds up to a serious problem. This new data bolsters the gas ban movement.

Food for thought: natural gas – methane (CH4) is a huge molecule compared to hydrogen (H2). We obviously don’t have a system that adequately contains methane, but the gas industry is pushing hard to send various mixtures of methane and hydrogen, and eventually all hydrogen, into our homes to perform the same functions currently served by natural gas. You good with that?

Sometime during the recent period of sustained environmental assault by the federal government, America was nudged toward greatness again (in some minds) by delaying the planned phase-out of inefficient, incandescent light bulbs. The effect on greening the economy wasn’t much, but it perversely served to raise the cost of living for people already struggling to get by. This is a good example of choices we make as we address the climate and environmental crises. There are obvious good or bad moves, and then there are unintended consequences – plus entrenched interests eager to game the system to their advantage. We’re seeing these dynamics play out in efforts to modernize the grid, source and site renewable resources, implement a meaningful system of carbon offsets and reforestation, and figure out an appropriate role for carbon capture and storage.

We’re keeping an eye on pushback within the European Union regarding attempts to classify natural gas and nuclear as sustainable energy. Meanwhile, the most blatant EU boondoggle of swapping coal for “carbon neutral” biomass took a hit, as its biggest offender, Drax Group, was booted off the S&P Global Clean Energy Index. And while we’re thumping the EU, what is going on with minimum flight benchmarks that are causing airlines to fly nearly-empty planes just to maintain airport slots?!!

Closer to home, Massachusetts lawmakers are pressing the Baker administration to finalize new energy efficiency standards in the building code. And we found some just plain good news in the latest press on Energy Vault’s gravity-based, long-duration energy storage system. We’ve featured this California company’s technology before, because it’s a standout in terms of simplicity, durability, and minimal environmental impact.

We’ll wrap up with a couple things to keep watching closely. First, the scope of cleaning up the fossil fuel industry’s abandoned and orphaned wells is rising now that the government has offered substantial funds for the task. We predict that cleanup costs will only grow – the mess is worse than industry and regulators have admitted. We’re also tracking growing concern about the prospect of someone implementing solar geoengineering in some form, in a desperate attempt to cool the planet.

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

— The NFGiM Team

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Port Aransas platform
Court Revokes Oil and Gas Leases, Citing Climate Change
A judge ruled that the Interior Department must consider the climate effects of oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico before awarding leases.
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
January 27, 2022

WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Thursday canceled oil and gas leases of more than 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico, ruling that the Biden administration did not sufficiently take climate change into account when it auctioned the leases late last year.

The decision by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia is a major victory for environmental groups that criticized the Biden administration for holding the sale after promising to move the country away from fossil fuels. It had been the largest lease sale in United States history.

Now the Interior Department must conduct a new environmental analysis that accounts for the greenhouse gas emissions that would result from the eventual development and production of the leases. After that, the agency will have to decide whether it will hold a new auction.

“This is huge,” said Brettny Hardy, a senior attorney for Earthjustice, one of several environmental groups that brought the lawsuit.

“This requires the bureau to go back to the drawing board and actually consider the climate costs before it offers these leases for sale, and that’s really significant,” Ms. Hardy said, adding, “Once these leases are issued, there’s development that’s potentially locked in for decades to come that is going to hurt our global climate.”

Melissa Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, said the agency was reviewing the decision.

As a candidate, Mr. Biden promised to stop issuing new leases for drilling on public lands and in federal waters. “And by the way, no more drilling on federal lands, period. Period, period, period,” Mr. Biden told voters in New Hampshire in February 2020. Shortly after taking office, he signed an executive order to pause the issuing of new leases.

But after Republican attorneys general from 13 states sued, a federal judge in Louisiana blocked that order, and also ruled that the administration must hold lease sales in the Gulf that had already been scheduled.

Biden administration officials have said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland risked being held in contempt of court if the auction was not held. Environmental groups, however, argued that the administration had other options, including doing a new analysis to examine the ways that the burning of oil extracted from the Gulf would contribute to climate change.
» Read article        
» Listen to coverage on NPR        

» Read the U.S. District Court decision

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

Peters MountainMountain Valley Pipeline loses permit to cross through Jefferson National Forest
By Laurence Hammack, Roanoke Times
January 25, 2022

For the second time, a federal appeals court has thrown out government approvals for a natural gas pipeline to pass through the Jefferson National Forest.

A written decision Tuesday from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals marked the latest of many setbacks for the Mountain Valley Pipeline since construction began in 2018.

A three-judge panel of the court found that the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management failed to properly predict — and to prevent — erosion and sedimentation problems caused by building the massive infrastructure project.

Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote in the panel’s unanimous decision that the agencies “erroneously failed to account for real-world data suggesting increased sedimentation along the pipeline route.”

The ruling sends the permit back to the Forest Service and BLM for reconsideration. The first time the court did that, in July 2018, it took two years for the agencies to approve a second permit — which now has also been found lacking by the Fourth Circuit.
» Read article         

Line 5 at Mackinaw Station
Pipeline expert warns of Line 5 tunnel explosion risk, Enbridge balks
By Sheri McWhirter, MLive
January 7, 2022

An oil and gas expert warned Michigan utility regulators not only would a tunnel for the Line 5 pipeline not be a failsafe replacement for the underwater section of the line, but possible accidents could cause a catastrophic underground explosion.

But Enbridge doesn’t even want the possibility considered by decision-makers.

The Canadian oil and gas pipeline company wants much of that expert testimony tossed from the record in the state’s ongoing tunnel permit case review before the Michigan Public Service Commission. An administrative law judge will decide next week.

Enbridge argued the oil and gas expert’s testimony on behalf of Bay Mills Indian Community shouldn’t be considered because of a legal technicality – that nobody has suggested a tunnel explosion before now so it can’t be considered rebuttal testimony.

The company also objected to official statements from a slew of others, including experts who testified on behalf of tribal governments and nonprofit environmental groups opposed to the tunnel proposal and continued use of the existing pipeline.

A Chicago-based lawyer for the Bay Mills tribe said the expert’s testimony is, in fact, intended to rebut prior testimony from MPSC employees who contend the proposed tunnel is a basically foolproof solution to the risk of oil spills from the dual pipelines that currently run across the Great Lakes bottomlands in the Straits of Mackinac.

“We saw what was being submitted in the case with respect to how the tunnel was being characterized – and specifically the pipeline running through the tunnel – and there was a repeated theme from witnesses offered by the MPSC staff, that the tunnel was going to eliminate a risk of a spill or catastrophic event in the Straits,” said Christopher Clark, of nonprofit Earthjustice which is working pro bono on behalf of the state’s Indigenous tribes with co-counsel Native American Rights Fund.
» Read article         

» More about pipelines

GAS BANS

leaky gas stovesYour gas stove is always polluting, even when it’s turned off
Scientists may have just found a source of missing methane in cities.
By Rebecca Leber, Vox
January 27, 2022

When we fire up a gas stove, we’re releasing a powerful climate pollutant into kitchens and beyond. But a new study found that this isn’t just happening when the stove is on. Even when turned off, a typical gas stove will send methane up to the atmosphere.

The new peer-reviewed study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, helps answer a particular question that’s been nagging scientists for years. The puzzle has been accounting for all the sources of methane as concentrations in the atmosphere have risen to record levels. They know the natural gas industry, and specifically leaks from its pipelines, is the biggest contributor (natural gas is mostly methane). Other well-documented sources are livestock and landfills.

But there was a mystery when it came to urban environments: In one study in Boston, researchers noted that pipeline leaks couldn’t explain the high levels of methane emissions they detected. There had to be other leaks, most likely from gas-burning appliances inside homes.

So Stanford scientist Robert Jackson, one of the study’s coauthors, set out to track down this missing methane inside homes and buildings. And he was surprised at what his team found.

Basically all stoves “leak a bit when they’re burning,” Jackson said. “And they all leak a bit when you turn them on and off, because there’s a period of time before the flame kicks in. The most surprising was almost three-quarters of the methane that we found emitting from the stoves came from when they weren’t running.”

In other words, the gas stove, a feature of 40 million American homes, is likely always releasing a greenhouse gas. Gas stoves are still a relatively small source of methane compared to pipelines and refineries, and they aren’t even the biggest gas-guzzling appliance in buildings — gas furnaces and water heaters use much more of the fuel through the day and night. But the methane emissions from stoves are roughly equivalent to the carbon dioxide released by half a million gas-powered cars in a year, the researchers found.
» Read article        
» Read the study              

» More about gas bans

GREENING THE ECONOMY

incandescent
Old-Fashioned, Inefficient Light Bulbs Live On at the Nation’s Dollar Stores
A Trump administration weakening of climate rules has kept incandescent bulbs on store shelves, and research shows they’re concentrated in shops serving poorer areas.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York TImes
January 23, 2022

For years, Deborah Turner bought her light bulbs at one of the many dollar stores that serve her neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio.

But the bulbs for sale were highly inefficient, shorter lasting, incandescent ones — the pear-shaped orbs with glowing wire centers — meaning that over time Mrs. Turner, who lives in a neighborhood where a quarter of the residents are below the poverty line, would spend hundreds of dollars more on electrical bills, because of the extra power they use, than if she’d purchased energy-saving LED lights.

It’s a pattern repeated nationwide. Research has shown that lower-end retailers like dollar stores or convenience shops still extensively stock their shelves with traditional or halogen incandescent bulbs, even as stores serving more affluent communities have shifted to selling far more efficient LEDs. One Michigan study, for instance, found that not only were LED bulbs less available in poorer areas, they also tended to cost on average $2.50 more per bulb than in wealthier communities.

“You just don’t see them in places like Dollar General,” said Mrs. Turner, a semi-retired addiction-treatment counselor.

The continued prevalence of incandescent bulbs in the United States is one result of a successful effort during the Trump presidency, by an industry group representing the world’s biggest light-bulb makers, to stall energy efficiency standards in the United States. By contrast, in the European Union, those same companies have adhered to a phaseout of incandescent bulbs.

The delay has enabled manufacturers to prolong profits from an inefficient technology, often at the expense of lower-income households, which end up having to replace the short-lived bulbs more frequently, while also paying more to power them.
» Read article         

» More about greening the economy

CLEAN ENERGY

Paris nuke plant
EU Scientists and Politicians Clash Over Gas and Nuclear as ‘Sustainable’ Investments
Lobbyists and an alliance of some EU governments push gas and nuclear in a sustainable investing guide. Scientific experts are “deeply concerned.”
By Stella Levantesi, DeSmog Blog
January 25, 2022

The European Union’s scientific and political communities are locked in a battle over whether gas and nuclear can be considered green investments. The latest development in this years-long fight came on Monday, when the European Commission’s scientific expert group, the Platform on Sustainable Finance (PSF), pushed back against including gas and nuclear in the EU taxonomy, an official guide on sustainable investments. The expert group stated that it is “deeply concerned about the environmental impacts that may result.”

In December 2021, after months of lobbying, strong pushback from pro-gas and pro-nuclear supporters, and informal alliances between governments, the Commission asked the Platform on Sustainable Finance to provide feedback on a draft amendment that included gas and nuclear in the taxonomy, thereby recognizing them as sustainable.

In July 2020, the European Union established the EU Taxonomy Regulation, “a classification system establishing a list of environmentally sustainable economic activities.” It’s a “green investment guidebook,” said Henry Eviston, spokesperson on sustainable finance at WWF European Policy Office. In other words, to call an investment “green,” it needs to be taxonomy compliant.

Economic activities comply with the taxonomy if they pass a number of technical screening criteria and meet at least one of six environmental objectives, without harming any of the others: mitigating climate change; adapting to climate change; protecting and sustainably using water and marine resources; transitioning to a circular economy; preventing and controlling pollution; and restoring and protecting biodiversity.
» Read article         

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

gas-lit flame
Lawmakers want Baker to move faster on new code for green buildings
By WBUR News & Wire Services
January 19, 2022

Frustrated with what they see as foot-dragging from the Baker administration, lawmakers heard testimony Wednesday on bills that would give cities and towns the power to ban natural gas, heating oil or propane infrastructure in new buildings.

State law currently prohibits local governments from banning gas and oil hookups in new construction projects. But the state’s ambitious climate law passed last spring is supposed to change that, allowing communities to “opt in” to a stricter building code.

The law requires the Baker administration produce a draft of this “stretch” energy code by the end of 2022, but legislators said they were expecting one sooner.

“[The Baker administration] told the public to expect a draft of the code by last fall. But something’s happened. It’s not seen the light of day, and we hear some developers want it weakened,” said Sen. Michael Barrett and Rep. Jeffrey Roy, chairmen of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, in a statement. “On the off chance the stretch energy code either does not emerge soon, or emerges but departs from legislative intent, we’re looking at contingency steps the Legislature may want to take.”

At a virtual hearing Wednesday, Barrett said the lack of a draft is a “discouraging early sign of whether or not we’re on track” to live up to the 2021 climate law.
» Read article         

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

Energy Vault Resiliency Center
We Can Store Our Excess Renewable Energy In An Energy Vault
The company, Energy Vault, has commercialized the ultimate energy storage technology that will build the foundation of a clean energy future – brick by brick.
By James Conca, Forbes
January 27, 2022

The Energy Vault stores excess electrical energy by efficiently transforming it into gravitational potential energy using 35-ton bricks that can be raised and lowered at will, and that can sit still storing the energy for any amount of time, before transforming the energy back to electrical energy when needed.

It is not a battery that can degrade over time. It does not need water or rare elements like Li or Co. It does not depend on the weather and is not affected by extreme weather. It can withstand Cat 4 hurricane winds and magnitude 8 earthquakes (tested at the California Institute of Technology).

It uses common materials like dirt to make the bricks, even solid waste, that can be obtained locally and does not use cement to bind them together. It does not use ten times the steel and concrete that renewables use relative to nuclear or gas. And it has one of, if not the, lowest carbon footprints of any energy generation or storage system.

And this technology comes just in time. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Storage Grand Challenge Market Report 2020, the World Energy Council, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Bloomberg NEF and Lazard, the projected grid-related storage deployments between now and 2030 needs to be about 830 GWh. The cumulative investment in this grid-related storage required over this time period is about $270 billion.

I know that game-changer is an overused term, but this technology really is a game-changer. With it, we can achieve a low-carbon future by mid-century. And we don’t need to waste lithium.
» Read article         

» More about energy storage        

MODERNIZING THE GRID

No Eastie Substation
Opponents appeal East Boston substation’s waterfront license
By Walter Wuthmann, WBUR
January 27, 2022

Environmental advocacy groups and East Boston residents are making a renewed attempt to stop construction of an Eversource electrical substation in the neighborhood.

On Monday the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) filed an appeal with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, saying the state should not have granted a waterfront license for the project.

“This waterways license is yet another example of our state agency making the wrong decision and Eversource Energy not making a good decision,” said Staci Rubin, CLF Vice President of Environmental Justice. “There is a pattern of our governmental decisions granting permits to pollute in communities of color, low-income neighborhoods, and places with limited English-proficient residents.”

Neighbors have long opposed the substation site, which sits on a flood-prone area near Chelsea Creek, across the street from a popular playground, and near tanks of jet fuel for Logan Airport.

Eversource says it needs a new substation in East Boston to meet the neighborhood’s increasing electrical demands. Substations are key components of the grid, converting high-voltage electricity from power plants to a lower voltage for residential use.
» Read article        
» Read background reporting
» Read assessment and alternatives from Union of Concerned Scientists

» More about modernizing the grid

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLES

Ko-Solar panels
MassDOT finds an unusual place to hang solar panels: highway sound barriers
New panels along Route 128 will generate enough power for up to 120 homes
By Jon Chesto, Boston Globe
January 25, 2022

Solar developers are finding interesting places to put their panels: landfills, parking garages, warehouses, shopping malls.

Now, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is adding a particularly unusual spot to the list: highway sound barriers.

On Monday, MassDOT announced it had signed a letter of intent to create the first such solar “photovoltaic noise barrier,” or PVNB, by mounting solar panels on an existing sound barrier along Route 128 in Lexington in the coming months. The 638-kilowatt project could provide enough power for up to 120 homes. Solect Energy will finance, install, and maintain the 3,000-foot-long project, while Ko-Solar, a Natick startup owned by Koray Kotan, is developing it. Kotan said Ko-Solar is in talks with transportation agencies in several states but the MassDOT project will be the first of its kind in the United States.

A MassDOT spokeswoman said the agency expects to receive a financial benefit of about $23,000 a year over the course of a 25-year lease period, from a combination of lease payments and electric utility savings from the credits the agency will receive for providing the power for the area’s electric grid. The state Department of Energy Resources awarded a $345,000 grant to help subsidize this pilot project.
» Read article         

Tiehm’s wild buckwheat
In a battle between this endangered flower and a lithium mine, who should win?
The decision about whether to allow a mine supplying the materials to build batteries on the habitat of a rare flower exposes questions about how we manage the tradeoffs between preserving nature now versus protecting the climate in the future.
By Adele Peters, Fast Company
January 25, 2022

In a remote corner of Nevada a four hour drive north of Las Vegas, there’s a small yellow flower that exists nowhere else in the world: Its entire global habitat takes up a chunk of federally-owned land a little smaller than two football fields. That land also happens to be the site of a proposed lithium mine, which could produce enough lithium each year for the batteries in 400,000 electric cars.

Later this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will make a final decision on whether to list the wildflower, called Tiehm’s wild buckwheat, on the Endangered Species List. And the Bureau of Land Management, the agency responsible for granting mining leases on federal land, will decide whether the mine can move forward, potentially destroying 90% of the rare plant’s habitat. It’s one example of a recurring challenge: How far should we go to speed up the energy transition if that also threatens the environment in other ways?

The site is unique, as one of only two places in the world known to contain large amounts of both lithium and boron. In fact, the mining company plans to produce much more boron than lithium. (While lithium is a key ingredient used in batteries for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage, boron plays less of a starring role in the energy transition, though Ioneer has pointed out that boric acid is used in things like magnets in electric cars and wind turbines.) Because the company can mine both boron and lithium simultaneously, it helps substantially lower the cost of production.

Some people living in the area support the mine because it would bring new jobs and tax revenue. And the mine could help with the supply of lithium, which currently can’t keep up with demand, forcing battery costs higher at a time when the car industry needs to switch to electric vehicles to reduce climate risks. Other proposed lithium projects in the U.S. are also facing opposition because of environmental impacts.

“I think we need lithium,” [Patrick Donnelly, the Nevada director for the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit that has been fighting in court to protect the flower for more than three years] says. “It’s not a foregone conclusion we need open pit lithium mines. And we definitely don’t need open pit lithium mines that drive species extinct. That’s not a green technology. That’s just the same old way of doing business that got us to the place we are today. We’re on the brink of the climate crisis and ecological collapse because we drive species extinct, right? You need a new way of doing business.”
» Read article         

» More about siting impacts of renewables

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

spooky
Airlines flying near-empty ‘ghost flights’ to retain EU airport slots
Analysis from Greenpeace finds deserted flights are generating millions of tons of harmful emissions
By Arthur Neslen, The Guardian
January 26, 2022

At least 100,000 “ghost flights” could be flown across Europe this winter because of EU airport slot usage rules, according to analysis by Greenpeace.

The deserted, unnecessary or unprofitable flights are intended to allow airlines to keep their takeoff and landing runway rights in major airports, but they could also generate up to 2.1 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions – or as much as 1.4 million average petrol or diesel cars emit in a year – Greenpeace says.

