Tag Archives: energy storage

Weekly News Check-In 9/30/22

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Welcome back.

Climate activists were central to a big story this week, as persistent, intense, and coordinated pressure resulted in Senator Joe Manchin agreeing to pull his “dirty deal” on fossil fuel project permitting “reform” legislation from the must-pass funding bill. Don’t think for a second that Big Oil&Gas is giving up on this though – they’re already maneuvering for a comeback. They need to grease the skids to keep the party rolling – the United States is currently building (or planning to build) more miles of new pipelines than any other country.

Why is that a bad idea? Aside from the obvious climate-busting problems associated with continuing to burn fossil fuels, there are real and significant local health implications for anyone living or working near power plants, pipelies, and other infrastructure. A new study shows for the first time what industry has tried hard to conceal: natural gas transported by interstate pipelines contains hazardous air pollutants and known human carcinogens. These leak into the air both intentionally and by accident at numerous points along the transmission path.

Methane flaring is a different but related issue, and largely occurs around fossil fuel production, storage, and processing sites. This is the practice of burning off methane (natural gas) that may be a byproduct at an oil well, or otherwise can’t easily be transported away for commercial sale. Flaring, when successful, produces carbon dioxide, soot, and nitrogen oxides – all nasty, but arguably less immediately damaging to the climate than allowing methane to directly enter the atmosphere. Except that flaring turns out, in practice, to let an awful lot of methane slip past the flame.

For fans of the classic “Wizard of Oz” movie, we’ve arrived at the part where the scene shifts from black & white to color. Here’s the good stuff:

In a glimpse of the future green economy, a Massachusetts renewable energy company has developed a way to help low-income consumers nationwide access the financial benefits of clean energy with a new platform that allows homeowners to share excess solar credits. Homeowners will receive state incentives for the power generated, while the credits generated by the additional energy production are passed on at no cost to low-income residents, who can use them to offset their electricity bills.

Also, the U.S. Senate just ratified the Kigali Amendment, which adds to the 1987 Montreal Protocol that saved life on Earth by phasing out ozone-gobbling CFCs. This latest amendment will transition the economy away from HFC refrigerants in refrigerators, air conditioners, and heat pumps, and replace them with climate-friendlier chemistries. HFCs are very powerful but short-lived global warmers, so we’ll see the benefits quickly.

New York just launched a 2 GW renewable energy solicitation as natural gas prices are driving up electricity bills. The city is working to obtain 70% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and continues to build utility-scale projects alongside a flourishing base of distributed resources.

We’ve run many stories covering the hype around clean hydrogen. A new review of scientific papers in the UK throws another wet blanket over that flame, concluding that hydrogen is unsuitable for use in home heating, and likely to remain so, despite the hopes of the UK government and plumbing industry. The same calculations apply here. California is having none of it. Regulators just voted unanimously to develop new rules that would effectively ban the sale of natural gas-powered heating and hot water systems beginning in 2030, a first-in-the-nation commitment. That’s related to hydrogen because mixing hydrogen with natural gas for home heating is an enduring gas utility fantasy. Nope. Not gonna do it.

Recognizing that “clean energy” carries its own environmental burdens, the Biden administration is proposing a new permitting program for wind energy turbines, power lines and other projects that kill bald and golden eagles. As unpleasant as that is, “birds tell us that climate change is the biggest threat they face,” said Garry George, director of the National Audubon Society’s Clean Energy Initiative. If it’s executed responsibly, he said the new program could strengthen protections for eagles as renewable energy expands.

In clean transportation  a pair of hyperlocal ride-hailing startups in Chicago are positioning themselves to better serve predominantly Black neighborhoods that are under-served by traditional ride-hailing services and public transit. This is a form of small-scale, electrified transportation that addresses the “last mile” problem of sparse public transit routes. Meanwhile, the Federal government is working on legislation to maximize reuse and recycling of end-of-life electric vehicle batteries in federal fleet vehicles.

We’ll close with developing stories around the energy transition as it relates to modernizing the grid. New England allowed itself to become much too dependent on natural gas for electricity generation, and now finds itself with precarious fuel supplies during winter cold snaps – when gas is also critically essential (for now) to heat buildings. There’s a big debate underway, and we’re working hard for a short term solution to get us through the transition without any build-out of additional gas infrastructure.

Part of the solution is the deployment of long-duration energy storage, of the type that iron flow battery maker ESS has agreed to supply the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, including 2 gigawatt-hours of storage. The city-owned power company is committed to ending carbon emissions by 2030.

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

we resist
‘People Power Has Won The Day’: Manchin Dirty Deal Defeated
The win was the result of “hundreds of national and grassroots organizations, along with concerned Americans from coast to coast, working together for the health and safety of frontline communities and a livable future for the planet,” said one campaigner.
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
September 27, 2022

Climate campaigners and people on the frontlines of the planetary emergency celebrated Tuesday after Sen. Joe Manchin requested that his fossil fuel-friendly permitting reforms be stripped out of a stopgap funding bill.

“People power has won the day,” said Protect Our Water Heritage Rights Coalition (POWHR) organizer Grace Tuttle. “Thank you to everyone who rallied together to stop this bill. We will keep fighting alongside you. Our letters, calls, rallies, and grassroots activism secured this victory.”

“We recognize that the fight is not over, and we stand with all frontline communities from the Gulf Coast to Alaska facing fossil-fueled injustices,” Tuttle vowed. “Our movement to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline is bigger and stronger than ever. We will keep fighting to end the era of fossil fuels and for the future we deserve.”

Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter declared that “tonight’s turnaround represents a remarkable, against-all-odds victory by a determined grassroots climate movement against the overwhelming financial and political might of the fossil fuel industry and its Senate enablers.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed to hold a vote on permitting reforms in exchange for Manchin (D-W.Va.) supporting the Inflation Reduction Act. However, a growing number of lawmakers indicated in recent days that they would oppose an urgent government funding bill if it included the “dirty deal,” which would fast-track fossil fuel projects.

Given the mounting opposition to his Energy Independence and Security Act, Manchin on Tuesday evening asked Schumer to cut out his proposal.

“While the campaign against polluting oil and gas is far from over,” said Hauter, “this repudiation of Sen. Manchin’s so-called permitting reform bill marks a huge victory against dirty energy—and also against dirty backroom Washington deal-making.”

“This victory would not have been possible without the coordinated efforts of hundreds of national and grassroots organizations, along with concerned Americans from coast to coast, working together for the health and safety of frontline communities and a livable future for the planet,” she stressed.
» Read article    

third act founder
Bill McKibben: Victory Over Big Oil as Sen. Manchin Forced to Drop “Hideous Deal” on Energy
Democracy Now, Youtube
September 27, 2022


”All environmental victories are temporary. This one may be more temporary than most. There’s already news today that Manchin and the Republicans are going to try and bring it back, attaching it in December not to the budget but to the Defense Authorization Act. Look. Big Oil never sleeps and it never gives up. But for a day anyway, an impressive win by grassroots environmentalists.”
» Watch video      

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

crude guys
15K Miles of New Oil Pipelines Worldwide Show ‘Almost Deliberate Failure to Meet Climate Goals’
The United States is currently developing more new oil pipeline capacity than any other country, a global analysis shows.
By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams
September 27, 2022

As climate scientists and frontline communities plead with governments to urgently phase out planet-wrecking fossil fuels, an analysis released Tuesday shows that nearly 15,000 miles of new oil pipelines are currently in development worldwide, potentially imperiling the hopes of curbing runaway warming.

Titled Crude Awakening: Oil Pipelines in Development Across the Globe, the new report from Global Energy Monitor (GEM) finds that the United States is currently pursuing more new oil pipeline capacity by length than any other country, with a total of around 1,700 miles of pipelines either proposed or already under construction.

The majority of U.S. pipeline construction is linked to the Permian Basin, a massive carbon bomb located in the country’s southwest.

“Buoyed by record profits in 2021–22, the oil industry is moving ahead with a massive expansion of the global oil pipeline system,” the report states. “Over 24,000 km of crude oil transmission pipelines are in development, about 40% of which are already under construction.”

“Despite taking a backseat to the global gas boom in recent years,” the analysis warns, “this expansion of crude oil infrastructure creates a substantial stranded asset risk for project developers and is dramatically at odds with plans to limit global warming to 1.5°C or 2.0°C.”

[…] The new analysis comes as the U.S. Senate is preparing to vote on a permitting reform plan pushed by right-wing Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) that, if passed, would pave the way for final approval of the Mountain Valley fracked gas pipeline and fast-track other polluting oil and gas infrastructure.

Baird Langenbrunner, a research analyst at GEM, told The Guardian that the continued push for new oil pipelines in the face of dire warnings from scientists, the head of the United Nations, and others about the consequences of more fossil fuel development “shows an almost deliberate failure to meet climate goals.”

“Despite climate targets threatening to render fossil fuel infrastructure as stranded assets,” Langenbrunner added, “the world’s biggest consumers of fossil fuels, led by the U.S. and China, are doubling down on oil pipeline expansion.”
» Read article    
» Read the report

» More about pipelines

LEGISLATION

too chummy
Sen. Manchin pulls environmental permitting ‘reform’ bill from stopgap funding legislation
By Eric Schaeffer, Oil and Gas Watch
September 27, 2022

With the clock ticking on a possible government shutdown on Friday, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin late today pulled from a stopgap funding bill his proposed legislation that would fast-track permitting reviews of major energy projects.

Senator Manchin made the move after failing to receive support from Republicans and some Democrats for his “Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022.” The permitting “reform” legislation was part of a deal struck with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Joe Biden to earn Manchin’s vote on landmark climate legislation last month.

Manchin and Schumer claimed that the permitting fast-track bill had to be rushed through Congress as part of an emergency funding resolution to keep government open because the U.S. allegedly needed to speed up the permitting of liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, multi-state pipelines, and other very large energy projects.

However, the bill was criticized from both sides of the aisle – and did not have political support or a sound factual basis. The argument that permit reviews for oil and gas projects must be accelerated did not withstand close scrutiny.  And despite promising not to weaken the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws, the Manchin bill would have done the opposite. The bill would have flat-out ordered federal agencies to approve construction of the controversial Mountain Valley pipeline in Manchin’s home state while prohibiting any judicial review of that decision.

So it is good that the bill was pulled.

