Tag Archives: energy efficiency

Weekly News Check-In 12/3/21

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Welcome back.

We’re remembering the great climate, environment, and social justice advocate, Dr. Marty Nathan who passed away on Monday at age 70. She devoted so much of herself to so many people, through a life well lived. She’ll be sorely missed.

There’s been a lot of news in the past two weeks, so I’ll bundle the stories as they relate to broad themes. Protesters hit the streets in Peabody, MA to draw attention to the contradictions between a planned peaking power plant and the state’s emissions reduction requirements. As fossil boosters charge ahead with construction plans, gas utilities in the mid-Atlantic region are cancelling similar projects. Meanwhile, two more liquefied natural gas export terminals were either cancelled (Jordan Cove) or moved closer to cancellation (Gibbstown). All of the above is related to the increasingly unfavorable investment environment for natural gas infrastructure relative to clean renewable energy and storage.

That same economic calculus is rapidly taking the shine off a fossil industry favorite: carbon capture and sequestration.

Oil and gas pipelines are increasingly difficult to justify – that includes new construction as well as continuing to operate existing assets. Especially when those old pipelines need an infusion of new cash for upgrades. Fossil interests are getting creative with their attempts to keep these lines open. That includes false claims that shutting down pipelines amounts to environmental injustice, and suggestions that implementing climate solutions will tank the economy. But a well-funded and coordinated effort to erode the concept of Native sovereignty is downright underhanded and creepy. Protests at Standing Rock held up construction of the Dakota Access pipeline (and many others since), so industry is acknowledging the potency and moral clarity of Indigenous peoples’ protests and actions by bringing court actions that could strip away Tribes’ ability to protect their own lands.

While the fossil fuel industry continues to dig and drill its way to the finish – extracting and burning every hydrocarbon molecule it can lay hands on – opposing forces continue to gather in strength and numbers. The divestment movement now has clear support from mainstream economic players, who agree that any investment in fossils grows riskier by the day. And legislation supporting citizen rights to a healthful environment, as New York recently passed, makes new fossil pipelines and power plants nearly impossible to imagine.

So we have our eyes on the many opportunities and challenges presented by the greening economy. These include strong demand for clean energy at every scale, often constrained by material supply. The need for massive improvements in energy efficiency along with the challenge of equitable delivery of programs, incentives, and services. Transforming the transportation sector; the red hot race for affordable long-duration energy storage; and the considerable issues around where to locate all this new, clean-energy infrastructure.

Hovering over all that growth and opportunity is the question of where a lot of critical resources are going to come from. Deep-seabed mining represents a potential source of badly-needed copper, cobalt, nickel and manganese. But scientists are concerned that seabed destruction, debris in the water column, and noise all risk vast environmental and ecosystem harm. We continue to list deep-seabed mining as a VBA (Very Bad Idea). Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.

Other VBAs include burning woody biomass for energy, and producing lots and lots of plastics. We’ll keep you up to date on all of it.

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

MARTY NATHAN

Marty Nathan garden
Community recalls impact, contributions of environmental, social justice activist Dr. Marty Nathan
By BRIAN STEELE , Daily Hampshire Gazette
November 30, 2021

NORTHAMPTON — Tributes are pouring in to celebrate the life and work of Dr. Marty Nathan, a retired physician and trailblazing social justice activist who died Monday at the age of 70.

Nathan’s daughter Leah Nathan said her mother died after a recurrence of lung cancer combined with congestive heart failure. She leaves behind her husband, three children and two grandchildren.

Martha “Marty” Nathan was a co-founder of Climate Action Now, the founder of the environmental activism group 2degrees Northampton and a board member of the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition. She wrote a monthly column for the Gazette on the topic of climate change.

In June, the Gazette and the United Way of Hampshire County honored Nathan with the Frances Crowe Award, named for the legendary Northampton peace and anti-nuclear activist who died in 2019 at the age of 100. Nathan considered Crowe a friend and ally for 25 years, saying the pair “were inhabiting the same ideological and political territory.”

Leah Nathan said her mother “invested everything she had” in causes that mattered to “the people and planet she loved.”

In Nathan’s memory, loved ones should “get involved and just do something to make the change you want to see in the world,” and donate to worthy organizations.

“She was uncompromising in her beliefs, her commitment to justice, her love for her family, and doing the work that real change requires of us,” Leah Nathan said. “She was both complex and crystal clear, and the physical loss of her energy feels impossible to bear.”

Nathan’s advocacy began in the 1960s, when she protested against the Vietnam War, and it never abated. Just six weeks ago, she and three other local activists were arrested in Washington, D.C., for standing in front of the White House fence as part of a climate protest. After they were released without fines or charges, each donated money to the Indigenous Environmental Network, which organized the protest.

Russ Vernon-Jones, an organizer with Climate Action Now, was also arrested that day; he said Nathan was “an inspiration to me. She was such a model of determination and commitment and justice.”

“If she had never done this kind of activism, it would still be a huge loss,” he said, considering what a “warm, caring, generous, compassionate human being she was.”
» Read article               

PEAKING POWER PLANTS

SD no peakers
Amid the push for a cleaner future, a proposed power plant threatens to escalate the war over the region’s power grid
By David Abel, Boston Globe
November 23, 2021

PEABODY — It would cost $85 million to build, spew thousands of tons of carbon dioxide and other harmful pollutants into the atmosphere for years to come, and perpetuate the reliance on fossil fuels in a dozen communities across Massachusetts, all while a new state law takes effect requiring drastic cuts of greenhouse gas emissions.

Without state intervention, construction to build the 55 megawatt “peaker” — a power plant designed to operate during peak demand for electricity — could start in the next few weeks, making it the latest skirmish in an escalating war over the future of the region’s power grid.

Proponents of the controversial project say it’s needed to promote the grid’s reliability and to control potentially costly fluctuations in energy prices, even though its fuel — oil and gas — has become more expensive than wind, solar, and other renewable energy. Over the long term, they say, it should provide significant savings to ratepayers in Peabody and the other communities that have agreed to finance it.

Opponents say it would hinder the state’s ability to comply with the sweeping new climate law, which requires Massachusetts to reduce its carbon emissions 50 percent below 1990 levels by the end of the decade and effectively eliminate them by 2050. They add that its 90-foot smokestack would also spread harmful particulate matter in surrounding vulnerable, lower-income communities, exacerbating asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

Opponents of the project say it’s ludicrous for the state to sanction a new fossil fuel plant, noting that construction would start less than a year after Governor Charlie Baker signed the state’s landmark climate law and just a few weeks after world leaders gathered for a global climate summit in Glasgow and vowed to reduce their emissions sharply in the coming years.

Any new source of emissions, especially one that seeks to continue the use of fossil fuels for decades to come, is detrimental to the cause of eliminating emissions as soon as possible, they contend. Moreover, the hefty cost would be better spent on energy projects that would produce emissions-free power or on plants that use batteries to store that power for peak demand, they say.

This month, concerned residents held a rally in front of Peabody District Court, where they carried signs with messages such as: “Non-Renewable Energy is Peak Stupidity” and “Stop Polluting.”
» Read article               

» More about peakers

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

pro bono
This Land Episode 5. Pro Bono

By Rebecca Nagel, Crooked Media
September 13, 2021

The fight against the Indian Child Welfare Act is much bigger than a few custody cases, or even the entire adoption industry. We follow the money, and our investigation leads us to a powerful group of corporate lawyers and one of the biggest law firms in the country.

[Blog editor’s note: This podcast discusses, among others, the case Brackeen v. Haaland, a case of concern that may soon be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, with potential to undermine native sovereignty and expose Indigenous lands to further exploitation by the oil and gas industry.]

From transcript: Matthew McGill, the lawyer representing the Brackeens in that big federal lawsuit, has used the same arguments in casino cases that he’s now using in ICWA cases, specifically that state’s rights argument we talked about earlier in the season. He’s used it to stop a tribal casino from opening in Arizona, and Gibson Dunn, where Matthew McGill works, represents two of the top three casino and gaming companies in the world. Gibson Dunn also specializes in the other industry that comes up against tribes a lot: oil. You’ve probably heard about the fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline because the resistance camp at Standing Rock made national headlines. Gibson Dunn represented the pipeline company. What happened at Standing Rock worried the oil industry. One study estimated indigenous resistance cost the Dakota Access Pipeline $7.5 billion. It also inspired movements against other pipelines. Industry leaders, including lobbying groups that represent Gibson Dunn clients, have talked openly about why these indigenous-led protests need to be stopped. Seven months after the resistance camp in North Dakota was shut down, Gibson Dunn filed the Brackeen’s case in federal court.
» Listen to podcast (35 min.)                                   

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

Marathon refiinery - Detroit
Right-Wing Group Uses ‘B.S.’ Environmental Justice Argument in Effort to Keep an Oil Pipeline Alive
A D.C.-based think tank with ties to fossil fuel money claims that shutting down the aging Line 5 pipeline would hurt Black communities in Michigan. Community activists say otherwise.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
November 23, 2021

A right-wing group that has a history of receiving funding from conservative foundations and ExxonMobil is trying to frame the state of Michigan’s attempts to shut down the aging Line 5 oil pipeline as an assault on the Black community.

That industry-backed spin has not gone down well with Michigan activists. “I think that’s B.S. I think it’s phoney baloney,” Theresa Landrum, a community activist in Detroit, told DeSmog. “The Black community is not benefiting. We have been suffering all along.”

Polluting industries are often located near Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities, impacting the health of communities suffering from long standing problems of disenfranchisement and disinvestment. At the same time, these communities are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis, hit hard by extreme heat, floods, and the breakdown of critical infrastructure. And Michigan is no exception, from Flint’s lead pipe crisis, to the urban neighborhoods of Detroit where people breathe toxic air on a daily basis.

Accelerating the shift away from fossil fuels addresses multiple problems at once by cutting carbon emissions while also reducing environmental and public health threats.

But the Washington D.C.-based Project 21 is trying to paint the continued-operation of a major oil pipeline as a crucial lifeline to the Black community in Michigan. In a November press release, the group warns against interrupting the flow of “life-sustaining fossil fuels.”
» Read article                    

» More about pipelines

DIVESTMENT

financial time bomb
‘$22-Trillion Time Bomb’ Ahead Unless Banks Drop High-Carbon Investments, Moody’s Warns
By The Energy Mix
November 28, 2021

Financial institutions are facing a US$22-trillion time bomb due to their investments in carbon-intensive industries, Bloomberg News reports, citing a study last week by Moody’s Investment Services.

“Unless these firms make a swift shift to climate-friendly financing, they risk reporting losses,” Bloomberg writes. And “it’s not just the moral imperative—that fossil fuel use is destroying the atmosphere and life on Earth with it. It’s that their financial health requires leaving such companies behind.”

The $22-trillion calculation is based on the 20% of financial institutions’ investments that Moody sees as risky, the news agency explains. The total includes $13.8 trillion for banks, $6.6 trillion for asset managers, and $1.8 trillion for insurance companies.

Moody’s is urging institutions to shift their business models “toward lending and investing in new and developing green infrastructure projects, while supporting corporates in carbon-intensive sectors that are pivoting to low-carbon business models.”

Bloomberg connects the Moody’s report with an assessment just two days earlier, in which the European Central Bank said most of the 112 institutions it oversees have no concrete plans to shift their business strategies to take the climate emergency into account. Only about half of the institutions are “contemplating setting exclusion targets for some segments of the market,” ECB executive board member Frank Elderson wrote in a November 22 blog post, and “only a handful of them mention actively planning to steer their portfolios on a Paris-compatible trajectory.”
» Read article                    

» More about divestment

LEGISLATION

right to breathe
New York’s Right to ‘a Healthful Environment’ Could Be Bad News for Fossil Fuel Interests
Coupled with the state’s landmark climate law, the provision is a “blinking red light” for new gas pipelines and other oil and gas projects.
By Kristoffer Tigue, Inside Climate News
November 23, 2021

When New York regulators denied a key permit to the controversial Williams Pipeline in early 2020, in part because it conflicted with the state’s climate law, environmental policy experts called it a potential turning point.

No longer could developers pitch major fossil fuel projects in the state without expecting serious regulatory scrutiny or legal challenges, climate campaigners said, touting the decision as a victory for the state’s clean energy aspirations.

That forecast was reinforced in October. State regulators denied permits for two proposed natural gas power plants, again citing the landmark climate law, which requires New York to transition its power sector to net-zero emissions by 2040 and to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Then, on election day, New York voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that granted all residents the right “to clean air and water and a healthful environment.” That amendment, which passed with nearly 70 percent of the vote, could strengthen lawsuits against polluters and further discourage developers from proposing fossil fuel projects in the state in the future, some energy experts have said.

The state’s climate law, paired with the new constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment, could set the stage for citizens to sue the government or other entities more easily for things like polluting a river or hindering the state’s legally binding clean energy targets, said Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.

Not only does the combustion of fossil fuels drive global warming but it emits harmful chemicals and particles into the air that have been proven to contribute to significant health risks and premature death. One recent study found that the soot commonly released by the burning of fossil fuels is responsible for more than 50,000 premature deaths in the United States every year.

“It certainly sends the message that (new) large, fossil fuel facilities are going to have major problems” in New York, Gerrard said. “I wouldn’t call those decisions a death knell, but they’re certainly a blinking red light.”
» Read article                    

» More about legislation

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Robert BlakeMeet the unstoppable entrepreneur bringing solar, EVs and jobs to his Native community and beyond
Solar Bear owner Robert Blake on his booming business, extensive nonprofit work and the $6.6M DOE grant he just landed.
By Maria Virginia Olano, Canary Media
November 29, 2021

Robert Blake is a solar entrepreneur, a social impact innovator and Native activist — and his work weaves all three strands together.

Blake is the founder of Solar Bear, a full-service solar installation company, and Native Sun Community Power Development, a Native-led nonprofit that promotes renewable energy, energy efficiency and a just energy transition through education, demonstration and workforce training. Both organizations have a mission of advancing economic opportunity and environmental justice through renewable energy.

Blake is also building an EV charging network and a solar farm to power it in the Red Lake Indian Reservation in northwestern Minnesota. He hopes his work can be a model for other tribal nations to follow in pursuing energy independence and powering the clean energy transition.

We caught up with Blake to discuss his work and his motivations. The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
» Blog editor’s note: Click on the link below and read the conversation with Mr. Blake – he’s inspiring, positive, practical, and visionary.
» Read article                    

cobalt mine near Kolwezi
How the U.S. Lost Ground to China in the Contest for Clean Energy
Americans failed to safeguard decades of diplomatic and financial investments in Congo, where the world’s largest supply of cobalt is controlled by Chinese companies backed by Beijing.
By Eric Lipton and Dionne Searcey, New York Times
Photographs by Ashley Gilbertson
November 21, 2021

WASHINGTON — Tom Perriello saw it coming but could do nothing to stop it. André Kapanga too. Despite urgent emails, phone calls and personal pleas, they watched helplessly as a company backed by the Chinese government took ownership from the Americans of one of the world’s largest cobalt mines.

It was 2016, and a deal had been struck by the Arizona-based mining giant Freeport-McMoRan to sell the site, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which now figures prominently in China’s grip on the global cobalt supply. The metal has been among several essential raw materials needed for the production of electric car batteries — and is now critical to retiring the combustion engine and weaning the world off climate-changing fossil fuels.

Mr. Perriello, a top U.S. diplomat in Africa at the time, sounded alarms in the State Department. Mr. Kapanga, then the mine’s Congolese general manager, all but begged the American ambassador in Congo to intercede.

“This is a mistake,” Mr. Kapanga recalled warning him, suggesting the Americans were squandering generations of relationship building in Congo, the source of more than two-thirds of the world’s cobalt.

Presidents starting with Dwight D. Eisenhower had sent hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, including transport planes and other military equipment, to the mineral-rich nation. Richard Nixon intervened, as did the State Department under Hillary Clinton, to sustain the relationship. And Freeport-McMoRan had invested billions of its own — before it sold the mine to a Chinese company.

Not only did the Chinese purchase of the mine, known as Tenke Fungurume, go through uninterrupted during the final months of the Obama administration, but four years later, during the twilight of the Trump presidency, so did the purchase of an even more impressive cobalt reserve that Freeport-McMoRan put on the market. The buyer was the same company, China Molybdenum.

China’s pursuit of Congo’s cobalt wealth is part of a disciplined playbook that has given it an enormous head start over the United States in the race to dominate the electrification of the auto industry, long a key driver of the global economy.
» Read article                      

» More about greening the economy                 

CLIMATE

right-wing arguments
Climate change deniers are over attacking the science. Now they attack the solutions.
A new study charts the evolution of right-wing arguments.
By Kate Yoder, Grist
November 18, 2021

Believe it or not, it’s nearly 2022 and some people still think we shouldn’t do anything about the climate crisis. Even though most Americans understand that carbon emissions are overheating the planet and want to take action to stop it, attacks on clean energy and policies to limit carbon emissions are on the rise.

In a study out this week in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, researchers found that outright denying the science is going out of fashion. Today, only about 10 percent of arguments from conservative think tanks in North America challenge the scientific consensus around global warming or question models and data. (For the record, 99.9 percent of scientists agree that human activity is heating up the planet.) Instead, the most common arguments are that scientists and climate advocates simply can’t be trusted, and that proposed solutions won’t work.