“The EU Commission requiring airlines to fly empty planes to meet an arbitrary quota is not only polluting, but extremely hypocritical given their climate rhetoric,” said Herwig Schuster, a spokesperson for Greenpeace’s European Mobility for All campaign.

“Transport emissions are skyrocketing,” he said. “It would be irresponsible of the EU to not take the low-hanging fruit of ending ghost flights and banning short-haul flights where there’s a reasonable train connection.”

When the Covid pandemic began, the European commission suspended a benchmark requiring airlines to maintain 80% of their flight operations to keep their slots open.

In October, Brussels upped the benchmark to 50%, and it will rise again to 64% in March.

Lufthansa CEO, Carsten Spohr, said that his airline may have to fly 18,000 “extra, unnecessary flights” to fulfil the adjusted rules, and called for the sort of “climate-friendly exemptions” used in other parts of the world.
» Read article         

» More about clean transportation

CARBON OFFSETS AND REFORESTATION

incinerated assets
Carbon offsetting is not warding off environmental collapse – it’s accelerating it
Wealthy companies are using the facade of ‘nature-based solutions’ to enact a great carbon land grab
By George Monbiot, The Guardian | Opinion
January 26, 2022

There is nothing that cannot be corrupted, nothing good that cannot be transformed into something bad. And there is no clearer example than the great climate land grab.

We now know that it’s not enough to leave fossil fuels in the ground and decarbonise our economies. We’ve left it too late. To prevent no more than 1.5C of heating, we also need to draw down some of the carbon already in the atmosphere.

By far the most effective means are “nature-based solutions”: using the restoration of living systems such as forests, salt marshes, peat bogs and the seafloor to extract carbon dioxide from the air and lock it up, mostly in trees or waterlogged soil and mud. Three years ago, a small group of us launched the Natural Climate Solutions campaign to draw attention to the vast potential for stalling climate breakdown and a sixth mass extinction through the mass revival of ecosystems.

While it is hard to see either climate or ecological catastrophe being prevented without such large-scale rewilding, we warned that it should not be used as a substitute for decarbonising economic life, or to allow corporations to offset greenhouse gases that shouldn’t be produced in the first place. We found ourselves having to shed a large number of partner organisations because of their deals with offset companies.

But our warnings, and those of many others, went unheeded. Something that should be a great force for good has turned into a corporate gold rush, trading in carbon credits. A carbon credit represents one tonne of greenhouse gases, deemed to have been avoided or removed from the atmosphere. Over the past few months, the market for these credits has boomed.

There are two legitimate uses of nature-based solutions: removing historic carbon from the air, and counteracting a small residue of unavoidable emissions once we have decarbonised the rest of the economy. Instead, they are being widely used as an alternative for effective action. Rather than committing to leave fossil fuels in the ground, oil and gas firms continue to prospect for new reserves while claiming that the credits they buy have turned them “carbon neutral”.
» Read article         

» More about carbon offsets         

CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE

milestone missed
Shell’s ‘Milestone’ CCS Plant Emits More Carbon Than It Captures, Independent Analysis Finds
By Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix
January 24, 2022

The federal government is looking into independent analysis claiming that carbon capture at a highly-touted Shell Canada demonstration project in Alberta is producing more greenhouse gas emissions than it prevents, The Energy Mix has learned.

The report issued late last week by London, UK-based human rights organization Global Witness acknowledges that Shell’s Quest carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility near Edmonton captured five million tonnes of carbon dioxide between 2015 and 2019, in what the company celebrated as a major milestone in July 2020.

But Global Witness came up with rather different numbers. “Our new research reveals that Quest is in fact emitting more than it is capturing,” the organization states. Despite the five megatonnes captured, the facility “has emitted a further 7.5 million tonnes of climate-polluting gases during the same time,” the equivalent of 1.2 million internal combustion cars per year.

Shell says it captured emissions equivalent to 1.25 million cars over a five-year span.

Global Witness’s analysis concludes that Quest captured just 48% of the emissions from hydrogen production at its Scotford bitumen upgrader and refinery—far less than the 90% standard promised by fossil executives and lobbyists. That’s because, while the CCS system captured 80% of the emissions from the steam methane reforming (SMR) production process to which it’s attached, it didn’t touch the 40% of total emissions that go into the atmosphere as flue gas, Global Witness says.

“When the plant’s overall greenhouse gas emissions are factored in, such as methane pollution from the fossil gas supply chain, only 39% of its emissions are captured,” the report adds.

For that result, Global Witness says Shell invested US$1 billion in the facility, including US$654 million in government subsidies, despite sustained opposition from many Indigenous communities focused on the industry’s “severe environmental damage”.

Shell maintains the plant has exceeded expectations, capturing more than its target of a million tonnes per year at lower cost than expected. But “Global Witness believes these claims about the CCS facility are misleading,” the report states. “They create the impression the hydrogen plant is less damaging for the climate than is actually the case, while Shell’s promotional materials give no sense of the proportion of carbon dioxide emitted” by Quest.
» Read article         

bubble column
Decarbonisation tech instantly converts CO2 to solid carbon
Researchers have developed a smart and super-efficient new way of capturing carbon dioxide and converting it to solid carbon, to help advance the decarbonisation of heavy industries.
By RMIT University, Melbourne
January 18, 2022

The carbon dioxide utilisation technology from RMIT researchers is designed to be smoothly integrated into existing industrial processes.

Decarbonisation is an immense technical challenge for heavy industries like cement and steel, which are not only energy-intensive but also directly emit CO2 as part of the production process.

The new technology offers a pathway for instantly converting carbon dioxide as it is produced and locking it permanently in a solid state, keeping CO2 out of the atmosphere.

The research is published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.

Co-lead researcher Associate Professor Torben Daeneke said the work built on an earlier experimental approach that used liquid metals as a catalyst.

“Our new method still harnesses the power of liquid metals but the design has been modified for smoother integration into standard industrial processes,” Daeneke said.

The RMIT team, with lead author and PhD researcher Karma Zuraiqi, employed thermal chemistry methods widely used by industry in their development of the new CCS tech.

The “bubble column” method starts with liquid metal being heated to about 100-120°C.

Carbon dioxide is injected into the liquid metal, with the gas bubbles rising up just like bubbles in a champagne glass.

As the bubbles move through the liquid metal, the gas molecule splits up to form flakes of solid carbon, with the reaction taking just a split second.

“It’s the extraordinary speed of the chemical reaction we have achieved that makes our technology commercially viable, where so many alternative approaches have struggled,” Chiang said.
» Blog editor’s note: the “liquid metal” isn’t specified. But mercury comes to mind as an obvious low-temperature liquid metal. Whatever is used, toxicity and environmental impact could be a real issue if this process is scaled up.
» Read article         

» More about CCS

SOLAR GEOENGINEERING

measuring aerosolsEfforts to dim Sun and cool Earth must be blocked, say scientists
By Shanna Hanbury, Mongabay
January 24, 2022

Blocking the sun’s rays with an artificial particle shield launched high into Earth’s atmosphere to curb global temperatures is a technological fix gaining traction as a last resort for containing the climate crisis — but it needs to be stopped, wrote a coalition of over 60 academics in an open letter and article released in the WIREs (Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews) Climate Change online publication on January 17.

“Some things we should just restrict at the outset,” lead author Aarti Gupta, a professor of Global Environmental Governance at Wageningen University, told Mongabay. Gupta placed solar geoengineering in the category of high-risk technologies, like human cloning and chemical weapons, that need to be off-limits. “It might be possible to do, but it’s too risky.”

The color of the sky could change. The chemical composition of the ozone layer and oceans may be permanently altered. Photosynthesis, which depends on sunlight, may slow down, possibly harming biodiversity and agriculture. And global weather patterns could change unpredictably.

Despite the potential dangers, no mechanism exists today to stop an individual, company or country from launching a solo mission, said Gupta. To prevent this, the open letter suggests five urgent protective measures: no outdoor experiments, no implementation, no patents, no public funding, and no support from international institutions such as the United Nations.
» Read article        
» Read the open letter

» More about solar geoengineering

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

orphan well
Abandoned oil well counts are exploding — now that there’s money on the table
$4.7 billion released by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has states rethinking their abandoned oil well tallies.
By Naveena Sadasivam, Grist
January 21, 2022

From 2020 to 2021, the number of wells that the state of Oklahoma listed as abandoned — and therefore the government’s responsibility to clean up — jumped from 2,799 to a whopping 17,865. In Colorado, the orphan well tally hovered around 275 from 2018 to 2020 but increased by almost 80 percent last year. In California, the tally almost doubled in the last two years. (It started even lower in 2019, when the state identified just 25 abandoned wells.)

What changed? In 2020, Congress began seriously considering sending states money to plug orphan wells. The proposal had support from both political parties and was ultimately included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law enacted in November, which set aside $4.7 billion for this purpose. States have long known that their orphan well tallies are outdated and incomplete, but without a source of funding to clean up the wells, many didn’t invest the resources required to identify abandoned wells. That changed as the funding slowly became a reality over the past couple of years.

Orphan oil and gas wells are a climate and public health menace. Abandoned by companies who abscond after fraudulent activity or fall into bankruptcy, these wells quietly belch the potent greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere and pose a threat to public safety. Last year, a Grist and Texas Observer investigation found that the abandoned well count in Texas and New Mexico is poised to balloon by nearly 200 percent in the coming years. It’s widely accepted that cleanup costs run in the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars nationwide — but both the true cost and the true count are unknown. The EPA estimates the unplugged orphan well count could be as high as 2.1 million across the U.S.
» Read article         

» More about fossil fuels

BIOMASS

Pinnacle wood pellet plant
Tree-burning Drax power plants dropped from green energy index
The world’s largest biomass-burning power generator faces doubts over the sustainability of burning of wood pellets as a replacement for coal
By Adria Vasil, Corporate Knights
January 11, 2022

Here’s a green riddle for you: if a tree falls in the forest and it’s chipped, then shipped to be burned for electricity, is it carbon neutral?

It’s a question that’s been tripping up national carbon calculators around the globe since the days of the Kyoto Protocol. From the late 1990s, industry and governments have largely considered burning wood pellets in power stations to be renewable, zero-emitting energy, since planting new trees should, theoretically, absorb enough carbon dioxide to cancel out the emissions that come out of smokestacks as they burn.

But doubts regarding the science behind those claims and the sustainability of the practice have been mounting as more countries ramp up the burning of woody biomass as a replacement for coal.

In October, the world’s largest biomass-burning power generator, Drax Group, was one of 15 companies booted off the S&P Global Clean Energy Index. S&P also ditched the French bioenergy firm Albioma. The reason given: their “carbon-to-revenue footprint” was too large.

That same month, a study led by Princeton University, published in the journal Science, called out a “serious” error in the climate accounting rules widely applied to biomass energy since the Kyoto Protocol. “This accounting erroneously treats all bioenergy as carbon neutral regardless of the source of the biomass…. For example, the clearing of long-established forests to burn wood or to grow energy crops is counted as a 100% reduction in energy emissions despite causing large releases of carbon.

The carbon-neutral assumption might be true if you’re using perennial grasses or twigs, but scientists say that tree plantations don’t store as much carbon as natural forests, and regrowth takes time. It could take 40 to 100 years for planted trees to absorb the carbon debt released by biomass power plants (in boreal forests those estimates jump to 100 years).

Back in 2018, MIT scientist John Sterman concluded that “burning wood to produce energy can actually worsen climate change, at least through the year 2100 – even if wood displaces coal, the most carbon-intensive fuel.” In early 2021, the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council affirmed that using woody biomass for power “is not effective in mitigating climate change and may even increase the risk of dangerous climate change.”

Meanwhile, the carbon accounting loophole has fuelled a boom in the biomass industry in Europe, the U.S., Canada and the U.K., where it’s highly subsidized. In the EU, biomass accounts for about 59% of all renewable energy consumption.
» Read article         

» More about biomass

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Weekly News Check-In 10/15/21

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Welcome back.

Today concludes a five day series of protests and actions aimed at raising global awareness of the dangers posed by our continued reliance on fossil fuels. The timing is meant to focus attention on the critical COP26 climate talks opening soon in Glasgow. Participants there will have what may be our last chance to correct humanity’s course and avoid catastrophe.

Michigan’s Governor Whitmer has been trying to shut down the dilapidated Line 5 pipeline where it crosses the Straits of Mackinac. We’re offering three separate articles related to this complicated international issue as Canada, Michigan, and Indigenous groups are all claiming treaty violations.

The divestment movement has made considerable progress with insurers, pension funds, commercial banks, and universities – many of which are dumping fossils from their portfolios. But in what feels like a game of wack-a-mole, along comes venture capital hoping to turn a quick buck by propping up otherwise-abandoned polluters just a little longer.

The steel, ammonia, and cement industries together represent huge carbon emissions while producing products essential to the modern world. Greening those processes is challenging, but that’s not the whole story. The manufacture of cement and concrete requires massive volumes of high quality sand typically found in rivers. Demand for this material supports a global criminal network causing environmental havoc in some of the planet’s most vulnerable communities and ecosystems.

The International Energy Agency is trying hard to get our attention, delivering a clear message ahead of those COP26 climate talks that there’s absolutely no justification for further fossil fuel exploration anywhere, and that efforts to deploy clean energy must accelerate. For a kind of case study, we look at how Texas could avoid adding gas generator plants to shore up its creaky electric grid – implementing energy efficiency measures instead for better performance at much lower cost.

Transitioning to clean transportation is good and necessary, but it won’t happen all at once. Activists in Massachusetts are seeking stepped-up air pollution monitoring along the state’s highways to monitor missions in environmental justice communities.

Residents of Maine will vote November 2nd on a referendum to determine the fate of a controversial electric transmission corridor to bring Quebec hydro power through the state, largely to supply energy-hungry Massachusetts. The outcome of the vote is key to Massachusetts’ decarbonization plans, and may also foreshadow upcoming challenges to new transmission infrastructure elsewhere. But Massachusetts has committed to phasing out gas almost entirely – a commitment that relies on loads of new clean electricity. It also involves negotiations that may be ceding too much control to gas utilities.

Now that deep-seabed mining is poised for its first real expansion, serious questions and concerns are multiplying. This week, we take a look at legal liability – who’s responsible if something goes wrong in this risky venture?

Speaking of risk, the fossil fuel industry has teed up a potentially massive environmental and humanitarian disaster in the Red Sea, in the form of over a million barrels of crude oil aboard a rotting old supertanker called FSO Safer (pronounced saffer). The ship is mixed up in the ongoing war in Yemen, and the oil volume is four times larger than the Exxon Valdez spilled in Alaska thirty-two years ago.

We’ll end with a couple of positive items. First, the Natural Resources Defense Council has analyzed the biomass energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) model being promoted by DRAX, the UK’s largest biomass energy facility. Their conclusion? It’s bunk – burning biomass makes the climate worse even if you capture carbon dioxide at the site. That’s because of the emissions intensity of harvesting, processing, and transporting the fuel – along with the folly of cutting trees that would otherwise be pulling CO2 from the atmosphere.

The second bit of good news involves plastics recycling, or rather a clear statement that recycling doesn’t work, and will never solve our plastic waste problem. Good. Now maybe we can focus on stopping so much plastic being made in the first place.

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

— The NFGiM Team

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

people v fossil fuels
Indigenous Leaders Deliver Petitions to Army Corps DC Headquarters, After 155 Activists Arrested at The White House
People vs. Fossil Fuels week-long protest continues in Washington DC, with a sustained message to President Biden to take meaningful action against the climate crisis
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmog Blog
October 12, 2021

On the second day of ‘People vs. Fossil Fuels’ demonstrations in Washington, D.C., hundreds marched to the White House, again calling on President Biden to recognize  the world is in a climate emergency and to halt approvals of new fossil fuel projects. More than 150 people were arrested for refusing to clear the sidewalk in front of the White House, just a day after similar arrests of 136 people. After the U.S. Park Police escorted the last protesters away, a second rally was held in front of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters. There, over a hundred environmental activists showed their ongoing resistance to the recently completed construction of Enbridge’s expanded Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

The event was hosted by Honor The Earth, an Indigenous-led environmental justice organization based in northern Minnesota, with support from Seventh Generation, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN), and the People vs. Fossil Fuels coalition. And the petitions were collected by community and environmental justice groups, including Braided Justice Collective, Friends of the Earth, Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate, and 350.org, among others.

During a press conference the group held a ceremony with Anishinaabe drummers in front of the building where they presented the Army Corps with the petitions.
» Read article                     

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

jockying
Michigan tribes to Biden: Enbridge Line 5 threatens our treaty rights
By Kelly House, Bridge Michigan
October 12, 2021

As Canada leans on an international treaty to keep oil flowing through Line 5, Michigan Native American tribal leaders want the Biden administration to acknowledge that the pipeline’s fate affects their treaty rights, too.

In a press conference Tuesday, Bay Mills Indian Community President Whitney Gravelle called upon the Biden administration to make “a serious commitment” to uphold the rights of Michigan tribes as the federal government faces increasingly complex diplomatic issues regarding Line 5.

Gravelle’s comments come a week after Canada invoked a 1977 treaty governing cross-border pipelines in an attempt to block Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s efforts to shut down Line 5, which runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac. Canada argues that the treaty, part of which says that “no public authority” in either the U.S. or Canada can impede the flow of petroleum products through international pipelines, leaves Whitmer powerless to shut down Line 5.

Lawyers for the state of Michigan dispute that interpretation, and a University of Michigan legal expert earlier told Bridge Michigan that other language in the 1977 treaty gives Michigan the power to regulate the pipeline.

Calling efforts to keep Line 5 open a “direct attack on our sovereignty,” Gravelle argued at a virtual press conference Tuesday that “tribal nations’ treaty rights in this area predate and supersede any of Enbridge’s interests, including any rights the government of Canada or Enbridge may claim.”

The Straits and much of Michigan’s landmass are protected by the 1836 Treaty of Washington, in which tribes ceded millions of acres to the U.S. government in exchange for permanent rights to hunt, fish and gather, among other rights. Michigan tribes have argued an oil spill from Line 5 could decimate fish populations, rendering their protected fishing rights meaningless.
» Read article                   

oil and water
Line 5 opponents criticize Canada’s treaty maneuver, ask Biden to reject move
By Sheri McWhirter, MLive
October 12, 2021

Environmental and tribal advocates argued Canada’s invocation of treaty rights to keep Line 5 open was a ploy to protect fossil fuel profits over Great Lakes protections, and a failure to immediately address the climate crisis with reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Proponents of shutting down Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline and quashing a replacement tunnel proposal on Tuesday voiced their collective dismay at Canada’s recent argument that treaty rights somehow protect the continued flow of petrochemicals beneath Great Lakes waters at the Straits of Mackinac. The maneuver came as Southern California’s coastline became awash with oil leaked from an underwater pipeline, which they contended is a foreboding warning for Michigan.

“Canada’s last-ditch effort to save Enbridge came while oil was still flowing towards the California coast in an incident that should be instructive for all of us. The California oil spill was likely caused by a ship’s anchor striking the pipeline,” said Sean McBrearty, campaign coordinator for advocacy group Oil & Water Don’t Mix, recalling a 2018 tugboat anchor strike on the pipeline on Lake Michigan bottomlands.
» Read article                     

treaty invoked
Canada invokes 1977 treaty with US as dispute over pipeline intensifies
Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer says Line 5 of pipeline is a ‘ticking time bomb’ and has ordered it shut down
By Leyland Cecco, The Guardian
October 6, 2021

The Canadian government has invoked a decades-old treaty with the United States in its latest bid to save a pipeline that critics warn could be environmentally catastrophic if it were to fail.