A review of recent decisions to issue permits for LNG terminals suggests the Manchin bill was a solution in search of a problem.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has the lead responsibility for approving such projects, after determining that they are a public “necessity,” minimize damage to natural and cultural resources as required under the National Environmental Policy Act, and have environmental permit approvals from the EPA and other agencies.
» Read article     

» More about legislation

PEAKING POWER PLANTS

added burden
Research shows neighborhoods near new plant face high rates of health issues
By Caroline Enos, The Salem News
September 21, 2022

PEABODY — A new peaker plant in Peabody would be built in an area with higher rates of health disparities, new research confirms.

As of now, the project would be completed without any prior health and environmental impact reports done by the state, something Peabody’s Board of Health and local activists are hoping to change.

The 55-megawatt “peaker” plant would be powered by oil and natural gas and only run during peak times of energy use for at most 1,250 hours annually. Construction on the $85 million project is expected to be completed by summer 2023.

The new peaker would be more efficient and produce fewer emissions than the Peabody Municipal Light Plant’s decades-old 20-megawatt generator currently in use at the same site, according to the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company, the owner and operator of the new plant. MMWEC hopes the old generator will be decommissioned by 2026.

Still, the new peaker would use fossil fuels that emit carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and other harmful particles into the air, the Board of Health said in a joint letter to the state last year.

This was emphasized again during a presentation of new research at the board’s meeting Thursday night.

“(The research) demonstrated that there are residents in proximity to the proposed plant who have vulnerabilities that could be exacerbated by air pollution, and that residents in these neighborhoods show a heavier burden of diseases,” said Sharon Cameron, the city’s public health director.

Kathryn Rodgers, a Ph.D. student in environmental health at the Boston University School of Public Health, conducted this research during an internship with the Massachusetts Climate Action Network this summer. These concerns had been raised last year as well by doctors and other advocates opposed to the peaker plant.

“Populations living closer to the proposed power plant face significantly more health burdens than the rest of the state,” Rodgers said of her findings.

[…] Seven new air monitors were installed earlier this month to collect air pollution data on Pulaski Street and in other neighborhoods.

They will start running this week and upload live data to a fire and smoke map at https://tinyurl.com/fireandsmokemap.

“We expect that data from the Purple Air monitors will be useful in additional assessment of the potential impact of air pollution on our community,” Cameron said.
» Read article     

» More about peakers

GAS LEAKS

pollutant concentrations
Natural Gas Leaked from Interstate Pipelines Contains Hazardous Air Pollutants and Carcinogens
By Adrienne Underwood, PSEhealthyenergy.org
September 20, 2022

OAKLAND, CA – Natural gas transported by interstate pipelines contains hazardous air pollutants and known human carcinogens, according to a first of its kind study published in Environmental Research Letters by researchers at the nonprofit research institute PSE Healthy Energy.

In the United States, interstate transmission pipelines that transport natural gas release significant quantities of unburned gas during routine operations and unintentional leaks (e.g., blowdowns and blowouts). In 2020 alone, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that natural gas transmission infrastructure leaked over 1.4 million tons of methane—a potent greenhouse gas. Despite this, no previous analysis has evaluated whether the gas in this system contains hazardous air pollutants.

“Interstate natural gas pipelines are critical energy infrastructure that is normally off limits to researchers,” said the study’s leading author Curtis Nordgaard, an environmental health scientist at PSE Healthy Energy and a board-certified pediatrician. “This is the first study to investigate the chemicals moving through our nation’s vast natural gas transmission network. Our results indicate that there are surprising levels of harmful air pollutants and carcinogens, creating potential health risks if gas leaks into nearby communities.”

Using industry-reported data from infrastructure applications submitted to federal regulators, PSE scientists calculated the concentration of hazardous air pollutants in natural gas transmission pipelines. The researchers found BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes) and hexane reported in nearly all filings that disclosed hazardous air pollutant data. Industry reports also included other health-damaging compounds, including mercury, the radioactive gas radon, and hydrogen sulfide. While concentrations of these chemicals varied, some were health-relevant. In the case of benzene, concentrations in transmission gas were reported as high as 299 parts per million, or 30,000 times the short-term exposure level considered low-risk by the California Environmental Protection Agency. Concentrations of benzene in condensate were much higher. Many of the chemicals reported in this pipeline gas are known to cause neurodevelopmental impairments, lung cancer, leukemia, and respiratory illness.

“We know that natural gas transmission infrastructure is responsible for methane emissions that damage the climate. This new study indicates that these leaks also contain chemicals that are dangerous for human health,” said PSE Healthy Energy Executive Director Seth B.C. Shonkoff. “Stopping natural gas leaks is critical for the climate and to protect the health of our communities.”
» Read article    
» Read the study         

» More about gas leaks

GREENING THE ECONOMY

solar equity
Massachusetts program allows homeowners to share excess solar power

The program encourages homeowners considering solar panels to opt for larger systems than they need, then pass credits for the extra energy along to help offset the electricity bills of residents who aren’t able to install solar themselves.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
September 26, 2022

A Massachusetts renewable energy company hopes to help low-income consumers nationwide access the financial benefits of clean energy with a new platform that allows homeowners to share excess solar credits.

The Solar Equity Platform, created by Boston-based Resonant Energy, encourages homeowners with sufficient space to install systems larger than their households need. Homeowners will receive state incentives for the power generated, while the credits generated by the additional energy production are passed on at no cost to low-income residents, who can use them to offset their electricity bills.

“We take people who have the structural advantage of having large homes and capitalize on that asset,” said Ben Underwood, co-founder and co-CEO of Resonant Energy. “It’s taking some of that value and sending it to people in low-income neighborhoods.”

Currently, the platform is operating only in Massachusetts. However, Resonant hopes to expand the concept into other states as well. And it isn’t just its creators who see the promise in the idea: The platform made it to the final round of the U.S. Department of Energy’s American Made Solar competition.

Even as solar power proliferates across the country — solar installations made up close to half of the new electric generation capacity added nationwide in 2021, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association — low-income households are often left out of this progress. The upfront costs of installing a system are often too high for a family struggling to pay the bills. Low-income consumers are also more likely to live in rental units or in houses with older roofs or outdated electrical systems that can’t support solar panels.

In an attempt to narrow this gap, Massachusetts’ solar incentive plan, the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target program (SMART), offers additional money for systems on the homes of low-income families as well as those that allocate part or all of the clean energy produced to low-income households, allowing these residents to receive the benefit of stable, generally lower prices on their electricity.

So far, though, this incentive has gained limited traction: Just 10% of the capacity the program has received applications for has claimed some form of these higher incentives.

The Solar Equity Platform is designed to boost these numbers by simplifying the process of building and sharing excess capacity.
» Read article    

Kigali ratified
Senate Votes to Ratify the Kigali Amendment, Joining 137 Nations in an Effort to Curb Global Warming
The binding agreement will reduce the use of HFCs used in refrigeration and air conditioning, which will almost immediately slow global warming and create domestic manufacturing jobs.
By Phil McKenna, Inside Climate News
September 24, 2022

With rare, bipartisan support including a phalanx of Republican lawmakers, the U.S. Senate voted 69-27 Wednesday in favor of ratifying a key international climate agreement that will significantly curb global warming and, climate advocates say, could serve as a springboard for further emissions reductions.

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol is a binding agreement to reduce production and use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), chemicals used in refrigeration and air conditioning that are also potent, short-lived greenhouse gases. President Joe Biden is expected to soon sign the agreement, something he has called for since his inauguration. The United States would join 137 other countries in an agreement that is projected to prevent substantial additional warming by the end of the century.

“I am thrilled to see the U.S. rally to the support of this vital agreement,” John Kerry, the U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, who, as U.S. Secretary of State, helped forge the initial agreement in 2016, said in a written statement.

“Businesses supported it because it drives American exports; climate advocates championed it because it will avoid up to half a degree of global warming by the end of the century; and world leaders backed it because it ensures strong international cooperation,” Kerry said.

A 2018 report by the U.S. air conditioning and refrigeration industry found that by 2027, the Kigali amendment would increase U.S. manufacturing jobs by 33,000, increase U.S. exports by $5 billion, and reduce imports by nearly $7 billion.

The United States began phasing down the production and use of HFCs after Congress passed the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, legislation that was signed by then President Donald Trump in 2020. Subsequent regulations released by the EPA in 2021 are compliant with the Kigali Amendment, which requires the U.S. and other developed countries to reduce production and use of HFCs by 85 percent by 2036.

[…] Phasing down HFCs is of particular importance because the chemicals are “short-lived climate pollutants.” HFCs remain in the atmosphere for 15 years on average, far shorter than carbon dioxide which remains in the atmosphere for 300 to 1000 years. Any effort to curb HFC emissions or other short-lived climate pollutants such as methane will have a near-instantaneous impact on slowing global warming.
» Read article    

Fiona over Puerto Rico
Puerto Ricans: We Won’t Become Resilient Until We Have an Equitable and Just Recovery
By Juan Declet-Barreto, Senior Social Scientist for Climate Vulnerability, UCCSUSA
September 28, 2022

“Refuse to glorify resilience; demand accountability.” Thus reads a meme on Puerto Rican social media, the background image a house with a wind-battered roof, a combination of rusted tin and ragged palm tree leaves. It is illustrative of the growing discontent of Puerto Ricans at being called resilient in the face of Hurricanes Maria and Fiona. But wait…aren’t Puerto Ricans resilient to the torrential rains, flooding, and winds that hurricane season brings year after year? Aren’t they (shouldn’t they!) be used to, adapted to, resilient to, the undeniable climate and extreme weather realities that are part of living in the Caribbean? Before answering the question, let’s unpack these assumptions first.

The idea that populations facing climate and other social, economic, or environmental disasters are innately resilient to climate and other environmental impacts is long-standing and incorrect. It is a harmful framing that romanticizes the conditions of duress under which impacted populations attempt to survive disasters when they already live, day in, day out, in precarious circumstances. It is also a convenient framing that leaves governments off the hook and unaccountable for their own unwillingness to prioritize the wellbeing of vulnerable populations and adequately respond to risks to which scientists have provided plenty of warning and solutions.

And the etymology of resilience contributes to the problem as well. It evokes elasticity—of a rubber band or a NERF ball, for example—that allows something that becomes deformed or bent out of shape by an external force to return to its original form or condition. But people and the social, technological, economic, and political systems upon which they rely to live their lives are not rubber bands or foam balls. Even if people and the things they require had such elasticity, in the face of climate upheavals spiraling out of control, it is not desirable to return to the original form.