That came as a surprise to the researchers. Scientists get called “alarmists,” despite a history of underestimating the effects of an overheating planet. Politicians and the media are portrayed as biased, while environmentalists are painted as part of a “hysterical” climate “cult.”

“It kind of dismayed me, because I spent my career debunking the first three categories — ‘it’s not real, it’s not us, it’s not bad’ — and those were the lowest categories of misinformation,” said John Cook, a co-author of the study and a research fellow at the Climate Change Communication Research Hub at Monash University in Australia. “Instead, what they were doing was trying to undermine trust in climate science and attack the actual climate movement. And there’s not much research into how to counter that or understand it.”
» Read article                      
» Read the study

Earthshine
“Earthshine” from the Moon shows our planet is dimming, intensifying global warming
By Zack Savitsky, Mongabay
November 18, 2021

For 20 years, researchers stared at the dark side of the moon to measure its faint but visible “earthshine,” a glow created by sunlight reflecting off Earth and onto the lunar surface. Their new analysis, published recently in Geophysical Research Letters, revealed that this ghostly light has darkened slightly, confirming satellite measurements that our planet is getting dimmer.

As the planet reflects less light, the incoming heat gets absorbed by the seas and skies. This lingering warmth probably intensifies the rate of global warming, scientists believe.

Typically, about 30 percent of the light streaming from the sun gets redirected by Earth back to space, mostly from bright white clouds. But that percentage can vary over time. In 1998, a team from the Big Bear Solar Observatory in southern California set out to track Earth’s reflectivity, or albedo, by monitoring earthshine during the days each month the telescope could see the moon’s dark side.

“It is just so naturally appealing,” said lead author Philip Goode, a physicist at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, which operates the observatory. “We’re using the moon as a mirror for the Earth.” The study ran for a full solar cycle—about 20 years—to account for variations in the sun’s activity.

Three years after Goode started Project Earthshine, NASA also began to measure Earth’s albedo with a string of satellites called Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System, or CERES. Data from both projects has matched up neatly. Since the year 2000, the planet has reflected less energy back into space: about one-half a watt per square meter. That’s similar to the dimming effect from turning off one lightbulb on a panel of 200.

When these experiments began two decades ago, many scientists expected that water in warmer seas would evaporate more quickly and create thicker clouds—thus reflecting more sunlight back into space. But the satellite and earthshine results show just the opposite: “Somehow, the warm ocean burned a hole in the clouds and let in more sunlight,” Goode told Mongabay.
» Read article                      
» Read the analysis

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

solar glare
Renewables see record growth in 2021, but supply chain problems loom
High commodity and shipping prices could jeopardize future wind and solar farms
By Justine Calma, The Verge
December 1, 2021

2021 is on course to break a global record for renewable energy growth, according to the International Energy Agency’s latest Renewables Market Report. That’s despite skyrocketing commodity prices, which could bog down the transition to clean energy in the future.

With 290 GW in additional capacity expected to be commissioned by the end of the year, 2021 will smash the record for renewable electricity growth that was just set last year. This year’s additions even outpace a forecast that the International Energy Agency (IEA) made in the spring.

“Exceptionally high growth” would be the “new normal” for renewable sources of electricity, the IEA said at the time. Solar energy, in particular, was on track to take the crown as the “new king of electricity,” the IEA said in its October 2020 World Energy Outlook report.

Still, there are some dark clouds in the IEA’s new forecast for renewables. Soaring prices for commodities, shipping, and energy all threaten the previously rosy outlook for renewable energy. The cost of polysilicon used to make solar panels has more than quadrupled since the start of 2020, according to the IEA. Investment costs for utility-scale onshore wind and solar farms have risen 25 percent compared to 2019. That could delay the completion of new renewable energy projects that have already been contracted.

More than half of the new utility-scale solar projects already planned for 2022 could face delays or cancellation because of larger price tags for materials and shipping, according to a separate analysis by Rystad Energy.

If commodity prices stay high over the next year, it could erase three to five years of gains solar and wind have made, respectively, when it comes to affordability. A dramatic price drop for photovoltaic modules over the past few decades has fueled solar’s success. Costs fell from $30 per watt in 1980 to $0.20 per watt for solar energy in 2020. By last year, solar was already the cheapest source of electricity in most parts of the world.
» Read article                     

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

blowing cellulose
Massachusetts’ new efficiency plan puts a priority on underserved communities

The state’s latest three-year energy efficiency plan would include new provisions to increase outreach and expand program eligibility for lower-income households and residents of color.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
November 29, 2021

Massachusetts’ new three-year energy efficiency plan would substantially increase efforts to lower energy costs and improve health and comfort for lower-income households and residents of color.

The $668 million plan awaiting approval from the state Department of Public Utilities lays out strategies the state’s ratepayer-funded energy efficiency program intends to implement from 2022 to 2024. They include provisions to increase outreach and expand eligibility in underserved communities — and pay utilities for providing more services in these neighborhoods.

“They’re saying, ‘Let’s figure out how to make sure that everyone paying into the program is able to access and benefit from the program,’” said Eugenia Gibbons, Massachusetts director of climate policy for Health Care Without Harm. “The plan is a good step forward.”

For more than a decade, Massachusetts’ energy efficiency programs have been hailed as some of the most progressive and effective in the country. The centerpiece of the state’s efforts is Mass Save, a collaborative of electric and gas utilities that provides no-cost energy audits, rebates on efficient appliances, discounts on weatherization, and other energy efficiency services, funded by a small fee on consumers’ utility bills.

Mass Save’s programming is guided by three-year energy efficiency plans, a system put in place by the state’s 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act.
» Read article                      

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

Hydrostor Ontario plant
Inside Clean Energy: Here’s How Compressed Air Can Provide Long-Duration Energy Storage
A Canadian company wants to use compressed air to store energy in California.
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
December 2, 2021

A grid that runs mostly on wind and solar, part of the future that clean energy advocates are working toward, will need lots of long-duration energy storage to get through the dark of night and cloudy or windless days.

Hydrostor, a Canadian company, has filed applications in the last week with California regulators to build two plants to meet some of that need using “compressed air energy storage.” The plants would pump compressed air into underground caverns and later release the air to turn a turbine and produce electricity.

The stored energy would be able to generate hundreds of megawatts of electric power for up to eight hours at a time, with no fossil fuels and no greenhouse gas emissions. Long-duration storage includes systems that can discharge electricity for eight hours or more, as opposed to lithium-ion battery storage, which typically runs for up to four hours.

This project and technology have potentially huge implications for the push to develop long-duration energy storage. But the key word is “potentially,” because there are many companies and technologies vying for a foothold in this rapidly growing part of the energy economy, and the results so far have been little more than research findings and hype.

“Their technology is not overly complicated,” said Mike Gravely, a manager of energy systems research for the California Energy Commission, speaking in general about CAES. “Compressed air is a very simple concept.”

The main challenge, as with so many clean energy technologies, is to get the costs low enough to justify building many of the plants.

Hydrostor, founded in 2010 and based in Toronto, has completed two small plants in the Toronto area, including a 1.75-megawatt storage plant that can run for about six hours at a time.
» Read article                      

» More about energy storage

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLES

Calpine Fore River Energy
Board rejects permit for lithium battery storage
By Ed Baker, The Patriot Ledger
November 23, 2021

Calpine Fore River Energy’s request for a special permit to construct a lithium-ion battery renewable energy storage system at its facility on Bridge Street was rejected by the Board of Zoning Appeals, Nov. 17.

Board member Jonathan Moriarty said the location for a lithium-ion renewable energy storage system, “was not appropriate” because of its proximity to residences.

“The neighborhood is in an area that has the potential to be impacted by a fire or if an explosion occurred,” he said after a public hearing.

Calpine plant engineer Charles Parnell said a risk assessment by Lummis Consulting Services determined a lithium storage system would not pose serious public safety risks.

“We are now at another energy crossroad, where steps need to be taken to reduce carbon emissions by establishing renewable energy and storage,” he said during the hearing.

Parnell said the use of lithium batteries is growing as more communities seek renewable energy sources.

“In Massachusetts, three or four fossil fuel power plants shut down last year,” he said.

Several residents and town officials voiced concerns about noise pollution and hazards posed by a potential fire or explosion at the site.

Blueberry Street resident Alice Arena said many people are not opposed to the idea of a lithium-ion battery storage system.

“We are looking at its placement,” said Arena, the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station leader.

Arena said iron flow batteries would be safer to use than lithium-ion batteries.

“They are cheaper and store more energy,” she said. “They last longer.”
» Read article                      

irreconcilable conflict
Irreconcilable conflict? Lessons from the Central Maine Power transmission corridor debacle
By Rebecca Schultz, Utility Dive | Opinion
November 30, 2021

On Nov. 2, nearly 60% of Maine voters supported a referendum to halt construction on the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), a 145-mile high-voltage transmission corridor through the state. Since then, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection suspended the project’s permit pending developments in NECEC’s legal challenges to the referendum and the decision by the Maine Superior Court last August that deemed a critical public lands lease illegal.

The growing possibility that the NECEC will be terminated has raised concerns by some that there is an irreconcilable conflict between environmental conservation and the infrastructure build-out needed to transition to a low-carbon grid.

But this is not the lesson we should take from the Central Maine Power (CMP) corridor debacle. The lesson is that we need to build public support for well-designed projects through strategic, long-term transmission and distribution planning.

The project, being developed by CMP and Hydro-Quebec, would deliver existing hydroelectricity from Canada to Massachusetts to help meet that state’s renewable energy requirements, while fragmenting the largest contiguous temperate forest in North America with 53 miles of new construction.

The fight over the project has been fierce, with large energy companies and environmental advocates on both sides, and a record $91 million spent on the ballot measure campaign.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) is among those environmental groups that are both deeply committed to fighting climate change and stand in opposition to this project.

NRCM would enthusiastically back transmission projects were they well-sited and shown to deliver significant new climate benefits. For example, NRCM supports an effort to build a transmission line to connect new renewable projects in Northern Maine to the New England grid. This is a project that Maine lawmakers unanimously voted to support, the climate benefits of which are indisputable. But the climate benefits of the CMP corridor project are highly speculative, and it is certainly not designed to yield all the climate benefits that it might.
» Rebecca Schultz is senior advocate for climate and clean energy at the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
» Read article                      

» More about siting impacts of renewables

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

TCI crossroads
With regional transportation pact stalled, what’s next for Massachusetts’ climate strategy?

Massachusetts, a chief proponent and logistical leader throughout the development of the Transportation and Climate Initiative, expected the multistate agreement to be a major part of its plan to reduce emissions. Support soon crumbled — so what now?
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
December 2, 2021

In the wake of Massachusetts’ decision to withdraw from a regional plan to curb transportation emissions, environmental and transit advocates see a chance to create policies and programs that could be even more equitable and effective at fighting climate change.

“Now there’s a real opportunity to really invest in infrastructure, invest in public transit, and enforce emissions reductions,” said Maria Belen Power, associate executive director of environmental justice organization GreenRoots.

The expected influx of federal infrastructure funds and bills already pending in the state legislature, advocates said, could help Massachusetts make significant advances in its plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation in a manner that benefits populations traditionally marginalized in conversations about environmental progress.

As Massachusetts pursues its ambitious goal of going carbon-neutral by 2050, controlling transportation emissions — currently about 40% of the statewide total — is going to be essential. The regional transportation plan was expected to be a major part of the strategy.
» Read article                      

EV charging graphic
‘A long way to go’: How ConEd, Xcel and 4 other utilities are helping cities meet big EV goals
From New York City to Los Angeles, cities and utilities face cost, land and grid challenges in their efforts to electrify transportation systems.
By Robert Walton , Emma Penrod , Jason Plautz , and Scott Van Voorhis, Utility Dive
November 30, 2021

Electric vehicles (EVs) could finish 2021 as 5% of new car sales in the U.S., according to market observers, and are expected to make up a growing share in the years to come. Driven by city and state electrification goals, and now supported by federal infrastructure dollars, the years ahead will be a critical time for utilities working to drive beneficial electrification.

To get an idea of the challenges American cities will face with the rising numbers of EVs, Utility Dive is taking an in-depth look at how electric utilities in six cities are helping boost electric transportation adoption, through charging infrastructure and helping to support vehicle uptake.

Experts say EV adoption is poised to surge in the United States, potentially fueled by federal purchase credits now being debated on Capitol Hill. The proposal included in the Build Back Better legislation would knock up to $12,500  off the sticker price of a new electric car or truck, depending on where and how it is produced. Used EV buyers could get up to $4,000 back.

If lawmakers pass those credits, “you’ll see an immediate leap forward in demand for EVs,” Joel Levin, executive director of Plug in America, said.

President Joe Biden wants half of all new passenger vehicle sales in the United States to be EVs by 2030. That’s achievable, transportation experts say, but will require development of new supply chains, along with public charging infrastructure to support an equitable transition.

Are cities ready for the transition? Not yet, say experts. But some are heading that way, while others will face difficulties.
» Read article                      

» More about clean transportation

DEEP-SEABED MINING

close quarters
If marine noise pollution is bad, deep-sea mining could add to the cacophony
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts, Mongabay
November 24, 2021

While evidence is mounting that anthropogenic noise adversely affects ocean life, regulatory measures aimed at curtailing noise pollution are generally lacking. This is certainly true in the context of deep-sea mining, a controversial activity that, if allowed to proceed, would entail corporations extracting metals like copper, cobalt, nickel and manganese from the seabed — and creating a lot of noise in the process.

Cyrill Martin, an ocean policy expert at the Swiss NGO OceanCare, said that noise pollution is currently a “wallflower issue” in the larger matter of deep-sea mining, and that more research urgently needs to be done to fill in knowledge gaps. Until more is known, he said, deep-sea mining needs to be approached with a “precautionary principle.”

“The main data we have from deep-sea mining activities stems from laboratory conditions,” Martin told Mongabay in a video interview. “So there’s a lot of data missing. Nevertheless, we do have some data that we can extrapolate from related industries.”

In a new report, “Deep-Sea Mining: A noisy affair,” released on Nov. 22 by OceanCare, Martin and colleagues draw on past studies, expert interviews and stakeholder surveys to provide an overview of the different types of noise pollution that deep-sea mining would produce — and the potential impacts of this noise. Toward the surface, noise would come from boat propellers and onboard machinery, as well as sonar and seismic airguns used to help explore the seafloor for minerals. The midwater column would be filled with the sounds of riser systems moving sediment from the seafloor to the surface, as well as the motors of robots used to monitor these activities. On the seabed itself, acoustic monitoring tools would generate additional sound. Some kinds of seabed mining would also involve drilling, dredging and scraping along the seafloor. Many of these sounds would create noise as well as vibrations that could affect marine life, according to the report.

The report suggests that deep-sea mining activities could impact species present from the surface to the seabed, with deep-sea species being particularly vulnerable since they use natural sound to perform functions like detect food, and are not accustomed to anthropogenic noise at a close range. Many deep-sea species are also sessile, which means they wouldn’t be able to evade the noise created by deep-sea mining activities, the report says. Even migratory species like whales, dolphins and turtles could be impacted, even while briefly passing through a mining area to feed or breed, according to the report.
» Read article                      
» Read the report

» More about deep-seabed mining

CARBON CAPTURE AND SEQUESTRATION

SaskPower CCS
Cheap Wind and Solar Should Prompt ‘Rethink’ on Role of CCS, Paper Argues
Oil and gas companies should be asking themselves whether they are investing in “the right kind of CCS”, its lead author said.
By Phoebe Cooke, DeSmog Blog
November 19, 2021

The falling cost of wind and solar power significantly reduces the need for carbon capture and storage technology to tackle climate change, a new paper has argued.

CCS, which removes emissions from the atmosphere and stores them underground, has long been presented as critical to restricting global heating to 1.5C by the end of the century.

But a paper published today by Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute finds that rapidly-falling costs in wind and solar energy could “erode” the value of CCS by up to 96 percent.

The authors suggest that targeted, rather than blanket, deployment of CCS is the best strategy for achieving the Paris Agreement goals.

Neil Grant, a PhD candidate at Imperial College who led the research, said the past decade had “seriously changed the game for CCS”.

“While CCS deployment has stagnated, renewables have surged and their costs have plummeted – and so the picture today is very different to what it was in 2010,” he told DeSmog. “Cheap, abundant renewable energy reduces the value of CCS in all areas.”

“Now that renewable electricity is so cheap, this should cause us to seriously rethink the role of CCS.”

The authors used Integrated Assessment Modelling (IAM) to explore 1.75C and 2C warming scenarios, restricting the biomass potential in the pathways to “try and limit unsustainable biomass consumption”.

They found that the rate of electrification accelerated faster in the absence of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), with a faster phase-out of unabated fossil fuels in the power sector.

“Wind and solar play a central role in electrifying end-use sectors and accelerating the phaseout of fossil fuels in the power sector if BECCS is unavailable, with deployment accelerating to provide the necessary clean electricity supply,” the authors note.