For nearly 67 years, Calgary-based Enbridge has moved oil and natural gas from western Canada through Michigan and the Great Lakes to refineries in the province of Ontario.

But Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, says that one section of the company’s pipeline – Line 5, which crosses the Great Lakes beneath the environmentally sensitive Straits of Mackinac – is a “ticking time bomb” and has ordered it shut down.

Court-ordered mediation talks between Enbridge and the government of Michigan have broken down, and as tensions mount, Canada this week invoked a 1977 treaty obliging both countries to allow oil to flow uninterrupted.

By invoking the treaty – which would bring the dispute to binding arbitration – Canada has shown a rare frustration with president Joe Biden’s administration and its refusal to wade into the feud.

“While Biden may want to duck the issue to please [Whitmer] and keep the environmentalists in the Democratic caucus on side, the fact is that the treaty guarantees uninterrupted pipeline transit, except in exceptionally grave emergencies,” said Lawrence Herman, an international trade lawyer and senior fellow at the CD Howe Institute. “And even in those emergency cases, any interruption is only allowed for temporary periods.”

Line 5 delivers nearly half the oil needs of both Ontario and Quebec, as well as propane for the state of Michigan, and the treaty was initially pushed by the US to ensure oil could flow from Alaska, through Canada. Senators made the point that it ensured Canadian provinces couldn’t interfere with the movement of oil.
» Read article                     

» More about pipelines

DIVESTMENT

private equity
Private Equity Funds, Sensing Profit in Tumult, Are Propping Up Oil
These secretive investment companies have pumped billions of dollars into fossil fuel projects, buying up offshore platforms, building new pipelines and extending lifelines to coal power plants.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
October 13, 2021

As the oil and gas industry faces upheaval amid global price gyrations and catastrophic climate change, private equity firms — a class of investors with a hyper focus on maximizing profits — have stepped into the fray.

Since 2010, the private equity industry has invested at least $1.1 trillion into the energy sector — double the combined market value of three of the world’s largest energy companies, Exxon, Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell — according to new research. The overwhelming majority of those investments was in fossil fuels, according to data from Pitchbook, a company that tracks investment, and a new analysis by the Private Equity Stakeholder Project, a nonprofit that pushes for more disclosure about private equity deals.

Only about 12 percent of investment in the energy sector by private equity firms went into renewable power, like solar or wind, since 2010, though those investments have grown at a faster rate, according to Pitchbook data.

Private equity investors are taking advantage of an oil industry facing heat from environmental groups, courts, and even their own shareholders to start shifting away from fossil fuels, the major force behind climate change. As a result, many oil companies have begun shedding some of their dirtiest assets, which have often ended up in the hands of private equity-backed firms.

By bottom-fishing for bargain prices — looking to pick up riskier, less desirable assets on the cheap — the buyers are keeping some of the most polluting wells, coal-burning plants and other inefficient properties in operation. That keeps greenhouse gases pumping into the atmosphere.

At the same time banks, facing their own pressure to cut back on fossil fuel investments, have started to pull back from financing the industry, elevating the role of private equity.

The fossil fuel investments have come at a time when climate experts, as well as the world’s most influential energy organization, the International Energy Agency, say that nations need to more aggressively move away from burning fossil fuels, said Alyssa Giachino of the Private Equity Stakeholder Project.

“You see oil majors feeling the heat,” she said. “But private equity is quietly picking up the dregs, perpetuating operations of the least desirable assets.”
» Read article                     
» Read the Private Equity Stakeholder Project analysis

» More about divestment

GREENING THE ECONOMY

blast furnace
Can the World’s Most Polluting Heavy Industries Decarbonize?

The production of steel, cement and ammonia emit about one-fifth of all human-caused CO2. Technologies are emerging to decarbonize these industries, but big challenges remain.
By Fred Pearce, Yale Environment 360
September 23, 2021

We know how to decarbonize energy production with renewable fuels and land transportation with electric vehicles. Blueprints for greening shipping and aircraft are being drawn up. But what about the big industrial processes? They look set to become decarbonization holdouts — the last and hardest CO2 emissions that we must eliminate if we are to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century. In particular, how are we to green the three biggest globally-vital heavy industries: steel, cement, and ammonia, which together emit around a fifth of anthropogenic CO2?

Our modern urban environments are largely constructed from concrete — which is made from cement — and steel. Most of our food is grown through the application of fertilizer made from ammonia. These most ubiquitous industrial materials are produced at huge expense of energy and carbon dioxide emissions.

Their staid industries have prospered for over a century using largely unchanged manufacturing processes. But the urgent need to produce green ammonia, steel, and cement is starting to shake them up. Research is providing new options for fundamental changes to chemical processes. And in recent weeks, leading players have announced major initiatives in each of these three crunch industries.
» Read article                     

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

Santa Monica Pier
What sea level rise will do to famous American sites, visualized
New images show what areas of the world can be saved or lost if carbon emissions aren’t curbed
By Aliya Uteuova, The Guardian
October 12, 2021

The land on which 10% of the world’s population lives could be lost to sea level rise if carbon emission trends continue, new maps and visualizations show.

Fifty major cities, mostly in Asia, and at least one large nation on every continent but Australia and Antarctica are at risk. Many small island nations are threatened with near total loss of their land.

The collection of images and videos produced by the non-profit Climate Central visualize future sea level rise if the world fails to meet emissions reduction targets. The images show what areas of the world can be saved and which could be lost, taking with them the heritage and history of these coastal communities.

Meeting the most ambitious goals of the Paris climate agreement could reduce the sea level rise exposure by roughly half. But the world is not on course to limiting global warming to 1.5C (2.7F), as outlined in the 2015 Paris agreement. Based on current emissions, the Earth is expected to reach and even exceed 3C (5.4F) warming by 2100.
» Read article                     

carbon load
Climate scientists should pay more attention to fish poop. Really.
Fish poop transforms ocean chemistry and can store carbon for centuries.
By Benji Jones, Vox
October 8, 2021

Daniele Bianchi, a researcher at the University of California Los Angeles, has a message for climate scientists everywhere: Pay more attention to fish poop.

Fish and their feces play a hugely important and vastly underrated role in ocean chemistry and the carbon cycle that shapes Earth’s climate, according to a new study led by Bianchi and published in the journal Science Advances.

The story goes something like this: Tiny marine organisms called phytoplankton absorb carbon from the water and air around them. As the plankton are eaten by increasingly larger creatures, the carbon then travels up the food chain and into fish. Those fish then release a lot of it back into the ocean through their poop, much of which sinks to the seafloor and can store away carbon for centuries. The scientific term for carbon storage is sequestration.

“We think this is one of the most effective carbon-sequestration mechanisms in the ocean,” Bianchi told Vox. “It reaches the deep layers, where carbon is sequestered for hundreds or thousands of years.”
» Read article                     
» Read the study

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

Baton Rouge refinery
IEA Sends Clear Message to World Leaders: Stop Investing in New Oil and Gas
“It is now beyond doubt that there is no need for further coal, oil, and gas exploration if we are to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.”
By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams
October 13, 2021

Just over two weeks out from the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, the International Energy Agency on Wednesday delivered a straightforward and urgent message to world leaders: Fossil fuels must stay in the ground if planetary warming is to be limited to 1.5°C by the end of the century.

The IEA’s formal recognition of the 1.5°C target—the most ambitious aim of the Paris climate accord—was hailed as a “major shift” in the right direction for the influential agency, whose annual World Energy Outlook (WEO) report is often used as a resource by policymakers and businesses across the globe.

David Tong, Global Industry Campaign manager at Oil Change International, said Wednesday that the latest iteration of the WEO—while far from flawless in its projections and recommendations—”confirms that investment in new fossil fuel projects will undermine our chance to limit warming to 1.5ºC.”

“Today’s report is particularly remarkable because of the IEA’s history,” Tong added. “Big oil and gas companies like Shell and BP have relied on previous, less ambitious IEA scenarios to justify inadequate climate plans and pledges. That hiding place is now gone.”

The IEA’s report specifically finds that even if nations meet their current climate pledges, the world will see just 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions reductions necessary by 2030 to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

“Reaching that path requires investment in clean energy projects and infrastructure to more than triple over the next decade,” Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said in a statement. “Some 70% of that additional spending needs to happen in emerging and developing economies, where financing is scarce and capital remains up to seven times more expensive than in advanced economies.”

Pointing to the upcoming climate summit, the IEA’s report states that “making the 2020s the decade of massive clean energy deployment will require unambiguous direction from COP26.”
» Read article                     
» Read the IEA’s World Energy Outlook

big wind
Biden Administration Plans Wind Farms Along Nearly the Entire U.S. Coastline
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced that her agency will formally begin the process of identifying federal waters to lease to wind developers by 2025.
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
October 13, 2021

The Biden administration announced on Wednesday a plan to develop large-scale wind farms along nearly the entire coastline of the United States, the first long-term strategy from the government to produce electricity from offshore turbines.

Speaking at a wind power industry conference in Boston, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said that her agency will begin to identify, demarcate and hope to eventually lease federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of Maine and off the coasts of the Mid-Atlantic States, North Carolina and South Carolina, California and Oregon, to wind power developers by 2025.

The announcement came months after the Biden administration approved the nation’s first major commercial offshore wind farm off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts and began reviewing a dozen other potential offshore wind projects along the East Coast. On the West Coast, the administration has approved opening up two areas off the shores of Central and Northern California for commercial wind power development.

Taken together, the actions represent the most forceful push ever by federal government to promote offshore wind development.
» Read article                     

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Texas efficiency
These 7 efficiency policies could help Texas avoid $8B in new gas plants, ACEEE says
Robert Walton, Utility Dive
October 14, 2021

Winter Storm Uri knocked about half of Texas’ generation offline, leading grid officials to consider a range of solutions including weatherizing power plants and the construction of new generation. But those system upgrades would raise customer bills while only being relied on in the most extreme situations, ACEEE’s report points out.

“An alternate way to address these problems is to expand Texas’s currently limited energy efficiency and demand response programs,” the report finds, particularly those which reduce summer and winter peak demands.

ACEEE’s analysis concludes that a set of seven residential efficiency and demand response retrofit measures could serve about 9 million Texas households and offset most of the capability of new proposed gas combined-cycle generators. And those residential programs would have a five-year total programmatic cost of about $4.9 billion, or 39% less than the $8 billion capital investment required for new gas plants.

Efficiency programs ACEEE identifies include incentives for attic insulation, electric furnace upgrades, smart thermostats, and heat pumps and electric water heaters. Demand response programs include those targeting the flexibility of water heating, air conditioning and electric vehicle charging.
» Read article                     

» More about energy efficiency

BUILDING MATERIALS

illegal sand mining
Illegal Sand Mining Is Creating an Ecological Crisis in Bangladesh
Sand is at the center of a vast multinational criminal trade that’s having a catastrophic impact on the health of the planet.
By Kat Williams, Vice
September 20, 2021

Sand. If we think about it at all, it’s probably in relation to a relaxing day at the beach.

But sand is also at the center of a vast multinational criminal trade that’s having a catastrophic impact on the health of the planet.

Sand’s value stems from its integral role in the production of concrete, which is a necessary ingredient in both the physical and economic growth of countries across the globe. “Sand is so valuable as a resource that people are and have been killed over it,” says Julian Leyland, a professor of geography and environmental science at the University of Southampton.

And it’s not just any sand that can be used to make high-quality concrete. Jagged, sharp-shaped river sand is particularly sought after because, unlike smooth desert sand, it bonds well with cement.

One valuable source of river sand is Bangladesh, known as the “land of rivers.” Sand mining in Bangladesh is big business, and although it is supposed to be regulated, Bangladeshi sand miners often expand their operations beyond the areas they have legally leased.

Syeda Riswani Hasan, an attorney with the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, estimates 60 percent to 70 percent of Bangladeshi sand on the market is illegally mined.

“Sand here in Bangladesh has blood stains on it,” she says. “The entire river ecosystem…is bearing the brunt of sand mining.”

So, why isn’t sand mining better policed? Hasan describes a “thoroughly corrupt” system in which authorities are bribed to look the other way.  Leyland notes that nations are incentivized to turn a blind eye to illegal sand mining to further their own economic goals.

“There’s a real push for development…and so that’s really fueled their demand for sand,” she says.

Hasan foresees the insatiable demand for sand as potentially ruinous for Bangladesh. “Countries who do not want to destroy their own environment will be relying on Bangladesh because enforcement is very weak here,” she says. “And if there is more demand for sand, the entire river ecosystem of the country will simply collapse.”

To make matters worse, there is no international body tracking the sand trade.
» Read article                     
» Watch YouTube video

bags of cement
Cement makers across world pledge large cut in emissions by 2030
Industry responsible for about 8% of CO2 emissions commits to reaching net zero by 2050 without offsetting
By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
October 12, 2021

Cement makers around the world have pledged to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by up to a quarter this decade and reach net zero by 2050, in a move they said would make a major difference to the prospects for the Cop26 climate summit.

The industry is responsible for about 7%-8% of global carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of more than any individual country except China and the US. Cutting emissions from cement production is difficult, because the chemical processes used to make it and concrete release CO2.

The Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA), which represents 40 of the world’s biggest producers and about 80% of the industry outside China, made the pledge on Tuesday. Several major Chinese cement and concrete companies, which account for about 20% of China’s market, have also joined.

Companies have been working for more than a decade on ways to change the chemical processes and use different materials, as well as becoming more energy efficient. Tuesday’s pledge marks the first time that major producers have made a public commitment on the climate.
» Read article                     

» More about building materials

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

MA HWY
Activists want more air pollution monitoring near Massachusetts highways

Massachusetts environmental justice advocates want to make sure air pollution near highways is measured so that the state can ensure nearby communities benefit from the state’s transition to cleaner transportation.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
September 29, 2021

Massachusetts environmental justice activists are promoting a bill that would require the state to install more air quality monitors in areas vulnerable to transportation pollution.

The legislation is part of an effort to ensure communities that have borne a disproportionate share of diesel fumes and tailpipe emissions are able to reap the benefits of the state’s transition to cleaner energy. The information collected would be used to create plans to cut contaminants to a quarter of current levels by 2035.

“We want to address wrongs that were made decades ago but are still impacting our communities now,” said state Rep. Christine Barber, one of the sponsors of the bill.

The electrification of the transportation sector is a major component of Massachusetts’ plan for going carbon-neutral by 2050. However, simply reducing overall statewide transportation emissions is not enough, environmental justice activists say. They want the transition to be targeted at helping rectify some of the damage done by years of higher pollution levels in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

“Even if we implement policies to lower transportation pollution, disparities in air pollution hotspots will continue to exist,” said Sofia Owen, staff attorney for environmental justice group Alternatives for Community and the Environment. “And in our minds that is unacceptable — we need to do more.”
» Read article                     

loss happens
How Much Range Does an Electric Car Lose Each Year?
All EVs offer a multitude of measures used to slow down the process of battery degradation. However, the process is inevitable.
By Andrew Lambrecht, Inside EVs
October 12, 2021

While electric vehicles have been proven to have considerably lower ownership costs compared to their ICE counterparts, battery longevity remains an equivocal subject. Similar to how consumers ask how long the batteries can last, manufacturers often question the same subject. ”Every single battery is going to degrade every time you charge and discharge it,” Atlis Motor Vehicles CEO, Mark Hanchett, told InsideEVs.

Essentially, it’s inevitable that your electric car battery, or any rechargeable Li-ion battery, will lose its capacity it once had. However, the rate at which it’ll degrade is the unknown variable. Everything ranging from your charging habits to the very chemical makeup of the cell will affect your EV battery’s long-term energy storage.

While many factors are at play, there are four main elements that assist in further degrading EV batteries.
» Read article               

» More about clean transportation

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY

CMP corridor
New England will need more clean power even if the CMP corridor is built
By Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News
October 13, 2021

The upcoming referendum over a transmission line through western Maine will have broad implications for New England and Quebec’s energy future, as the demand for massive quantities of clean energy will persist regardless of the outcome.

Mainers will vote Nov. 2 on a question that aims to block the $1 billion corridor being built by Central Maine Power affiliates and Hydro-Quebec through western Maine while requiring legislative approval for infrastructure projects on public lands. A yes vote in the referendum would block the project, while a no vote would allow work to continue.

The region has much riding on the outcome, but hydropower and long, controversial transmission lines are likely to play some role in a broad effort to slash carbon emissions whether the corridor is built or not. While alternatives including offshore wind are on the way, they are not likely to bridge the gap as quickly.

“Fighting climate change is a wicked problem, and there’s no easy fix because otherwise we would have found it,” said Francois Bouffard, an engineering professor at McGill University in Montreal. “So there’s always going to be winners and losers.”

But the project has broader consequences for the rest of New England, as well as in neighboring Quebec. In the short-run, the success or failure of the corridor is “very significant” for Massachusetts, which needs the power to meet its aggressive low-carbon energy goals, said Paul Hibbard, an energy consultant and former chair of the public utilities department there.

The Massachusetts attorney general’s office left a comment left before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission earlier this month urging quick resolution to disputes surrounding the project, saying the 1,200-megawatt transmission line was of “vital importance.”

Massachusetts’ shift toward hydropower would have secondary effects for the rest of the New England market, with more power available for others to buy. Although some corridor opponents have been skeptical, experts said there is little doubt that gas-fired power plants would be the first source displaced. Some of their owners have funded the political fight against the corridor.

“We cannot develop enough low-carbon sources fast enough,” Hibbard said. “So any incremental piece of energy coming from any zero carbon source right now is not going to be displacing renewables, it’ll be displacing fossil fuels.”
» Read article                     

» More about siting impacts

DEEP-SEABED MINING

inconclusiveDeep seabed mining is risky. If something goes wrong, who will pay for it?
By Ian Morse, Mongabay
October 8, 2021

Citizens of countries that sponsor deep-sea mining firms have written to several governments and the International Seabed Authority expressing concern that their nations will struggle to control the companies and may be liable for damages to the ocean as a result.

Liability is a central issue in the embryonic and risky deep-sea mining industry, because the company that will likely be the first to mine the ocean floor — DeepGreen/The Metals Company — depends on sponsorships from small Pacific island states whose collective GDP is a third its valuation.

Mining will likely cause widespread damage, scientists say, but the legal definition of environmental damage when it comes to deep-sea mining has yet to be determined.
» Read article                     

» More about deep-seabed mining

GAS UTILITIES

dismissive
The state asked for a blueprint of a gas-free future. Why are the utilities writing the first draft?
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
October 14, 2021

Looking ahead to a future when fossil fuels must be almost entirely removed from everyday life, Massachusetts last year made what would seem a sensible move: It launched a formal effort to plot the organized phase-out of natural gas.

The outcome of that investigation into the future of natural gas is to be a key step in the state’s climate fight, meant to produce the “policy and structural changes we need to ensure a clean energy future” and address the critical questions of “when and how” the state will wean itself from its most pervasive heating fuel.

So, what state regulators did next triggered more than a few angry questions among climate advocates, legislators, and researchers involved in Massachusetts’ climate efforts: they handed responsibility for writing the first draft of how the state will reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 to the very industry whose fate hung in the balance, natural gas.