What is desirable and needed is to reshape into a form that can prevent or minimize the deformation in the first place, especially when the strength of the force is increasing under a changing climate.
» Read article    

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

speeding up
On top of Mount Washington, signs of changing climate

Research shows warming temperatures, fewer cold days
By Kevin Skarupa, WMUR
September 28, 2022

MOUNT WASHINGTON, New Hampshire — At a height of over 6,000 feet, Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeast and is known as having the world’s worst weather, but that weather has been changing recently.

Mount Washington is an iconic spot in New Hampshire, and for decades, researchers have been stationed at the peak.

“Anytime we have a lot of icing events — frozen precipitation, freezing rain, glaze ice — sometimes we can get inches and inches of it per hour, which does a lot of damage to some of our instruments,” said Jay Broccolo, director of weather operations.

It’s hard work living there, but it has paid off over the years. Researchers might not have known how important it would be when they started gathering data in 1935, but it’s incredibly rare to have hourly observations at that altitude.

“We definitely rely on our data set, which now at 90 years, it’s getting to be longer than most people live,” Broccolo said.

Coupled with detailed data from nearby Pinkham Notch, Mount Washington is being looked at carefully by the scientific community to better understand the magnitude of the warming of Earth’s atmosphere.

Georgia Murray, a staff scientist at the Appalachian Mountain Club, released a study recently that showed that while people living below 6,000 feet have been feeling the effects of a warming planet for some time, Mount Washington and Pinkham Notch have been exempt up until about 20 years ago.

“We look at the annual temperature trends,” Murray said. “Our paper found that for the first time, the summit is tipping to what we call significantly warming.”
» Read article    

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

big apple
New York launches 2 GW renewable energy solicitation as natural gas prices drive up electricity bills
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
September 22, 2022

New York is working to obtain 70% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and continues to build out utility-scale projects alongside a flourishing base of distributed resources.

New York “is moving ahead with full force as we look to build more large-scale renewable energy projects across the state,” NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen Harris said in a statement.

The solicitation is expected to result in the generation of approximately 4.5 million MWh annually, sufficient to reduce the state’s carbon emissions by 2 million metric tons, officials said.

NYSERDA will host a webinar on Oct. 6 to provide more information on the solicitation. Projects must show the ability to reach commercial operation by May 2025, though the solicitation provides an option to extend the deadline until May 2028.

Solar developers in New York celebrated the solicitation.

“The clean energy projects awarded through NYSERDA’s predictable solicitation process will add to the more than 12,000 solar jobs in our state,” Zack Dufresne, executive director of the New York Solar Energy Industries Association, said in a statement.

The solicitation for utility-scale renewables follows NYSERDA’s competitive solicitation for offshore wind, issued in July.

New York is also looking to distributed solar to help meet its climate goals. On Wednesday, the state announced 4 GW of community, residential, small commercial and industrial solar projects have been installed — sufficient to power more than 710,000 homes.

The state is on track to exceed its goal of having 6 GW of distributed solar installed by 2025, officials said, en route to 10 GW by 2030.

New York is racing to add renewables as the price of natural gas drives up electricity costs.
» Read article    

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

less efficient
Hydrogen is unsuitable for home heating, review concludes
Too many technical difficulties to overcome to make it a viable low-carbon heating fuel, say researchers
By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
September 27, 2022

Hydrogen is unsuitable for use in home heating, and likely to remain so, despite the hopes of the UK government and plumbing industry, a comprehensive review of scientific papers has concluded.

Hydrogen lobbyists are out in force at the Labour party conference this week, sponsoring several events in Liverpool, and will be plentiful at the Conservative party conference that begins this weekend.

They are hoping to persuade the UK government to push ahead with a mooted large-scale rollout of hydrogen for home heating, as a replacement for the gas used to heat the vast majority of British homes. Hydrogen proponents say it would avoid households having to replace gas boilers with heat pumps, the other main contender for low-carbon home heating.

But researchers reviewed 32 studies of hydrogen and concluded that it was unlikely to play a major role in home heating, either as a full replacement for fossil fuel gas heating, or as a blend with natural gas.

Jan Rosenow, Europe director at the Regulatory Assistance Project, an energy thinktank, and co-author of the study, said there were too many technical difficulties to overcome to make hydrogen a viable and economic low-carbon heating fuel.

“Using hydrogen for heating may sound attractive at first glance. However, all of the independent research on this topic comes to the same conclusion: heating with hydrogen is a lot less efficient and more expensive than alternatives such as heat pumps, district heating and solar thermal,” he said.

The study, published on Tuesday in the peer-review scientific journal Joule, is the third major blow in the past week to proponents of hydrogen for home heating. Earlier this week, a separate study by the analyst company Cornwall Insight concluded that hydrogen would be close to twice as expensive for home heating as using gas alone. Last week, the Guardian revealed problems with a hydrogen pilot project in Scotland.
» Blog editor’s note: the same economics and physics apply in the U.S. as they do across the Pond.
» Read article    
» Read the study

dump it
California’s 2030 ban on gas heaters opens a new front in the war on fossil fuels
The first-of-its-kind plan will purge gas from existing buildings, not just new construction.
By Emily Pontecorvo, Grist
September 26, 2022

California regulators voted unanimously last week to develop new rules that would effectively ban the sale of natural gas-powered heating and hot water systems, a first-in-the-nation commitment. The California Air Resources Board, or CARB, an agency that oversees the state’s climate targets and regulates pollution, passed the measure on Thursday as part of a larger plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions and comply with federal air quality targets.

Beginning in 2030, homeowners in California looking to replace their furnace or hot-water heater will only be able to purchase zero-emission appliances. Regulators expect this to primarily mean a switch to heat pumps — very efficient electric devices that can both heat and cool homes — as well as heat pump water heaters.

It will be the first legal mandate in the country designed to purge natural gas from existing buildings — in contrast with past policies aimed at stopping new developments from using the fuel.

“We are celebrating this historic win as California becomes the first state to end the sale of polluting fossil fuel appliances,” said Leah Louise-Prescott, a senior associate at the clean energy think tank RMI. “California’s leadership sets a clear example for other states to follow in their transition to a healthy, all-electric future.”

The use of fossil fuels in homes for space and water heating, drying clothes, and cooking food is responsible for about 10 percent of U.S. carbon emissions. California municipalities have been at the vanguard of tackling these emissions for several years now, beginning in 2019 when the city of Berkeley passed an ordinance preventing new developments from hooking up to the gas system. Cities around the state and across the country have since followed with similar policies, including Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and, most recently, Chicago.

California has also led the way at the state level. Last year it adopted a landmark building code change that strongly encourages all new buildings in the state to forgo gas hookups. And earlier this month, the Golden State’s utility board took another pioneering step to end subsidies for gas line extensions to new buildings. In many states, utilities do not charge new customers the full cost of extending a gas line to their building — instead incorporating those costs into rates and spreading them across their customer base.
» Read article    

» More about energy efficiency

LONG-DURATION ENERGY STORAGE

Sacramento
ESS inks largest-ever US flow battery purchase with Sacramento utility
The innovative deal will supply 2 gigawatt-hours of storage over multiple years and includes provisions for workforce training in and around the California capital.
By Julian Spector, Canary Media
September 27, 2022

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District will soon be decarbonizing its power supply — in part by pumping iron.

The city-owned power company has committed to ending its carbon emissions by 2030, an aggressive timeline compared to California’s statewide 2045 deadline to do the same. That means the state capital can’t wait any longer to figure out how to close the gap between abundant daytime solar production and post-sunset demand for electricity.

Last week, SMUD took a decisive step toward its clean energy goal when it signed a contract with iron flow battery company ESS to deliver 200 megawatts/​2 gigawatt-hours of its products, which store electricity in a liquid electrolyte containing dissolved iron.

A purchase of this size is a massive step forward for flow battery storage, a technology that just might help rid the grid of fossil fuels if it ever gets sustained market traction.

The deal contains a master supply agreement for ESS to deliver units over the course of the next few years. It will start with several megawatts over the next 18 months, said Hugh McDermott, senior vice president for business development and sales. Then it will ramp to tens of megawatts in the second phase and then potentially up to the 100-megawatt level.

The multiyear commitment is meant to track the natural planning cycles of utility procurement and project development, McDermott told Canary Media in the expo hall of the RE+ convention in Anaheim, California last week.

“This is a very uncertain supply situation for the rest of this decade, for everybody,” McDermott said of the grid storage market. “[SMUD is] going to get certainty on supply — a major bonus — and they’re going to get a commitment that we’ll have the manufacturing behind that. We’ll get the visibility [to future demand] so we can plan our manufacturing expansion.”
» Read article    

» More about long-duration energy storage

MODERNIZING THE GRID

cold in Houston
Trouble brewing in the power grid as officials warn of possible electricity shortages in N.E. this winter
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
September 27, 2022

The prospect is alarming: rolling blackouts across New England as temperatures plummet below freezing for days on end, the result of a power grid that can’t keep up.

Mindful of the debacle in Texas, where failures in the power grid resulted in hundreds of deaths during a freezing spell in February 2021, energy officials here are issuing unusually strident warnings about the potential for shortages if this winter turns out to be especially cold.

The culprit? Russia’s war with Ukraine has destabilized energy markets, particularly supplies of liquefied natural gas, while pipelines that bring natural gas in from other parts of the United States remained constrained. The threat also underscores the stark choices New England faces for its energy future, as gas and pipeline companies push to bring more gas to the region, while clean energy and climate advocates warn that will harm the planet and only make the region’s dependence on gas worse.

The concern is great enough that earlier this month, the five commissioners of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission made a rare visit to New England to hold a daylong meeting in Burlington to come to grips with just how serious the problem is.

[…] The challenge is daunting, as New England has limited ways to bring in natural gas — pipeline, ship, truck, or barge. In addition to being the dominant fuel for home heating, natural gas is used to generate more than half of the electricity in New England. And in winter, when demand is high, gas goes to heating buildings first before generating electricity.

“The underlying problem is that we’re overly dependent on a single fuel,” said Rebecca Tepper, chief of the energy and environment bureau at the Massachusetts attorney general’s office. “We’re overly dependent on natural gas and the entire region is at risk any time we have any disruption on that system.”

But while the region is racing to switch from fossil-fuel-fired power plants to renewable energy, some experts say this winter is exposing the challenges of that transition, with the best clean energy solutions, such as offshore wind, not yet on line, leaving officials to scramble for solutions that don’t further tie the region to fossil fuels.

When ISO-New England has issued similar warnings in previous years, clean energy advocates say, the grid has looked first to solve the problem by securing more supplies of gas.