The technology has long been touted as an effective means of reducing emissions globally. A special report on CCS by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018 notes that applying CCS to bioenergy could deliver “negative emissions”, while also highlighting uncertainties around cost and feasibility of the technology.

The Imperial College paper found that the biggest losers to cheap renewables were CCS applied to fossil fuels – used to generate electricity, make hydrogen and to burn in heavy industry such as blast furnaces for steel production.

Grant and co-authors argue that CCS should not be abandoned altogether, but that priority areas for CCS deployment should be to help remove CO2 from the atmosphere, and for capturing CO2 in industry, rather than that applied to fossil fuels.
» Read article                      
» Obtain the paper

» More about CCS

GAS UTILITIES

terminated projects
IEEFA U.S.: Gas-fired power plant cancellations and delays signal investor anxiety, changing economics
Financial concerns are likely to affect other PJM gas projects still in the planning phase
By Dennis Wamsted, IEEFA.org
November 18, 2021

A recent decision to cancel the 1,000-megawatt Beech Hollow combined gas plant in Pennsylvania is the latest warning for investors considering funding new gas-fired power plants in the PJM Interconnection (PJM) region. According to a briefing note by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), the reason is clear: The economics have changed, prompting three project cancellations this year and calling into question the future of 14 others.

“Low gas prices and high-capacity payments that helped drive a near-doubling of installed combined cycle gas capacity in the last decade have gone away,” said Dennis Wamsted, IEEFA energy analyst and the briefing note’s lead author.

Investors are facing myriad challenges, including:

  • Significant uncertainty about future capacity prices, particularly in light of the sharp drop in the region’s latest power auction.
  • A decade-long downward trend in power prices.
  • Flat regional demand growth.
  • Major projected increases in battery storage and renewable energy generation, including thousands of megawatts from offshore wind capacity.
  • Financial market concerns about climate change and the likelihood of required fossil fuel plant closures by 2050.

IEEFA has identified 17 projects that remain undeveloped, three of which have officially been cancelled this year. More are likely to follow.
» Read article                      
» Read the analysis

» More about gas utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Fort McMurray tar sandsCanada’s Tar Sands: Destruction So Vast and Deep It Challenges the Existence of Land and People
Oil companies have replaced Indigenous people’s traditional lands with mines that cover an area bigger than New York City, stripping away boreal forest and wetlands and rerouting waterways.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News
November 21, 2021

Oil and gas companies like ExxonMobil and the Canadian giant Suncor have transformed Alberta’s tar sands—also called oil sands—into one of the world’s largest industrial developments. They have built sprawling waste ponds that leach heavy metals into groundwater, and processing plants that spew nitrogen and sulfur oxides into the air, sending a sour stench for miles.

The sands pump out more than 3 million barrels of oil per day, helping make Canada the world’s fourth-largest oil producer and the top exporter of crude to the United States. Their economic benefits are significant: Oil is the nation’s top export, and the mining and energy sector as a whole accounts for nearly a quarter of Alberta’s provincial economy. But the companies’ energy-hungry extraction has also made the oil and gas sector Canada’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. And despite the extreme environmental costs, and the growing need for countries to shift away from fossil fuels, the mines continue to expand, digging up nearly 500 Olympic swimming pools-worth of earth every day.

COP26, the global climate conference in Glasgow earlier this month, highlighted the persistent gap between what countries say they will do to cut emissions and what is actually needed to avoid dangerous warming.

Scientists say oil production must begin falling immediately. Canada’s tar sands are among the most climate-polluting sources of oil, and so are an obvious place to begin winding down. The largest oil sands companies have pledged to reduce their emissions, saying they will rely largely on government-subsidized carbon capture projects.

Yet oil companies and the government expect output will climb well into the 2030s. Even a new proposal by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to cap emissions in the oil sector does not include any plan to lower production.
» Read article                      

» More about fossil fuels

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

Energy Progress
Gibbstown Ends, Not with a Bang but with a Whimper?
By Kimberly Ong, NRDC | Expert Blog
November 30, 2021

The future of the Gibbstown liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal is looking bleaker by the day. The project hit two obstacles in the past 4 weeks, and advocates, including NRDC, are wondering whether the construction of this planet-warming, water-polluting, community-endangering fossil fuel project may be dying a slow death.

If built, the Gibbstown LNG terminal would move hazardous liquefied fracked gas from an LNG terminal in Wyalusing Township, Pennsylvania, by truck and rail over 200 miles to an LNG terminal in Gibbstown, New Jersey. The gas would then be sent down the Delaware River on massive shipping vessels for sale overseas.

LNG is primarily composed of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year horizon. As U.S. climate envoy John Kerry has noted, cutting methane emissions is “the single fastest strategy that we have to keep a safer, 1.5-degree Centigrade future within reach.” If LNG exports increase as projected, the LNG industry by itself will generate enough greenhouse gas emissions to extinguish all progress we’ve made to lower emissions during the past decade.

LNG is also extraordinarily dangerous to transport by truck and rail. LNG is highly flammable and explosive—consequently, transporting LNG can expose fence-line communities to uncontrollable fires and devastating explosions.

Under the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation provided New Fortress Energy and its subsidiaries with both the rule and a special permit. But under new leadership, the Department of Transportation has taken a different position on this deadly activity.  Earlier this month, it proposed suspending the Trump-era LNG-by-rail rule, citing uncertainties related to its safe transportation and its potential to accelerate the climate crisis.

And according to Delaware Riverkeeper Network, New Fortress Energy has not applied to renew its special permit, which is set to expire today, November 30.  Without either an LNG-by rail-rule or a special permit, there’s no clear way for New Fortress Energy to ship the LNG by rail.

Without the possibility of shipping LNG by rail, Gibbstown would have to ship all of its LNG by truck—requiring more than 8,000 truck trips per day, running through communities throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

So without a way to ship LNG by rail to the facility, is the Gibbstown LNG terminal dead?

Ask the Department of Transportation to stop not just this project, but any future projects like this one from going forward by restoring its ban on the transportation of LNG by rail.
» Read article                      

Jordan Cove LNG cancelled
Jordan Cove project dies. What it means for FERC, gas
By Niina H. Farah, Miranda Willson, Carlos Anchondo, E&E News
December 2, 2021

The developer of an Oregon liquefied natural gas export terminal told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the first time yesterday it would not move forward with the embattled project, putting to rest years of uncertainty for landowners.

Citing challenges in obtaining necessary permits from state agencies as the reason for abandoning the Jordan Cove project, Pembina Pipeline Corp. asked FERC to cancel authorizations for the LNG terminal and associated Pacific Connector pipeline, which would have carried natural gas from Canada to the proposed facility in Coos Bay, Ore.

“Among other considerations, Applicants remain concerned regarding their ability to obtain the necessary state permits in the immediate future in addition to other external obstacles,” Pembina said in its brief to FERC.

The announcement adds to a debate about the role of natural gas at a time of high prices and as industry groups are pressuring the Biden administration to clarify exactly how LNG exports fit into its broader climate agenda. It also may influence FERC’s ongoing review of how it approves gas projects.

Pembina’s move is a win for landowners who have been steadfastly opposing the project for years, said David Bookbinder, chief counsel for the Niskanen Center and attorney for some of the landowners affected by the pipeline. The Niskanen Center and others submitted a brief of their own yesterday, urging FERC to grant Pembina’s request to ax the certificate.

“I can say the landowners are utterly delighted that this chapter of their 15-year nightmare is over and hopefully that will truly be the end of Pembina’s hopes to build this project,” he said.

The company had put the export project on an indefinite hold in April after failing to get key state and federal approvals.
» Read article                      

» More about LNG                

BIOMASS

doubling Drax
Drax is expected to profit from UK energy crisis until 2023
Company’s shares hit seven-year high after revealing plans to invest £3bn despite questions over biomass
By Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian
December 1, 2021

The owner of the Drax power station is expected to profit from Britain’s energy crisis until 2023 and will plough billions into doubling its production of wood pellets for burning by 2030 despite mounting opposition from environmentalists.

The FTSE 250 energy company’s shares hit seven-year highs on Wednesday after it told investors it aimed to invest £3bn by 2030. Part of that investment would be directed towards doubling production and sales of biomass pellets, which Drax uses at its North Yorkshire power plant as an alternative to burning coal.

Its claims that electricity produced in this way is “carbon neutral” is disputed, with green groups saying burning biomass produces emissions that contribute to the climate crisis.

Drax will fund the expansion plans using its own cash as it prepares to profit from record high energy market prices in its long-term contracts over the next two years.

Drax will also be able to hike up the price of the electricity it generates for long-term contracts for 2022 and 2023. In addition, the company will continue to benefit from subsidies worth hundreds of millions of pounds to generate biomass electricity through the government’s renewable energy scheme.

Questions about the method have also been raised within financial circles. The financial services firm Jefferies told its clients in October that bioenergy was “unlikely to make a positive contribution” towards tackling the climate crisis and was “not carbon neutral, in almost all instances”.
» Read article                      

» More about biomass

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

floating debris
A Commonsense Proposal to Deal With Plastics Pollution: Stop Making So Much Plastic
A report from leading scientists found that the U.S. is the world’s leading generator of plastic waste, at 287 pounds per capita. It’s clogging the oceans, and poisoning plankton and whales.
By James Bruggers, Inside Climate News
December 1, 2021

The United States leads the world in the generation of plastic waste and needs a comprehensive strategy by the end of next year to curb its devastating impacts on ocean health, marine wildlife and communities, a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concludes.

A committee of academic experts who wrote the report at the request of Congress described an environmental crisis that will only get worse as plastic production, nearly all from fossil fuels, continues to soar.

In fact, the first of the study’s main recommendations is to stop making so much plastic—especially plastic materials that are not reusable or practically recyclable. It suggested a national cap on virgin plastic production among other strategies, all of which the report concluded will be needed to control pollution from plastics and all of the related health and environmental issues.

“The fundamental problem here is that plastics are accumulating in the natural environment, including the ocean,” Margaret Spring, chief conservation and science officer at Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, who chaired the report committee, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

She called plastics “pervasive and persistent environmental contaminants,” creating a problem that is “going to continue unless we change—we have to change. And that’s just the truth.”

The report, made public Wednesday, is historically significant, said Judith Enck, a former Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator and president of Beyond Plastic, an environmental group.

“It is an outstanding report that every member of Congress should read and act on,” Enck said. “It’s timely. It’s transformative and it’s based on science. It will be quoted for years to come.”

A leading industry lobby group for the plastics industry, the American Chemistry Council, agreed in a statement that a national plastics strategy is necessary.
» Read article                      
» Read the report

X-Press Pearl
Nurdles: the worst toxic waste you’ve probably never heard of
Billions of these tiny plastic pellets are floating in the ocean, causing as much damage as oil spills, yet they are still not classified as hazardous
Karen McVeigh, The Guardian
November 29, 2021

When the X-Press Pearl container ship caught fire and sank in the Indian Ocean in May, Sri Lanka was terrified that the vessel’s 350 tonnes of heavy fuel oil would spill into the ocean, causing an environmental disaster for the country’s pristine coral reefs and fishing industry.

Classified by the UN as Sri Lanka’s “worst maritime disaster”, the biggest impact was not caused by the heavy fuel oil. Nor was it the hazardous chemicals on board, which included nitric acid, caustic soda and methanol. The most “significant” harm, according to the UN, came from the spillage of 87 containers full of lentil-sized plastic pellets: nurdles.

Since the disaster, nurdles have been washing up in their billions along hundreds of miles of the country’s coastline, and are expected to make landfall across Indian Ocean coastlines from Indonesia and Malaysia to Somalia. In some places they are up to 2 metres deep. They have been found in the bodies of dead dolphins and the mouths of fish. About 1,680 tonnes of nurdles were released into the ocean. It is the largest plastic spill in history, according to the UN report.

Nurdles, the colloquial term for “pre-production plastic pellets”, are the little-known building block for all our plastic products. The tiny beads can be made of polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride and other plastics. Released into the environment from plastic plants or when shipped around the world as raw material to factories, they will sink or float, depending on the density of the pellets and if they are in freshwater or saltwater.

They are often mistaken for food by seabirds, fish and other wildlife. In the environment, they fragment into nanoparticles whose hazards are more complex. They are the second-largest source of micropollutants in the ocean, by weight, after tyre dust. An astounding 230,000 tonnes of nurdles end up in oceans every year.

“The pellets themselves are a mixture of chemicals – they are fossil fuels,” says Tom Gammage, at the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an international campaign group. “But they act as toxic sponges. A lot of toxic chemicals – which in the case of Sri Lanka are already in the water – are hydrophobic [repel water], so they gather on the surface of microplastics.

“Pollutants can be a million times more concentrated on the surface of pellets than in the water,” he says. “And we know from lab studies that when a fish eats a pellet, some of those pollutants come loose.”

Yet nurdles, unlike substances such as kerosene, diesel and petrol, are not deemed hazardous under the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) dangerous goods code for safe handling and storage. This is despite the threat to the environment from plastic pellets being known about for three decades, as detailed in a 1993 report from the US government’s Environmental Protection Agency on how the plastics industry could reduce spillages.

Now environmentalists are joining forces with the Sri Lankan government in an attempt to turn the X-Press Pearl disaster into a catalyst for change.
» Read article                      
» Read the UN report
» Read the 1993 EPA report

» More about plastics in the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 11/5/21

banner 14

Welcome back.

We’ll start with the somewhat obscure Energy Charter Treaty, a post-cold-war relic intended to integrate ex-Soviet energy markets with the west. Lately, the treaty has allowed fossil fuel companies to sue countries for hundreds of millions of dollars, claiming their attempts to reduce emissions have hurt profits. While we’ve been quick to support court action that slows or stops the expansion of fossil fuel projects, this is an uncomfortable reminder that the legal blade cuts both ways.

With COP26 climate talks underway in Glasgow, we’re highlighting a new report from Climate Analytics warning that we need to cut total natural gas use by 1/3 this decade to maintain a shot at keeping global warming within the Paris agreement limits. Note that the Paris warming limits of 1.5C to 2.0C aren’t just random numbers – exceeding them triggers a cascade of really bad things. Bearing that in mind, it’s difficult to justify the Eversource push for a gas pipeline expansion in Springfield. We agree that neighborhoods served by a single aging gas line are vulnerable. But our solution would be to double down on energy efficiency and electrification – and rapidly eliminate the gas dependence. We have all the tools to do that.

Connecticut offers another cautionary tale regarding the continued build-out of gas infrastructure when it should have been trimmed back.

Checking in on another fossil fuel, the COP26 40-country agreement to phase out coal is less significant than it seems on the surface. Big coal burners like China, Australia, India, and the US didn’t sign on. And even for its limited scope, the timeline is a decade slower than science demands for a total shutdown. In another softball lobbed to industry, a US proposal to increase tax credits for carbon capture and sequestration has environmentalists concerned that its practical effect will be to extend the life of fossil fuel plants. Note that CCS is still neither economical nor effective, but it’s talked up enthusiastically by industry as the magic pixie dust justification for continuing business as usual.

A hugely important energy efficiency effort is just starting to ramp up, especially in states with ambitious emissions reduction targets. That’s a career opportunity for tens of thousands just in Massachusetts, with jobs ranging from building insulation and sealing to installing and servicing heat pumps. And those workers need to come onboard quickly.

Elsewhere on the green scene, passage of a Maine ballot initiative blocked a proposed transmission corridor meant to carry hydro power electricity from Quebec to Massachusetts. The move upsets MA emission reduction plans, and presents a case study in the siting impacts of renewable energy resources.

We’ll close with fossil fuels, an industry that realized decades ago it could either transition to clean energy or cook the planet. That its leaders chose to cook the planet is now a matter of record. What’s almost stranger is the industry’s continuing campaign to spin facts and rebrand products, as if keeping the party going a while longer might make it fun again. “Responsibly sourced” fracked gas? Please!

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

Uniper suit
Secretive court system poses threat to Paris climate deal, says whistleblower
Treaty allows energy corporations to sue governments for billions over policies that could hurt their profits
By Jennifer Rankin, The Guardian
November 3, 2021

A secretive investor court system poses a real threat to the Paris climate agreement, activists have said, as governments taking action to phase out fossil fuels face a slew of multimillion-dollar lawsuits for lost profits.

New data seen by the Guardian shows a surge in cases under the energy charter treaty (ECT), an obscure international agreement that allows energy corporations to sue governments over policies that could hurt their profits.

Coal and oil investors are already suing governments for several billions in compensation for lost profits over energy policy changes. For example, the German energy company RWE is suing the Netherlands for €1.4bn (£1.2bn) over its plans to phase out coal, while Rockhopper Exploration, based in the UK, is suing the Italian government after it banned new drilling near the coast.

“It’s a real threat [to the Paris agreement]. It’s the biggest threat I am aware of,” said Yamina Saheb, a former employee of the ECT secretariat who quit in 2018 to raise the alarm.

“The Paris agreement … means that we need to decarbonise in the current decade before 2030,” said Saheb, also a co-author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report on mitigation. She has estimated that foreign investors could sue governments for €1.3tn until 2050 in compensation for early closure of coal, oil and gas plants – a sum that exceeds what the EU hopes to spend on its green deal in the next decade.