For the first phase of the process, which began earlier this year, the Department of Public Utilities asked the gas companies to create several scenarios for how the state can reach net zero and still provide reliable, affordable heat to residents and business owners. Other interested parties, including state and local governments, and labor, business, and environmental groups, are invited to take part in monthly meetings, but, according to an order from the DPU, it’s the gas companies that lead this part of the process. Only later, once those companies have filed their reports, will others have the chance to formally weigh in.

Moreover, the DPU gave the utilities responsibility for selecting and hiring the consultant needed to develop critical data and models that will be used in the blueprint, rather than retaining its own independent adviser.

Some advocates fear these steps give the gas companies excessive control early in the process, potentially allowing them to lay a foundation for policies that put gas industry interests above the climate, either by prolonging widespread use of natural gas or recommending unproven fuels that fall short on cutting carbon.

“It really is industry driving climate policy in Massachusetts,” said Debbie New, a member of the advocacy group Gas Leaks Allies, which is a participant in the DPU investigation. “It needs to be an independent process in which the gas companies participate but everyone is on a much more equal footing,” she said.

In early September, a number of participants submitted a letter to the DPU listing ways they felt the gas companies were shutting them out of the discussion and failing to adequately consider equity and environmental justice, and asking the department for additional oversight.

The DPU dismissed the groups’ request to have the letter entered into the official record.

The current process calls for gas companies to submit their proposals by March. Next, the DPU will solicit comments from other participants and then “develop a regulatory and policy road map” that fits the state’s overall climate goals, said Craig Gilvarg, a spokesman for the state office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

The problem with that, according to numerous stakeholders, is that critical decisions — such as which pathways are possible, and what those entail — will have been already made by the time others get to weigh in, and any meaningful changes would be difficult, if not impossible, to make.
» Read article                     

gas meters
Massachusetts advocates say they’re being ignored in future-of-gas talks

Climate and equity groups say gas utilities are marginalizing their views as they develop a legally required “roadmap” for the gas industry’s future in the state.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
October 4, 2021

As Massachusetts gas companies start legally mandated investigations into their role in a clean energy future, advocates are concerned that stakeholder voices calling for aggressive decarbonization, environmental justice, and a fair transition for fossil fuel workers are being shut out at a crucial moment in the process.

While the gas companies contend they are committed to soliciting and incorporating stakeholder feedback, advocates say the utilities are failing to fully engage with their concerns. At the same time, the state has rejected advocates’ requests for increased oversight from regulators.

“It’s important for our perspective to be at the center of this and right now it feels like we’re much more of an audience,” said Debbie New, a participant in the Gas Leaks Allies coalition. “When questions about labor, equity, health, or safety are asked, we are told they will consider them later, rather than making them integral to the process.”

In June 2020, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey asked the state’s department of public utilities to open an investigation into the future of the natural gas industry as the state moves toward its goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The department launched the investigation in October of that year with the stated goal of developing “a regulatory and policy roadmap to guide the evolution of the gas distribution industry.”

The first step in Massachusetts’ process required the state’s gas distribution companies to hire consultants to analyze the costs, regulatory implications, and emissions reductions involved in several different decarbonization strategies the state could pursue. These studies, the order specified, should look at the so-called “pathways” laid out in the state’s 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap, as well as any other scenarios deemed appropriate. They should also take into account the input of stakeholders, the state said.

The gas companies have secured consultants and are working on the analysis required. A report of their findings, including recommendations for future action, is due in March 2022.

That timeline makes right now a very important moment for environmental and public health activists. The report that emerges from the current process will inform the rest of the discussions and decisions throughout the investigation. Therefore, advocates argue, it is essential that there is broad agreement as to the scenarios the consultants model, the data used, and the assumptions made.
» Read article                     

» More about gas utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

FSO Safer
Rotting Red Sea oil tanker could leave 8m people without water
FSO Safer has been abandoned since 2017 and loss of its 1.1m barrels would destroy Yemen’s fishing stocks
By Patrick Wintour, The Guardian
October 11, 2021

The impact of an oil spill in the Red Sea from a tanker that is rotting in the water could be far wider than anticipated, with 8 million people losing access to running water and Yemen’s Red Sea fishing stock destroyed within three weeks.

Negotiations are under way to offload the estimated 1.1m barrels of crude oil that remains onboard the FSO Safer, which has been deteriorating by the month since it was abandoned in 2017. The vessel contains four times the amount of oil released by the Exxon Valdez in the Gulf of Alaska in 1989, and a spill is considered increasingly probable.

The oil will spread well beyond Yemen and cause environmental havoc affecting Saudi Arabia, Eritrea and Djibouti, according to the latest modelling, which is unlike previous studies because it examines the impact more than a week after the spill.

Three-way talks between the Houthi rebels, the UN-recognised government of Yemen and the UN have foundered, despite repeated warnings, including at the UN security council, of the impact if the tanker explodes, breaks up or starts leaking. UN officials have been unable to secure guarantees to maintain the vessel, including its rotting hull, which is now overseen by a crew of just seven.
» Read article                     

» More about fossil fuel

BIOMASS

accounting corrected
Drax’s ‘Carbon Negative’ Bioenergy Claims ‘Wildly Exaggerated’, Study Argues
Responding to the analysis, Phil MacDonald, chief operating officer of Ember, said this was “exactly the kind of research that the UK government should be doing before it makes a decision on funding BECCS”.
By Phoebe Cooke, DeSmog Blog
October 13, 2021

The current supply chain of biomass giant Drax “makes the impacts of climate change worse”, a new study has claimed.

Analysis by US environmental advocacy group, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), studied the emissions from wood pellets transported from pine plantations in the southeastern United States to be used in a bioenergy, carbon capture and storage (BECCS) operation by Drax in Yorkshire.

Currently bioenergy is classified as a renewable energy source by the UK government, under the premise that it uses trees which can be replanted to recapture carbon and is therefore considered carbon neutral. Advocates of BECCS say the technology can even make the process “carbon negative”, by removing the carbon emissions from burning biomass and storing them underground.

Drax, which has piloted the BECCS technology since 2018, is hoping to deliver its first fully operational plant by 2027 as part of plans to become a “carbon negative company” by 2030 – removing more carbon than it produces.

However Sasha Stashwick, senior advocate at NRDC and campaigner with Cut Carbon Not Forests, said Drax’s claims of becoming “carbon negative” were “wildly exaggerated”.

“Drax’s biomass supply chain is so highly emissive, that with or without CCS (carbon capture and storage), it makes climate change worse,” she said. “This report makes clear that any UK government climate plan that relies on BECCS at Drax is extremely high-risk.

“When you’re in a hole, you stop digging – and the government must stop ploughing money into dirty biomass subsidies. Instead, these funds should be redirected to wind and solar energy, which is not only low-cost and low-risk, but actually helps fight the climate crisis.”
» Read article                     
» Read the NRDC analysis

» More about biomass

PLASTICS RECYCLING

Costa del Esta
Recycled plastic won’t solve tech’s waste problem
It doesn’t get at the root of the problem
By Justine Calma, The Verge
October 6, 2021

Buying a gadget made with recycled plastic instead of brand-new materials might sound like an environmentally friendly investment, but it does very little to cut down on the heaps of plastic pollution and electronic waste that are trashing the environment and ending up everywhere — including in our own bodies.

Think of plastic pollution like an overflowing tub in your bathroom, says Josh Lepawsky, a professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland who maps the international movement of electronic waste. “If you walked into that, probably the first thing you would do would be to turn off the tap — not grab a bucket and a mop, if you think of the bucket and the mop as recycling,” Lepawsky says. Turning off the tap equates to staunching the production of plastic goods. Trying to clean up a growing mess won’t address the root of the problem. “It doesn’t mean, don’t use a bucket and a mop. But that’s not turning off the tap.”

Cutting down waste means cutting down consumption. That’s something that can’t be solved with flashy new product offerings, even if those products are made with recycled materials. Companies need to sell fewer products that last longer so that gadgets aren’t so disposable in the first place. Hyping up recycling can actually stand in the way of that.

The scale of the plastics problem is massive. As of 2017, humans had produced 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic (for comparison, a rhinoceros weighs about 1 metric ton) — much of which can persist in the environment or in landfills for hundreds of years. Recycling has done little to stop that mess. Only 9 percent of plastic waste has ever been recycled, research has found. People send at least 8 million tons of plastic into the ocean every year, where it might end up in giant garbage patches, arctic ice, the bellies of sea life, and back inside our bodies.

“We can’t recycle our way out of this problem—acute reduction of plastic products, recycled or not, is the solution,” Max Liboiron, an associate professor of geography at Memorial University who researches plastic pollution, said in an email to The Verge. “​​Even the production of new plastic items that use some of these ocean plastics as feedstock will result in a net increase in plastic pollution.”
» Read article                     

» More about plastics recycling

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Weekly News Check-In 10/8/21

banner 08

Welcome back.

Now that tar sands oil from Alberta is flowing through the hotly contested Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, it’s worth taking a moment to remember the many protests and actions that stood in its way – and prepare for the next round. We also look at some of the arguably unethical tactics used against Water Protectors during the struggle. Meanwhile, thousands of miles of leaky gas pipelines are being replaced in Massachusetts at ratepayer expense – and it’s time to reconsider whether resources might be better applied toward non-emitting alternatives.

Boston just passed  blockbuster legislation to guide many existing buildings toward net-zero emissions by 2050. While only 4% of buildings are affected by the new law, they contribute an incredible 42% of total emissions from all sources. An estimated 85% of these buildings will still be standing at mid-century – so it’s imperative to clean them up. News on the national scene is less encouraging, as Corporate America mounts a full-on lobbying assault of President Biden’s climate initiatives.

Key to the energy transition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is sharpening its scrutiny of proposed gas infrastructure projects. Many pipeline projects have been approved in the past without having established a legitimate need for the energy they’re built to transport, and Chairman Richard Glick is attempting to set the bar higher.

We just experienced a summer in which just about everyone felt they’d received too much or too little rain. It’s true – and our Climate section makes sense of it. This year’s Nobel Prize winners in Physics helped make that possible – with research showing how to understand big systems with enormous uncertainties.

We have lots of good news this week, including a forecast for continuing decreases in clean energy costs, some optimism that the carbon intensity of concrete can be reduced and managed, and exciting news that ESS’s long duration iron flow battery technology is attracting investors and orders. Heads up for a possible wrong turn in clean transportation, as Michigan – pothole capital of the Midwest – prepares to build a stretch of roadway to test wireless electric vehicle charging on the go. We wish them success, but it seems like a gamble.

We’re introducing a new section devoted to deep-seabed mining, an extreme and risky emerging resource extraction model motivated in large part by the huge projected demand for scarce metals needed to power mind-boggling numbers of electric vehicles. What we know is that we’re really quite ignorant of the deep ocean, its ecology, how it sustains the broader web of life, and how it affects the carbon cycle. We’re calling this a Very Bad Idea, and have included four excellent articles to help you get up to speed.

Recall that we began this week’s post with a look at the nasty fight over Line 3. Keep that in mind as you check out the fossil fuel industry’s pricey, happy-making Times Square ad buy – huge billboards extolling Americans to “choose friendly oil”. Including fanciful images of colorful maple leaves wafting from gas pumps. Yup – it’s our friends up north pushing this drivel, greenwashing the very same high carbon tar sands sludge they’re shoving down Line 3, across treaty-protected fragile ecosystems in northern Minnesota. Shut it down.

A much longer-running ad campaign by the natural gas industry created a deep and abiding love of gas cookstoves in this country. Consumer reluctance to switch that one appliance to electric is hampering attempts to swap out other appliances like water heaters, furnaces, and clothes dryers for their electric counterparts – and ultimately to ban gas hookups altogether. Time for us to talk about it.

Massachusetts is set to approve a liquefied natural gas facility in Charlton, MA – a project opposed by the town. The plant will produce up to a quarter million gallons of LNG per day, and will primarily serve winter peak demand. The need for that can be debated, but this is certain: The LNG will be loaded on tanker trucks and distributed via public roadways to various offloading stations. While the safety record of LNG truck transport is pretty good so far, “If an LNG tanker were breached and a vapor cloud ignited, an explosion could send projectiles hundreds of feet as well as set off a fire that can burn as high as 2,426 degrees – more than twice the flame temperature of gasoline.” according to Delaware Currents reporting.

Since we’re talking about burning stuff, we’ll close with a report on biomass – and have a look at the industry’s claim of carbon neutrality.

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

— The NFGiM Team

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

no parking any time
Oil is now flowing on Line 3. The fight to stop it isn’t over.
Anti-pipeline activists promise to continue holding polluters and policymakers accountable.
By Joseph Winters, Grist
October 1, 2021

Months of protests and a six-year legal battle culminated on Thursday, when the Canadian oil company Enbridge announced that work on its controversial new Line 3 pipeline was “substantially completed,” and that oil would begin flowing across northern Minnesota on Friday.

Line 3 “will soon deliver the low cost and reliable energy that people depend on every day,” said Al Monaco, Enbridge’s president and CEO, in a press release.

The $3 billion project was billed by Enbridge as a replacement for its existing pipeline, which was built in the 1960s and had begun to corrode. The new Line 3 will double the pipeline’s capacity, enabling the company to transport 760,000 barrels a day from tar sands in Alberta to refineries in the U.S. Midwest — traveling through Anishinaabe territory in the process.

Line 3 opponents argue that the expanded pipeline will exacerbate climate change and contaminate Minnesota waterways. More than two dozen drilling fluid spills were reported over the summer, and activists say that oil spills are inevitable over the 800 wetlands and 200 bodies of water that lie along the pipeline’s route. The largest accident to date, a 24-million-gallon groundwater leak near Clearbrook, Minnesota, led the state’s Department of Natural Resources to fine Enbridge $3.32 million.

Because the risk of an oil spill is so high, attorneys representing the region’s Indigenous people also argue that the pipeline violates Anishinaabe treaty rights for hunting, fishing, and gathering wild rice. A Line 3 oil spill could contaminate hundreds of acres of land covered in the treaties of 1854, 1855, and 1867, jeopardizing Anishinaabe rights to “make a modest living from the land.”

Despite the setback, many advocacy groups vowed to keep pressuring the Biden administration, Democratic lawmakers, and Enbridge in an effort to see the pipeline ultimately shut down. “The Line 3 fight is far from over, it has just shifted gears,” wrote the Indigenous Environmental Network. “We will continue to stand on the frontlines until every last tar sands pipeline is shut down and Indigenous communities are no longer targeted but our right to consent or denial is respected.”
» Read article                  

hired hands
Revealed: pipeline company paid Minnesota police for arresting and surveilling protesters
Enbridge picked up the tab for police wages, training and equipment – and let county police know when it wanted demonstrators arrested
By Hilary Beaumont, The Guardian
October 5, 2021

The Canadian company Enbridge has reimbursed US police $2.4m for arresting and surveilling hundreds of demonstrators who oppose construction of its Line 3 pipeline, according to documents the Guardian obtained through a public records request.

Enbridge has paid for officer training, police surveillance of demonstrators, officer wages, overtime, benefits, meals, hotels and equipment.

Enbridge is replacing the Line 3 pipeline through Minnesota to carry oil from Alberta to the tip of Lake Superior in Wisconsin. The new pipeline carries a heavy oil called bitumen, doubles the capacity of the original to 760,000 barrels a day and carves a new route through pristine wetlands. A report by the climate action group MN350 says the expanded pipeline will emit the equivalent greenhouse gases of 50 coal power plants.

The project was meant to be completed and start functioning on Friday.

Police have arrested more than 900 demonstrators opposing Line 3 and its impact on climate and Indigenous rights, according to the Pipeline Legal Action Network.

It’s common for protesters opposing pipeline construction to face private security hired by companies, as they did during demonstrations against the Dakota Access pipeline. But in Minnesota, a financial agreement with a foreign company has given public police forces an incentive to arrest demonstrators.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which regulates pipelines, decided rural police should not have to pay for increased strain from Line 3 protests. As a condition of granting Line 3 permits, the commission required Enbridge to set up an escrow account to reimburse police for responding to demonstrations.

Enbridge told the Guardian an independent account manager allocates the funds, and police decide when protesters are breaking the law. But records obtained by the Guardian show the company meets daily with police to discuss intelligence gathering and patrols. And when Enbridge wants protesters removed, it calls police or sends letters.

“Our police are beholden to a foreign company,” Tara Houska, founder of the Indigenous frontline group Giniw Collective, told the Guardian. “They are working hand in hand with big oil. They are actively working for a company. Their duty is owed to the state of Minnesota and to the tribal citizens of Minnesota.”

“It’s a very clear violation of the public’s trust,” she added.
» Read article                  

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

pipe replacement
As Massachusetts envisions a fossil fuel-free future, gas companies are quietly investing billions in pipelines
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
October 3, 2021

More than 21,000 miles of aging gas pipelines lie under the streets in Massachusetts, nearly enough to encircle the earth. When researchers began discovering about a decade ago that tens of thousands of leaks across that vast network discharged tons of hazardous methane into the air, the Legislature went to work. A law was passed, and in short order, gas companies embarked on a massive, years-long upgrade.

Since then, the gas companies have slogged through a slow, expensive process of digging up pipes and replacing them with new ones meant to last more than half a century. Costs soared. And something else happened: The state passed a climate law that effectively called for the end of natural gas.

Now, a detailed analysis of the cost and effectiveness of the program, to be released Monday, is raising questions among some experts about whether the program should be modified or even scrapped, potentially allowing money to flow to other climate-related needs.

“The question people need to ask is: The world has changed; does this program really make sense any more given climate change, the fact that we’re moving toward a low-carbon economy, and that the Commonwealth has very aggressive climate mandates?” said Dorie Seavey, an economist who conducted the study on behalf of the advocacy group Gas Leaks Allies, a coalition of scientists, activists, and environmental organizations working to reduce methane emissions from natural gas.

Senator Mike Barrett, who reviewed an early copy of the report, called it a watershed analysis that should leave residents wondering: “When do we stop investing in what is essentially as-good-as-new infrastructure, when what we really must be about is walking away from the natural gas enterprise as we know it?”

Attorney General Maura Healey, who in 2020 called on the state to investigate the future of the natural gas industry in light of Massachusetts’ climate goals, said, “The questions raised in this report … warrant a fresh statewide look at this program.
» Read article                 
» Read the analysis               

Just Say NO
PennEast Pipeline Cancelation Could Signal ‘End of an Era’ for Unnecessary Fossil Fuel Projects
The pipeline would have crossed more than 88 waterways, 44 wetlands, 30 parks, and 33 conservation easements. Experts say the cancelation demonstrates that federal regulators must stop approving gas pipelines that fail to show they are needed in the first place.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
September 30, 2021

A major natural gas pipeline in Pennsylvania was canceled this week in the face of a thicket of legal obstacles and intense local opposition. The cancelation may punctuate what could be the end of a decade-long pipeline building frenzy in the U.S. as federal regulators begin to heed calls from activists and local communities to increase scrutiny over unneeded pipelines crisscrossing the country.

The PennEast pipeline would have carried Marcellus shale gas from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, across the Delaware River and to Mercer County, New Jersey. But the developers of the project canceled it on September 27, citing its inability to obtain state-level water quality permits from New Jersey. The decision came three months after the company won a case before the U.S. Supreme Court related to the corporation’s ability to seize state land using eminent domain authority.