“Investing in more fossil fuel infrastructure is not going to solve the problem,” said Melissa Birchard, the director of clean energy and grid transition for the Acadia Center, a clean energy advocacy group. “It just continues our cycle of not investing in clean resources, and can exacerbate climate change.”

Instead, she and other advocates want the region to reduce demand by doubling down on its existing successes with energy efficiency, while also pushing for more conservation efforts and working to get clean energy on line quickly.

Right now, Massachusetts is on the cusp of an offshore wind boom. The first phase of one project, the 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind farm, is expected to be up and running next year. In 2025, a second offshore wind farm, Mayflower Wind, is expected to bring roughly the same amount on line. Two years later, an additional 1,600 megawatts are expected to be powering the grid.
» Read article    

» More about modernizing the grid

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY RESOURCES

clounds and shadows
US proposal would permit eagle deaths as renewables expand
The Biden administration is proposing a new permitting program for wind energy turbines, power lines and other projects that kill bald and golden eagles
By MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press, in The Berkshire Eagle
September 29, 2022

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Biden administration on Thursday proposed a new permitting program for wind energy turbines, power lines and other projects that kill eagles, amid growing concern among scientists that the rapid expansion of renewable energy in the U.S. West could harm golden eagle populations now teetering on decline.

The Fish and Wildlife Service program announced Thursday is meant to encourage companies to work with officials to minimize harm to golden and bald eagles.

It’s also aimed at avoiding any slowdown in the growth of wind power as an alternative to carbon-emitting fossil fuels — a key piece of President Joe Biden’s climate agenda. It comes after several major utilities have been federally prosecuted in recent years for killing large numbers of eagles without permits.

The federal government already issues permits to kill eagles. But Thursday’s proposal calls for new permits tailored to wind-energy projects, power line networks and the disturbance of breeding bald eagles and bald eagle nests.

Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams said the new program would provide “multiple pathways to obtain a permit” while also helping conserve eagles, which she described as a key responsibility for the agency.

Bald eagle numbers have quadrupled since 2009 to about 350,000 birds. There are only about about 40,000 golden eagles, which need much larger areas to survive and are more inclined to have trouble with humans.

The number of wind turbines nationwide more than doubled over the past decade to almost 72,000, according to U.S. Geological Survey data, with development overlapping prime golden eagle territory in states including Wyoming, Montana, California, Washington and Oregon.

[…] Illegal shootings are the biggest cause of death for golden eagles, killing about 700 annually, according to federal estimates. More than 600 die annually in collisions with cars, wind turbines and power lines; about 500 annually are electrocuted; and more than 400 are poisoned.

Yet climate change looms as a potentially greater threat: Rising temperatures are projected to reduce golden eagle breeding ranges by more than 40% later this century, according to a National Audubon Society analysis.

“Birds tell us that climate change is the biggest threat they face,” said Garry George, director of the National Audubon Society’s Clean Energy Initiative. If it’s executed responsibly, he said the new program could strengthen protections for eagles as renewable energy expands.
» Read article   

» More about siting impacts of renewables

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

hyper local
Black-owned companies seek to close electric transportation gaps in Chicago
A pair of hyperlocal ride-hailing startups in Chicago are positioning themselves to better serve predominantly Black neighborhoods that are underserved by traditional ride-hailing services and public transit.
By Audrey Henderson, Energy News Network
September 30, 2022

The transition to electric vehicles is well under way, but the benefits will be slow to arrive in communities where private car ownership is still a luxury.

Long before app-based ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft, unlicensed cabs known as “jitneys” provided a similar service in Black neighborhoods that conventional White-owned taxi companies frequently refused to serve. Today, ride-hailing service is also low in several predominantly Black neighborhoods on Chicago’s Far South Side, corresponding with low rates of household vehicle ownership.

Hyperlocal shared ride services represent a potential alternative. In Chicago, two Black-owned companies — Jitney EV and GEST Chicago — are positioning themselves to fulfill that role, while also trying to ensure that environmental justice communities are not left behind in the transition from fossil fuel-based transportation.

“Post COVID and as a result of climate change, we have a once-in-a-lifetime investment in public infrastructure to address climate change and to address the transition away from fossil fuel production, toward clean energy, both in building and transportation. So it’s important that our community does not get left behind,” said William “Billy” Davis, general manager for Jitney EV.

Their efforts are specifically targeting the “last mile” gap between public transit stops and destinations such as grocery stores, banks and entertainment, along with providing an option for reliable transportation to and from work for residents within its service area, Davis said.

“We have, in Illinois, a transit system that is required by statute to generate 50% of its operating revenue from the fare box. So that tends to drive routes based on ridership. And it tends to punish those routes that have low ridership, even if they are in disadvantaged communities,” Davis said.
» Read article    

Fed recycling plan
US Senate passes bill to maximize EV battery recycling for federal fleet vehicles
Sponsors of the bipartisan bill say the federal government needs a plan to bolster recycling and reuse of EV batteries, to lessen U.S. dependence on international markets for battery components.
By Megan Quinn, Utility Dive
September 16, 2022

The Strategic EV Management Act, which aims to maximize reuse and recycling of end-of-life electric vehicle batteries in federal fleet vehicles, passed the U.S. Senate on Wednesday. It now heads to the House of Representatives.

The bill calls for federal agencies such as the General Services Administration and the Office of Management and Budget to collaborate with the U.S. EPA, manufacturers and recyclers to create a strategic plan for reusing and recycling EV batteries. It also calls for coordinating with scientists, labs and startups working on such projects. The amended version passed in the Senate also calls for a report on how costs to operate and maintain electric vehicles in the federal fleet compare with costs for vehicles with combustion engines.

The bill is sponsored by Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah; Gary Peters, D-Mich.; Richard Burr R-N.C.; and Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn.

“As the federal government’s electric vehicle fleet continues to grow, it must also ensure it has a coordinated strategy for optimal battery longevity,” Romney said in a statement. “The federal government should lead by example, and the more cost-efficient we are in this space, the less dependent we will be on foreign suppliers.”

Current recycling technologies can recover up to 95% of the minerals and materials needed to manufacture new batteries, he added.

The Senate’s passage of the bill marks another recent instance of federal action in the EV and lithium-ion battery recycling space.

The Department of Energy is working to allocate $335 million in funding for lithium-ion battery recycling included in the 2021 infrastructure law. That’s in addition to about $60 million in funding for second-life applications and recycling processes for EV batteries.

Government policies that incentivize EV recycling could have an impact on recycling markets for materials such as nickel and lithium in the near future, said Joe Pickard, chief economist and director of commodities for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, during a media briefing about the U.S. economy on Thursday.
» Read article    

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Permian flare
Methane Might Be a Bigger Climate Problem Than Thought, Study Finds
Flaring, meant to burn off the planet-warming gas at industrial sites, doesn’t always work as intended, according to researchers.
By Henry Fountain, New York Times
September 29, 2022

The oil industry practice of burning unwanted methane is less effective than previously assumed, scientists said Thursday, resulting in new estimates for releases of the greenhouse gas in the United States that are about five times as high than earlier ones.

In a study of the three largest oil and gas basins in the United States, the researchers found that the practice, known as flaring, often doesn’t completely burn the methane, a potent heat-trapping gas that is often a byproduct of oil production. And in many cases, they discovered, flares are extinguished and not reignited, so all the methane escapes into the atmosphere.

Improving efficiency and ensuring that all flares remain lit would result in annual emissions reductions in the United States equal to taking nearly 3 million cars off the road each year, the scientists said.

“Flares have been kind of ‘out of sight, out of mind,’” said one of the researchers, Eric A. Kort, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Michigan. “But they actually matter more for climate than we realized.”

[…] Methane is the primary component of natural gas, also known as fossil gas, which can leak into the atmosphere from wells, pipelines and other infrastructure, and is also deliberately released for maintenance or other reasons.

But vast amounts are flared.

Gas that is flared is often produced with oil at wells around the world, or at other industry facilities. There may not be a pipeline or other means to market it economically, and because it is flammable, it poses safety issues. In such cases, the gas is sent through a vertical pipe with an igniter at the top, and burned.

The International Energy Agency estimated that worldwide in 2021, more than 140 million cubic meters of methane was burned in this way, equal to the amount imported that year by Germany, France and the Netherlands.

If the combustion is efficient, almost all of the methane is destroyed, converted into carbon dioxide, which has less of an immediate climate impact. The Environmental Protection Agency, in studies conducted in the 1980s, calculated that flares destroyed 98 percent of the methane sent through them.

But the new research found that flaring was actually far less effective, especially when unlit flares were taken into account. Emissions from improper flaring accounted for as much as 10 percent of all methane emissions in the oil and gas industry, the scientists said. The findings were published in the journal Science.
» Read article    

fossil database
A Global Database on Fossil Fuel Projects Goes Live
The Global Registry of Fossil Fuels offers an in-depth, free, and publicly-available look at oil, gas, and coal projects from around the world, shedding light on an industry threatening global climate targets
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
September 20, 2022

A new database cataloging the world’s oil and gas reserves reveals extensive data on the global fossil fuel industry for the first time.

The Global Registry of Fossil Fuels, launched by Carbon Tracker and Global Energy Monitor, is the first public and free-to-use database of fossil fuel production, reserves, and emissions. The registry contains more than 50,000 fields across 89 countries, and it covers 75 percent of global production. The database is not only a high-level look at figures for a whole country, but it also includes data that drills down to the individual project level.

“The Global Registry will make governments and companies more accountable for their development of fossil fuels by enabling civil society to link production decisions with national climate policies,” Mark Campanale, founder of Carbon Tracker and Chair of the Registry Steering Committee, said in a statement. “Equally, it will enable banks and investors to more accurately assess the risk of particular assets becoming stranded.”

Data included in the registry suggests that simply burning through existing oil, gas, and coal reserves, would unleash more than 3.5 trillion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, amounting to more than seven times the remaining carbon budget that would keep the world beneath the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degree Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warming target.

In fact, the U.S. and Russia alone have enough remaining fossil fuel reserves still in the ground that, if burned, would result in the world blowing past climate targets even if all other countries halted production.

The data stands in sharp contrast to calls from global climate scientists to wind down the extraction and production of dirty assets. Fossil fuel production must “start declining immediately and steeply to be consistent with limiting long-term warming to 1.5°C,” the UN warned in its 2021 Production Gap report.