As compensation to companies is paid by public funds, governments would have less money to pay for new technology to make buildings, transport and industry greener. Saheb argued these payments could endanger the green transition. “It’s impossible to do everything,” she said.
» Read article                  

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

alternative routes
Concern about gas pipeline proposed from Longmeadow to Springfield
By And Another Thing Team, NEPM
November 3, 2021

A proposed natural gas pipeline from Longmeadow to Springfield has some residents of both communities up in arms, but utility Eversource insists the five-mile pipeline is safe and essential to assure reliable service. What’s called the Western Massachusetts Natural Gas Reliability Project is a proposed pipeline that would take one of four routes from Longmeadow to a regulator station in Springfield.
» Listen to report              

both sides now
A Russian Pipeline Changes Direction, and Energy Politics Come to the Fore
Amid an energy crunch in Europe, one of Russia’s largest natural gas pipelines began pulling gas out of Western Europe back eastward, Russian news agencies reported.
By Andrew E. Kramer, New York Times
October 30, 2021

Natural gas, already in short supply in Europe this fall, began moving away from Germany on Saturday and back toward the east in an unusual reversal in a major Russian pipeline, Russian media reported.

In themselves, the Russian reports were no cause for alarm, and the giant Russian energy firm, Gazprom, said Saturday that it is filling all European orders. One Russian news media report even suggested the flow reversal was a short-term problem caused by balmy weather in Germany over the weekend.

But the reversal is playing out against a backdrop of a politically charged explosion in gas prices in Europe and accusations that the Kremlin is restricting gas supplies for political purposes. One such purpose is to prod the E.U. into approving a new pipeline, Nordstream 2, that would bring gas from Russia directly to Germany, bypassing Eastern Europe.

More broadly, analysts say, the Kremlin may be sending a message about renewable energy, illustrating that too quick a pivot away from natural gas will leave the Continent vulnerable to fickle wind and solar supplies.

Analysts say Russia has for weeks now been slow to supply fuel to make up for shortfalls, often by limiting deliveries to its own storage facilities. The reversal of the direction of flow on the major Yamal-Europe pipeline was seen as a potential new wrinkle.

The pipeline connects Russia to Germany and crosses Belarus and Poland. It accounts for about 20 percent of Russia’s overland supply capacity to the European Union, suggesting a significant shortfall if its operations were halted.
» Read article                  

» More about pipelines

GREENING THE ECONOMY

cheapest energyReasons to be hopeful: the climate solutions available now
We have every tool we need to tackle the climate crisis. Here’s what some key sectors are doing
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
October 31, 2021

The climate emergency is the biggest threat to civilisation we have ever faced. But there is good news: we already have every tool we need to beat it. The challenge is not identifying the solutions, but rolling them out with great speed.

Some key sectors are already racing ahead, such as electric cars. They are already cheaper to own and run in many places – and when the purchase prices equal those of fossil-fueled vehicles in the next few years, a runaway tipping point will be reached.

Electricity from renewables is now the cheapest form of power in most places, sometimes even cheaper than continuing to run existing coal plants. There’s a long way to go to meet the world’s huge energy demand, but the plummeting costs of batteries and other storage technologies bodes well.

And many big companies are realising that a failure to invest will be far more expensive as the impacts of global heating destroy economies. Even some of the biggest polluters, such as cement and steel, have seen the green writing on the wall.

Buildings are big emitters but the solution – improved energy efficiency – is simple to achieve and saves the occupants money, particularly with the cost of installing technology such as heat pumps expected to fall.

The real fuel for the green transition is a combination of those most valuable and intangible of commodities: political will and skill. The supply is being increased by demands for action from youth strikers to chief executives, and must be used to face down powerful vested interests, such as the fossil fuel, aviation and cattle industries. The race for a sustainable, low-carbon future is on, and the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow will show how much faster we need to go.
» Read article                  

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

Watford CityWorld urged to slash gas use by a third to avoid climate disaster
‘Gas is the new coal’, says Climate Analytics report that finds it the fastest growing source of carbon dioxide emissions
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
November 4, 2021

The escalating rollout of gas for heating, electricity and cooking is turning it into the “new coal” and its use worldwide must be slashed by nearly a third this decade to avoid disastrous climate effects, according to a new report.

Gas has often been referred to as a “bridge fuel” as it emits about half the carbon dioxide of coal, and many countries have embraced it while also promising to transition to renewable energy in order to cut planet-heating emissions.

But this energy source, which has become easy and cheap to access due to the advance of fracking for its extraction, is still a fossil fuel, and the new analysis finds that it is now the fastest-growing source of carbon dioxide emissions, putting the world at risk of blowing past dangerous global heating thresholds.

“Natural gas is not a bridging fuel. It is a fossil fuel,” said Bill Hare, chief executive of Climate Analytics and lead author of the new report. “Gas is the new coal. Governments, investors and the financial sector must treat it the same way as they do coal: phase it out as soon as possible.”

But growth in gas has had a significant influence over global heating, with the Climate Analytics report finding that gas was the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions increase in the past decade, rising by 42% and causing 60% of the methane emissions from fossil fuel production. Methane is a short-lived but potent greenhouse gas that is many times more powerful than CO2 at trapping heat.

If the world is to avert disastrous 1.5C of global heating the use of gas should already be in decline, according to the report, but it is projected to cause 70% of the fossil CO2 emissions increase by 2030 under current policies.

This means unabated gas use must peak this decade and then drop sharply, the analysis finds, necessitating a decrease of 30% below last year’s levels by 2030 and then a 65% decrease by 2040. Renewable energy such as solar and wind should be ramped up to take the place of gas, according to the report.
» Read article                 
» Read the report: Why gas is the new coal

Tom Goldtooth
Tom Goldtooth at COP26: Absolute Carbon Reduction “Issue of Life and Death” for Indigenous Peoples
By Democracy Now, YouTube
November 2, 2021

» Watch video                  

Brianna Fruean
Samoan Climate Activist Brianna Fruean: If Pacific Islands Drown, the Rest of the World Is Doomed
By Democracy Now, YouTube
November 2, 2021

» Watch video                     

Dipti Bhatnagar
Voices from Global South Shut Out of U.N. Climate Summit As Vaccine Apartheid Limits Travel to U.K.
Democracy Now, YouTube
November 1, 2021

» Watch video                    

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

underwhelmingMore than 40 countries agree to phase out coal-fired power
Critics say pledge to end use of dirtiest fuel source in 2030s and 40s does not go far enough
By Fiona Harvey, Jillian Ambrose and Patrick Greenfield, The Guardian
November 3, 2021

More than 40 countries have agreed to phase out their use of coal-fired power, the dirtiest fuel source, in a boost to UK hopes of a deal to “keep 1.5C alive”, from the Cop26 climate summit.

Major coal-using countries, including Canada, Poland, South Korea, Ukraine, Indonesia and Vietnam, will phase out their use of coal for electricity generation, with the bigger economies doing so in the 2030s, and smaller economies doing so in the 2040s.

However, some of the world’s biggest coal-dependent economies, including Australia, China, India and the US were missing from the deal, and experts and campaigners told the Guardian the phase-out deadlines countries signed up to were much too late.

The goal of “consigning coal to history” has been a key focus for the UK as host of the Cop26 summit, which aims to put the world on track to limit global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Expert assessments have found that for the world to stay within 1.5C, developed economies should phase out coal before 2030, rather than in the 2030s as in the deal announced on Wednesday night.

Elif Gündüzyeli, senior coal policy coordinator at the campaign group Climate Action Network Europe, said: “This is not a game-changer. A 2030 phaseout deadline should be a minimum, and this agreement doesn’t have that. Coal is already expensive [compared with renewable energy] and no one wants to put money in coal any more.”
» Read article                  

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

EE worker
Report: Massachusetts doesn’t have enough workers to meet its efficiency goals

A recent report by the clean energy nonprofit E4TheFuture says the state will need to attract some 35,000 people to energy efficiency related fields this decade if it wants to hit targets for 2030 and beyond.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
November 1, 2021

Massachusetts needs to grow its energy efficiency workforce by some 35,000 people if it is to make significant progress updating its aging homes by 2030, according to a recent report.

Massachusetts is already a leader in clean energy workforce development, advocates said, but the sector was already struggling to find qualified job candidates before the pandemic upended the labor market. More must be done if the state is to reach its goal of going carbon-neutral by 2050.

“We have to make the financial commitment,” said Pat Stanton, director of policy for E4TheFuture, the Massachusetts-based organization that developed the report. “How do we convince young people that going into the trades is a smart career path? And how do we help that whole sector grow?”

Energy efficiency is the largest employer in the energy sector nationwide, but it is particularly prominent in Massachusetts, where leading energy efficiency incentives, some of the oldest housing stock in the country, and cold winter temperatures combine to boost demand for efficiency services. In Massachusetts, efficiency jobs make up nearly 57% of the total energy workforce, well above the national average of 40%, according to the E4TheFuture report.

Still, the need for workers who can install heat pumps, operate high performance systems, conduct energy audits, and construct well-sealed building envelopes far outstrips the availability of trained workers in the state.

And demand is only likely to grow. Boston earlier this month passed new regulations calling for large buildings to be carbon-neutral by 2050, and the climate bill signed this spring will allow towns to require new buildings to have net-zero emissions. The state’s decarbonization roadmap estimates a million buildings will need heating system retrofits by 2030 to remain on pace to reach the state’s emissions-reduction goals.
» Read article                 
» Read the report

» More about energy efficiency

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY

shot down
Maine voters tell Mass. to stick its transmission line
Backers of project say referendum was unconstitutional
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
November 2, 2021

MAINE VOTERS delivered a shock to Massachusetts on Tuesday, overwhelmingly approving a ballot question that would block the Bay State’s bid to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels by building a 145-mile transmission line delivering hydro-electricity from Quebec.

The ballot fight was the most expensive in Maine history. Opponents of the ballot question heavily outspent supporters and most of the state’s political and media establishment urged a no vote. But with 77 percent of the vote counted Tuesday night, the tally was 59 percent in favor of the question, 41 percent opposed.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine called the victory a landslide. Pete Didisheim, the group’s advocacy director, urged Central Maine Power to halt construction work on the transmission line immediately.

“We also call on Massachusetts to honor this electoral outcome by selecting an alternative option for meeting its climate goals without imposing significant environmental harm on another New England state,” Didisheim said in a statement.

Central Maine Power is likely to challenge the ballot outcome in court, possibly on the grounds that the question attempts to retroactively overturn regulatory approvals on which the utility relied in moving ahead with construction of the power line.

Clean Energy Matters, a political group affiliated with Central Maine Power, issued a statement saying “we believe this referendum, funded by fossil fuel interests, is unconstitutional. With over 400 Maine jobs and our ability to meet our climate goals on the line, this fight will continue.”
» Read article                  

» More about siting impacts of renewables

CARBON CAPTURE & SEQUESTRATION

smoke and steamProposed U.S. carbon capture credit hike cheers industry, worries greens
By Richard Valdmanis, Reuters
November 1, 2021

A proposed tax credit hike for U.S. carbon capture and sequestration projects being mulled by Congress could trigger a big jump in use of the climate-fighting technology to clean up industry, but environmentalists worry the scheme will backfire by prolonging the life of dirty coal-fired power plants.

Carbon capture sequestration (CCS) is a technology that siphons planet-warming carbon dioxide from industrial facilities and stores it underground to keep it out of the atmosphere. The administration of President Joe Biden considers it an important part of its plan to decarbonize the U.S. economy by 2050.

Under the proposal, embedded in the Biden administration’s $1.75 trillion spending package, CCS projects would become eligible for an $85 credit for each metric ton of carbon dioxide captured and stored, up from the current $50-per-ton credit that the industry says is too low.

Some environmental groups expect the credit will have the unintended consequence of extending the lives of big polluters like coal-fired power plants, among the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, by giving them a new revenue stream.

Under the credit proposal, industrial facilities would be required to capture at least 50% of their carbon emissions to be eligible for the credit, with that threshold rising to 75% for power plants – thresholds green groups say are too low.

“Such a handout to the fossil industry risks putting a sharp stop to the transition plans of coal-fired utilities, causing them to pursue speculative and expensive carbon capture dreams that are likely never to be realized, to the detriment of the climate and taxpayers,” said the Sierra Club, an environmental group focused on speeding the retirement of coal plants.
» Read article                  

» More about CCS

GAS UTILITIES

stock pipeline image
Expert says natural gas program ‘has been a complete fleecing of utility ratepayers’
By Kimberly James | The Center Square contributor
October 29, 2021

A natural gas program designed to save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year has yet to materialize in Connecticut, and is instead leaving homeowners and businesses who converted to it facing an expensive winter.

Former Gov. Daniel P. Malloy’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy included a large-scale natural gas expansion, in part to bolster the economy and in part to reduce high energy prices. By 2020, 300,000 homes were to be connected to natural gas.

“At a high-level, the program assumed that the economics of converting from fuel oil to natural gas would drive a substantial number of conversions, with some additional assistance through this program,” Taren O’Connor, director of Legislation, Regulations and Communications at Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, told The Center Square. “However, the relative prices of fuel oil and natural gas through the life of this program have proven more price competitive, leading to fewer conversions than projected through the CES and at the outset of the program.”

Chris Herb, president of the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association, told The Center Square the plan was built on a faulty premise that natural gas prices would remain low for decades. “At the end of the day, DEEP was wrong when it came to the economics and on the environmental benefits of natural gas.”

With natural gas prices currently soaring, those homes and businesses that have made the switch are looking at a costly winter season.

Herb said that conservation is the only proven way to cut costs and reduce emissions.

“At Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) insistence, an important discounting mechanism was taken away from the CT Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) when they dedicated non-firm margin which was used to discount the cost of natural gas, was given to the utilities to build new pipelines,” Herb said. “This was a fundamental flaw with the expansion plan that hurt consumers.”
» Read article                  

» More about natural gas utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Marcellus drill site
The Problem With Calling Fracked Gas ‘Responsibly Sourced’
The natural gas industry is increasingly trying to market its product to environmentally and socially conscious investors, but two environmental advocates argue these efforts leave out fracked gas’s massive water and waste issues.
By Ted Auch, PhD, FracTracker Alliance, with contributions from Shannon Smith of FracTracker Alliance, DeSmog Blog | Opinion
November 1, 2021

The fracked natural gas industry has never been the most responsible or efficient consumer of resources. Drillers are using ever-increasing amounts of water and sand in order to produce the same volume of gas, with a corresponding rise in the levels of solid and liquid waste created.

Nevertheless, the industry has begun a new wave of branding around “Responsibly Sourced Natural Gas,” or RSG. But what does RSG really mean?

We argue that right now it’s an inadequate and ill-defined measurement of the overall ecological and social burden imposed by fracking. Instead, we suggest a new ratio for more accurately calculating fracked gas’s full impacts so that the fossil fuel industry can’t use RSG standards as a thin green veil for continuing its polluting practices.

Quantifying methane emissions is central to most of the RSG programs, but none of them  require full public disclosure of the methane levels that are actually released. That practice mirrors the secretive nature of the fracked oil and gas industry, which also does not publicly disclose the full list of chemicals used during the fracking process.

There are benefits to the natural gas industry reducing methane emissions — most notably for the rapidly destabilizing climate — but it represents low-hanging fruit for the industry to clean up its practices. Given the scale of the climate crisis, we need a much more serious commitment on the part of policymakers and energy companies to phase out fracked oil and gas production entirely and in the interim to significantly lessen its resource demands and waste production.

After all, RSG programs do not transform natural gas from a fossil fuel that accelerates climate change into a renewable fuel that does not. Instead, the RSG label offers the oil and gas industry an undeserved pass to continue gobbling up resources and polluting the environment, at the expense of people and the climate.
» Read article                  

two energy futures
In Their Own Words: The Dirty Dozen Documents of Big Oil’s Secret Climate Knowledge
Science historian Ben Franta unpacks some of the most critical documents exposing what the fossil fuel industry knew and when they knew it.
By Paul D. Thacker, DeSmog Blog
October 29, 2021

“Did we aggressively fight against some of the science? Yes,” said ExxonMobil lobbyist Keith McCoy. “Did we join some of these ‘shadow groups’ to work against some of the early efforts? Yes, that’s true. But there’s nothing illegal about that.”

For years, academics, journalists, and activists have been unearthing documents proving that the fossil fuel industry knew about the dangers of climate change since the late 1950s. That’s many, many years before McCoy was even twinkle in his daddy’s eye and decades before he came to Washington to join in Exxon’s campaign to deny science and delay action to save the planet from “catastrophic climate change” — a term Exxon used back in 1981.

These documents show how companies worked to erode public acceptance of climate science over the years — including Exxon corporate reports from the late 1970s, revealed by DeSmog in 2016, which stated “There is no doubt” that CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels was a growing “problem.”

To explain the long history of what the fossil fuel industry knew and when they knew it, Stanford University science historian Ben Franta has collected a dozen of his favorite documents.