The cancelation highlights the obstacles that several other high-profile projects currently face. For instance, the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia still needs state-level environmental permits, as does the Pacific Connector gas pipeline in Oregon, which would feed the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas export project. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is under construction but still faces many more hurdles standing in the way of its completion. Jordan Cove is all but dead.

But the fate of PennEast is not simply a story about a pipeline stopped by state regulators over water permits. It also represented the “systemic ostrich-like refusal” by federal regulators to assess whether there is market demand for gas before approving pipeline projects in the first place, Megan Gibson, an attorney at the Niskanen Center, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C., told DeSmog.

Natural gas pipelines that cross state lines must obtain approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which grants a certificate if the project is deemed to be in the public interest. Typically, if a project shows that there is a commercial need for the gas, FERC simply approves the certificate.

But in many cases, the need for the gas is highly suspect. An industry trend in recent years saw developers of natural gas pipelines make deals with subsidiaries or affiliates of themselves, and use those agreements to demonstrate that a pipeline is needed.

“FERC has in the past assumed that if the company wanted to build it, then it must be needed. It’s not such an unusual thing to think if you don’t think through how the money works,” Suzanne Mattei, an energy policy analyst with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), told DeSmog.

The pipeline “doesn’t have to be needed for them to make money off of it,” she said.

That is because gas pipelines are guaranteed a rate of return for building the projects – the pipeline builder recoups the cost of construction plus extra for profit – so pipeline companies can make money whether or not the gas is actually needed. In the end, gas ratepayers are saddled with the costs of a superfluous pipeline.
» Read article               

» More about pipelines

LEGISLATION

pedestrian walking
Boston just enacted its ‘single most impactful initiative’ to curb greenhouse gas emissions
The new measure, dubbed BERDO 2.0, requires large buildings to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
By Nik DeCosta-Klipa, Boston.com
October 5, 2021

In the midst of a heated mayoral race and in the shadows of two much-hyped local sports events, Boston may have just taken one of the biggest steps of any major city in the country toward reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.

Acting Mayor Kim Janey signed an ordinance Tuesday that will require existing large buildings in Boston to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Technically an amendment to a 2013 ordinance that required all commercial and residential buildings that are at least 35,000 square feet in size or have at least 35 units to report their energy and water use, the measure — dubbed BERDO 2.0 — expands the city’s authority to set emission and reporting requirements for buildings greater than or equal to 20,000 square feet or with at least 15 units.

In a statement, Janey called the ordinance a “monumental achievement that will have positive impacts on our residents for generations to come.”

In a press release, her office was even more blunt: “This policy is the single most impactful initiative to curb Boston’s carbon emissions.”

How so?

As much as climate change conversations often focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cars, 70 percent of Boston’s emissions comes from buildings.

And while the new policy only affects 4 percent of the city’s buildings, those large buildings account for 60 percent of building emissions — or roughly 42 percent of all citywide emissions.

The ordinance requires affected building owners to submit plans setting forth their path to carbon neutrality by 2050 with emission reduction targets every five years. They have a number of options to get there: pursue energy efficiency improvements, switch from gas to electric heating, incorporate clean energy systems like solar, and/or purchase carbon offsets.

(City officials have estimated that 85 percent of the buildings that will be standing in Boston in 2050 are already standing today, so it wouldn’t be enough to apply the net-zero targets on new developments.)
» Read article             

captured
US corporations talk green but are helping derail major climate bill
Apple and Amazon are among dozens of companies whose lobbying groups are fighting to stop the Democrats’ reconciliation package.
By Joseph Winters, Grist
October 7, 2021

Folded into the Democrats’ multitrillion-dollar budget reconciliation package is some of the U.S.’s most far-reaching climate legislation ever. Even scaled back from its originally proposed size of $3.5 trillion, the bill could go a long way toward helping the nation meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

But corporate opposition has been fierce. In recent months, powerful lobbying groups have unleashed a storm of advertisements, reports, and targeted donations meant to stop the package from passing. And while many of these efforts have been spearheaded by the usual suspects — Koch Industries front groups, for example — others have been quietly backed by the U.S.’s largest and ostensibly greenest companies.

Disney, AT&T, Deloitte, United Airlines, and some of the country’s biggest tech firms — including Apple and Microsoft — are among dozens of the country’s most powerful corporations helping to block the passage of President Joe Biden’s landmark climate legislation, according to a new report from the corruption watchdog group Accountable.US. Their contributions to groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — which is fighting tooth and nail against the reconciliation package — are undermining what many advocates have called our “last shot” for meaningful climate policy during this decade.
» Read article              
» Read the Accountable.US report

» More about legislation

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

EPA advice
FERC Chair Glick calls for tougher reviews of natural gas projects as commission staff reject EPA advice
By Ethan Howland, Utility Dive
September 30, 2021

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission needs to bolster its reviews of how proposed natural gas infrastructure projects could affect the climate as well as environmental justice communities while also making sure they are needed to keep its decisions from being overturned by courts, according to agency head Richard Glick.

In the last several years, FERC often cut corners in its environmental reviews, Glick said in a letter, released Sept. 27, to Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s ranking member.

“That dramatically increases the risk that the courts will invalidate the commission’s decisions, which in turn adds substantial risks for the infrastructure developers who rely on commission orders when investing millions, and sometimes billions, of dollars in new projects,” Glick said.

Glick’s letter highlights flaws in FERC’s review process for gas infrastructure that should be addressed as soon as possible by updating the agency’s decades-old natural gas certificate “policy statement,” according to an attorney with New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity.

Since he joined FERC four years ago, Glick has argued the agency isn’t taking a sharp enough look at how gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas facilities affect the climate as well as environmental justice communities, or whether the proposed facilities are even needed.

It is unlikely FERC will approve major gas projects until the agency revises its process for reviewing them, according to Gillian Giannetti, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
» Blog editor’s note: this quote clearly highlights the critical need for opponents to file comments on EVERYTHING: “Glick said he understood pipeline and LNG companies want prompt decisions on their proposals, which is why he has moved forward with projects that no one filed protests over and therefore cannot be appealed in court, even in cases where he had concerns about their environmental analysis.”
» Read article               

» More about FERC

CLIMATE

WMO water report
World Meteorological Organization Sharpens Warnings About Both Too Much and Too Little Water
With global warming intensifying the water cycle, floods and droughts are increasing, and many countries are unprepared.
By Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News
October 6, 2021

The global supply of fresh water is dropping by almost half an inch annually, the World Meteorological Organization warned in a report released this week. By 2050, about 5 billion people will have inadequate access to water at least one month per year, the report said.

Overall, global warming is intensifying the planet’s water cycle, with an increase of 134 percent in flood-related disasters since 2000, while the number and duration of droughts has grown by 29 percent over the same period. Most of the deaths and economic losses from floods are in Asia, while Africa is hardest hit by drought.

“The water is draining out of the tub in some places, while it’s overflowing in others,” said Maxx Dilley, director of the WMO Climate Programme. “We’ve known about this for a long time. When scientists were starting to get a handle on what climate change was going to mean, an acceleration of the hydrological cycle was one of the things that was considered likely.”

Researchers are seeing the changes to the hydrological cycle in its impacts as well as in the data, Dilley said.

“And it’s not just climate,” he said. “Society plays a major role, with population growth and development. At some point these factors are really going to come together in a way that is really damaging. This summer’s extremes were early warnings.”
» Read article              
» Read the report

physics nobel 2021
Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded for Study of Humanity’s Role in Changing Climate
The work of Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi “demonstrate that our knowledge about the climate rests on a solid scientific foundation,” the committee said.
By Cade Metz, Marc Santora and Cora Engelbrecht, New York Times
October 5, 2021

Three scientists received the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday for work that is essential to understanding how the Earth’s climate is changing, pinpointing the effect of human behavior on those changes and ultimately predicting the impact of global warming.

The winners were Syukuro Manabe of Princeton University, Klaus Hasselmann of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, and Giorgio Parisi of the Sapienza University of Rome.

Others have received Nobel Prizes for their work on climate change, most notably former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, but the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said this is the first time the Physics prize has been awarded specifically to a climate scientist.

“The discoveries being recognized this year demonstrate that our knowledge about the climate rests on a solid scientific foundation, based on a rigorous analysis of observations,” said Thors Hans Hansson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics.

Complex physical systems, such as the climate, are often defined by their disorder. This year’s winners helped bring understanding to what seemed like chaos by describing those systems and predicting their long-term behavior.
» Read article               

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

cheaper faster
The decreasing cost of renewables unlikely to plateau any time soon
Early price forecasts underestimated how good we’d get at making green energy.
By Doug Johnson, Ars Technica
October 3, 2021

Past projections of energy costs have consistently underestimated just how cheap renewable energy would be in the future, as well as the benefits of rolling them out quickly, according to a new report out of the Institute of New Economic Thinking at the University of Oxford.

The report makes predictions about more than 50 technologies such as solar power, offshore wind, and more, and it compares them to a future that still runs on carbon. “It’s not just good news for renewables. It’s good news for the planet,” Matthew Ives, one of the report’s authors and a senior researcher at the Oxford Martin Post-Carbon Transition Programme, told Ars.

The paper used probabilistic cost forecasting methods—taking into account both past data and current and ongoing technological developments in renewables—for its findings. It also used large caches of data from sources such as the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Bloomberg. Beyond looking at the cost (represented as dollar per unit of energy production over time), the report also represents its findings in three scenarios: a fast transition to renewables, a slow transition, and no transition at all.

Compared to sticking with fossil fuels, a quick shift to renewables could mean trillions of dollars in savings, even without accounting for things like damages caused by climate change or any co-benefits from the reduced pollution. Even beyond the savings, rolling out renewable energy sources could help the world limit global warming to 1.5° C. According to the report, if solar, wind, and the myriad other green energy tools followed the deployment trends they are projected to see in the next decade, in 25 years the world could potentially see a net-zero energy system.

“The energy transition is also going to save us money. We should be doing it anyway,” Ives said.
» Read article              
» Read the report: Empirically grounded technology forecasts and the energy transition

» More about clean energy              

BUILDING MATERIALS

low-carbon concrete
Concrete’s role in reducing building and pavement emissions
MIT researchers find emissions of U.S. buildings and pavements can be reduced by around 50 percent even as concrete use increases.
By Andrew Logan, MIT News
September 16, 2021

As the most consumed material after water, concrete is indispensable to the many essential systems — from roads to buildings — in which it is used.

But due to its extensive use, concrete production also contributes to around 1 percent of emissions in the United States and remains one of several carbon-intensive industries globally. Tackling climate change, then, will mean reducing the environmental impacts of concrete, even as its use continues to increase.

In a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of current and former researchers at the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub (CSHub) outlines how this can be achieved.

They present an extensive life-cycle assessment of the building and pavements sectors that estimates how greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction strategies — including those for concrete and cement — could minimize the cumulative emissions of each sector and how those reductions would compare to national GHG reduction targets.

The team found that, if reduction strategies were implemented, the emissions for pavements and buildings between 2016 and 2050 could fall by up to 65 percent and 57 percent, respectively, even if concrete use accelerated greatly over that period. These are close to U.S. reduction targets set as part of the Paris Climate Accords. The solutions considered would also enable concrete production for both sectors to attain carbon neutrality by 2050.

[Low-carbon concrete strategies include recycled content, carbon capture in cement production, and the use of captured carbon to produce aggregates and cure concrete.]

Despite continued grid decarbonization and increases in fuel efficiency, they found that the vast majority of the GHG emissions from new buildings and pavements during this period would derive from operational energy consumption rather than so-called embodied emissions — emissions from materials production and construction.
» Read article              
» Read the research paper

» More about building materials

ENERGY STORAGE

better mousetrap
ESS, SB Energy reach major deal for flow battery technology with 2 GWh agreement
By Jason Plautz, Utility Dive
October 4, 2021

The deal is a significant volume for the flow battery technology. The vast majority of battery storage on the market — 85% of newly installed storage around the world, according to a 2020 report from Navigant Research — is based on lithium-ion technology. While that technology is relatively cheap and well-tested, the batteries do carry concerns about their fire risk, their slow charging time and the supply chain impact of extracting minerals.

ESS’ flow batteries, on the other hand, rely on common materials and don’t carry the same safety risks. The five-year partnership with SB Energy acts as a major vote of confidence for the technology, said ESS CEO Eric Dresselhuys.

“This deal is really the culmination of years of work to show that there’s a better mousetrap out there that solves more problems and is better for where the grid is going,” Dresselhuys said. “Once people see that we’ve been vetted and tested and approved by partners like SB, that provides a lot of confidence.”
» Read article               

» More about energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

on the go
Michigan plans to build the country’s first wireless EV charging road.
Will it work?
By Jena Brooker, Grist
October 5, 2021

To help Michigan reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced last month that the state will construct the nation’s first wireless electric vehicle charging road — a one-mile stretch in the Metro Detroit area.

“Michigan was home to the first mile of paved road, and now we’re paving the way for the roads of tomorrow,” Whitmer said in a press release, “with innovative infrastructure that will support the economy and the environment.”

A wireless EV road works like this: As a car drives over it, the vehicle’s battery is charged by pads or coils built under the surface of the street using magnetic induction. It doesn’t give the car a full charge, but it helps add some additional mileage to a vehicle before its next complete powering up.

The project is still in the very early stages: The Michigan Department of Transportation began accepting proposals for the project on September 28. Until one is selected, it’s unknown exactly where the road will be, what it will look like, the precise cost, or how soon it could be operational. But some are questioning whether the project is worth it. Is it the best use of funds in a state with poor transit and crumbling infrastructure? And how will it even work, particularly in a place with harsh weather extremes like the Midwest?
» Read article               

» More about clean transportation

DEEP-SEABED MINING

SCONZ ruling
New Zealand ruling against deep-sea mining set a global precedent – now Ardern should ban it
Last week’s court decision affirmed the view that seabed mining is too dangerous, too risky and too harmful to the environment
By Phil McCabe and James Hita, The Guardian | Opinion
October 4, 2021

The decision by New Zealand’s Supreme Court last week against a giant seabed mining proposal in the South Taranaki Bight is a wake-up call for the world’s would-be seabed mining industry, both in the deep oceans of international waters and for countries contemplating such activities off their own coasts.

The mining operation, proposed by Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR), would have dug up 50 million tonnes of the seabed every year for 35 years, targeting 5m tonnes of iron ore and dumping the remaining 45m tonnes back into the ocean.

The decision sets an important global precedent favouring environmental protection over damaging seabed mining.

This was the third seabed mining application in New Zealand since 2013, all three have now been declined. It was this company’s second attempt. A 2014 application to mine the deep seabed of the Chatham Rise, east of New Zealand’s South Island, was refused due to the potential harmful environmental effects.

This Supreme Court decision means that seabed mining causing “material damage” to the environment, in effect, cannot be approved under New Zealand law.

It affirms views held by an impressive spectrum of ocean-loving people who have engaged with this issue over the last decade. That seabed mining is too dangerous, too risky and would bring too much harm to the environment.
» Read article               

antithetical
‘Antithetical to science’: When deep-sea research meets mining interests
By Elham Shabahat, Mongabay
October 4, 2021

The high cost of studying deep-sea ecosystems means that many scientists have to rely on funding and access provided by companies seeking to exploit resources on the ocean floor.

More than half of the scientists in the small, highly specialized deep-sea biology community have worked with governments and mining companies to do baseline research, according to one biologist.

But as with the case of industries like tobacco and pharmaceuticals underwriting scientific research into their own products, the funding of deep-sea research by mining companies poses an ethical hazard.

Critics say the nascent industry is already far from transparent, with much of the data from baseline research available only to the scientists involved, the companies, and U.N.-affiliated body that approves deep-sea mining applications.
» Read article               

not yours
‘False choice’: is deep-sea mining required for an electric vehicle revolution?
Deep sea mining firms claim their rare metals are necessary to power clean tech – but with even major electric car firms now backing a moratorium, critics say there is an alternative
By Karen McVeigh, The Guardian
September 28, 2021

Douglas McCauley, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara and director of the Benioff Ocean Initiative, says the potential impact of deep-sea mining keeps him up at night.

Electrification of vehicle fleets is a “positive pathway” to reduce carbon emissions, says McCauley. But he accuses deep-sea mining companies of a “false narrative” that we must mine the ocean to meet renewable energy’s demand for metals.

“There are some very significant questions being raised by scientists about the impacts of ocean mining,” he says. “How much extinction could be generated? How long will it take these extremely low-resilience systems to recover? What impact will it have on the ocean’s capacity to capture carbon?”

Campaigners highlight the uncertainty in assumptions behind often wildly different projected metal demand. In July, Greenpeace researchers showed many projections for metal demand by 2050 assumed ongoing use of cobalt and nickel-dependent lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and storage, despite alternatives being developed, including Tesla’s use of lithium iron phosphate batteries, which require neither metal.

Kevin Bridgen, senior scientist for Greenpeace Research Laboratories, says: “People are saying ‘we are not going to have enough metals if we carry on doing as we’ve always done’, but changes are already taking place.”

Increasingly, car companies are joining in the revolt. In March, BMW and Volvo, with Google and Samsung, became the first global companies to sign up to the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) call for a moratorium on deep-sea mining. In backing the call, WWF says, the companies committed to not sourcing any metals from the seabed, to exclude them from their supply chains and not to finance deep-sea mining, until the risks are better understood and the alternatives exhausted.

In calling for a ban, Claudia Becker, BMW’s expert in sustainable supply-chain management, says she fears mining the deep sea could have “irreversible consequences”.
» Read article               

cutting machines
Race to the bottom: the disastrous, blindfolded rush to mine the deep sea
One of the largest mining operations ever seen on Earth aims to despoil an ocean we are only barely beginning to understand
By Jonathan Watts, The Guardian
Photo: Nautilus Materials
September 27, 2021

A short bureaucratic note from a brutally degraded microstate in the South Pacific to a little-known institution in the Caribbean is about to change the world. Few people are aware of its potential consequences, but the impacts are certain to be far-reaching. The only question is whether that change will be to the detriment of the global environment or the benefit of international governance.

In late June, the island republic of Nauru informed the International Seabed Authority (ISA) based in Kingston, Jamaica of its intention to start mining the seabed in two years’ time via a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, The Metals Company (TMC, until recently known as DeepGreen). Innocuous as it sounds, this note was a starting gun for a resource race on the planet’s last vast frontier: the abyssal plains that stretch between continental shelves deep below the oceans.

In the three months since it was fired, the sound of that shot has reverberated through government offices, conservation movements and scientific academies, and is now starting to reach a wider public, who are asking how the fate of the greatest of global commons can be decided by a sponsorship deal between a tiny island and a multinational mining corporation.

The risks are enormous. Oversight is almost impossible. Regulators admit humanity knows more about deep space than the deep ocean. The technology is unproven. Scientists are not even sure what lives in those profound ecosystems. State governments have yet to agree on a rulebook on how deep oceans can be exploited. No national ballot has ever included a vote on excavating the seabed. Conservationists, including David Attenborough and Chris Packham, argue it is reckless to go ahead with so much uncertainty and such potential devastation ahead.
» Read article               

» More about deep-seabed mining

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

tar sands operation
Alberta’s ‘Friendly’ Oil is Most Carbon-Intensive in New International Index
By Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix
October 5, 2021

A team of international analysts is pointing to a Canadian tar sands/oil sands operation as the most carbon-intensive by far in an index of major oilfields around the world, even as Alberta’s Canadian Energy Centre launches a Times Square ad campaign touting the country’s “friendly” oil.