But the buildout of fossil fuel infrastructure continues. In the U.S., for example, three large liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects are under construction, which will expand U.S. LNG export capacity by roughly a third by the mid-2020s. Natural gas production is at record levels, and crude oil production, while short of a pre-pandemic peak, continues to edge up. There is no national plan or policy to manage the necessary decline in output over time. Few countries, if any, have mapped out how to unwind their fossil fuel industries.
» Read article    
» Explore the database

» More about fossil fuel

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Weekly News Check-In 6/24/22

banner 11

Welcome back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about protests and actions

DIVESTMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about divestment

GREENING THE ECONOMY

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

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

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

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

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

And now, local governments are taking action as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

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

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

But it’s only a start.

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

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

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

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

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

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

Its only other byproduct? Water.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

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

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

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

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

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

» More about energy storage

BUILDING MATERIALS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about building materials

MODERNIZING THE GRID

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about clean transportation

GAS UTILITIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about gas utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about fossil fuels   

PLASTICS BANS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about plastics bans

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

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

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

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

Here’s what you need to know about sachets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about plastics in the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 5/27/22

banner 05

Welcome back.

We’re leading this week with an appreciative nod to individuals whose personal actions or protests either clarify an issue or make real change happen. However it’s done, it takes courage and for that we are grateful and inspired. We have articles about a senior safety consultant who quit working with Shell over what she calls the oil giant’s “extreme harms” to the environment. Also, take a look at the winners of this year’s prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.

In that same spirit, lots of our friends were out on the Water Street Bridge between Peabody and Danvers yesterday, in a “mass action” demonstration to further their opposition to a new gas/oil peaker plant being built off Peabody’s Pulaski Street. Ironically, the permits allowing the plant’s construction could not have been granted under current law.

While we’re talking about effective activism, keep in mind that it’s not always employed for the planet’s benefit…. In the U.S., Republican lawmakers and their allies have launched a campaign to try to rein in and punish companies that dare to divest from fossil fuels. This information lands at about the same time as a new study showing just how invested many of us are through pension and other funds, and to what extent these assets are at risk in a crash-the-economy sort of way.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Agency is also feeling this “opposing forces” dynamic. Last year, the head of the FERC delivered a message to the energy industry saying FERC’s Office of Enforcement would ensure energy and power companies comply with the agency’s rules. The number of investigations and the size of fines has since picked up considerably. But gas pipeline developers are striking back, bringing legal action through conservative-leaning courts that seek to undermine FERC’s core ability to regulate industry.

Meanwhile, UN secretary general António Guterres addressed thousands of graduates at Seton Hall University in New York state, telling them not to take up careers with the “climate wreckers” – companies that drive the extraction of fossil fuels. It’s a serious message, since building a green economy is a project we largely left to these young people. That, and a mountain of student debt….

Recent climate research clarifies the scope and scale of our global decarbonization effort. We now have a better understanding of the urgency surrounding elimination of potent, short-term warming drivers like methane and other pollutants. Researchers describe it as having to “win the sprint to slow warming in the near term by tackling the short-lived climate pollutants, so that we can stay in the race to win the marathon against CO2.” Without effective action against those short-term gases, a reduction in CO2 emissions would actually make warming worse for a while. Some related good news: Geneva, Switzerland-based International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) recently voted unanimously to approve a proposed update to a household appliance safety standard which will allow air conditioners and heat pumps used around the world to use new hydrocarbon refrigerants that have a negligible climate impact.

In clean energy, researchers have shown that double-sided panels help offset the effects of snow on ground-mounted solar arrays, mostly due to the snow’s reflective nature. And in clean transportation, the race to bring solid state batteries to the next generation of electric vehicles is running hot among all the major auto manufacturers – but nobody’s quite cracked it yet.

We’ll wrap up this optimistic section with a note that New England’s grid operator, ISO-NE, recently published a study that lays out four possible frameworks for how the grid operator might integrate clean energy into the grid. It’s long-overdue, but a step in the right direction.

Let’s turn to a report that details the PR and lobbying blitz from fossil fuel companies in the early days of the Russian invasion that aimed to benefit oil and gas interests while offering little for the current crisis. According to Faye Holder, program manager for InfluenceMap. “The sector has quickly mobilized around the war in Ukraine and high gas prices to promote the need for more ‘American-made energy,’ often relying on potentially misleading or questionable claims.”

Not wanting to miss an opportunity, Canada’s top energy official said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is open to accelerating a liquefied natural gas project that could start supplying Europe in as soon as three years. See “misleading or questionable claims”, above.

Last week, we ran a couple articles that described the worrisome growth of the biomass industry in Japan and South Korea. Europe has been the other big proponent, but now it seems like the EU is finally ready to stop subsidizing this polluting, destructive, false climate solution. Big decision coming in September – we’ll be watching.

And circling back to South Korea, it’s made some progress with plastics recycling programs. This article offers an interesting description of what an organized society can accomplish through highly focused education and enforcement mechanisms. But it’s also a reminder that really, folks, the answer is to use much less plastic to begin with!

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

Shell consultant
Shell consultant quits, accusing firm of ‘extreme harms’ to environment
Caroline Dennett tells staff in video she made decision because of ‘double-talk on climate’
By Alex Lawson, The Guardian
May 23, 2022

A senior safety consultant has quit working with Shell after 11 years, accusing the fossil fuel producer in a bombshell public video of causing “extreme harms” to the environment.

Caroline Dennett claimed Shell had a “disregard for climate change risks” and urged others in the oil and gas industry to “walk away while there’s still time”.

The executive, who works for the independent agency Clout, ended her working relationship with Shell in an open letter to its executives and 1,400 employees. In an accompanying video, posted on LinkedIn, she said she had quit because of Shell’s “double-talk on climate”.

Dennett accused the oil and gas firm of “operating beyond the design limits of our planetary systems” and “not putting environmental safety before production”.

She said: “Shell’s stated safety ambition is to ‘do no harm’ – ‘Goal Zero’, they call it – and it sounds honourable but they are completely failing on it.

“They know that continued oil and gas extraction causes extreme harms, to our climate, to our environment and to people. And whatever they say, Shell is simply not winding down on fossil fuels.”

Dennett told the Guardian she “could not marry these conflicts with my conscience”, adding: “I could not carry that any longer, and I’m ready to deal with the consequences.”
» Read article     
» Watch Ms. Dennett’s resignation video

Goldman Price 2022
Meet the 2022 Goldman Environmental Prize Winners
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
May 25, 2022

A teenage girl in California who shut down a toxic oil-drilling site; a Nigerian lawyer who got long-overdue justice for communities devastated by two Shell pipeline spills; two Indigenous Ecuadorians who protected their ancestral lands from gold mining. These are just some of the inspiring winners of this year’s so-called “Green Nobel Prize.”

The Goldman Environmental Foundation today announced the seven 2022 winners of its annual Goldman Environmental Prize, which is the highest honor one can receive for participating in grassroots environmental activism.

“While the many challenges before us can feel daunting, and at times make us lose faith, these seven leaders give us a reason for hope and remind us what can be accomplished in the face of adversity,” Goldman Environmental Foundation vice president Jennifer Goldman Wallis said in a press release. “The Prize winners show us that nature has the amazing capability to regenerate if given the opportunity. Let us all feel inspired to channel their victories into regenerating our own spirit and act to protect our planet for future generations.”
» Read article    

» More about protests and actions

PEAKING POWER PLANTS

peaker throws
‘We’re not giving up:’ Protestors, neighbors rally near Peabody peaker plant site
By Hadley Barndollar, USA TODAY NETWORK, in Milford Daily News
May 26, 2022

PEABODY — Jerry Halberstadt has asthma, and lives about a mile from a new fossil fuel-fired peaking power plant that’s being built.

He’s very conscious of air quality because of his diagnosis, he said. “This stuff can stop me in my tracks. There’s an impact from the burning of fossil fuels.”

But more than anything, Halberstadt worries for his three grandchildren, and “the nastiness that awaits them.”

In a “mass action” demonstration with speakers, bikers, kayakers and even kites, protestors converged on the Water Street bridge between Peabody and Danvers on Thursday to further their opposition to a new peaker plant being built off Peabody’s Pulaksi Street, where two power plants already exist on a riverfront site.

The new plant, which has received all necessary approvals from the state and been green-lighted for construction, would be located within an environmental justice neighborhood, a state designation given to areas where residents are historically vulnerable to environmental hazards.

State laws passed since the Peabody plant’s permitting process aim to vet projects as such and protect these very communities from fallout. Protestors on Thursday indicated they’re ramping up efforts to stop the plant.

[…] The situation in Peabody has taken center stage for climate activists in Massachusetts, which by law is now required to cut its emissions in half by 2030, and then reach net zero by 2050. Opponents feel building a natural gas and oil-fired power plant at this stage in the game is completely contradictory to those efforts.

Judith Black, a Marblehead resident and member of 350 Mass, said the peaker “flies in the face of environmental justice goals and our climate roadmap bill.”
» Read article     

» More about peaker plants

DIVESTMENT

woke in Glasgow
How an Organized Republican Effort Punishes Companies for Climate Action
Legislators and their allies are running an aggressive campaign that uses public money and the law to pressure businesses they say are pushing “woke” causes.
By David Gelles and Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
May 27, 2022

In West Virginia, the state treasurer has pulled money from BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, because the Wall Street firm has flagged climate change as an economic risk.

In Texas, a new law bars the state’s retirement and investment funds from doing business with companies that the state comptroller says are boycotting fossil fuels. Conservative lawmakers in 15 other states are promoting similar legislation.

And officials in Utah and Idaho have assailed a major ratings agency for considering environmental risks and other factors, in addition to the balance sheet, when assessing states’ creditworthiness.

Across the country, Republican lawmakers and their allies have launched a campaign to try to rein in what they see as activist companies trying to reduce the greenhouse gases that are dangerously heating the planet.

“We’re an energy state, and energy accounts for hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue for us,” said Riley Moore, the West Virginia state treasurer. “All of our jobs come from coal and gas. I mean, this is who we are. This is part of our way of life here in the state. And they’re telling us that these industries are bad.”

“We have an existential threat here,” Mr. Moore said. “We have to fight back.”

In doing so, Mr. Moore and others have pushed climate change from the scientific realm into the political battles already raging over topics like voting rights, abortion and L.G.B.T.Q. issues. In recent months, conservatives have moved beyond tough words and used legislative and financial leverage to pressure the private sector to drop climate action and any other causes they label as “woke.”

“There is a coordinated effort to chill corporate engagement on these issues,” said Daniella Ballou-Aares, chief executive of the Leadership Now Project, a nonprofit organization that wants corporations to address threats to democracy. “And it is an effective campaign. Companies are starting to go into hiding.”