The fossil fuel industry was first warned about climate change back in 1959 by famed physicist Edward Teller, known as “the father of the hydrogen bomb.” Throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, oil and gas companies continued to gather evidence that burning fossil fuels was going to change the planet, perhaps even catastrophically. By the early ‘80s, the science was clear enough that oil and gas companies began to strategize on ways to control messaging about climate change and regulations. In 1989, they launched the Global Climate Coalition, a massive lobbying effort to undermine science and attack any attempt to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Franta and I recently discussed these key documents, what they say, how they were found, and what this means for the fossil fuel industry. This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
» Read article                  

» More about fossil fuels

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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 6/25/21

banner 13

Welcome back.

The developers of a proposed gas/oil peaking power plant in Peabody, MA finally presented their project before a public forum on Tuesday. Two hours into what was essentially a sales pitch for this new piece of fossil fuel infrastructure, it was clear that no serious effort had yet been undertaken to develop a non-emitting alternative. We lead with an excellent op-ed from Sarah Dooling, executive director of Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN), in which she lays out the case for a better plan. News from Ireland this week was timely and instructive. It shows how effective battery storage is in providing grid services traditionally handled by fossil peakers, and how batteries are key to rapid deployment of renewable generating capacity.

Elsewhere in Massachusetts, a new tidal turbine design for clean power generation is undergoing tests in the Cape Cod Canal. This includes monitoring effects on marine animals in an attempt to collect data supporting initial observations that fish tend to avoid the spinning blades.

The state’s highly-touted energy efficiency program, Mass Save, could do much more to bring its benefits to underserved communities. And bills making their way through the legislature aim to remake the public utility business model and remove incentives that currently work against decarbonization.

Now that we’ve had time to digest recent news that the Keystone XL pipeline is dead, let’s consider how pivotal it was in tying global heating to fossil fuel dependence in the popular imagination. While protests and actions were already underway, the level of public engagement and the support of key political leaders can be separated into pre- and post-KXL eras.

A number of leading steel manufacturers are attempting to develop zero carbon steel – a critical step toward building a green economy. Swedish joint venture HYBRIT has made significant progress, and moved their process from the lab into pilot phase – one step below full commercialization.

The American west is now in the grip of extreme heat and drought long predicted by climate models. With hundreds of new high-temperature records posted, reservoir water levels at critical lows, and a frightening fire season just beginning, read what climate experts who live there are saying now.

The electric vehicle you drive in the near future may serve as a mini power plant. You’ll have a contract that allows your electric utility to purchase a little of its stored charge to help take the edge off peak demand times. But some auto manufacturers are talking a good game about rolling out electric models while doubling down on their efforts to sell an increasing number of gas-guzzling SUVs in the near term.

As usual, the fossil fuel industry has been up to no good. Stories this week include revelations about massive methane leaks from Europe’s natural gas distribution and storage system, plus a shoot-down of an industry-driven narrative touting oil from offshore drilling as somehow being clean-ish…. And a really scary piece revealing the use of extremely dangerous chemicals in some U.S. refineries located near dense neighborhoods.

We close with news supporting the idea that fortunes may be fading for both liquefied natural gas and biomass, as market forces batter the former and European regulators take aim at the latter.

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

PEAKING POWER PLANTS

no justification
No justification for proposed Peabody gas plant
Clean energy future doesn’t begin with a ‘dirty’ peaker
By Sarah Dooling, CommonWealth Magazine | Opinion
June 19, 2021
Sarah Dooling is executive director of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network.

THE MASSACHUSETTS Municipal Wholesale Electric Company and the staff at some participating municipal light plants say that building a new, 60-megawatt combined natural gas and oil peaker power plant in Peabody is absolutely necessary.

The proposed peaker plant will run only when energy demand is high – and will cost ratepayers in 14 communities with municipal light plants $85 million to build. The proposal for a dirty peaker plant, initiated in 2015, is disconnected from the recent landmark passage of the Next Generation Roadmap climate change bill and increasing statewide recognition that Massachusetts must transition away from fossil fuels.

In his June 1 op-ed in CommonWealth, Ronald DeCurzio identified two reasons for building the plant: to prevent an energy crisis like the one that occurred in Texas, and to reduce carbon emissions. These issues are important, but constructing a new fossil fuel power plant in 2021 is not the best way to address them.

While Massachusetts infrastructure is not as vulnerable [as Texas] to extreme cold weather events, there are important lessons the Texas energy disaster offers the Commonwealth. First, the climate emergency is here and is affecting our daily lives now. Scientific research attributed the extreme weather event in Texas to climate change. Continuing to rely on fossil fuels for our energy will worsen the climate crisis and contribute to more extreme fluctuations in weather.

Second, other energy options that can operate independently of the utility grid and large distribution systems — such as battery storage — may be more effective than natural gas peaker plants at increasing resilience at the community level. Distributed clean energy systems, particularly solar paired with battery storage, can prevent outages during extreme weather by quickly responding to grid fluctuations and, when an outage does occur, continuing to provide local power by operating like small, self-sufficient grids, powering essential community services until utility service is restored. A National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s recent study identified a primary benefit of battery storage systems as being the avoided costs of a power outage.  Municipal light plants in Massachusetts — including Sterling Municipal Light Plant — experience these benefits first hand.

If municipal light plants and utilities want to prevent a Texas-like crisis, clean technology offers a better solution than continued reliance on peaker plants that run on fossil fuels. By investing in clean technology, the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company can more effectively achieve its goal of meeting the capacity requirements for municipal light plants while reducing harmful emissions.
» Read article        

step oneOpponents: Power plant changes a start
By Erin Nolan, The Salem News
June 24, 2021

PEABODY — Plans to build a carbon-emitting “peaker plant” in the city have been in the works since 2015, but this past Tuesday night marked the first major community forum about the project.

“I’m glad this event happened,” said Logan Malik, the clean energy director at Massachusetts Climate Action Network. “I think it was high time for something of this sort to take place, but I think the structure was flawed in that it wasn’t conducive to community members providing feedback.”

During the forum, which lasted four and a half hours and was hosted by the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company (MMWEC) at the Peter A. Torigian Senior Center, Malik and numerous others called for more community meetings to be held in the future.

“MMWEC did answer some questions which is good and we’re grateful for that, but there is very much a feeling that more needs to be done to ensure residents are fully informed,” Malik said. “There needs to be more of these conversations, and we feel strongly that MMWEC should go to every one of the communities investing in this plant and hold a similar meeting.”

The plant, referred to as Project 2015A in public documents, would be owned and operated by MMWEC. Project 2015A was previously approved to be built at Peabody Municipal Light Plant’s Waters River Substation, behind the Pulaski Street Industrial Park, but over the past two months, MMWEC’s plans to build the plant have come under fire by residents, local and state officials, and community groups who say they weren’t informed about the project until recently and are concerned about how the fossil-fuel powered plant could impact the health of the surrounding community.

In a response to the outcry of criticism, MMWEC announced on May 11 they were pausing plans to build the plant. In a statement, MMWEC said the time during which the project is on hold would be used to meet with and seek input from community members, state officials and others in order to address environmental and health concerns and consider alternative energy options.
» Read article              

» More about peaker plants

PIPELINES

KXL requiem
Requiem for a Pipeline: Keystone XL Transformed the Environmental Movement and Shifted the Debate over Energy and Climate
Its beginnings coincided with a booming oil market, but the pipeline also made a perfect target for activists demanding an end to fossil fuels.
By Marianne Lavelle, Inside Climate News
June 20, 2021

It was meant to be an express line from North America’s largest proven oil reserve to its biggest refining center and to deepen the bond between Canada and the United States as petroleum partners.

And it would have stood—or rather, lain—four feet underground, as a 1,700-mile steel monument to humanity’s triumph over the forces that at the time seemed to threaten the future of an oil-driven economy. Conventional oil reservoirs might be running out and alarms might be sounding over the damage that carbon dioxide pollution was doing to the atmosphere, but the Keystone XL pipeline would show America’s determination to carve out ever new oil corridors.

At least, that’s how it looked in 2008, when TransCanada and its partners announced plans to forge a $7 billion link between Alberta’s tar sands and the Texas Gulf Coast. By the time the company now known as TC Energy announced earlier this month that it was giving up the effort to build the pipeline, it was clear that oil could not so easily conquer the realities of the 21st century.

The 13-year fight over Keystone XL transformed the U.S. environmental movement, and dramatically shifted the political center of the American debate over energy and climate change. Instead of trying to get people to care about the future impact of a gas—carbon dioxide—that they couldn’t smell or see, environmentalists began focusing on the connection between climate change and the here-and-now effects of fossil fuel dependence: the takeover of land; the risk to air and water; and the injustice to those in the path of the fossil fuel industry’s plans. President Barack Obama’s presidency was a barometer of this change. Early on, his administration seemed poised to approve Keystone XL. Near the end of his second term, Obama became the first world leader to block a major U.S. oil infrastructure project over climate change.
» Read article              

» More about pipelines

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

held accountable
Judge denies ExxonMobil requests to dismiss AG’s lawsuit

By Jeremy C. Fox, Boston Globe
June 23, 2021

A Superior Court judge on Wednesday denied two requests from ExxonMobil Corp. to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Attorney General Maura Healey alleging that the company deceived Massachusetts consumers and investors about the impact of climate change, court documents show.

Judge Karen F. Green refused to dismiss the case, which alleges ExxonMobil misrepresented important facts about climate change, exaggerated the supposed environmental benefits of some of its products, and downplayed financial risks to the company, according to court filings.

Healey said that Green’s “rulings represent a significant step forward for my office’s work to hold Exxon accountable for lying to Massachusetts consumers about the climate harms of using its fossil fuel products and to Massachusetts investors about the negative impact of climate change on the value of its business.”

“To this day, Exxon is continuing to promote its fossil fuel products to consumers as good for the environment and misleading investors that demand for fossil fuels will remain strong for the foreseeable future,” she said in a statement.
» Read article              

no stopping
‘We will not stop’: pipeline opponents ready for America’s biggest environmental fight
Activists have traveled from all over the US to protest against the construction of Line 3, a giant project that crosses Indigenous land
By Sheila Regan, The Guardian
June 20, 2021

As the sun set, more than a dozen young people carried a wooden bridge toward a narrow section of the Mississippi River. The bridge allowed the group to cross more easily from their camp to where the immense oil pipeline was being built on the other side.

They were cited for trespassing – but they had symbolically laid claim to the marshy landscape.

That same day, Dawn Goodwin’s voice was soft but forceful as she spoke into the camera: “I’m calling on you, Joe Biden, to uphold our treaties, because they are the supreme law of the land.”

Goodwin, an Ojibwe woman and environmental activist, was recording a livestream from a picturesque camp site amid northern Minnesota’s natural beauty – where she and dozens of others had come together to protest the construction of the Line 3 pipeline.

Across the state, along the pipeline’s planned route of construction, activists have traveled from all over the country to do the same: many have locked themselves to construction equipment, and hundreds have been arrested. Goodwin’s preferred method of protest is arguably less physical – she was in the middle of leading a four-day prayer ceremony – but she hoped it would be no less effective to draw attention to the potential harm the pipeline represents.

“We’re done messing around with the process and trusting that the process is going to work, because in the end, it failed us,” she said. “What am I trusting instead? The power of the people, and the creator.”

The proposed Line 3 pipeline – which, if expanded, would move crude oil from Alberta in Canada through Minnesota to Wisconsin – has quickly become the biggest target of US environmental advocates. In addition to attracting protesters from around the country, it’s bringing attention to Biden’s unfulfilled promises so far on the climate crisis, as advocates argue he could step in to stop an expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure but hasn’t. The US already produces more oil than it can use, and is increasing exports of oil and natural gas, despite vowing to cut its own climate pollution.

The ramp-up in protests in Minnesota comes on the heels of a major environment win, with developers canceling the Keystone XL pipeline – something Indigenous activists fought for about a decade. Now, advocates are framing Line 3 as the latest frontier in environmental justice, in part because of the risks it poses to the waterways Indigenous Americans rely on.

“For all of the reasons that Keystone XL was shuttered and more, Line 3 needs to be stopped as well,” said Collin Rees, a senior campaigner for Oil Change International. “There’s an increasing understanding that we can’t continue to expand fossil fuels.”
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GREENING THE ECONOMY

HYBRIT
Inside Clean Energy: From Sweden, a Potential Breakthrough for Clean Steel
A Swedish partnership is cheering a milestone in its quest to make steel in a way that sharply reduces emissions.
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
June 24, 2021

In the deluge of breathless announcements of emissions-cutting technologies, I often ask myself some variation on the same question: “Is this a big deal?”

Today, I’m going to tell you about one that looks like a big deal, providing hope that the world can find ways to reduce the carbon footprint of heavy industry.

In Sweden on Monday, the partnership of a steel company, a mining company and an electricity producer announced that it had succeeded in producing a form of iron using a nearly emissions-free process.

The companies have been working for five years on a joint venture called HYBRIT, with the goal of using renewable energy to produce hydrogen, and then using the hydrogen, along with iron ore pellets, to make “sponge iron,” which can be used to make steel. Now, the companies report that they are the first to have used this process to produce sponge iron on a pilot scale, which is a step up from laboratory scale and a sign of progress toward being able to do it on a commercial scale.

“This technological breakthrough is a critical step on the road to fossil-free steel,” said Martin Lindqvist, President and CEO of SSAB, a global steel company based in Sweden and one of the partners behind HYBRIT, in a statement. “The potential cannot be underestimated. It means that we can reach climate goals in Sweden and Finland and contribute to reducing emissions across Europe.”

This follows the opening of the HYBRIT plant last year in Luleå, Sweden, a small city near the Arctic Circle.

Corporations throw out words like “breakthrough” way too often, but this time it may be warranted. The steel industry is responsible for 7 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, with most of the world’s steel produced by burning coal or natural gas in blast furnaces.

The industry has been able to use electric arc furnaces to make “secondary steel,” which comes from melting down and repurposing scrap steel. But the demand for steel exceeds what can be met using scrap, so companies need to find cleaner ways to make “primary steel” from iron ore. HYBRIT is developing one of the most promising options.
» Read article              

Boston heat islands
Boston’s ‘heat islands’ turn lower-income neighborhoods from hot to insufferable
By David Abel, Boston Globe
June 22, 2021

Three years ago, after city officials repeatedly promised that a traffic project in the heart of their neighborhood would create significantly more green space, they left Jamaica Plain residents with more concrete and asphalt.

In an effort to slow traffic and make Hyde Square’s signature rotary easier to cross, the city widened sidewalks, broadened the circle with new pavers, and created multiple large concrete pedestrian islands. There were no new planters or flowers, though the city did add a small tree.

“It’s profoundly disappointing what the city left,” said Richard Parritz, a neighbor who chairs the design committee of Three Squares, a local nonprofit group that has pressed the city to add more green space to the neighborhood. “This is a health and equity issue. It’s not right.”

As Boston warms from climate change, city officials will have to do more to reduce such redoubts of asphalt and concrete, known as “heat islands,” which exacerbate the rising temperatures that residents will endure in the coming years, environmental advocates say.

By the end of the decade, city temperatures could exceed 90 degrees for over 40 days a year — and by as many as 90 days annually in 2070 — compared with an average of 11 days in 1990, according to city projections. Those increases in temperatures could have serious health consequences, with one major study estimating that heat-related deaths in the coming decades could be more than 50 percent higher than they were a few decades ago.
» Read article              
» Read the study

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

getting real‘Potentially the worst drought in 1,200 years’: scientists on the scorching US heatwave
Researchers had long forewarned of this crisis and now they’re seeing their studies and models become real life
By Maanvi Singh, The Guardian
June 18, 2021

The heatwave gripping the US west is simultaneously breaking hundreds of temperature records, exacerbating a historic drought and priming the landscape for a summer and fall of extreme wildfire.

Salt Lake City hit a record-breaking 107F (42C), while in Texas and California, power grid operators are asking residents to conserve energy to avoid rolling blackouts and outages. And all this before we’ve even reached the hottest part of the summer.

Among the 40 million Americans enduring the triple-digit temperatures are scientists who study droughts and the climate. They’d long forewarned of this crisis, and now they’re living through it. The Guardian spoke with researchers across the west about how they’re coping.
» Read article              

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CLEAN ENERGY

tidal turbine researchHarnessing the tides: The future of renewable energy could begin in Cape Cod Canal
By Beth Treffeisen, Cape Cod Times
June 23, 2021

BUZZARDS BAY — Attached to a metal pole, a small tidal turbine resembling a metal rocket ship was placed Tuesday morning under the ripping currents of the Cape Cod Canal.

The tidal turbine could be the start of another form of renewable energy that would be able to provide electricity for decades to come.

“It’s an industry that is well-poised to take off,” said David Duquette, CEO of Littoral Power Systems Inc., based in New Bedford, that provided the model tidal turbine for the demonstration Tuesday. “But it does have some cost constraints, which is why we are looking at things such as saving costs on civil works.”

The tidal turbine, which was not producing electricity, was the first of its kind to be tested on the Bourne Tidal Test Site structure situated next to the railroad bridge near the Buzzards Bay side of the canal. It will be monitored using a camera system to see if it will affect fish and marine wildlife in the area.

“We wanted to spin up something in our backyard here — we’ll do it,” said Duquette before the turbine was launched.