“Choose friendly oil. Cleaner. Closer. Committed to Net Zero,” the C$240,000 video billboard campaign proclaims. But the ads landed just as S&P Global Platts unveiled a new monthly calculation of the carbon intensity and resulting carbon offset premiums for 14 major crude oil fields, including the 140,000-barrel-per-day Cold Lake facility, which Imperial Oil touts as “the longest running oil sands operation in Northeastern Alberta”.

The S&P Global Platts analysis adds another distinction to Cold Lake’s longevity: at 81.87 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per barrel as of July 2021, Cold Lake is by far the most carbon-intensive of the 14 fields the firm looked at in North America, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Latin America. Next up was the Kirkuk field in Iraq, at 58.84 kilograms per barrel, followed by North Dakota’s Bakken field at 30.86. The lowest-emitting, Norway’s Jan Sverdrup field, produced only 3.73 kilograms.

As a group, the 14 fields averaged 25.11 kilograms of CO2e per barrel, less than one-third of Cold Lake’s emissions intensity.

Those numbers didn’t seem to make it into the messaging from Canada’s Energy Centre CEO Tom Olsen. “We’re right here next door. And we’re cleaner. We’re closer and we’re committed to net zero. So turn your eyes our way,” he told CBC News. “We think we should meet the demand for energy that the United States needs over and above what they produce domestically. And frankly, for the rest of the world.”
» Read article               

choose friendly oil
Alberta energy ‘war room’ launches Times Square ad, expert questions campaign
Campaign promotes Canada’s clean energy in U.S., but Andrew Leach says it’s still emissions heavy
By Elise von Scheel, CBC News
September 28, 2021

Alberta’s Canadian Energy Centre has launched an ad campaign in Times Square to promote the country’s oil and gas industry in the United States.

The initiative from the province’s so-called energy “war room” is spending $240,000 to push Canada’s sector as the solution to “cleaner energy and lower gas prices,” according to its website.

The centre operates as a private corporation, created by the United Conservative Party government, to promote Alberta energy. It has been beleaguered with branding and messaging problems since its launch.

“We’re right here next door. And we’re cleaner. We’re closer and we’re committed to net zero. So turn your eyes our way,” CEO Tom Olsen told CBC News.

“We think we should meet the demand for energy that the United States needs over and above what they produce domestically. And frankly, for the rest of the world.”

The video billboards in New York City feature maple leaves pouring from a gas pump nozzle with the caption “Choose Friendly Oil.” About 96 per cent of Canada’s oil and gas exports go to the U.S., according to Natural Resources Canada.

And the centre is asking Americans to write to the Joe Biden administration urging the U.S. government to lean on cleaner Canadian energy instead of requesting more production from Russia and OPEC countries like Saudi Arabia — as surging U.S. gas prices recently reached a seven-year high.

But one expert says it’s disingenuous to call the Canadian industry clean.

“You can read their statement of saying oilsands have gotten cleaner, but the oilsands barrels themselves relative to a global average are still pretty emissions intensive. So there’s not really a good way to reconcile what they’re saying at Times Square with what we know from the data,” said Andrew Leach, an energy and environmental economist at the University of Alberta.

“All of our data says that the average Canadian barrel is getting more emissions intensive.”
» Read article               

» More about fossil fuel

GAS BANS

cookin with gas
We need to talk about your gas stove, your health and climate change
By Jeff Brady, NPR
October 7, 2021

Americans love their gas stoves. It’s a romance fueled by a decades-old “cooking with gas” campaign from utilities that includes vintage advertisements, a cringeworthy 1980s rap video and, more recently, social media personalities. The details have changed over time, but the message is the same: Using a gas stove makes you a better cook.

But the beloved gas stove has become a focal point in a fight over whether gas should even exist in the 35% of U.S. homes that cook with it.

Environmental groups are focused on potential health effects. Burning gas emits pollutants that can cause or worsen respiratory illnesses. Residential appliances like gas-powered furnaces and water heaters vent pollution outside, but the stove “is the one gas appliance in your home that is most likely unvented,” says Brady Seals with RMI, formerly Rocky Mountain Institute.

The focus on possible health risks from stoves is part of the broader campaign by environmentalists to kick gas out of buildings to fight climate change. Commercial and residential buildings account for about 13% of heat-trapping emissions, mainly from the use of gas appliances.

Those groups won a significant victory recently when California developed new standards that, once finalized, will require more ventilation for gas stoves than for electric ones starting in 2023. The Biden administration’s climate plan also calls for government incentives that would encourage people to switch from residential gas to all-electric.
» Read article               

» More about gas bans

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

town objections ignored
Over town objections, $100M Charlton natural gas pipeline and facility slated for final approval
By Katherine Hamilton, Worcester Business Journal
October 1, 2021

A pipeline and natural gas liquidation plant proposed in Charlton was recommended for approval on Sept. 20 and will go up for a final vote before the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board next week, according to a notice on Mass.gov.

Northeast Energy Center, LLC, which is registered to Philadelphia energy infrastructure company Liberty Energy Trust, is proposing construction of a liquefied natural gas facility and pipeline in Charlton. The project will cost $100 million, including the cost of land acquisition, according to the siting board’s tentative decision report.

The plant would liquefy pipeline natural gas, store the LNG, and load tanker trucks. It would be capable of storing 2 million gallons of LNG and producing up to 250,000 gallons per day, according to the siting board’s tentative decision.

The siting board’s tentative decision, which recommended approval of the project, said it will consider and compare two sites for the project, one along Route 169 and one along Route 20.
» Blog editor’s note: The LNG from this facility, up to 250,000 gallons per day, will be carried away on tanker trucks, over our roadways and through our neighborhoods, to wherever the fuel is needed. Drive safely!
» View final comments by No Fracked Gas in Mass and BEAT
» View final comments by Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast (PLAN-NE)

» Read article               

» More about LNG

BIOMASS

Enviva plant NC
Biomass is promoted as a carbon neutral fuel. But is burning wood a step in the wrong direction?
Many scientists and environmental campaigners question the industry’s claims to offer a clean, renewable energy source that the planet desperately needs
By Rebecca Speare-Cole, The Guardian
October 5, 2021

Biomass has been promoted as a carbon-neutral energy source by industry, some countries and lawmakers on the basis that the emissions released by burning wood can be offset by the carbon dioxide taken up by trees grown to replace those burned.

Yet there remain serious doubts among many scientists about its carbon-neutral credentials, especially when wood pellets are made by cutting down whole trees, rather than using waste wood products. It can take as much as a century for trees to grow enough to offset the carbon released.

Burning wood for energy is also inefficient – biomass has been found to release more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than coal or gas, according to a 2018 study and an open letter to the EU signed by nearly 800 scientists.

This CO2 is theoretically reabsorbed by new trees, but some scientists suggest relying on biomass could actually end up increasing emissions just at the time when the world needs to sharply reduce emissions and reach goals of becoming net zero by 2050. “During these decades, warming increases and permafrost and glaciers continue to melt, among other permanent forms of climate damage,” said Tim Searchinger, a senior energy and environment research scholar at Princeton.

Over the last decade a wave of biomass plants have opened their doors or ramped up production across the US south, where they have access to the region’s vast hardwood and other wetland forests, many of which are on unprotected private lands.
» Read article               

» More about biomass

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Weekly News Check-In 8/27/21

banner 03

Welcome back.

We’re leading this week with a letter-writing action organized by the #StopLine3 movement, including a link with a sample you can customize and send to Army Corps of Engineers Assistant Secretary Jaime Pinkham, requesting a federal environmental impact statement to assess threats to treaty rights, water protection, and climate related to this tar sands oil pipeline. The local tie-in is Canadian energy giant Enbridge, which also developed the Weymouth compressor station and operates an office in Westwood, MA.

Meanwhile, the environmental impact statement just released by Mountain Valley Pipeline left environmentalists unimpressed, but was accepted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Construction will continue for now.

So far, central banks (and large commercial banks) have been slow to recognize the urgent need for fossil fuel divestment, but the insurance industry appears to be catching on quickly. Damages related to climate-driven disasters are stacking up serious numbers, exposing insurers – and shareholders – to mounting financial risk.

The green economy should redress some longstanding economic, social, and racial inequities, and a recent labor agreement related to the offshore Vineyard Wind project reveals that Massachusetts construction labor unions are going to have to diversify their ranks to comply with new requirements.

Our climate news is once again about weird weather. For the first time on record, it rained at Summit research station atop two miles of ice at Greenland’s highest elevation. And it wasn’t just sprinkles….

A Canadian utility has created a marketplace for distributed clean energy resources like rooftop solar panels, using blockchain technology. Meanwhile, electric cooperatives are playing a role as laboratories of the modern grid – experimenting with everything from smart meters to large batteries as they innovate in the best interest of rate payers. Related to this, energy storage had a big year in 2020, but the pace of battery installation has to increase significantly to meet climate goals.

Staying with the battery theme, our Clean Transportation section considers what to do with the coming tsunami of retired electric vehicle batteries, and also provides an update on the Chevy Bolt recall.

We recently added a section on the siting impacts of renewables, and this week we offer two illustrative reports. One considers how far irritating noises can travel from land-based wind farms. That’s important because these sounds may impact the health of humans and wildlife. We also found an excellent article on a solar development proposed for a 25 acre wooded area in Mount Pleasant, NY. Reporter Michael Gold does an excellent job discussing the most important reasons why cutting trees for solar is undesirable.

The fossil fuel industry isn’t going to call it quits until every last hydrocarbon molecule they can get their hands on is extracted, sold, and burned. And as the inevitable clean energy transition bears down, extraction operations are getting riskier and moving at breakneck speed. All the hype around blue hydrogen and carbon sequestration serve to delay the transition while continuing the fossil infrastructure build-out. Floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) is ripe for similar greenwashing and promotion as a (false) climate solution.

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

— The NFGiM Team

 

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Stop Line 3 artwork
#StopLine3 And Its Westwood Connection
Enbridge Inc., the embattled company of the #StopLine3 movement, has an office here in Westwood.
By Heather T. Ford, Patch
August 22, 2021

#StopLine3 is a movement supporting the Ojibwe people, their community, and environmental groups in Minnesota. They have fought for six years to stop Canadian oil giant Enbridge Energy from building the massive Line 3 pipeline in Northern Minnesota. The purpose of the Line 3 pipeline would be to take oil from Canada’s tar sands region to Superior, Wisconsin.

The pipeline violates several treaties with the Ojibwe people that establish their right to hunt, fish, and gather along the proposed route. The pipeline would cross 200 bodies of water, including the Mississippi River, twice.

But what does a pipeline in Minnesota have to do with Westwood, MA? First of all, the controversial Weymouth Compressor Station in North Weymouth, MA is less than twenty miles from our town. Like Line 3, it is operated by Enbridge, Inc.

To quote the No Compressor site:

“This compressor station will create air, noise, and odor problems that will affect residents in Weymouth, Quincy, Braintree, and the South Shore. Compressors pose a serious health risk, especially when in such close proximity to a dense residential area. There’s also a history of catastrophic accidents at similar Compressors that could paralyze traffic, devastate our waterfront, and put residents at serious risk.”

Enbridge’s M&N Operating Company, which is in charge of the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline (where the Weymouth compressor is located), has an office at 8 Wilson Way in Westwood, MA.

To take action to #StopLine3, go here.
» Read article           

Santos servedShareholder group sues Santos over “misleading” claims that gas is “clean energy”
By Michael Mazengarb, Renew Economy
August 26, 2021

A shareholder advocacy group has launched legal action against oil and gas company Santos in the [Australian] Federal Court, alleging the company has made multiple breaches of corporate and consumer protection laws by making false claims that gas was a form of “clean energy”.

In legal proceedings launched on Thursday, the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) will allege that Santos has breached the Corporations Act and the Australian Consumer Law, with the advocacy group claiming that Santos undertook “misleading or deceptive conduct” when the gas company claimed to be a producer of “clean energy” and that it was a producer of “clean fuels” in its 2020 annual report.

ACCR will also allege that Santos made misleading representations that it has a clear and credible pathway to achieve “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, that the company’s plans were reliant on unproven technologies, and that Santos had plans to expand its natural gas operations.

The group said that the legal action was a ‘world first’ test of a fossil fuel company’s commitment to a zero emissions target, as well as the viability of relying on unproven technologies, including carbon capture and storage and the production of “blue” hydrogen, to meet those targets.
» Read article           

» More about protests and actions           

 

PIPELINES

MVP in VA
FERC releases Mountain Valley Pipeline environmental statement
By Paul J. Gough , Pittsburgh Business Times
August 16, 2021

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has released a new environmental statement on Equitrans Midstream Corp.’s $6.2 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline, recommending that FERC say there won’t be any significant impact to human life with the revised construction methods.

MVP and Equitrans had been told to go back to the drawing board with environmental impacts and changes to the plans, particularly for water crossings. FERC, in a document with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said that the amended plan would lead to fewer direct impacts. It said that there would be added noise and emissions, but it wouldn’t be significant in the long term.

“Therefore, we recommend that the Commission Order contain a finding of no significant impact and include the measures listed below as conditions in any authorization the Commission may issue to Mountain Valley,” FERC said in the statement. It also said that MVP should continue to comply with environmental conditions and continue with the trenchless crossing measures and other measures on waterbodies.

Environmental advocates, who have been fighting the pipeline from the beginning, weren’t impressed.

“Given that a comment period for this project just ended 10 days ago and that the public submitted hundreds of pages of comments and a large volume of data and analyses, it is difficult to believe that FERC has even read and understood all of that information, let alone responsibly incorporated it into this document,” said David Sligh, conservation director at Wild Virginia. “It seems that, once again, the FERC staff is pushing this process forward at a breakneck speed to serve MVPs timeline, not doing the job it was required to do.”
» Read article           

» More about pipelines         

 

DIVESTMENT

big shiny building
Insurers Move ‘at Light Speed’ to Limit Exposure to Fossil Industry Risk
By Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press, in The Energy Mix
August 24, 2021

With global climate change threatening to wreak havoc on their industry, insurance companies are increasingly looking to limit their exposure to the fossil fuel sector.

“This was not an issue that was central in the insurance sector, even seven years ago,” Robin Edger, national director of climate change for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, told The Canadian Press. “But now it is moving at light speed.”

In the past three years, 23 major global insurance companies have adopted policies that end or limit insurance for the coal industry, and nine have ended or limited insurance for the Canadian tar sands/oil sands.

Other insurers are making changes on the asset side of their books, divesting fossil fuel investments and adding green energy to their investment portfolios. In July, eight of the world’s largest insurance companies—including Swiss Re, Zurich Insurance Group, and Aviva—committed to transitioning their portfolios to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The “sustainable finance” movement—which seeks to use the power of investment capital to move toward a lower-carbon economy—also includes pension funds, banks, and mutual funds, CP says (although progress has been decidedly uneven). But of all the institutional investors, insurance companies have perhaps the most on the line when it comes to climate change.
» Read article           

unused tools
Central Banks Accused of ‘Dawdling’ on Climate as World Burns
“Instead of using their power to cut off finance for fossil fuels, they are making themselves busy tinkering around the edges of the climate crisis.”
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
August 24, 2021

Despite needing to “play a critical role in catalyzing the rapid shift of financial flows away from oil, fossil gas, and coal,” 12 major central banks “have instead tinkered at the edges,” according to a report released Tuesday.

The new analysis (pdf) from two dozen advocacy groups including Oil Change International (OCI) examines financing and policies of central banks from Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The report says that “with a few isolated exceptions—such as decisions by the French and Swiss central banks to partially exclude coal from their asset portfolios—central bank activity on carbon pollution and the climate crisis has been limited primarily to measures to increase financial market transparency.”

“While some central bank executives claim that tackling the climate crisis is beyond their mandates,” the report continues, “at the same time they have positively reinforced fossil fuel financing, and even directly financed fossil fuel production.”

“The science is clear,” the report emphasizes, noting that even the International Energy Agency now acknowledges that limiting global heating to 1.5°C this century—the more ambitious temperature target of the Paris climate agreement—requires keeping fossil fuels in the ground.
» Read article           
» Read the analysis          

» More about divestment          

 

GREENING THE ECONOMY

ivory tower
Vineyard Wind’s labor deal exposes tensions overs unions, worker diversity
Most Massachusetts building trade union members are White, and most minority-owned contractors are non-union. Will Vineyard Wind’s commitment to union labor make it harder to meet workforce diversity targets?
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
August 23, 2021

Workforce diversity advocates worry a recent commitment by Vineyard Wind to exclusively use union labor to build the project will impair efforts to diversify Massachusetts’ offshore wind workforce because of unions’ historical lack of diversity.

While unions rarely share racial data, it’s generally agreed that a significant majority of building trades union membership in Massachusetts is White. At the same time, most minority-owned contractors in the Boston area are non-union.

So an agreement announced last month between Vineyard Wind and the Southeastern Massachusetts Building Trades Council raised concerns among some, despite the inclusion of diversity targets as part of the deal.

“What Vineyard Wind has done is not just shut but slammed the door tight on any meaningful participation by minority contractors,” said John Cruz, chief executive of Cruz Companies, a third-generation, Black-owned contracting company based in Boston.

Supporters of the labor agreement say they are working to develop a strong pipeline of women and people of color into the unions. However, there is little reason to believe these efforts will bear fruit, said Travis Watson, chair of the Boston Employment Commission, a panel tasked with overseeing employment policies on city-supported construction projects. Union leadership has historically employed strategies both subtle and blatant — from biased union admission testing to explicit racism — to keep people of color out of the ranks, he said. Watson is not convinced that these attitudes have changed, he said.
» Read article           

» More about greening the economy        

 

CLIMATE

The Summit
It Rained at the Summit of Greenland. That’s Never Happened Before.
The showers are another troubling sign of a changing Arctic, which is warming faster than any other region on Earth.
By Henry Fountain, New York Times
Aug. 20, 2021

Something extraordinary happened last Saturday at the frigid high point of the Greenland ice sheet, two miles in the sky and more than 500 miles above the Arctic Circle: It rained for the first time.

The rain at a research station — not just a few drops or a drizzle but a stream for several hours, as temperatures rose slightly above freezing — is yet another troubling sign of a changing Arctic, which is warming faster than any other region on the planet.

“It’s incredible, because it does write a new chapter in the book of Greenland,” said Marco Tedesco, a researcher at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. “This is really new.”

At the station, which is called Summit and is occupied year-round under the auspices of the National Science Foundation, there is no record of rain since observations began in the 1980s. And computer simulations show no evidence going back even further, said Thomas Mote, a climate scientist at the University of Georgia.

Above-freezing conditions at Summit are nearly as rare. Before this century, ice cores showed they had occurred only six times in the past 2,000 years, Martin Stendel, a senior researcher at the Danish Meteorological Institute, wrote in an email message.

But above-freezing temperatures have now occurred at Summit in 2012, 2019 and this year — three times in fewer than 10 years.

The Greenland ice sheet, which is up to two miles thick and covers about 650,000 square miles, has been losing more ice and contributing more to sea-level rise in recent decades as the Earth has warmed from human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.