The pushback has been spearheaded by a group of Republican state officials that has reached out to financial organizations, facilitated media appearances and threatened to punish companies that, among other things, divest from fossil fuels.
» Read article    

assets at risk
People in US and UK face huge financial hit if fossil fuels lose value, study shows
Strong climate action could wipe $756bn from individuals’ pension funds and other investments in rich countries
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
May 26, 2022

Individuals in rich countries face huge financial losses if climate action slashes the value of fossil fuel assets, a study shows, despite many oil and gas fields being in other countries.

The researchers estimated that existing oil and gas projects worth $1.4tn (£1.1tn) would lose their value if the world moved decisively to cut carbon emissions and limit global heating to 2C. By tracking many thousands of projects through 1.8m companies to their ultimate owners, the team found most of the losses would be borne by individual people through their pensions, investment funds and share holdings.

The analysis also found that financial institutions have $681bn of these potentially worthless assets on their balance sheets, more than the estimated $250-500bn of mispriced sub-prime housing assets that triggered the 2007-08 financial crisis.

The researchers did not predict if or when these fossil fuel “stranded assets” would cause a financial crash, but said the size of the number was worrying. The US and UK are by far the countries with the biggest potential stranded assets in their financial sectors.

Overall, the study calculated that individuals own 54% of the $1.4tn oil and gas assets at risk – $756bn. Three-quarters of these people are in the 38 developed countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) group. Governments and corporate creditors carry the balance.

But the proportion is much higher in the US and UK, where individuals own 86% and 75% of the potentially stranded assets respectively. In contrast, 80% of those assets in China are owned by the government.

“It is pretty obvious now that the fossil fuel companies are doing things that are not compatible with mitigating climate change,” said Dr Gregor Semieniuk, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, US, who led the research. The Guardian recently revealed that oil and gas companies are planning scores of vast “carbon bomb” projects that would shatter internationally agreed climate targets.

“I did not imagine that individual people would ultimately end up with so much of the risk,” said Semieniuk. “This is particularly relevant for countries like the US and UK, which show up as very major losers. That is where I think the losses really get spread around society.”
» Read article    
» Read the study

» More about divestment

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

FERC under Glick
FERC enforcement ramp-up spurs pipeline wars
By Miranda Willson andMike Soraghan, E&E News
May 25, 2022

Last year, the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission delivered a message to the energy industry: “The cop is back on the street.”

Chair Richard Glick was referring to FERC’s Office of Enforcement, which seeks to ensure energy and power companies comply with the independent agency’s rules. Last fiscal year, the office opened 12 new investigations compared to six the previous year.

The uptick in cases includes a new focus on energy infrastructure, including the country’s pipelines — and how companies handle their construction and operation. The bottom line, Glick said, is that pipeline companies must abide by the conditions in the permits that FERC issues.

“The message is you’ve got to live up to your commitments,” Glick told reporters in December. “If you don’t do that, we’re going to come down on you, because that’s our role.”

But as the agency seeks to penalize pipelines for permit violations — including pursuing record-setting fines — developers are hitting back with legal challenges that, if successful, could chip away at the commission’s enforcement powers. That in turn could make it more difficult to penalize companies for spills, groundwater contamination and failure to restore the land they trench through to build the lines.

Since Congress boosted FERC’s enforcement authority in 2005, the Office of Enforcement has not typically gone after pipeline violations, focusing more on wrongdoing in energy and power markets. But that has recently begun to change, some legal experts said.

Glick’s leadership has undoubtedly spurred FERC to increase oversight on pipelines, said Carolyn Elefant, a former FERC attorney who now represents landowners affected by pipelines. Before the Democrat was tapped by President Joe Biden to serve as FERC chair last January, “pipeline stuff was completely below the radar,” she said.

Now, FERC is accusing two multibillion-dollar pipeline developers of failing to abide by the conditions and standards they agreed to when they were granted permits. In one case, the enforcement office is proposing its biggest-ever fines in a pipeline construction case.

Increased enforcement from FERC may send a message to the natural gas industry that the agency is prepared to hold developers accountable for the terms and conditions included in their permits, said Carrie Mobley, an associate at the law firm McGuireWoods LLP.
» Blog editor’s note: This good news is tempered by the fact that the gas industry and conservative judges are moving to dampen FERC’s regulatory powers. Stay tuned.
» Read article      

Glick at ACP
FERC’s Glick says he’s ‘bullish’ on energy storage, aims to prioritize regulations for hybrid projects
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
May 18, 2022

Amid other regulatory priorities, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Richard Glick would have the agency look into energy storage participation in wholesale markets via hybrid projects with wind and solar, he said on Tuesday during the CLEANPOWER 2022 conference in San Antonio, Texas.

He noted that while FERC requires grid operators to facilitate storage participation in wholesale markets, the effort does not address the role of co-located storage with other generation. Glick, and other speakers at the conference, credited FERC for having “knocked down some of the barriers” for storage and distributed resource participation.

“Storage provides really an enormous amount of potential benefits that we’re not fully utilizing,” he told attendees. “We need to address the variability [on the grid] and where we need more flexible generation resources.”

Already there are a number of dockets open at FERC that are tangential to the role of energy storage, including a requirement for plans from regional transmission organizations, or RTOs, to contend with increasing power variability as more intermittent resources are connected to the grid.

“A couple of weeks ago, we issued an order requiring the RTOs around the country to report to us what their plans are for addressing … additional variability on the system. I’m very bullish about storage’s ability to play a great role in that,” Glick said.

Currently, energy storage plays a larger role in California than in other wholesale markets, as the independent system operator deals with a lot of high variability on the grid due to the large amounts of solar power, experts on an energy storage panel said at CLEANPOWER on Tuesday.

In order for energy storage to increase its participation in other wholesale markets, there needs to be a greater recognition of the resource’s resiliency capacities, experts said at the conference.
» Read article      

» More about FERC

GREENING THE ECONOMY

tackling a fire
Do not work for ‘climate wreckers’, UN head tells graduates
António Guterres says young people should tackle climate crisis by using talent to deliver a renewable future
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
May 24, 2022

The UN secretary general has told new university graduates not to take up careers with the “climate wreckers” – companies that drive the extraction of fossil fuels.

António Guterres addressed thousands of graduates at Seton Hall University in New York state on Tuesday. “You must be the generation that succeeds in addressing the planetary emergency of climate change,” he said. “Despite mountains of evidence of looming climate catastrophe, we still see mountains of funding for coal and fossil fuels that are killing our planet.

“But we know investing in fossil fuels is a dead end – no amount of greenwashing or spin can change that. So we must put them on notice: accountability is coming for those who liquidate our future.”

He added: “You hold the cards. Your talent is in demand from multinational companies and big financial institutions. You will have plenty of opportunities to choose from. My message to you is simple: don’t work for climate wreckers. Use your talents to drive us towards a renewable future.”

Guterres has become increasingly outspoken on the climate crisis in recent months, telling world leaders in April: “Our addiction to fossil fuels is killing us.”

He has also recently attacked companies and governments whose climate actions do not match their words: “Simply put, they are lying and the results will be catastrophic. Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”

The Guardian recently revealed that the 12 largest oil and gas companies were planning to spend $103m a day to 2030 on projects that cannot go ahead if global temperature rise is to be kept well below 2C, as agreed by the world’s governments.
» Read article      

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

Hebei smokestacks
New Study Says World Must Cut Short-Lived Climate Pollutants as Well as Carbon Dioxide to Meet Paris Agreement Goals
Cutting only CO2 emissions, but failing to rein in methane, HFCs and soot, will speed global warming in the coming decades and only slow it later this century.
By Phil McKenna, Inside Climate News
May 23, 2022

Climate policies that rely on decarbonization alone are not enough to hold atmospheric warming below 2 degrees Celsius and, rather than curbing climate change, would fuel additional warming in the near term, a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes. The study found that limiting warming in coming decades as well as longer term requires policies that focus not only on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, but also of “short-lived climate pollutants”—greenhouse gases including methane and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)—along with black carbon, or soot.

“We’re simultaneously in two races to avert climate catastrophe,” said Gabrielle Dreyfus, chief scientist for the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development and lead author of the study.  “We have to win the sprint to slow warming in the near term by tackling the short-lived climate pollutants, so that we can stay in the race to win the marathon against CO2.”

The study used climate models to assess how the planet would respond if countries addressed climate change solely through decarbonization efforts—namely transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy—without reining in methane and other short-lived but potent climate pollutants.

The authors found that decarbonization-only efforts would actually result in increased warming over the near term. This is because burning fossil fuels emits both carbon dioxide and sulfates. Unlike carbon dioxide, which warms the planet and remains in the atmosphere for centuries, sulfate particles reflect sunlight back into space but only remain in the atmosphere for several days, so they have a powerful, but short-lived cooling effect.

The continual release of sulfates through the ongoing burning of fossil fuels currently offsets roughly half a degree of warming that the planet would otherwise experience from the carbon dioxide emissions of fossil fuel combustion, Dreyfus said. Transitioning to renewable energy will quickly remove the short-term curb on warming provided by sulfate emissions, and the planet will continue to heat up for a couple of decades before the longer-term cooling from cutting carbon dioxide emissions takes hold, she added.

If, however, emissions of methane, HFCs, soot and nitrous oxide occur at the same time as decarbonization, both near-term and long-term warming can be reduced, Dreyfus said.
» Read article    
» Read the study

Williston flare
Greenhouse Gases Trapped Nearly 50% More Heat Last Year Than in 1990: NOAA
“Getting hot in here,” said one climate campaigner. “Gotta get congressmen and senators to do more midday outdoor events in their dark suits.”
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
May 23, 2022

An annual assessment released Monday by a U.S. agency underscored the need to dramatically cut planet-warming pollution with a notable revelation about heat-trapping gases over the past three decades.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution from human activities trapped 49% more heat in the atmosphere in 2021 than in 1990, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA announced that finding in its update of the Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI), which converts the warming influence of carbon dioxide—or CO2, the most common GHG—as well as methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and 16 other chemicals into one number that can be compared to previous years, as the agency explained in a statement.

“The AGGI tells us the rate at which we are driving global warming,” said Ariel Stein, acting director of NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory (GML).

“Our measurements show the primary gases responsible for climate change continue rising rapidly, even as the damage caused by climate change becomes more and more clear,” she added. “The scientific conclusion that humans are responsible for their increase is irrefutable.”