The next generation of the device being tested in the canal will be deployed to Fairbanks, Alaska, where it will be tested in a “mightier” river, Duquette said.

On Monday, two sensors were installed to monitor water conditions and fish behavior. Since video cameras require light to work, which at night would affect fish behavior, an acoustic camera was also deployed.

The model tidal turbine was due to remain in the water for about 48 hours as cameras watch how it affects the environment around it, said John Miller, the New England Marine Renewable Energy Collaborative executive director.

In past experiments, such as in Scotland or in the East River in New York, cameras have found that fish generally avoid the turbines, Miller said.
» Read article              

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ENERGY EFFICIENCY

HVAC techEnergy efficiency is a low-hanging fruit to combat climate change. So why can’t everyone get access to it?
By Yvonne Abraham, Boston Globe
June 12, 2021

Environmental justice isn’t only about where power plants get built and which neighborhoods have enough trees.

Sometimes, it’s about something smaller and less visible than that — about the people who are left out, even when we’re making progress.

Today’s Exhibit A: Mass Save, the free program that brings an energy-efficiency expert into your home to help lower your energy costs. Funded by surcharges on our utility bills, Mass Save provides or subsidizes weather stripping and low-energy light bulbs, and offers rebates and loans that can be worth thousands for better insulation or more efficient boilers. It is a thing of beauty, and it has helped make this state a national leader in energy efficiency — the low-hanging fruit of combating climate change. Every dollar spent on the program yields three dollars in savings, and even more valuable emissions reductions for all of us.

Everybody wins. Except they don’t.

Though Mass Save is available to every ratepayer in the Commonwealth, those who live in affluent towns are more likely to take advantage of it: Participation in places like Bolton, Carlisle, and Hingham is up to seven times greater than in Lawrence, Fall River, and New Bedford.

“The program as designed works really well for single-family homeowners who have money to spend to make their homes more efficient, and who speak English,” said Eugenia Gibbons, Boston director of climate policy at Health Care Without Harm. For others, not so much.

It takes time, trust, and money to participate in Mass Save: time to apply for a visit and to meet with a consultant; trust that the energy utility, which administers the program, is really offering you something for free, with no catch; and money to pay your share of the subsidized insulation and boiler bills. All three are in short supply in places where blue collar workers, immigrants, and renters are concentrated. Language barriers widen the gap.
» Read article              
» Read letters responding to this article

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ENERGY STORAGE

grid services supportGrid services support: Battery projects stepping up and supporting the grid
By Bernice Doyle, Current± | Blog post
June 15, 2021
Bernice Doyle is Head of Grid Services, Statkraft.

In May this year the Irish grid dropped below normal operating range (49.9Hz- 50.1Hz) for about 14 minutes. According to our data, it was the longest under-frequency event seen in years. Statkraft’s Kilathmoy and Kelwin-2 battery storage projects immediately stepped up to support the electricity grid, with data showing they provided an initial response to the event in just 180 milliseconds.

Most of the time batteries such as these sit in standby watching the frequency. But, as soon as it sees the frequency drop below the trigger level, it responds automatically. In the blink of an eye, it injects active power to support the grid and stabilise the system. Over the full period of the under-frequency event, the batteries did just what they were designed to do from the initial drop below the 49.8Hz trigger, to the eventual recovery above that level about 12 minutes later.

Solar and wind power plants provide clean renewable energy, but the electricity grid has historically relied on fossil fuel generators to provide stability in the grid. As renewables grow, displacing fossil fuels, we need to find new ways of providing the stability the grid requires. As this under-frequency event shows, battery storage facilities can provide a vital support to the Irish grid and help us to facilitate more and more renewable energy on the system.

Keeping the power grid stable has become more challenging as we get more and more of our energy from wind and solar power. The major challenge is to ensure we maintain a stable frequency and voltage on the grid.

Here in Ireland, we are not using all of the renewable energy that we are producing. The system operators rely on running gas or coal power plants not for energy purposes, but to provide support services to the grid and in doing so they shut down wind power plants that could have supplied electricity, in order to make room for these fossil fuel plants. We aim to increase the share of renewable electricity from the current 40% to 70% by 2030. If we are to achieve that goal, we must support and progress stability solutions for the grid that do not emit CO2.

Battery technology is a very efficient method of delivering zero-carbon frequency support services such as this. In an emergency, batteries can both absorb and deliver power to the grid in milliseconds. However, batteries are not yet deployed to store large amounts of energy in the Irish market. The battery projects deployed in the Irish market to date have reserves for half an hour of operation, but in the future batteries will deliver longer-duration storage, which will be crucial to enabling our 2030 targets.
» Read article              

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CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

V to GYour electric vehicle could become a mini power plant
And that could make the electrical grid work better for everyone.
By Maria Gallucci, Grist
June 21, 2021

In an asphalt lot just north of New York City, yellow school buses are resting their wheels until classes resume in September. But three electric buses at the depot in White Plains, New York, will be working overtime this summer break. Rather than transport students, they’ll mainly serve as a big battery bank, storing power and feeding it to the local utility’s electrical grid when demand is high. Starting this month, Con Edison will use the buses daily to help keep its grid running smoothly during the hot summer months.

The demonstration project is among dozens of so-called “vehicle-to-grid” initiatives underway in the United States and around the world. As bigger vehicles like buses, garbage trucks, delivery vans, and even the Ford F-150 pickup truck ditch their engines and go electric, their batteries represent a potentially enormous source of energy storage and backup power supply. Although the concept was developed in the late 1990s, vehicle-to-grid is gaining traction now as automakers release more electric models, smart charging technologies improve, and millions of new electric vehicles, or EVs, hit the road every year.

Last December, the buses began exporting power to the grid on weekends during six-hour shifts. On June 25, they’ll begin delivering a combined 33.5 kilowatts, or 0.03 megawatts, of power for six hours every day. That amount of power is relatively tiny, but there’s potential to expand. About 8,000 school buses operate in Con Ed’s service area of New York City and neighboring Westchester County, which includes White Plains. If electrified, the bus fleet could collectively supply more than 100 megawatts of power to the grid for short periods — or nearly 1 percent of Con Ed’s peak summer power demand, an amount Ross said makes a “material” difference. That could reduce Con Ed’s reliance on gas-fired power plants and offset the need to upgrade grid equipment.

“Using electric school buses this way on a wider scale would provide significant benefits,” Ross told Grist.

On a broader level, vehicle-to-grid systems could help utilities navigate the transition to cleaner electricity and transportation. As more wind and solar power comes online, the batteries could absorb excess renewable energy and deliver it later, after the wind stops blowing or the sun goes down. And the systems could prevent electric vehicles from overtaxing the grid by managing how and when they charge. Around 550 million battery-powered vehicles are expected to hit the road globally by 2040 — up from 13 million vehicles today — representing a huge boost in power demand, according to the clean energy research firm BloombergNEF.
» Read article              

Yukon fumes
Automakers Tout EV’s but Keep Pushing Gas-Guzzling SUV’s, Report Finds
By The Energy Mix
June 20, 2021

A new report from Environmental Defence Canada finds that pledges from automakers to drive an EV revolution are at odds with their continued hard-sell of fossil-driven SUVs in Canada.

“The car companies are talking a big game, filled with new promises of a cavalcade of electric cars, trucks, and SUVs that’s just around the corner. But Canadians should take these claims with a big grain of salt,” Programs Director Keith Brooks said in a release. He pointed to GM and Ford, with plans to deliver 300,000 EVs by 2026 in North America, while their output of fossil-fuelled SUVs and trucks will hit five million over that period.

And the larger the fossil-burning vehicle, the higher the emissions.

“Transportation is the second-largest source of emissions in Canada, second only to oil and gas extraction. And it’s a sector in which emissions have been steadily rising for decades even while vehicle fuel efficiency has been steadily improving,” said Brooks.

Noting that 80% of passenger vehicles sold today in Canada are SUVs and light trucks (and only 1.6% of them electric), Environmental Defence says that sales activity has added “about 18 million additional tonnes of carbon emissions” to the global atmosphere since 2010.

Meanwhile, automakers’ advertising budgets remain skewed in favour of fossil-fuelled models, the report states. EVs remain very thin on the ground in dealer lots, and automakers still “lobby against climate policy, including any policy that would force them to sell more EVs.”

What’s needed to counteract this “duplicity,” the organization says, is government intervention in the form of “carrot and stick”–style policy to encourage automakers to walk their talk on EVs while making it easier for Canadians to purchase one. Among the report’s recommendations: new taxes on fossil-fuelled vehicles to fund EV purchasing incentives, and “a strict zero-emission vehicle standard to require car companies to sell an increasing percentage of electric cars,” reaching 100% EV sales by 2035 “at the latest.”
» Read article              
» Read the Environmental Defence Canada report

» More about clean transportation

LEGISLATION

sweetheart dealStop sweetheart deals with state utilities
3% revenue increase each year not fair to ratepayers
By Natalie Blais, Joanne Comerford and Daniel Sosland, CommonWealth Magazine
June 24, 2021

Electrifying buildings and appliances that now run on gas, oil, and other fossil fuels will be a key piece of meeting Massachusetts’ climate targets. The region’s investor-owned utilities will be vital partners in making this possible. However, it has recently come to light that Eversource has been quietly funding a campaign to fight against electrification and in support of propping up the gas system, despite the fact that the region must transition away from gas as quickly as possible.

One of the primary reasons utilities like Eversource continue to fight so hard for fossil fuels is because the current utility business model, which has helped deliver reliable energy for almost a century, is no longer compatible with the transformations within the power sector that are necessary to address climate change.

Today, utilities earn income based not on how well they serve residents, but on how expensive it is to run their companies. As expenses for maintaining the grid go up, utilities regularly ask the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) for approval to increase customer rates to help cover costs. Regulators usually approve these requests – and as legislators we hear frequently from constituents when they notice these new or increased charges on their electric bills and want to know what they are paying for and why.

Automatically increasing customer rates without requiring real change is not the answer. Massachusetts needs a better deal from its utilities – a real commitment to consumer interests, environmental justice, fighting climate change, and creating a reliable grid powered by clean energy resources.

Under existing state utility regulation, Eversource’s incentives do not serve the interests of the Commonwealth’s residents. Eversource’s own securities filings identify that clean energy alternatives are a risk to its revenues. In other words, the path the Commonwealth is seeking to shift away from fossil fuels is bad for Eversource and its shareholders. This is incongruous with meeting Massachusetts’ ambitious climate goals.

We cannot continue to put the financial health of utility companies on the backs of ratepayers by providing annual revenue increases with little in return for residents or the environment. That’s why we introduced “An Act to Protect Ratepayers” (Bill H.3259/S.2143) and “An Act Promoting Local Energy Investment and Infrastructure Modernization” (Bill H.3261/S.2144). These bills will stop sweetheart deals and ensure broader stakeholder participation in decisions related to modernizing our energy system.
» Read article              

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FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

massive methane leaks‘Massive’ Methane Leaks Found Coming From Oil and Gas Sites in Europe
For the first time, researchers in Europe use optical imagery to measure methane leaking from oil and gas infrastructure in seven countries. The data reveals a “pervasive” emissions problem.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
June 24, 2021

Leaking methane from oil and gas infrastructure is widespread across the European continent, reveals an investigation of more than 150 sites in seven countries. More than 60 percent of the sites analyzed by researchers using state-of-the-art technology were releasing large volumes of methane – a powerful greenhouse gas – into the atmosphere.

This is the first large investigation of methane leakage from oil and gas sites in Europe.

“We’ve all been shocked by just how pervasive methane emissions are across Europe,” James Turitto, who filmed methane emissions for Clean Air Task Force (CATF), said in a statement. CATF is based in Boston but recently launched a European office.

Deploying an optical gas camera that uses infrared radiation to detect the typically invisible methane leaking from oil and gas infrastructure, CATF conducted a months-long investigation of fossil fuel sites in Europe. This type of camera is used widely by the oil and gas industry itself to find and detect leaks.

Images and video of methane leaks have been increasingly commonplace in places like the Permian basin, where environmental group Earthworks has extensively documented rampant methane leaks at drilling sites, drawing attention to a vast source of once-overlooked climate pollution.

But the documentation conducted by Turitto and CATF using an optical camera shows this isn’t confined to the Permian – it’s an international problem. On June 24, CATF released an online library of videos and data of its research, along with a new website.

“It’s clear that industry best practice is being ignored up and down the supply chain. Even as one person with an infrared camera, I’ve been able to find multiple leaks in every country I’ve visited. It begs the question – why aren’t the companies and national regulators doing this already?” Turitto said in a statement.

Turitto visited Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Romania. He documented significant methane leaks at 123 of the 150 sites visited. Overall, more than 60 percent of the surveyed sites had significant concentrations of methane leaking. In some countries, that share stood at more than 90 percent of sites, with Italy and Hungary standing out as particular problems.

Europe is not a large producer of oil and gas, but it is the largest importer of both oil and gas and has an extensive pipeline network and storage facilities. It is at these sites – storage tanks, pipelines, liquefied natural gas import terminals – where methane is leaking in large volumes.
» Read article              

pointing fingers
The weird argument that offshore oil is good for the climate, debunked
Oil companies are blaming each other for climate pollution.
By Rebecca Leber, Vox
June 22, 2021

When President Biden took office in January, a peculiar idea about oil and gas started to make the political rounds: that certain parts of the industry are more environmentally responsible and can actually reduce emissions, compared to other parts of the industry that are worse for the Earth.

“If you want to reduce emissions, the offshore arena is better,” Scott Angelle, who was the top environmental regulator of offshore energy under the Trump administration, told the trade publication Offshore in late January.

Questionable claims about the climate might be expected from a Trump administration official who rolled back oil and gas regulations, but the same argument has also seeped into Democratic politics.

“Gulf of Mexico oil and gas production produces substantially fewer greenhouse gas emissions than oil and gas production in any other region of the world,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, testified to the Senate Energy Committee in May.

Documents show that these claims originated with a little-known lobbying group that advocates for offshore oil — and experts told Vox that they’re dubious at best. By focusing on the emissions of oil and gas production, the industry is ignoring the much larger share of pollution that comes from the burning of fossil fuels. This is a clear attempt at greenwashing: Parts of the oil industry are arguing, perversely, that more fossil fuels can help solve the climate crisis.

Yet these tactics also suggest that fossil fuel companies foresee a fight for survival in a shrinking market for oil and gas — and one emerging industry tactic is pointing fingers to claim that a particular source of oil and gas isn’t as dirty as the next person’s.

“They’re falling over themselves” to claim “their oil is cleaner than someone else,” Lorne Stockman, a research analyst at Oil Change International, a nonprofit advocacy group, told Vox.

What’s worrying is that attempts to rebrand some oil and gas as sustainable has gained traction even among prominent Democrats, and could influence an administration that has pledged to slash emissions by half within the decade in the hope of preventing catastrophic climate change.
» Read article              

chemical risk
The Chemical Weapon Next Door
Modified hydrofluoric acid (MHF), used in oil refining, could turn into a flesh-eating vapor cloud if leaked. 400,000 refinery neighbors in LA are at risk.
By Lucy Sherriff, Drilled News
April 16, 2021

The morning of Wednesday, February 18, 2015, had started just like any other day for Summer Spencer. Back then, she was a sixth grader at South High School in Torrance, a coastal city in the South Bay region of Los Angeles County. But at around 9am, Spencer and her classmates were given a ‘shelter in place’ order by their teacher. It was, the now 17-year-old says, pretty exciting at first. “I just figured I might not have to go to my next class.”

Summer’s teachers closed the doors, secured the windows, and pulled the drapes shut. It was only when she went home that day and spoke to her dad, an environmental safety expert, that she realized she, her classmates, and thousands of other Torrance residents, had had a near miss with a chemical so deadly the Department of Homeland Security lists it as a substance of interest for terrorists.

“I told [my dad] all we did was shut the windows and he explained it wouldn’t have been enough to protect the students,” she recalls.

Spencer’s dad explained if the chemical had been released, “thousands of Torrance residents would have died”.

The threat came from the Torrance Refinery, just three miles away from Summer’s school, a 700-acre plot which processes around 155,000 barrels of crude oil every day, and uses hydrofluoric acid (HF)—or “modified hydrofluoric acid” (MHF) as refineries often refer to the substance—to make high octane gasoline. Around 400,000 people live within three miles of the refineries.

On that Wednesday morning, unbeknown to Summer, pent up gases at the refinery, back then owned by Exxon, had triggered an explosion so big that it registered as a 1.7 tremor. A processing unit had burst open, propelling a large piece of equipment into the air, which narrowly avoided hitting a tank that contained more than 50,000-pound of the deadly HF.

“It was a complete surprise. Nobody really knew the danger of the Torrance refinery,” Spencer told Drilled.