The surface of the ice sheet gains mass every year, because accumulation of snowfall is greater than surface melting. But overall, the sheet loses more ice through melting where it meets the ocean, and through the breaking-off of icebergs. On average over the past two decades, Greenland has lost more than 300 billion tons of ice each year.
» Read article           

» More about climate                 

 

CLEAN ENERGY

blockchain DER
Canadian utility creates marketplace for DER households using blockchain technology
By John Engel, Renewable Energy World
August 23, 2021

Canada’s largest municipally-owned electric utility has launched a pilot program that allows customers with distributed energy resources (DERs) to participate in an energy marketplace using blockchain technology.

Alectra has launched a transactive software platform, GridExchange, to enable customers with solar panels, battery storage, and electric vehicles to participate in a marketplace. Twenty-one households in Ontario will participate in the three-month pilot program.

“The GridExchange pilot project plays a pivotal role in supporting consumers by offering them greater control over their energy usage,” said Brian Bentz, president and CEO, Alectra Inc. “In alignment with Alectra’s commitment to be net-zero by 2050, the launch of GridExchange will help us continue to lower emissions and create value for customers and the Ontario power grid.”
» Read article           

» More about clean energy       

 

MODERNIZING THE GRID

LREC
From smart meters to big batteries, co-ops emerge as clean grid laboratories
A wave of pilot programs by Minnesota electric cooperatives is saving customers money and providing useful data for larger utilities considering new technology and pricing models to encourage grid efficiency.
By Frank Jossi, Energy News Network
August 26, 2021

Minnesota electric cooperatives have quietly emerged as laboratories for clean grid innovation, outpacing investor-owned utilities on smart meter installations, time-based pricing pilots, and experimental storage solutions.

“Co-ops have innovation in their DNA,” said David Ranallo, a spokesperson for Great River Energy, a generation and distribution cooperative that supplies power to 28 member utilities — making it one of the state’s largest co-op players.

Minnesota farmers helped pioneer the electric co-op model more than a century ago, pooling resources to build power lines, transformers and other equipment to deliver power to rural parts of the state. Today, 44 member-owned electric co-ops serve about 1.7 million rural and suburban customers and supply almost a quarter of the state’s electricity.

Co-op utilities have by many measures lagged on clean energy. Many still rely on electricity from coal-fired power plants. They’ve used political clout with rural lawmakers to oppose new pollution regulations and climate legislation, and some have tried to levy steep fees on customers who install solar panels.

Where they are emerging as innovators is with new models and technology for managing electric grid loads — from load-shifting water heaters to a giant experimental battery made of iron. The programs are saving customers money by delaying the need for expensive new infrastructure, and also showing ways to unlock more value from cheap but variable wind and solar power.
» Read article           

» More about modernizing the grid      

 

ENERGY STORAGE

Connexus worker
Battery power capacity in the US grew big time in 2020
But a lot more capacity is needed
By Justine Calma, The Verge
August 19, 2021

2020 was a big year for big batteries in the US, which is crucial for getting grids to run on more renewable energy. Power capacity — a measure of how much power a battery can instantly discharge — for large-scale batteries grew at an unprecedented pace in the US last year, according to an annual report released this week by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

2020 smashed the previous record set in 2018 for the biggest growth in power capacity in the US with 489MW of large-scale battery storage added. That’s more than twice what was added in 2018. By the end of last year, there was 1,523MW of large-scale battery power capacity in the US. For comparison, the largest solar farm in the US has a capacity of 579MW and can generate enough electricity for about 255,000 homes.

That’s all good news for renewable energy, but way more batteries are needed to clean up the electricity grid. “It’s great that it’s growing. But by the scale of the grid, it’s still a pretty small drop in the bucket,” says Gerbrand Ceder, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. For perspective, Ceder says, the total battery power capacity in the US at the end of 2020 is still “no bigger than one or two big power plants.”
» Read article           

» More about energy storage             

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Nanjing factory
Millions of electric car batteries will retire in the next decade. What happens to them?
The quest to prevent batteries – rich in raw materials such as cobalt, lithium and nickel – ending up as a mountain of waste
By XiaoZhi Lim, The Guardian
August 20, 2020

A tsunami of electric vehicles is expected in rich countries, as car companies and governments pledge to ramp up their numbers – there are predicted be 145m on the roads by 2030. But while electric vehicles can play an important role in reducing emissions, they also contain a potential environmental timebomb: their batteries.

By one estimate, more than 12m tons of lithium-ion batteries are expected to retire between now and 2030.

Not only do these batteries require large amounts of raw materials, including lithium, nickel and cobalt – mining for which has climate, environmental and human rights impacts – they also threaten to leave a mountain of electronic waste as they reach the end of their lives.

As the automotive industry starts to transform, experts say now is the time to plan for what happens to batteries at the end of their lives, to reduce reliance on mining and keep materials in circulation.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are flowing into recycling startups and research centers to figure out how to disassemble dead batteries and extract valuable metals at scale.

But if we want to do more with the materials that we have, recycling shouldn’t be the first solution, said James Pennington, who leads the World Economic Forum’s circular economy program. “The best thing to do at first is to keep things in use for longer,” he said.

“There is a lot of [battery] capacity left at the end of first use in electric vehicles,” said Jessika Richter, who researches environmental policy at Lund University. These batteries may no longer be able run vehicles but they could have second lives storing excess power generated by solar or windfarms.
» Read article           

every Bolt made
GM expands battery-fire recall to Chevy Bolt EUV, every Bolt EV made
By Bengt Halvorson, Green Car Reports
August 20, 2021

General Motors has expanded the recall of Chevrolet Bolt EV models due to battery-related fire concerns—to include 2019-2021 Bolt EV models and new 2022 Bolt EV and EUV models.  GM just earlier this week confirmed that it planned to replace all battery modules on affected 2017-2019 Bolt EV models, subject to be adjusted after an additional investigation. It’s now expecting to do the same with the rest of the Bolt EV population, including models recently delivered and those in dealer inventories.

Both issues are related to the same two potential battery defects, stemming from reports of fires when Bolt EV vehicles had been plugged in and or recently charged to full. The Bolt EV and EUV models use cells made by LG Chem in South Korea through mid 2019, and then Holland, Michigan from mid-2019 on. GM had previously said that the so-called “design level N2.1” made in Michigan were unaffected; it hasn’t yet disclosed whether it’s aware of instances of fire with the newer cells.

Customers are to contact 1-833-EVCHEVY or their dealership with questions, or check the Bolt EV recall page for more information.
» Read article           

» More about clean transportation                

 

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLES

night noise
Wind turbine swoosh “more annoying” at night, new study finds
By Sophie Vorrath, Renew Economy
August 20, 2021

New federally funded research investigating the association of wind farm noise with adverse effects on humans has found that the “swoosh” sound made by spinning turbine blades was likely to be more noticeable – and more annoying – to nearby residents during the night than during the day.

The research, led by Flinders University PhD candidate Duc Phuc Nguyen and acoustic expert Dr Kristy Hansen, has combined long-term monitoring of wind farm noise with machine learning to quantify and characterise the noise produced by wind turbines.

The resulting two new publications mark the latest findings in the five-year Wind Farm Noise study that was funded by the federal government’s National Health and Medical Research Council, with funding also supplied through Australian Research Council grants.

The Wind Farm Noise Study, based at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep health at Flinders University, is investigating noise characteristics and sleep disturbances at residences located near wind farms, to inform what the researchers describe as the “ongoing debate” around turbine noise and adverse effects on human health.

Claims that wind turbine noise – both those sounds that are detectable to the human ear and the “infrasound” that is undetectable – can affect the health and well-being of humans (and animals) have indeed sparked much passionate and sometimes pretty sensational discussion within and without the renewable energy industry.
» Read article           

Gate of Heaven
Gate of Heaven Solar Farm Denial Fails in Deadlocked Vote
By Michael Gold, The Examiner
August 17, 2021

The Mount Pleasant [NY] Planning Board deadlocked 3-3 on Aug. 5 in a vote that would have denied a 5.75-megawatt ground-mounted solar array on a 25-acre portion of Gate of Heaven Cemetery to move forward.

With board member Jane Abbate absent, the project will be subject to a new vote at a future meeting.

“The clear-cutting of this forest is just immoral,” said Planning Board member Joan Lederman, who proposed the resolution to deny. “And I’m a member of the Church.”

“Destroying the flora and fauna is just plain wrong,” Lederman added.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York owns the cemetery and CES Hawthorne Solar, LLC is the listed applicant. Con Edison Clean Energy Businesses, which owns, develops and operates renewable energy infrastructure, is facilitating the project.

Residents, environmental groups and board members who have been skeptical of the proposal cited various concerns during the Aug. 5 public hearing, including the significant destruction of trees.

Saw Mill River Audubon Society chapter member and Briarcliff Manor resident Thomas Ruth argued that the organization supports solar projects on building roofs and parking lots. But in this case, the forested area in the cemetery is “sequestering carbon and protecting biodiversity,” Ruth said.

Pace University Energy and Climate Center wrote in support of the project on May 17, then withdrew its support two weeks later, citing the need to safeguard natural resources, including forests.

Steven Kavee, chairman of the Mount Pleasant Conservation Advisory Council, said the habitat for plants, animals and trees is too valuable to undertake wholesale clearing of the acreage where the panels would be installed.

“The idea of clear-cutting woodlands for solar is the wrong path,” Kavee said in a telephone interview with The Examiner. “We want to see renewable energy, but not at the expense of irreplaceable woodlands. We need to look at places where solar can be done without jeopardizing natural resources. The planet is at risk. This is not zero-sum.”
» Read article           

» More about siting impacts of renewable energy resources        

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

doubling down
The World’s Newest Oil Countries Are Racing To Exploit Reserves
By Irina Slav, Oil Price
August 20, 2021

The new kids on the oil block—Guyana, Suriname, and Ghana—have no plans to let their newly discovered oil wealth go to waste by joining global decarbonization efforts.

They plan to exploit them as best as they can before they become worthless, Reuters has reported, citing statements by government officials made at this week’s Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.

Billions of barrels of crude oil have been discovered in the Guyana-Suriname Basin offshore the two South American neighbors as well as in Ghana in recent years.

“We have millions of people without electricity in Africa,” Ghana’s Energy Minister Matthew Opoku Prempeh said at the event. “Energy transition does not mean we’ll see our resources unexploited.”
» Blog editor’s note: Last week, we carried an article about developing countries leapfrogging straight to clean energy – skipping the fossil phase entirely. This story shows that fossil interests will try hard to prevent that.
» Read article           

Noble Bob Douglas
Exxon’s oil drilling gamble off Guyana coast ‘poses major environmental risk’
Experts warn of potential for disaster as Exxon pursues 9bn barrels in sensitive marine ecosystem
By Antonia Juhasz, Floodlight, in The Guardian
August 17, 2021

ExxonMobil’s huge new Guyana project faces charges of a disregard for safety from experts who claim the company has failed to adequately prepare for possible disaster, the Guardian and Floodlight have found.

Exxon has been extracting oil from Liza 1, an ultra-deepwater drilling operation, since 2019 – part of an expansive project spanning more than 6m acres off the coast of Guyana that includes 17 additional prospects in the exploration and preparatory phases.

By 2025, the company expects to produce 800,000 barrels of oil a day, surpassing estimates for its entire oil and natural gas production in the south-western US Permian basin by 100,000 barrels that year. Guyana would then represent Exxon’s largest single source of fossil fuel production anywhere in the world.

But experts claim that Exxon in Guyana appears to be taking advantage of an unprepared government in one of the lowest-income nations in South America, allowing the company to skirt necessary oversight. Worse, they also believe the company’s safety plans are inadequate and dangerous.

A top engineer who studies oil industry disasters, as well as a former government regulator, have leveled criticisms at Exxon. They say workers’ lives, public health and Guyana’s oceans and fisheries – which locals rely on heavily– are all at stake.
» Read article           

» More about fossil fuel             

 

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

second life
Floating LNG can turn ‘constraint into commercial opportunity’
LNG could help cut offshore flaring and venting while opening up new line of income
By Mark Passwaters, Upstream Online
August 18, 2021

Floating liquefied natural gas is still a fairly novel concept, but industry experts speaking at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston on Tuesday argued it could be a major asset for the oil and gas industry in the coming years.

Supporters of FLNG said the process could cut emissions by reducing offshore venting and flaring, opening up an additional revenue stream in the process.

Jean-Philippe Dimbour, Technip Energies’ director of business development and technology for offshore, said global gas flaring is near 150 billion cubic metres, or 25% of US gas consumption and 50% of Africa’s total power consumption.

“It is a massive energy loss,” he said. “Approximately 30% of associated gas is lost offshore due to existing infrastructures.”

Dimbour said associated gas from offshore projects drilling for oil could be a “showstopper” due to greenhouse gas emissions constraints.

With reinjection an unlikely prospect, he said, a centralised FLNG vessel could prove to be cheaper and more efficient for producers needing to dispose of associated gas than sending it to shore — especially for those operating in deep water.
» Blog editor’s note: we’ll keep an eye on FLNG. Ideally, it could capture and use methane that is currently being vented (terrible) or flared (bad), and reduce the need for an equal volume of fracked gas extracted elsewhere while we transition to clean energy. More likely, the industry will see this as a natural gas market growth opportunity, give us a greenwashed sales pitch, and double down on expanding its infrastructure (disastrous).
» Read article           

» More about liquefied natural gas             

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Weekly News Check-In 8/20/21

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Welcome back.

With Canadian energy giant Enbridge crowing about its imminent completion of the controversial Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline, protests and actions in Minnesota range from health professionals pointing out the hazards, to highly personal actions seizing the moral high ground as government fails to protect people and the environment.

Meanwhile, federal judge Sharon Gleason reversed US government approval of ConocoPhillips’ huge “Willow” pipeline project in Alaska, citing inadequate plans to protect polar bears along with failure to analyze the project’s greenhouse gas emissions or explore credible alternatives to the project. ConocoPhillips is expected to appeal. Sadly, Alaska’s governor, its congressional delegation, and even the Biden administration are defending the project – apparently prioritizing potential jobs in a dying industry over survival of a human-habitable planet. You’re not too far off the mark if you recognize that sort of logic as similar to that used by people in the grip of chemical dependencies.

For the few corners of the globe that are not yet as deeply hooked on the fossil economy as wealthy nations, current technology presents a development opportunity to leapfrog directly into a green economy. This is essential, but we’re already committed to a hotter future with increasingly extreme weather clearly tied to climate change.

While transitioning quickly to clean energy is part of the solution, we’re keeping an eye on false promises promoted by Big Oil & Gas and other entrenched interests. Blue hydrogen falls squarely into this category. While the concept has already captured huge government subsidies, a new study shows it’s actually worse for the climate than burning coal or gas. Hey, we have good news in this section too, about new developments in ocean wave energy and flexible solar panels!

Our Energy Efficiency section offers a peek into how homes will generate and manage energy in the near future, and also considers which state might be the first to ban natural gas hookups in new construction. Also related to home energy: residential battery storage is still expensive, but it’s finding a niche market providing emergency backup power.

General Motors once again headlines our Clean Transportation section, having announced that they will replace nearly 70,000 defective battery modules in Chevy Bolt 2017-19 model years. It’s late but welcome news for drivers who found GM’s interim solution, “don’t park the car in your garage, and don’t charge the vehicle unattended”, less than satisfying.

Aside from the blue hydrogen boondoggle mentioned above (more about that in our Fossil Fuel Industry section), Big Oil/Gas/Utility is heavily promoting a self-serving suite of carbon capture & sequestration schemes. Our position is simple: we support the development and deployment of direct air capture technology, recognizing the benefit of actively removing excess CO2 from the atmosphere. We do not support projects attached to smokestacks that have the effect of delaying the retirement of facilities that could otherwise be replaced with non-emitting alternatives.

Another greenwashing trend to watch involves the liquefied natural gas industry’s campaign to claim their operations achieve net-zero emissions, in an attempt to win project approvals in the face of recent scientific evidence that the fuel is a climate disaster.

Closing on a high note, the Army Corps of Engineers has demanded a full environmental review of the giant Formosa Plastics plant – a proposed facility intended for Louisiana’s notorious ‘Cancer Alley’, that would produce 800 tons of toxic air pollutants every year, along with the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions of three standard coal-fired power plants. This sets the project back considerably, and is a credit to the community group Rise St. James and other activists who fought for years to be heard.

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

— The NFGiM Team

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

John Miller
Diver who helped after I-35W bridge collapse returns medals in protest of Line 3 pipeline
He gave them back “as an act of desperation, and because I saw no other way to help bring the necessary urgency and attention to this matter.”
By Melissa Turtinen, Bring Me The News
August 17, 2021

A Navy Diver who helped recover victims of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis 14 years ago has returned the honors he received in protest of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline.

John Miller, who lived in Minnesota for 29 years and now lives in Maui, Hawaii, returned the medals during an event Monday alongside the Red Lake Treaty Camp representing the Red Lake Nation. The event was held near the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis.

Miller’s unit led the charge in retrieving the bodies of people missing after the bridge collapsed on Aug. 1, 2007, in what became known as the “sacred mission.” He was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal by the Secretary of Defense, and from Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty he received the Minnesota Commendation Ribbon with Pendant and a Certificate of Commendation.

Miller in a news release said in “good conscience” he can “no longer keep” the awards from the State of Minnesota, noting he’s doing this in defense of Minnesota’s lands, the Mississippi River and the people of Minnesota to “raise critical public awareness about the disastrous effects of the Line 3 pipeline.”
» Read article             

Mears Park MN
Joining Fight Against Line 3, Health Professionals Urge Biden to Block Project
“It is essentially science denial to permit a pipeline of this magnitude during a climate crisis.”
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
August 17, 2021

U.S. doctors, nurses, and other health professionals came together Tuesday for a national day of solidarity against Line 3 that included various events and a letter calling on President Joe Biden to block Enbridge’s tar sands project.

The health professionals are pressuring Biden to “take action that climate science demands, listen to the voices of Indigenous frontline leaders,” and reverse the federal government’s permitting of Line 3 under former President Donald Trump.

Their call echoes demands of Indigenous and climate activists who have long fought against the Canadian company’s effort to replace an aging pipeline with one that would have the capacity to transport 760,000 barrels daily.

Noting the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the latest climate science that was released last week, the health professionals… highlight that Line 3 is a problem for not only the climate but also environmental justice, warning that letting the project proceed conflicts with Biden’s “stated goal to stand up against fossil fuel companies and other polluters who put their own profits over people and disproportionately harm communities of color and low income communities.”
» Read article             

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

CP logo
Federal judge throws out U.S. approval of ConocoPhillips Alaska oil project
By Reuters
August 18, 2021

A federal judge on Wednesday reversed the U.S. government’s approval of ConocoPhillips’ planned $6 billion Willow oil development in Alaska, citing problems with its environmental analysis, according to court documents.

The ruling is a fresh blow to a massive drilling project that Alaskan officials hoped would help offset oil production declines in the state.

In her order, Alaska District Court Judge Sharon Gleason said she was vacating the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s approval of the development in part because the agency failed to include greenhouse gas emissions from foreign oil consumption in its environmental analysis. It also “failed to adequately analyze a reasonable range of alternatives” for the project, she wrote.

Gleason also said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not outline specific measures to mitigate the project’s impact on polar bears.

Willow, planned for the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, was approved by the Trump administration last year as part of its push to ratchet up fossil fuel development on federal lands.

The decision was followed promptly by lawsuits from environmental groups, which argued in part that the government had failed to take into account the impact that drilling would have on wildlife.