Echoing other experts and reports—including recent publications from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—NOAA scientists on Monday urged humanity to reduce GHGs.
» Read article      

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

aerial view
Think Solar Panels Don’t Work in Snow? New Research Says Otherwise
Double-sided panels help offset the effects of snow on solar arrays.
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
May 26, 2022

Skeptics of renewable energy often claim—usually with an eye roll—that solar power doesn’t work well in snowy climates.

When most solar panels were stationary and one-sided, this idea carried some weight. But now, most panels move on an axis to follow the sun throughout the day, and an increasing share of panels have silicon on the front and back, making solar more effective even in places with regular snowfall.

Here’s the latest: A recent paper led by researchers at Western University in London, Ontario shows that the use of “bifacial” photovoltaic panels—solar panels that take in sunlight from both sides—produces substantially more electricity during winter compared to using one-sided panels, based on data from a solar array that has both kinds of panels.

“I was surprised how striking the results were,” said Joshua Pearce, an electrical engineering professor at Western University and co-author of the paper. “There is no question now that bifacial modules are the way to go for ground-mounted PV systems in the north.”

The paper, published in the journal Renewable Energy, shows that double-sided panels can take in substantial amounts of energy from light reflected off of the snowy ground at times when the front of the panel is most likely to be partially covered by snow, as described in PV Magazine.

The researchers went to a solar array in Escanaba, a town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They mounted cameras to observe snow cover, pyranometers to measure levels of solar radiation and also gathered electricity generation data from the system’s operator.

During the cold-weather months of November 2020 to March 2021, the one-sided panels experienced a snow-related energy loss of 33 percent, while the two-sided panels had a loss of 16 percent. The study period included 30 days in which there was snowfall.

Most of the gains for the two-sided panels were because of the reason the researchers expected, which is that sunlight reflected off of the snowy ground and hit the back side of the panels.
» Read article     
» Obtain the study

wind test center
As blades get longer, Charlestown testing center seeks to expand
Wind turbine technology moving faster than expected
By Shira Schoenberg, CommonWealth Magazine
May 22, 2022

WHEN THE WIND Technology Testing Center in Charlestown was built in 2011, the longest wind turbine blades in the world were around 65 meters long, or 215 feet. So the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center constructed the blade testing building to be 90 meters long, around 300 feet – about the size of a football field.

“We built this assuming that blades were going to get larger, and so 85 to 90 meters seemed like a reasonable length to expect at the time,” said Robert FitzPatrick, director of government affairs for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. At that length, the testing center was the largest of its kind in North America.

Fast forward a decade, and General Electric wanted to test its newest blade – a 107-meter-long behemoth that will be used in its Vineyard Wind project off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. The testing center had to cut part of the blade off to fit it in the building. While blades can be tested without the tip, it is not ideal, and engineers need to account for the adjusted weight.

Massachusetts Clean Energy Center CEO Jennifer Daloisio said the facility was built with the knowledge that it would eventually have to be expanded, but the technology advanced faster than expected. “Essentially, the facility needs to be almost doubled in length and doubled in height to accommodate the wind blades of both the current and the future projects,” Daloisio said.

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center is working on plans to expand the center, lengthening it to be able to accommodate 140 or 150-meter blades. The center would grow from around 300 feet long to 500 feet long, while nearly doubling the height in the new section, from 85 feet to 155 feet tall. The expansion would not let the center test more blades – it would keep the same three testing stations – but it would adapt the center to the size of the more modern turbines.
» Read article      

» More about clean energy   

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Folkestone service
International Commission Votes to Allow Use of More Climate-Friendly Refrigerants in AC and Heat Pumps
The new guidelines could save the equivalent of billions of metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, but the U.S. could prove slow to adopt them.
By Phil McKenna, Inside Climate News
May 22, 2022

A secretive vote in the arcane and Byzantine world of international safety standards late last month may lead to a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from home heating and cooling systems in the coming years.

In a closed-door process that concluded on April 29, two dozen technical experts from around the world voted unanimously to approve a proposed update to a household appliance safety standard set by the Geneva, Switzerland-based International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

The IEC sets safety standards for thousands of household appliances. The international standard serves as a guideline for country-specific safety standards such as UL, formerly Underwriters Laboratories, safety standard in the U.S. Details about the subcommittees that shape the safety standards are typically kept confidential. IEC declined to provide additional information about the vote, including the names of individual country representatives who approved the update.

The update, a draft copy of which IEC shared with Inside Climate News and which IEC plans to publish next month, could help solve a significant climate problem that has long bedeviled manufacturers of air conditioners and high efficiency electric heating systems known as heat pumps, which wanted to use more climate-friendly refrigerants but were prevented from doing so.

The vast majority of air conditioners and heat pumps used around the world today rely on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), synthetic chemical refrigerants that, when leaked into the atmosphere, are highly potent greenhouse gases. The approved safety standard update will allow appliance manufacturers to instead use hydrocarbon refrigerants that have a negligible climate impact.

[…] Most air conditioners and heat pumps in the United States today rely on HFC-410a, a chemical refrigerant that is 4,260 times as potent as carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere over a 20-year period.
» Read article     

» More about energy efficiency     

 

MODERNIZING THE GRID

overdue but welcome
Study lays out options for New England grid operator to help cut emissions
Critics say the regional grid operator has been slow to respond to states’ emission reduction goals, and that reforms are needed to help emerging clean energy resources compete in its electricity markets.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
May 23, 2022

The regional electric grid operator for New England is beginning to study how it could play a new role in cutting power sector emissions.

ISO New England oversees the electric grid for the six-state region, coordinating the real-time flow of electricity as well as operating longer-term markets to make sure an adequate supply of generation is being built.

Traditionally, as with other regional grid operators, its top concerns have been reliability and affordability: making sure it always has enough power to keep the lights on at the lowest possible price.

In recent years, though, many states have adopted a third priority: reducing emissions. Critics say grid operators have been slow to respond, and that their policies have become barriers to states’ climate goals by prioritizing conventional power plants over emerging clean energy resources.

ISO-NE’s recent Pathways study, released in February, lays out four possible frameworks for how the grid operator might integrate clean energy into the grid. They include continuing the status quo, creating a new clean energy market, implementing carbon pricing, and a hybrid scenario.

Advocates say the report is a pivotal — if long overdue — step toward decarbonizing the region’s power supply.

“To date, the ISO’s market designs have been holding back the region,” said Melissa Birchard, director of clean energy and grid reform at environmental advocacy group the Acadia Center. “This study is a first step to changing that.”
» Read article    
» Read the Pathways study

transmission is expensive
‘More, more, more’: Biden’s clean grid hinges on power lines
By Peter Behr, E&E News
May 23, 2022

With its signature climate legislation roadblocked in Congress, the Biden administration is seeking an unprecedented expansion of high-voltage electric lines to open new paths to wind and solar energy.

“We obviously need more, more, more transmission to run on 100 percent clean energy … and handle all the buildings and the cars and the trucks that we’re working to electrify,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in February.

For example, 80,000 megawatts of new wind farms could be built on open lands in Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas, the Energy Systems Integration Group (ESIG) noted at a DOE webinar in March. But today, there’s only enough existing high-voltage transmission to export one-tenth of that amount, according to ESIG, a nonprofit organization of grid experts.

The gap highlights a major challenge for President Joe Biden’s goal to decarbonize the grid by 2035. In response, DOE has started to roll out a range of proposals under its $16 billion Building a Better Grid initiative announced in January, hoping to break through layers of obstacles to transmission.

In an interview with E&E News, Patricia Hoffman, principal deputy assistant secretary for DOE’s Office of Electricity, described a two-track strategy: Decisions beginning this year offer financial backing to help get “shovel ready” power line projects under construction quickly, and a multiyear planning operation seeks state officials’ support for new interregional power lines connecting large wind and solar regions with population centers.

DOE invited suggestions this month on how to structure the shorter-term initiative. It will contract to purchase up to half the electricity on new power lines up to a total commitment of $2.5 billion, aiming to get previously announced projects across the starting line to construction.

“We hope that we can expand the program in 2023 with some of the other authorities we have,” Hoffman said. DOE would resell the power to utilities, replenishing the funding pool, under the plan.
» Read article      

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

scale issue
Inside the race for a car battery that charges fast — and won’t catch fire
Amid rising gas prices and climate change, car giants are in a fierce contest to perfect the solid-state battery, long viewed as a ‘holy grail’ for electric vehicles
By Pranshu Verma, Washington Post
May 18, 2022

In September, Toyota offered the world a glimpse into the company’s future. In an 11-second YouTube video, it displayed a modern four-door car cruising down a test track. The most important upgrade was the tagline emblazoned on the car’s right side: “Powered By All-Solid-State Battery.”

In recent years, car giants such as Toyota, Ford and Volkswagen have been trying to overcome the shortcomings of batteries that power electric vehicles by racing to produce a next-generation battery . Many companies are rallying around solid-state batteries, which do not contain liquid electrolytes and can charge quicker, last longer and be less prone to catching fire than the lithium-ion batteries currently in use, according to battery experts. Automakers have poured millions into perfecting the technology by the latter half of the decade.

The contest comes at a crucial time. Gas prices have skyrocketed, and climate change has accelerated efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, increasing demand for electric vehicles. This has led to shortages of many minerals used in current electric-vehicle batteries, amid ethical concerns as they’re often mined by adults and children in backbreaking conditions with little protection.

But experts and carmakers say getting the new batteries to market is an extremely challenging task.

“It’s the technology of the future,” said Eric D. Wachsman, director of the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute. “The question is: How soon is that future going to be here?”
» Read article     

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

stand with Ukraine
Oil and Gas Industry Seized on War in Ukraine to Water Down Climate Policy, Report Shows
A new report details the PR and lobbying blitz from fossil fuel companies in the early days of the Russian invasion that aimed at benefiting oil and gas interests, while offering little for the current crisis.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
May 24, 2022

While Russia dropped missiles on Kyiv and laid siege to the port of Mariupol in late February, the oil and gas industry took advantage of the war in Ukraine to spread misinformation about the causes of the energy crisis in order to apply political pressure and pursue a longstanding wish list of policy changes, according to new research.

Energy prices soared in the aftermath of the Russian invasion. In response, the oil and gas industry waged a concerted influence campaign that blamed the Biden administration’s climate policies for undermining American energy independence and for causing a spike in prices, according to a report from InfluenceMap, a corporate watchdog group. Across an array of platforms, the industry and its allies framed more drilling and looser regulation as a solution to these problems, and advocated for policies that had tenuous connections to the global energy crisis but were nonetheless favorable to the fossil fuel industry.