Although the 48 US oil refineries that use MHF claim it is safer than HF, both substances are deadly to humans. And in fact scientists say the two substances are virtually identical. When released, both substances travel in a vapor cloud that can reach eight feet in height, penetrating buildings and causing catastrophic eye, bone, deep tissue, lung and nervous system damage. Essentially, as Torrance-based scientist Dr. Sally Hayati put it, the substance can liquefy your organs.
» Read article         

» More about fossil fuels

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

sailing to nowhereGlobal LNG Industry Reeling as its Image as a Climate Solution Shifts to ‘Climate Problem’
Nearly two dozen major LNG projects around the world are struggling to move forward, a new report reveals, as investors grow skittish from poor economics and increasing scrutiny on the industry’s large carbon footprint.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
June 24, 2021

As recently as 2019, the global market for liquefied natural gas (LNG) looked bright. Analysts saw demand for LNG in Asia rising in both a steady and unrelenting fashion, expanding for years or even decades into the future. The industry gave the greenlight to 71 billion tonnes per annum (mtpa) of new LNG capacity in 2019, an all-time record.

But a lot has changed in the past two years, with “business conditions drastically diminished,” and even “the basic rationale of an industry built around a relatively small number of massive but highly vulnerable facilities” now called into question, according to a new report from Global Energy Monitor.

“LNG was sold to policymakers and to investors as a safe, clean, secure bet,” said Lydia Plante, lead author of the report. “Now all those attributes have turned into liabilities.”

Not only did the pandemic disrupt demand projections, but the positive perception of LNG as a somewhat climate-friendly alternative to coal – a perception assiduously promoted by the industry – has fallen apart. “Most striking is the shift in LNG’s public image from climate solution to climate problem,” the report said.

A December 2020 study from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that the climate benefit of LNG compared to coal is only modest at best, and because it is a fossil fuel with a large carbon footprint, it ultimately presents a big threat to the climate.

If the U.S. LNG projects on the drawing board went forward as planned, it would result in 130 to 213 million metric tons of new greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, the equivalent of adding 28 to 45 million cars to the road, and enough to wipe out the 1 percent per year decline in emissions the U.S. achieved over the past decade, according to NRDC.

As a result of the increased scrutiny, along with growing financial risks, major LNG projects are struggling to get off the ground. At least 21 major LNG export terminals representing 265 mtpa have either seen their final investment decision (FID) delayed, or are suffering other serious setbacks. That’s roughly 38 percent of the total capacity under development around the world, with ten of those projects located in North America.
» Read article        
» Read the Global Energy Monitor report
» Read the NRDC study

opposition abounds
Opposition abounds for Nova Scotia’s planned LNG export facility
By Moira Donovan, National Observer
June 22, 2021

For much of the pandemic, Nova Scotia has been closed to the outside world. But a proposed natural gas project in the province — dubbed “the last one standing” by the CEO of the company behind it — is reaching across borders nonetheless.

The Goldboro liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility, proposed by Calgary-based Pieridae Energy Limited, would see the company exporting 5.2 million tonnes of natural gas annually, mostly for the German utility Uniper, starting in 2025. With many other LNG projects being cancelled, Pieridae CEO Alfred Sorensen has said the Goldboro project looks increasingly like the only one left of its kind in North America (construction on an LNG export facility that will export to Asian markets is underway in B.C., with three others proposed in that province).

As the project approaches the deadline set by Pieridae to decide its fate, it’s facing hurdles, including an as-yet-unsuccessful pitch for nearly $1 billion in federal funding — without which the company has said moving ahead with the project would be “difficult.” Aside from the money, the biggest threat to the project is a pending regulatory decision in Alberta that will determine the viability of its gas supply.

In the interim, Pieridae is being inundated with complaints from communities across North America — from Mi’kmaw groups in Nova Scotia to advocates in Alberta and Massachusetts. They are pushing back against the proposal, citing concerns with everything from the work camps required to construct the facility to the infrastructure required to produce the gas and pipe it to Nova Scotia.

One of Pieridae’s biggest obstacles is in Alberta, where advocates for better management of orphaned oil and gas wells have identified issues with Pieridae’s plan for sourcing the gas that would be exported from the facility.

In 2019, Pieridae made a play to acquire aging sour gas wells and infrastructure in Alberta from Shell to supply the Goldboro LNG facility.

But the transfer of the licences was blocked in May 2020 by the Alberta Energy Regulator, which cited concerns about the division of responsibility (Shell had said it would remain responsible for groundwater contamination, and Pieridae for well cleanup).

The spectre of that transfer has been revived recently after Shell made another bid to sign over the licences to Pieridae, prompting the filing of several dozen statements of concern to the Alberta Energy Regulator.

One of those statements was from the Polluter Pay Federation (PPF). PPF Chair Dwight Popowich — who has seen the effects of orphan wells first-hand after the operator of a well on his land went bankrupt — said the transfer is a clear example of “liability dumping,” whereby oil and gas producers dodge responsibility for well cleanup by selling assets to smaller producers without the resources to manage them in the long term.
» Read article         

» More about LNG

BIOMASS

last resort
EU eyes tighter rules for ‘renewable’ biomass energy – draft
By Kate Abnett, Reuters
June 16, 2021

BRUSSELS, June 16 (Reuters) – The European Union is considering tightening rules on whether wood-burning energy can be classed as renewable and count towards green goals, according to a draft document seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

The aim is to protect delicate ecosystems like old growth forests and stop wood fit for other purposes, like making furniture, from ending up as pellets or chips burned to produce biomass energy.

The draft European Commission proposal to update the EU rules would require biomass-fuelled power and heat plants with a capacity of 5 megawatts (MW) or above to meet sustainability criteria, and provide substantial emissions cuts versus fossil fuels.

Biomass plants with a capacity below 20MW are currently exempt from those requirements.

Renewable sources provide around 20% of EU energy in 2019. More than half of that is biomass, which the EU ranks as having a low carbon footprint since carbon dioxide emissions produced from wood-burning are partly balanced by CO2 absorbed by the trees as they grew.

Environmental groups have criticised that accounting and some said the draft proposal would fail to protect forests.

The draft said biomass-fuelled installations will count as renewable if they produce 70% fewer emissions than fossil fuels. Currently, that applies only to installations that started operating this year.

The draft said national support schemes promoting biomass energy use must follow a “cascading principle” that wood should only be burned for energy as a last resort.
» Read article              

» More about biomass

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Weekly News Check-In 12/18/20

banner 06

Welcome back.

The Boston Globe published an excellent post mortem this week on the six year fight to stop the Weymouth compressor station. This is an important record of a profound and unfair imbalance of power that resulted in a Enbridge’s dangerous and toxic facility being inappropriately sited in a congested and environmentally burdened neighborhood. It describes a failure of government and its regulators to stand up to industry, even when doing so would protect a vulnerable community and help meet legally binding climate commitments.

Protests and actions are ramping up against Enbridge’s next environmental and cultural assault – the Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline through sensitive northern Minnesota lake country. This threatens critical freshwater resources of indigenous groups, who are now being arrested for putting their bodies in the path of bulldozers.

Meanwhile, Princeton University is in the news for an exhaustive climate plan that offers five very detailed pathways to achieve net zero by 2050. No matter the chosen route, start time is immediate, effort is intense, and significant milestones must be met by 2030.

In a counter-intuitive move, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center is allowing its highly successful solar loan program to sunset as planned on December 31, seeing no need to renew it now that banks have shown a willingness to finance solar PV installations. However, of 5,700 loans made through the program since its inception, 3,000 of them were to borrowers taking advantage of provisions for low-income customers. That’s more than half of the program’s success stories, and banks do not tend to serve these people.

[Also in this clean energy section is a great technical article on the emissions hazards posed by hydrogen – even “green” hydrogen. It’s the first discussion we’ve seen about high NOx emissions resulting from hydrogen combustion – and the lack of current available technology to deal with this powerful greenhouse gas and health hazard. Keep this in mind as industry floods us with happy images of a green hydrogen future.]

The expiring solar loan program is just one example of Massachusetts resting on its green energy laurels and letting programs slip while other states – particularly California – quicken their pace. Governor Baker, you don’t get to crow about your state’s top national energy efficiency status this year. After a nine year run, bragging rights belong to California’s Governor Newsom.

Toyota is teasing us with the prospect of solid state EV batteries in prototypes within the next year, and in our driveways by around 2025. While the prospect of long range and 10 minute charge time is wildly appealing, we couldn’t help wondering why the company’s president was recently talking down electric vehicle market penetration in a Wall Street Journal interview. Could be he’s hedging a bet on hydrogen fuel cells.

The Environmental Protection Agency, among others, has some serious post-Trump rehabilitation ahead of it, and President-elect Biden has selected environmental lawyer Brenda Mallory to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality. She will be tasked with revamping Trump-era regulations and ensuring that federal agencies stay out of legal trouble by properly studying the full impacts of their decisions. Climate impacts of pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure are expected to receive high priority.

In a weird twist, our fossil fuel industry news this week is all about coal. This is a good time to remember that even when a sector is written off as dying, it can still cause massive environmental damage and throw a lot of political weight around. And in the unintended consequences department, the US liquefied natural gas export market could get a boost from stricter methane emissions rules expected from the incoming Biden administration.

We close with the 2020 award for top plastic polluters, with Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé sharing the victory dumpster for the third year in a row.

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

 

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

no more toxinsIn Weymouth, a brute lesson in power politics
A Globe investigation finds residents who fought a six-year battle with an energy giant over a controversial gas compressor never had much of a chance, with both the federal and state governments consistently ruling against them
By Mike Stanton, Boston Globe
December 12, 2020

Dr. Regina LaRocque has studied health risks in the Fore River Basin for Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility. She hoped the state’s review would conclude the area was already too unhealthy and polluted to approve a compressor there. Since most compressor stations are in rural areas, state officials said in their final report, they could not find data on compressors “in similarly urban locations.”

So LaRocque, a doctor at Massachusetts General and Harvard Medical School, was “gobsmacked” when the report was released in January 2019 and concluded that emissions from the compressor “are not likely to cause health effects.”

She said the conclusion overlooked data showing the compressor would emit particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and toxics like benzene and formaldehyde linked to cancer and respiratory, cardiovascular, and neurological diseases. And it ignored the fact that area residents suffer higher rates than normal in Massachusetts of cancer and childhood asthma and were hospitalized more for heart attacks and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

”It was a whitewash,” says LaRocque. “It presented data that was highly concerning then did somersaults to say there would be no health impact.”

Seven days later, Governor Baker approved the air permit.

“It’s probably the most comprehensive analysis within that framework that anybody’s done anywhere around one of these permits, and it passed,” Baker told reporters.

However, earlier drafts of the report, obtained by the Globe through a public records request, urged the state to look more closely at “public health implications.” That was deleted, along with a passage mentioning the potential risk to two poor and minority neighborhoods in Quincy, Germantown and Quincy Point.
» Blog editor’s note: this is a long, comprehensive article, and well worth the time to read the whole thing.
» Read article            
» Read the Physicians for Social Responsibility Report             
» Read the MAPC Health Impact Assessment          

» More about the Weymouth compressor station             

 

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

22 arrested on Line 3
22 protesters arrested at Enbridge pipeline construction site
Construction began two weeks ago on the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline.
By Brooks Johnson, Star Tribune
December 15, 2020

Nearly two dozen protesters were arrested at an Enbridge Line 3 pipeline construction site in Aitkin County near the Mississippi River on Monday after they blocked equipment and refused orders to disperse, Sheriff Dan Guida said.

Indigenous and environmental activists, who have been holding daily protests north of Palisade, Minn., prevented the extraction of a protester who had been camped in a tree for 10 days. Guida said a rope had been tied from the tree across the recently cleared pipeline route and created “an extremely dangerous situation.”

“We got a bucket truck and moved in, and people blocked it,” he said. “We don’t really have a choice. We have to enforce those laws.”

There were 22 arrests made, Guida said, most for misdemeanor trespassing on a posted construction site.

Activists vowed to continue to stand in the way of pipeline construction, which started two weeks ago.

“That Minnesotans are willing to risk arrest shows they’re fighting to protect what they love,” said Brett Benson, spokesman for environmental justice group MN350. “They’re standing up to say it’s time the state actually listen to Indigenous voices and start protecting our climate instead of caving to the interests of a Canadian oil giant.”
» Read article            


line 3 meets water protectors
Opponents of Enbridge’s Line 3 construction make last-ditch effort at river’s edge
While legal challenges continue, protesters aim to stand in the way.
By Brooks Johnson, Star Tribune
December 10, 2020

PALISADE, MINN. – Drumming and singing rose from the snowy banks of the Mississippi River on Wednesday morning while heavy machinery beeped and revved in the distance. A dozen protesters prayed by the river as the state’s largest construction project, the $2.6 billion Enbridge oil pipeline, continued its early stages in rural Aitkin County.

Not far from the road where self-described water protectors have been gathering daily, two protesters remained camped atop trees. They have been there since Friday trying to stay in the way of construction that started last week after Enbridge received the last permit it needed following six years of regulatory review.

Trees have been cleared all around the pair as preparations to lay the 340-mile pipeline continue across northern Minnesota.

“As a company, we recognize the rights of individuals and groups to express their views legally and peacefully. We expect our workers on Line 3 to do the same,” Enbridge said in a statement. “As part of their onboarding, each Line 3 worker goes through extensive training, including cultural awareness.”

Already, about 2,000 workers are expected at job sites along the route this week. More than 4,000 are expected to be working by the end of the month, unions say.

While the specter of the massive Standing Rock protests hangs over the Line 3 project, the crowd along the river north of McGregor has remained small so far. Pipeline opponents are still hoping to stop construction through lawsuits.

A request to have the Minnesota Court of Appeals halt construction while permit challenges are ongoing is expected to be filed in the next week after state regulators declined to grant a stay.

In the meantime, protesters will continue putting their bodies in the way and raising their voices.

“People are doing what they can to prevent what’s going on,” Aubid said. “I do what I need to do in order to protect the waters.”
» Read article             

needs a comb
New Youth Climate Lawsuit Launched Against UK Government on Five Year Anniversary of Paris Agreement
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
December 12, 2020

Three young British citizens and the climate litigation charity Plan B today announced they are taking legal action against the UK government for failing to sufficiently address the climate crisis.

The announcement comes on the five year anniversary of the landmark Paris Agreement — the international accord intended to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius — and the lawsuit is the latest in a cascade of litigation around the world aimed at holding governments and polluters accountable for fuelling climate change.

Today’s action involves serving a formal letter upon British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak as the first step in the litigation process, with a court filing to come likely in early 2021.

The legal action asserts that the UK — the historic birthplace of the fossil-fueled Industrial Revolution — is continuing to finance the climate crisis and has failed to develop an emergency plan to comprehensively and aggressively tackle the crisis. The case alleges violations of human rights protected under British and international law, specifically rights to life and to private and family life. And the case alleges the government has not met its legal obligations to tackle climate change under the UK Climate Change Act of 2008 and the Paris Agreement.

Plan B says that given the UK government’s self-proclaimed position as a “climate leader” and position as host of the international United Nations climate summit (COP26) next year in Glasgow, the failure to develop an emergency plan on climate is an abdication of its duties to its people and the international community. The goal of the lawsuit is a court order forcing the government to develop an emergency plan in accordance with its legal obligations.

“The Government claims to be showing leadership on the basis of an inadequate net zero [emissions] target it is failing to meet,” Plan B said in a press release. “Yet, it has failed to prepare even for the minimum level of climate impact and plans to cut financial support for the most vulnerable communities around the world. It knows the City of London is financing levels of warming that would devastate our society.”
» Read article            
» Read the Plan B press release      

» More about protests and actions       

 

CLIMATE

electric trolley SF
New Report Details How U.S. Can Achieve Net-Zero Emissions by 2050

By Climate Nexus, in EcoWatch
December 16, 2020

A new report from Princeton University released yesterday details five pathways for achieving net zero emissions in the U.S. by 2050, with “priority actions” the U.S. should take before 2030.

A highlight across all pathways is total or near total electrification of energy use across the U.S. economy.

Additional recommendations include building a significant amount of new energy infrastructure, increasing wind and solar generating capacity, expanding the nation’s electric grid, and transitioning homes off natural gas.

The research puts the price tag of this near-term action at $2.5 trillion, but calculates it will create at least half a million jobs and save tens of thousands of lives.

The report also identifies several pitfalls the transition could face, including local opposition to land-use for renewable infrastructure and a lack of public support for electric cars and homes.

“The costs are affordable, the tool kit is there, but the scale of transformation across the country is significant,” said Jesse Jenkins, a Princeton professor and lead author of the report.
» Read article            
» Related articles: New York Times, Washington Post, Axios, Bloomberg
» Read the Princeton University study, Net Zero America             
» Read the October U.N. report, America’s Zero Carbon Action Plan           

worldward
What if net-zero isn’t enough? Inside the push to ‘restore’ the climate.
By Emily Pontecorvo, Grist
December 11, 2020

Disagreements about how to tackle the climate crisis abound, but in 2020, it seemed much of the world finally reached consensus about at least one thing: getting to net-zero by 2050, or sooner. Net-zero is a state where greenhouse gases are no longer accumulating in the atmosphere — any emissions must be counterbalanced by sucking some carbon out of the air — and this year, a tidal wave of governments, businesses, and financial institutions pledged to reach it.

But for a new movement of young activists, the net-zero rhetoric is worrisome. “Hitting net-zero is not enough,” they wrote in a letter published in the Guardian last month. Instead, the group behind the letter, a youth-led organization called Worldward, urges the world to rally around a different goal, one they call “climate restoration.” The letter was co-signed by prominent climate scientists James Hansen and Michael Mann, in addition to writers, artists, and other activists.