Those same groups harshly criticized the administration of President Joe Biden for defending the project’s approval in court, saying it was at odds with his climate change agenda.
» Blog editor’s note (reality check from Alaska Daily News): Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy implied an appeal in a statement issued after the decision: “Make no mistake, today’s ruling from a federal judge trying to shelve a major oil project on American soil does one thing: outsources production to dictatorships and terrorist organizations,” the governor said. “This is a horrible decision. We are giving America over to our enemies piece by piece. The Willow project would power America with 160,000 barrels a day, provide thousands of family-supporting jobs, and greatly benefit the people of Alaska.”
» Read article            
» Read Judge Gleason’s opinion

» More about pipelines

GREENING THE ECONOMY

leapfrog to green
‘Leapfrogging’ to Renewable Power Can Deliver Low-Carbon Energy Equity Worldwide
By The Energy Mix
August 17, 2021

Renewable technologies could help emerging economies achieve better and more equitable energy access—without adding to the world’s carbon emissions.

“Instead of developing energy infrastructures based on fossil fuels, low-income countries could leapfrog straight to cleaner, low-carbon technologies,” writes New Scientist. “For low-income countries, making big improvements in access to electricity is crucial. Better access to energy is linked to improvements in education, economic development, and health, for example.”

Currently, Sustainable Energy for All estimates that “759 million people lack access to electricity and 2.6 billion people are unable to cook cleanly.” Expanding energy access can help improve education, economic development, and health, but developing countries have been limited in efforts to achieve these benefits without sufficient energy from fossil fuels.

But with many regions lacking any existing energy infrastructure at all, that gap opens the opportunity to embrace renewables.

It is not unprecedented for countries to sidestep earlier technological progressions of industrialized countries, New Scientist notes. Adopting recent advances in renewable power without first pursuing fossil fuels recalls similar developments in the telecommunications sector, where emergent nations bypassed landlines and jumped directly to widespread mobile phone use.
» Read article             

heat watchCharting a Course to Shrink the Heat Gap Between New York City Neighborhoods
Community organizers and New York residents hope high-resolution maps of hot spots in the Bronx and Manhattan will result in more equitable development.
By Delger Erdenesanaa, Inside Climate News
August 18, 2021

NEW YORK, N.Y.—A few weeks after a deadly June heat wave baked much of the United States, Francisco Casarrubias and another volunteer drove a 10-mile loop around the South Bronx with what looked like a small plastic periscope attached to the car’s passenger window. The sensor, which recorded the air temperature and humidity every second, was one of hundreds deployed around the country in a campaign to map the hottest neighborhoods in more than 20 cities, including New York.

Most people who live in cities know intuitively that areas with more concrete and asphalt are hotter than those with more parks, trees and water. Neighborhoods that were redlined in the 1930s—excluded from real estate investment, often because the residents were people of color or immigrants—tend to be hotter even now than others. This includes much of the South Bronx, which today is a densely populated and mostly low-income Black and Latino area

Community organizers hope to use the data collected this summer by volunteers like Casarrubias to make the case for investing in green space for the South Bronx. They want to usher in a new kind of development that improves residents’ health and quality of life, according to Melissa Barber, a physician and co-founder of the organization South Bronx Unite.
» Read article             

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

Moscow misters
July 2021 Hottest Month Ever Recorded, Says NOAA
By Deutsche Welle, in EcoWatch
August 15, 2021

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US said on Friday that July 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded globally.

“July is typically the world’s warmest month of the year, but July 2021 outdid itself as the hottest July and month ever recorded. This new record adds to the disturbing and disruptive path that climate change has set for the globe,” said Rick Spinrad, administrator of NOAA.

NOAA climatologist Ahira Sanchez-Lugo said land temperatures over the Northern Hemisphere, with heatwaves in North America and parts of Europe, pushed the mercury past the record.

The last seven Julys from 2015 to 2021 have been the hottest ever, in 142 years of recordkeeping, Sanchez-Lugo added.

“The extreme events we are seeing worldwide — from record-shattering heat waves to extreme rainfall to raging wildfires — are all long-predicted and well understood impacts of a warmer world. They will continue to get more severe until the world cuts its emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases down to net-zero,” he added.

A report released by the UN last week issued a red alert for climate goals, are “nowhere close” to achieving the 1.5-degree target set during the Paris climate agreement.
» Read article             

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

blue not green
Study finds blue hydrogen worse for climate than burning coal or gas
By Petra Stock, Renew Economy
August 16, 2021

It is touted as a “clean” technology, but so-called “blue” hydrogen produced from gas – even with carbon capture – is significantly worse for the climate than burning coal or gas directly, a new study by Cornell and Stanford researchers has found.

Cornell’s Robert Howarth and Stanford’s Mark Jacobson asked the question, “how green is blue hydrogen?” in their peer-reviewed paper, the first to examine the total or ‘lifecycle’ greenhouse gas emissions from blue hydrogen.

The answer? “We see no way that blue hydrogen can be considered ‘green’,” the researchers concluded.

Emissions associated with producing blue hydrogen from gas were actually greater than emissions from burning gas or coal directly, the paper found. This was because of the significant extra energy required for processes to produce hydrogen and power carbon capture and storage.

The hydrogen industry is a significant source of climate pollution globally, responsible for around 830 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, equivalent to the annual emissions from the United Kingdom and Indonesia combined, according to the International Energy Agency.

That’s because nearly all hydrogen produced and used today comes from fossil fuels, and is classed as either ‘grey’ (from gas) or ‘brown’ (from coal).

‘Blue’ hydrogen involves producing hydrogen from coal or gas with the addition of carbon capture and storage. ‘Green’ hydrogen is produced using a process called electrolysis powered by renewable energy.

Howarth said that while blue hydrogen is often promoted as a climate solution, “unfortunately emissions remain very large”.

“Blue hydrogen sounds good, sounds modern and sounds like a path to our energy future. It is not”, he said.
» Read article            
» Read the paper: How green is blue hydrogen?

dual turbineAustralian “dual turbine” wave power breakthrough promises to double efficiency
By Sophie Vorrath, Renew Economy
August 18, 2021

An Australian-led research breakthrough has raised fresh hopes for wave power’s potential role in the global shift to renewables, with new technology that promises to double the amount of energy able to be harvested from ocean waves.

Researchers from RMIT University, in collaboration with the Beihang University in China, say they have developed a prototype of a “simple and economic” wave energy conversion device that could be twice as efficient at harvesting power than echnologies developed to date.

The technology is based on a buoy-type converter known as a “point absorber,” that harvests energy from the up and down movement of waves.

The key to the efficiency of the RMIT-created prototype, however, is in its ability to naturally float up and down with the swell of the wave – thus dispensing with the need for complicated synching tech – and its use of a “world-first” dual-turbine design.

According to a report published in the journal Applied Energy, the latter involves two turbine wheels stacked on top of each other, which rotate in opposite directions. These, in turn, are connected to a generator through shafts and a belt-pulley driven transmission system.

The generator is placed inside a buoy above the waterline to keep it out of corrosive seawater and extend the lifespan of the device.

“Our prototype technology overcomes some of the key technical challenges that have been holding back the wave energy industry from large-scale deployment,” said lead researcher Professor Xu Wang.

“With further development, we hope this technology could be the foundation for a thriving new renewable energy industry delivering massive environmental and economic benefits.
» Read article         

light and flexibleBendy, lightweight organic solar cells could be fast-tracked by new research
By Sophie Vorrath, Renew Economy
August 16, 2021

A breakthrough in the development of organic solar cells – whose light and bendy abilities have seen them wrapped around wind turbines in a recent trial by Acciona – could deliver a much-needed boost in efficiency and push them further along the path to commercialisation.

Organic solar cells get their name from their composition, with ingredients including materials and elements found in plants and animals, and hold the promise of being lightweight, flexible, and cheap to make.

Standing in the way of their commercialisation, however, is the fact that they have not yet reached the sunlight-to-electricity efficiencies of their silicon-based counterparts.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, in collaboration with experts from Canada, Belgium, New Zealand, and China, think they might be able to make up ground, however, with a way to move energy in organic materials up to 1000’s of times faster than before.
» Read article             

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

climate-adapted
Imagining the climate-proof home in the US: using the least energy possible from the cleanest sources
Solar energy use will become more common as power use becomes smarter and more automated.
By Oliver Milman, with graphics from Rashida Kamal, The Guardian
August 16, 2021

Dealing with the climate crisis involves the overhauling of many facets of life, but few of these changes will feel as tangible and personal as the transformation required within the home.

The 128m households that dot America gobble up energy for heating, cooling and lighting, generating around 20% of all the planet-heating emissions produced in the US. Americans typically live in larger, more energy hungry dwellings than people in other countries, using more than double the energy of the average Briton and 10 times that of the average Chinese person.

This sizable contribution is now coming under the scrutiny of Joe Biden’s administration, which recently put forward a raft of measures to build and upgrade 2m low-emissions homes. “Decarbonizing buildings is a big task but it’s an essential task,” said Michael Regan, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Rapid change will be needed to avoid disastrous climate change. To get to zero emissions by the middle of the century, the sale of fossil fuel boilers will have to end within five years, all new buildings will have to run on clean electricity by 2030 and half of all existing buildings will have to be fully retrofitted by 2040, a recent landmark International Energy Agency report warned.

“The appliances we use at home have tended to be overlooked but they are contributing a significant amount to climate change and we need to address that,” said Mike Henchen, an expert in carbon-free buildings at RMI. “That will touch people’s lives – our homes are our refuges, the places we know best. But hopefully the change will also make people’s homes more comfortable, safer and healthier, as well as reduce the climate impact.”

So what will the climate-adapted homes of the future look like?
» Read article             

not quiteInside Clean Energy: Which State Will Be the First to Ban Natural Gas in New Buildings?
As California’s new building code stops short of gas ban, here’s what other states are doing.
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
August 19, 2021

A new California building code is a leap forward for reducing the use of natural gas, with rules that set a strong preference for electric heating in new construction.

That’s the glass-half-full view of the rules the state’s energy commission approved last week, according to environmental advocates.

But many of those same people wanted much more. They had hoped that California would become the first state in the country to ban natural gas in most new construction, at a time of growing awareness of the health and climate benefits of all-electric buildings.

Now, advocates are looking to other states that may be the first to pass some kind of gas ban, with candidates that include Massachusetts, New York and Washington.

“California’s new building energy code takes a major step forward toward a future where we have healthy, fossil-fuel-free homes and buildings for all,” said Denise Grab, a manager in the carbon-free buildings group at RMI, the clean energy advocacy and research nonprofit. “That said, it doesn’t go all the way to zero emissions for new construction, which is something that a number of groups, including us, had called for and is needed.”
» Read article             

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

NeoVolta
EnergySage: Emergency backup power driving solar customers towards battery storage
By Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
August 18, 2021

Users of US solar price comparison site EnergySage are increasingly drawn towards battery storage through concerns around having enough power in emergency situations, with 70% of users now requesting storage with their solar quotes.

EnergySage is supported by the US Department of Energy (DoE) and enables over 500 pre-screened installation companies to provide quotes for rooftop solar, energy storage, community solar and project financing. It has just released an annual ‘Solar Marketplace Intel Report,’ aggregating and analysing data from the millions of users that obtain quotes.

Following February’s blackouts in Texas, there was a considerable rise in the number of solar shoppers requesting quotes for storage and that demand remained constant for the next five months. In fact, 78% of users in Texas cited resilience concerns and need for backup power as their main reason for wanting storage.

That said, financial interest also motivated a large number of people who were looking to make savings on their utility electricity rates, particularly in Arizona and California, where this applied to two-thirds of customers. About 15% wanted batteries with their solar to go completely off-grid, around a third wanted to be self-sufficient and about a third again said they wanted a future-proof solar PV system capable of adding a battery system later.
» Read article             

» More about energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

 Bolt at the beach
2017-2019 Chevy Bolt EV fire recall: GM will replace all battery modules
By Green Car Reports
August 17, 2021

GM has confirmed that it plans to replace all 68,667 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric cars that have potentially defective battery modules—including 50,925 in the U.S.—with new battery modules.

The announcement follows a second recall, announced in July, of the 2017-2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV due to a manufacturing defect that has caused some batteries to erupt in flames while charging.

GM hasn’t yet finalized this with a revised recall filing or confirmed a timeline for what will be a massive repair effort for the company. However it issued the following statement: “As part of GM’s commitment to safety, experts from GM and LG have identified the simultaneous presence of two rare manufacturing defects in the same battery cell as the root cause of battery fires in certain Chevrolet Bolt EVs. As a result, GM will replace recalled vehicles’ lithium ion battery modules with new lithium ion battery modules. We will notify customers when replacement parts are ready.”

The company emphasized Tuesday that the plan could still change. “If we determine a different remedy after additional investigation then we will adjust, but right now the plan is to replace all modules,” said spokesperson Kevin Kelly to Green Car Reports.
» Read article                

» More about clean transportation

CARBON CAPTURE AND SEQUESTRATION

Petra Nova mothballedFossil Fuel Companies Are Quietly Scoring Big Money for Their Preferred Climate Solution: Carbon Capture and Storage
The industry has been pushing through policies devoting billions of dollars to the technology, and much more is likely to come with legislation pending before Congress.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News
August 17, 2021

Over the last year, energy companies, electrical utilities and other industrial sectors have been quietly pushing through a suite of policies to support a technology that stands to yield tens of billions of dollars for corporate polluters, but may do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

These policies have fast-tracked environmental reviews and allocated billions in federal funding for research and development of carbon capture and storage, or CCS, technologies that pull carbon dioxide out of smokestacks or directly from the air before storing it underground. Just a single bill—the bipartisan infrastructure legislation that passed the Senate last week and is now headed to the House of Representatives—includes more than $12 billion in direct support for carbon capture, and could unlock billions more through other programs, according to the recent drafts.

Many environmental advocates argue that the massive government support would be better spent on proven climate solutions like wind and solar energy, which receive far less in direct funding under the infrastructure bill.

Simon Nicholson, co-director of the Institute for Carbon Removal Law and Policy at American University, said that if government support for carbon capture and storage is used to help test direct air capture, “then it’s a near-term investment that might have long-term positive implications. That nuance is hard to convey.” But, he added, “it is going to be a bit of a political and commercial scramble for funds here, because the oil and gas companies, the electricity companies, are going to want the money to go towards traditional CCS,” which is attached to smokestacks.
» Read article             

» More about CCS

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

H2ZEV
Oil firms made ‘false claims’ on blue hydrogen costs, says ex-lobby boss
Chris Jackson believes companies promoted ‘unsustainable’ fossil gas projects to access billions in taxpayer subsidies
By Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian
August 20, 2021

Oil companies have used false claims over the cost of producing fossil fuel hydrogen to win over the Treasury and access billions in taxpayer subsidies, according to the outgoing hydrogen lobby boss.

Chris Jackson quit as the chair of a leading hydrogen industry association this week ahead of a government strategy paper featuring support for “blue hydrogen”, which is derived from fossil gas and produces carbon emissions.

He said he could no longer lead an industry association that included oil companies backing blue hydrogen projects, because the schemes were “not sustainable” and “make no sense at all”.

The government’s strategy for the sector, announced this week, was criticised by environmental groups for taking a twin-track approach, giving equal weight to blue hydrogen and “green hydrogen”, which has no negative climate impact because it uses renewable electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

By contrast, blue hydrogen is made from natural gas, which has to be extracted from gas fields and then purified by the removal of carbon dioxide and methane, which have to be stored back underground. The process typically fails to capture 10-15% of its greenhouse gas emissions, which would accumulate as production ramps up.

Both kinds of hydrogen are much more expensive to produce than conventional fuels, so the government is proposing subsidies. It has launched a consultation to fund the difference between what producers can sell hydrogen for and what it costs them to manufacture it – similar to a scheme already used to drive down costs of offshore wind power.

“The Treasury has been told that blue hydrogen is cheap and will take millions of tonnes of carbon emissions out of the economy, which is all they need to hear. It checks the boxes they’re worrying about,” Jackson said.

“If the false claims made by oil companies about the cost of blue hydrogen were true, their projects would make a profit by 2030, after starting up in 2027 or 2028, because carbon prices are forecast to rise to £80 a tonne.

“Instead, they’re asking taxpayers for billions in subsidies for the next 25 years. They should tell the government they don’t need it. The fact that they don’t tells you everything you need to know.”
» Read article             

» More about fossil fuels

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

Hogan heroes
LNG Projects Make Claims of ‘Net-Zero’ to Ease Way for Expansion
Several proposed LNG projects in Canada promise carbon neutrality for their gas exports. But the claims lack detail and appear mostly designed to defang opposition to the gas rush.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
August 13, 2021

Under growing pressure to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, developers of liquefied natural gas (LNG) are turning to questionable claims about “carbon neutrality,” “net-zero,” or “green LNG,” in order to pass muster with governments, investors, and society, who are becoming increasingly anxious about the climate crisis.

However, while on the surface it may appear to be a positive shift towards lowering the greenhouse gas impact of their projects, the rhetoric about carbon-neutral LNG is mostly hollow, in another attempt to greenwash new fossil fuel projects into existence.

While the U.S. Gulf Coast typically receives much of the attention for the LNG rush, the Pacific Coast of Canada is home to multiple proposed LNG export projects, as energy companies scramble to export fracked gas from northeast British Columbia.

At least three proposed Canadian LNG projects are claiming they will be the cleanest LNG in the world, relying on renewable hydropower to power their liquefaction operations and otherwise using carbon offsets and carbon capture to partially mitigate their emissions. Left unsaid is that the offsets and captured carbon only account for a small portion of the total.

The assertions also lack detail, face technical problems, ignore leaking methane emissions, and depend on government subsidies for funding. The danger is that the net-zero claims obscure the true climate costs of LNG from the public, which experts warn can be on par or worse than coal, paving the way for the industry’s expansion. Claims that LNG can achieve “net-zero emissions” have been cited by both the B.C. and federal governments to justify greenlighting new gas export terminals.
» Read article             

» More about LNG

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Rise St James
Army Corps Orders Environmental Review of Proposed Formosa Plastics Plant in Louisiana’s ‘Cancer Alley’
If built, the plastics plant would pump air pollutants into surrounding communities and contribute more to climate change than three coal power plants. Corps announcement deals significant blow to project’s backers.
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
August 18, 2021

The Formosa Sunshine Project in St. James Parish, Louisiana, will undergo a full formal environmental review, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced in a memorandum issued today and posted on Twitter.

The decision deals a significant blow to the proposed multi-billion dollar plastics manufacturing site that would be located in the Gulf Coast region, potentially setting the project’s timetable back significantly.

The Corps highlighted concerns over environmental justice issues as it announced that it would require an environmental impact statement (EIS).

“As a result of information received to date and my commitment for the Army to be a leader in the federal government’s efforts to ensure thorough environmental analysis and meaningful community outreach, I conclude an EIS process is warranted to thoroughly review areas of concern, particularly those with environmental justice implications,” wrote Jaime Pinkham, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works.

If built, the Formosa plant would pump out up to 800 tons of toxic air pollutants each year into communities that have long-experienced the impacts of living near plastic manufacturing, oil refining, and other petrochemical projects. It would also generate 13.6 million tons of greenhouse gases — more than triple the amount of climate-altering pollution the Environmental Protection Agency estimates a standard coal-fired power plant produces.
» Read article            

» More about plastics and the environment

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