“The climate today is not safe,” said Gideon Futerman, the 17-year-old founder and president of Worldward, who lives in a suburb north of London. “Millions of people are suffering and millions more will.” By the time net-zero is achieved, he said, the climate will be considerably more dangerous.
» Read article            

» More about climate               

 

CLEAN ENERGY

solar loan sunset
Massachusetts solar loans program leaves banks with confidence to lend
As the program ends, private solar lending will continue but low-income homeowners may be left behind.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
Photo By Staff Sgt. Aaron Breeden / U.S. Air Force
December 17, 2020

Massachusetts’ lauded solar loan program is drawing to a close this month, leaving behind a more robust solar financing market but also taking away a tool that lenders and installers say has been invaluable in bringing the benefits of solar power to underserved households. 

“It has allowed us to bring solar to people who might not have access to it otherwise,” said Richard Bonney, project developer for solar installer RevoluSun, which completed 141 projects through the program. “That is the biggest area of concern on our end.”

The Mass Solar Loan program was launched in 2015 with two goals: jumpstarting the market for residential solar financing and expanding access to solar for lower-income households.

The clean energy center plans to sunset the program on Dec. 31, as originally authorized.

Without the income-based support of the state program, however, market-based lending programs are unlikely to reach lower-income households on anything like the scale of the Mass Solar Loan. Of 5,700 loans made through the program, 3,000 of them were to borrowers taking advantage of provisions for low-income customers. 

Even as banks and credit unions seem to be stepping up their solar lending, they will not be able to fill all the gaps left by the state program. Nearly 30% of the program’s loans went to applicants with credit scores lower than 720, a level lenders generally consider quite risky. 

And while many homeowners are expected to use home equity loans to finance a solar installation, borrowers who put down smaller down payments or haven’t owned their homes for long might not have enough equity to support a loan. 

Massachusetts’ solar incentive program has provisions targeting low-income households, but does [not] have any tools for helping homeowners get over the initial hurdle of the upfront cost to install a system. 

There is nothing on the horizon to fill that gap, and the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker does not seem to see the value in funding more solar incentives for low-income residents, [Ben Mayer, vice president of marketing and residential sales for SunBug Solar] said.

“It would be funny if it weren’t so aggravating,” he said. “If anything, you should be figuring out how to increase the investment.”
» Read article                     

Intermountain Power project
Hydrogen Hype in the Air
By Lew Milford, Seth Mullendore, and Abbe Ramanan, Clean Energy Group
December 14, 2020

Here’s an energy quiz. Question: do you think this statement is true?

“Unlike fossil fuels, which emit planet-warming carbon dioxide when they’re burned, hydrogen mostly produces water.”

Answer: false.

That statement appeared in a Bloomberg Green article a week or so ago. It reported on future European plans to use hydrogen (H2) as a fuel “in modified gas turbines” to power airplanes. Similar reports have appeared in other reputable energy articles about how hydrogen is the optimal climate solution because its use will not create any air emissions.

What is true is that renewable power like solar or wind can split water into H2 to produce what the reporters claimed – “emissions free” energy. But that requires a complicated and expensive electrolysis process to make H2. That renewably generated “green hydrogen” would then be run through a fuel cell to make electricity. Fuel cells do not produce carbon dioxide (CO2) or other harmful emissions. There are many smart applications for fuel cell-derived power, in cars and heavy vehicles, and in various industrial applications – what an intelligent hydrogen economy might look like in the years to come.

Clean Energy Group (CEG) has been a fervent supporter of green hydrogen and its use in fuel cells. We worked on hydrogen and fuel cells 15 years ago, when they were one of the few cleaner energy options. Then, we did not have the cheaper and more practical alternatives to fossil fuel plants such as renewables and battery storage that we have today.

Back in 2006, CEG wrote that “[h]ydrogen is most efficiently used in fuel cells where it is converted to electricity “electro-chemically” (i.e., without combustion), with only water and oxygen depleted air as exhaust products.”

This is because combustion is where hydrogen goes from “emissions-free” to polluting, the critical distinction seemingly lost in this new debate about using H2 to address climate change.

What happens when H2 is combusted?

Burning H2 does not produce carbon dioxide (CO2)  emissions. That is good news for the climate.

However, hydrogen combustion produces other air emissions. And that scientific fact is the untold story in this aggressive industry plan, one that could turn green H2 into ghastly H2.

The bad news is that H2 combustion can produce dangerously high levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx). Two European studies have found that burning hydrogen-enriched natural gas in an industrial setting can lead to NOx emissions up to six times that of methane (the most common element in natural gas mixes). There are numerous other studies in the scientific literature about the difficulties of controlling NOx emissions from H2 combustion in various industrial applications.
Blog editor’s note: this is an important article, worth the time to read in its entirety. In addition to the documented serious health effects associated with NOx emissions, the pollutants are powerful greenhouse gases – packing approximately 300 times the global warming potential as carbon dioxide.
» Read article            
» Read about the natural gas industry’s hydrogen PR campaign     

» More about clean energy               

 

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

number twoMass. no longer most energy-efficient state
California, with numerous policy initiatives, moves into top spot
By Colin A. Young, Statehouse News Service, in CommonWealth Magazine
December 18, 2020

After nine years at the top of a list that state officials regularly tout, Massachusetts is no longer considered to be the most energy-efficient state in the nation.

California now sits atop the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) rankings and bumped Massachusetts down to second place thanks to the passage of millions of dollars in incentives for high-efficiency heat pump water heaters and an executive order to phase out new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035.

“In a year dramatically impacted by a global pandemic and associated recession, efforts to advance clean energy goals struggled to maintain momentum amid the loss of 400,000 energy efficiency jobs by the summer and disruptions to countless lives. Despite these challenges, some states continued to successfully prioritize energy efficiency as an important resource to help reduce household and business energy bills, create jobs, and reduce emissions,” the ACEEE wrote in its annual report and scorecard. “First place goes to California, which sets the pace in saving energy on multiple fronts with adoption of net-zero energy building codes, stringent vehicle emissions standards, and industry-leading appliance standards.”

Massachusetts has had at least a share of first place in the ACEEE rankings for the last nine years (California had tied with Massachusetts for number one as recently as 2016) and has been in the top 10 all 14 years that the ACEEE has published its annual state scorecard.

“Generally speaking, the highest-ranking states have all made broad, long-term commitments to energy efficiency, indicated by their staying power at the top of the State Scorecard over the past decade,” lead report author Weston Berg said. “However, it is important to note that retaining one’s spot in the lead pack is no easy task; all of these states must embrace new, cutting-edge strategies and programs to remain at the top.”

Every year since 2015, the Baker administration has celebrated the top billing with a press release, featuring quotes from the governor, lieutenant governor, Energy and Environmental Affairs secretary, Department of Energy Resources commissioners, House speaker, Senate president, House minority leader, Senate minority leader and a House committee chairman.

This year, there was no administration press release, and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and Department of Energy Resources declined to make anyone available to discuss the rankings with the News Service on Wednesday.
» Blog editor’s note: you can earn top-dog status on the energy efficiency list, or you can coddle the natural gas industry – but you can’t do both.
» Read article            

» More about energy efficiency          

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

solid state Toyota
Toyota EV with solid-state batteries: 10-minute full charge, prototype reportedly due in 2021
By Stephen Edelstein, Green Car Reports
December 13, 2020

 

Toyota hopes to be the first automaker to launch an electric car with solid-state batteries, aiming to unveil a prototype next year, ahead of a production launch relatively soon after that, Nikkei Asia reported Thursday.

The automaker expects electric cars powered by solid-state batteries to have more than twice the range of vehicles using current lithium-ion battery chemistry, with the ability to fully recharge in just 10 minutes, according to the report, which also said Toyota has over 1,000 patents related to solid-state batteries.

While Toyota seems fairly far ahead of other Japanese automakers (Nissan doesn’t plan to start real-world testing of solid-state batteries until 2028, the report said), the country’s automotive suppliers appear to be gearing up for production.

Mitsui Mining and Smelting (also known as Mitsui Kinzoku) will build a pilot facility to make electrolyte for solid-state batteries, the report said. Located at an existing research and development center in Japan’s Saitama Prefecture, the facility will be able to produce “dozens of tons” of solid electrolyte starting next year, enough to fulfill demand for prototypes, according to the report.

The timetable discussed in the report is accelerated from what a top Toyota executive suggested just this summer. In an interview with Automotive News in July, Keiji Kaita, executive vice president of Toyota’s powertrain division, said limited production of solid-state batteries would start in 2025.

This report also suggests that solid-state battery cells could have much-improved energy density. That echoes a Samsung statement from earlier this year, suggesting its solid-state tech could double energy density.
» Blog editor’s note: Is Toyota all in? Read a December 17, 2020 report from Oil Price in which Toyota’s President Akio Toyoda talks down electric vehicles.
» Read article             

» More about clean transportation        

 

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

Brenda Mallory
Biden Pick to Bolster Legal Odds with Added Climate Review
By Ellen M. Gilmer and Stephen Lee, Bloomberg Law
December 17, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden’s selection of environmental lawyer Brenda Mallory for a top spot in the new administration could help federal agencies improve their litigation record on climate change.

The presumptive nominee to lead the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality will be tasked with revamping Trump-era regulations and ensuring that federal agencies stay out of legal trouble by properly studying the full impacts of their decisions.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mallory will take the helm of CEQ at a time when judges have increasingly faulted federal officials under both the Obama and Trump administrations for failing to fully consider greenhouse gas emissions in their National Environmental Policy Act reviews. NEPA requires agencies to analyze and disclose the impacts of their actions, including approvals of highways, pipelines, and other projects.

CEQ, which oversees NEPA implementation, aimed to sidestep those losses in July by issuing a rule that eliminated a longstanding requirement that officials consider the cumulative impacts of their actions—a part of NEPA reviews that often touches on climate change. The Biden administration is expected to reconsider that move and quickly direct agencies to strengthen their climate analyses.

“Reversing the Trump-era NEPA rollbacks is going to be priority No. 1,” said Western Environmental Law Center lawyer Kyle Tisdel, a frequent foe of federal agencies in NEPA cases.

Next on the list, he said, will be issuing new guidance for how agencies should incorporate climate analysis into their reviews.

The result will be better outcomes in NEPA litigation during the Biden administration, legal experts say.

Agencies and project backers “should already realize that their environmental reviews are more likely to survive judicial scrutiny if they include cumulative impact review and lifecycle greenhouse gas analysis where appropriate,” said Columbia Law School professor Michael Gerrard, who directs the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.
» Read article           

» More about the EPA           

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Hay Point Coal TerminalChina Battles the World’s Biggest Coal Exporter, and Coal Is Losing
China has officially blocked coal imports from Australia after months of vague restrictions. For Australia, the world’s largest coal exporter, the decision is a gut punch.
By Damien Cave, New York Times
December 16, 2020

SYDNEY, Australia — China is forcing Australia to confront what many countries are concluding: The coal era is coming to an end.

China has now officially blocked coal imports from Australia after months of vague restrictions that dramatically slowed trade and stranded huge ships at sea.

For Australia, the world’s largest coal exporter, the decision is a gut punch that eliminates its second-biggest market at a time when many countries are already rethinking their dependence on a filthy fossil fuel that accelerates the devastation of climate change.

While Beijing’s motives are difficult to divine, there are hints of mercantilist protection for local producers and the desire to punish Australia for perceived sins that include demanding an inquiry into the source of the coronavirus. China’s commitment to cut emissions may also allow it to be marginally more selective with its vast purchases.

Whatever the reasoning, the impact is shaping up to be profound for a country that has tied its fate to coal for more than 200 years. Mining policy can still decide elections in Australia and the current conservative government is determined to do the bare minimum on climate change, which has made China’s coal cutback a symbolic, cultural and economic shock.

“A transition has been forced upon us,” said Richie Merzian, the climate and energy program director at the Australia Institute, an independent think tank. “It’s hard to see how things will really pick up from here.”

The realization, if it holds, may take time to sink in.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ridden Australia’s traditional reliance on fossil fuels into power. He famously held up a hunk of coal in Parliament in 2017, declaring “don’t be scared,” and first became prime minister in an intraparty coup after his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, tried to pursue a more aggressive approach to combating climate change.

“Coal-Mo,” as some of his critics call him, dismissed concerns on Wednesday about China’s ban, arguing that there are many other countries still lining up for the product.
» Read article             

Alberta sinking
As oil prices languish, Alberta sees its future in a ‘coal rush’
At least six new or expanded mines could be built as a new conservative provincial government aims to increase coal production for export
By Jeff Gailus, The Guardian
December 15, 2020

With the price of Western Canadian oil languishing around $35 a barrel and Canadian oil sands companies hemorrhaging both workers and money, the province of Alberta sees its future in another fossil fuel: coal.

A “coal rush” in the province could see at least six new or expanded open-pit coal mines built up and down the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, mostly by Australian companies. Together, these projects could industrialize as much as 1,000 sq km of forests, waterways and grasslands.

Alberta has eight operating coal mines and more than 91bn tonnes of mineable coal, but until recently, Alberta had a restrictive coal-mining policy that’s been in place for 44 years to protect drinking water for millions of people. In 2015 the previous Alberta government announced a plan to eliminate coal-fired electricity by 2030, a goal Canada’s federal government embraced three years later to help fulfill Canada’s greenhouse-gas-reduction commitments to the Paris Agreement.

Canada, along with the United Kingdom, also launched the Powering Past Coal Alliance at the 2017 UN Climate Change Conference to accelerate the phase-out of coal-fired power plants worldwide.

Yet despite the commitment to eliminate coal-fired electricity, the new conservative provincial government has pulled out all the stops to increase coal production for export.

It rescinded the 1976 coal mining policy without public consultation, after spending months wooing Australian coal companies. It also reduced the corporate tax rate from 10 to 8%, axed provincial parks in coal-rich areas, offered 1% royalties (Australia’s is a minimum of seven), and passed legislation to fast-track project approvals.
» Read article             

» More about fossil fuels              

 

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

Biden and gas exportsHow Biden may save U.S. gas exports to Europe
Cleaning up fuel producers’ climate pollution at home could help the industry avoid “a trans-Atlantic green gas war.”
By BEN LEFEBVRE, Politico
Photo: Flared natural gas is burned off Feb. 5, 2015 at the Deadwood natural gas plant in Garden City, Texas. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images
November 27, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to crack down on the energy industry’s greenhouse gas pollution could offer a boon for U.S. natural gas producers who want to keep exporting to an increasingly climate-minded Europe.

U.S. gas shipments to Europe have soared since 2016, driven by the American fracking boom and efforts to help the Continent lessen its reliance on Russia. But pressure on European countries to reduce their impact on the climate is threatening to close off opportunities for the U.S. because of the heavy amounts of planet-warming methane released when the gas is produced.

Now, Biden’s promise to reduce those methane emissions could make U.S. gas shipments more palatable to Europe.

Such an outcome would contradict one of President Donald Trump’s closing campaign themes: that electing the former vice president would spell doom for U.S. fossil fuel producers. But it could rankle progressive climate activists who are pushing for Biden to end fracking and stop all U.S. fossil fuel exports.
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PLASTICS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

Coke eco claims prooved fishy
Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé Are Worst Plastic Polluters of 2020, Have Made ‘Zero Progress,’ New Report Finds
By Tiffany Duong, EcoWatch
December 11, 2020

The top plastic polluters of 2020 have been announced, and Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé top the list for the third year in a row.

In a new report demanding corporate responsibility for plastic pollution, Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) named the repeat offenders and called them out for what appeared to be negligible progress in curbing the amount of plastic trash they produce despite corporate claims otherwise.

“The title of Top Global Polluters describes the parent companies whose brands were recorded polluting the most places around the world with the greatest amount of plastic waste,” the report’s executive summary noted. “Our 2020 Top Global Polluters remain remarkably consistent with our previous brand audit reports, demonstrating that the same corporations are continuing to pollute the most places with the most single-use plastic.”

The report employs brand audits and global cleanups to collect and count plastic debris from around the world. This year, nearly 15,000 volunteers collected 346,494 pieces of plastic in 55 countries to contribute to the report, a BFFP press release said.

Over 5,000 brands were cataloged this year, but Coca-Cola quickly emerged as the world’s number one plastic polluter. Its beverage bottles were found most frequently, discarded on beaches, rivers, parks and other litter sites in 51 of the 55 nations surveyed, The Guardian reported. The brand was worse than PepsiCo and Nestlé, the next two top offenders, combined.

Plastic pollution is one of the leading environmental problems of the modern-day. Plastics do not disintegrate or disappear, but instead break up into microplastics that get consumed by the tiniest organisms. These toxins bioaccumulate and move their way up the food chain and into our air, food and water.

“The world’s top polluting corporations claim to be working hard to solve plastic pollution, but instead they are continuing to pump out harmful single-use plastic packaging,” Emma Priestland, Break Free From Plastic’s global campaign coordinator, told The Guardian.
» Read article            
» Read related Guardian article 

» More about plastics in the environment            

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