“The U.S. oil and gas sector has consistently argued for policies that allow for new or increased fossil fuel exploration, and against policies that would reduce demand. But what’s changed in recent months is the intensity of that message,” said Faye Holder, program manager for InfluenceMap. “The sector has quickly mobilized around the war in Ukraine and high gas prices to promote the need for more ‘American-made energy,’ often relying on potentially misleading or questionable claims.”

DeSmog previously reported on oil executives’ and lobbyists’ PR blitz in the days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a move which sought to take advantage of the crisis to secure largely unrelated policy victories. But InfluenceMap’s new study offers a deeper and more comprehensive examination of how the industry attempted to influence public opinion.
» Read article      

pumps at work
U.S. Can’t Drill Its Way to Energy Security, Jenkins Warns
By The Energy Mix
May 19, 2022

The war in Ukraine is increasing gasoline prices in America despite the country’s status as the world’s largest oil producer, demonstrating why the United States “cannot drill its way to energy security” and should instead invest in renewables, writes Princeton University energy specialist Jesse Jenkins.

“Oil, coal and, increasingly, natural gas are globally traded commodities, which leaves the U.S. economy dangerously exposed to the vagaries and volatility of energy prices. The decisions of a single autocrat on the other side of the world can send the cost of filling the tank in Des Moines or Denver soaring,” writes Jenkins, an assistant professor of energy systems engineering and policy at Princeton University and leader of the REPEAT Project.

Drilling for more oil could have strengthened the country’s energy security the last time Americans were paying this much for gas, back in 2008. At that time, the U.S. imported more than half of its oil, while renewable energy sources were much more costly and supplied less than 2% of the country’s electricity.

But the energy landscape has fundamentally changed since then, after national oil and gas production outpaced consumption and the cost of renewable energy and lithium-ion batteries plunged.

But while he agrees the U.S. should continue to export oil and gas to European allies to help “starve the Kremlin war effort,” Jenkins says the country’s energy security depends on developing a new approach that expands renewable energy infrastructure. The energy provisions in the now-stalled Build Back Better bill would reduce U.S. consumption of oil by nearly 500 million barrels and natural gas by two trillion cubic feet per year, for combined annual savings of about US$70 billion for American homes and businesses.

Those reductions would also make the U.S. economy far more energy secure and help the country meet its national emissions-reduction targets.
» Read article     

» More about fossil fuels

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

Jonathan Wilkinson
Energy Chief Says Canada Could Send Gas to Europe Within 3 Years
Trudeau minister eyes conversion of existing Repsol facility. But nation currently lacks export terminal on Atlantic coast.
By Brian Platt, Bloomberg
May 26, 2022

Canada’s top energy official said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is open to accelerating a liquefied natural gas project that could start supplying Europe in as soon as three years.

Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told Bloomberg News the fastest way to help “our European friends” would be for Spain’s Repsol SA to convert an existing LNG import facility in New Brunswick, on Canada’s Atlantic coast, into an export terminal.

“A lot of existing infrastructure is there,” Wilkinson said Wednesday in a telephone interview from Berlin, ahead of a Group of Seven energy ministers meeting. If Repsol decided to convert the terminal, “you likely could have a facility that would be producing within three to four years,” he said.

[…] Wilkinson said Canada would be looking for two things in any new LNG facility: that it use a low-emission process for gas and that it be capable of transitioning to exporting hydrogen later on.
» Read article     

» More about LNG

BIOMASS

whole trees
EU Parliament’s Environment Committee urges scale back of biomass burning
By Justin Catanoso, Mongabay
May 18, 2022

In a surprising and unprecedented vote this week, the European Parliament’s Environment Committee recommended the scaling back of the EU’s existing subsidies incentivizing the burning of wood pellets, replacing coal for heat and energy. The committee also urged the European Union to reduce how much it counts forest biomass toward the continent’s renewable energy goals.

Forest advocates are viewing the move with both hope and skepticism.

If approved and written into policy in September as part of the EU’s revised Renewable Energy Directive (RED), the recommendations would be the first steps of any kind toward slowing the accelerating use of biomass burning over the past 12 years, which scientists have long argued adds to carbon emissions, damages forests, and diminishes biodiversity.

“We are relieved to see a majority of the Environment Committee opt for a biomass limitation for energy and heat,” Fenna Swart of The Netherlands’ Clean Air Committee told Mongabay. “But there are still significant gaps in the law that the European Parliament must close during the plenary vote in September. Otherwise, compliance will backfire at the expense of forests, as is now happening on a large scale.”

The committee put forward four recommendations cautiously cheered by forest advocates like Swart — forest biomass opponents who have generated widespread public opposition to the practice across Europe, but who have yet to see any policy reform. The committee recommended that:

  • A definition for primary woody biomass, or biomass sourced directly from whole trees, be added to RED for the first time, with the intention of protecting intact forests. Exemptions would include forests affected by fire, pests and disease.
  • Primary woody biomass no longer qualify as counting toward member states’ renewable energy targets. Currently, biomass accounts for 60% of the EU’s renewable energy portfolio, far more than zero-carbon wind and solar.
  • Primary woody biomass no longer receive subsidies under RED, with certain exemptions.
  • Where whole trees are harvested, they should first be used for long-lasting wood products and only burned for energy as wood pellets if no other usage options exist.

Wood-pellet industry representatives, who are only accustomed to government support, were not happy with the recommendations.
» Read article     

» More about biomass

PLASTICS RECYCLING

waste management
In South Korea, an Emphasis on Recycling Yields Results
Ambitious goals, messaging and enforcement put the nation at the top of the sustainability pack, serving as a model as the World Economic Forum pushes to end plastic waste.
By David Belcher, New York Times
May 21, 2022

[…] South Korea, which is the size of Portugal, but with a population of nearly 52 million — while surrounded by water on three sides and a hostile neighbor to the north — is like much of the rest of the planet: under pressure to better utilize existing resources, and to do so before it is too late.

That sense of urgency, and a United Nations effort to reach an international agreement by 2024 to eliminate plastic waste, may well be on many minds at the Davos summit this year as the ecological fallout from the pandemic becomes clear.

“One of the things the pandemic revealed was a rise in the use of plastic for food deliveries and a sense of safety with extra packaging all over the world,” said Kristin Hughes, the director of resource circularity at the World Economic Forum. “Recycling was put on hold in many countries. It wasn’t deemed as essential.”

Now that the crisis phase of the pandemic has passed, she said, it’s time to switch direction. “We need to move away from the take-use-dispose approach,” she said.

The challenge of consumption and disposal is evident across South Korea. A train ride through this country reveals patches of crammed houses, businesses and farms. There’s little room for landfills. In fact, one of the largest in the country, which absorbs much of the waste from Seoul and its 10 million residents, is expected to be full by 2025.

South Korea is also a major manufacturer, exporting electronics, cars and appliances at breakneck speed, which keeps it hovering in or near the top 10 countries for G.D.P. This has created the need for factories and shipyards, in an already crowded nation that has scant room to accommodate them.

So recycling bins and food waste canisters are ubiquitous, and 32-gallon food-recycling containers line the curbs of Seoul much the way cars pack the roads in the capital’s notorious traffic.

At the Recycling Management factory on a recent afternoon, dozens of workers in protective gear stood alongside jolting conveyor belts, sorting and positioning thousands of plastic bottles and sending them on to their second or third life.
» Read article      

» More about plastics recycling

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Weekly News Check-In 5/20/22

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Welcome back.

Just about every Friday, we publish this newsletter with links to a host of great articles that discuss current important climate and energy issues. There’s often a pattern – science jacking up the alarm level, industry spinning the message, and politics gridlocked between competing interests. While each issue can feel like another trip through the spin cycle, we’ve been at this a few years now and can definitely see positive progress – invariably driven by people who have chosen to engage, to work with others who haven’t given up, who are determined to take whatever action they can to meet the climate crisis. So we’re leading today’s issue with one person’s account of how getting involved, getting active, makes her feel hopeful.

Now that we’re fired up and ready to go… let’s jump right in with an observation that the Federal Reserve has yet to see a role for itself in addressing the financial risks associated with climate change. Even though these hazards are well documented and increasingly urgent, Fed Chair Jerome Powell recently said, “Today, climate change is not something that we directly consider in setting monetary policy.” Pension funds are an example of an investment that responds to monetary policies. Ones that still hold a lot of fossil fuel securities are directly exposed to climate risks. But some of these funds are resisting divestment efforts by circulating misinformation that exaggerates the expected costs associated with eliminating fossils from portfolios. This is a replay of tactics previously deployed when resisting calls to dump tobacco and firearms.

Financial risks mentioned above come in two main flavors: the risk to life, property, and business from extreme weather events and other climate-related disasters, and the risk of stranded assets, typically associated with fossil fuel infrastructure that has to be retired earlier than expected. A new scientific study draws a line under the stranded asset issue, concluding that approximately 40% of all existing fossil fuel production sites must be retired early for us to hang on to a 50-50 chance of achieving the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting heating to 1.5C.

Last among this week’s finance-related news is consideration of the effectiveness of purchasing carbon offsets as a way to green up air travel. Bottom line: not much. But with time and better regulation, the carbon offset market is expected to improve. For now, buy them if they make you feel better. Fly less if you can.

We’ll close out this section with a couple of excellent articles describing how the same technical loophole that allows European biomass plants to claim their energy is carbon neutral (and to devastate forests in the U.S. southeast), is being used to grow the biomass energy industry in Japan and South Korea – with similar pollution and deforestation consequences. Also, a heads up on the next industry-driven false solution for the single-use plastics problem: “advanced recycling“.

On the positive side, floating offshore wind turbines have come a long way in the past five years. Now, the first commercial deployment is happening off Scotland and strong industry growth is expected to follow. We also found a podcast about the new documentary “Empowered”, focused on the long and checkered history of energy production in Somerset on Mount Hope Bay, near Fall River, MA. Long-serving state representative Patricia Haddad is central to the story.

Across the pond, Norway is seeing the commercial launch of the Hydrovolt battery recycling plant. It’s Europe’s largest facility for recycling electric vehicle and stationary energy storage batteries. Between its initial capacity and plans for growth, it is expected to handle all of Norway’s end-of-life battery market.

On the topic of batteries, it’s certain that long-duration energy storage will involve (among other technologies) some form of flow batteries. We offer a great basic primer on what these are and how they’re being used. And right on queue, a new report by researchers at MIT finds that with today’s available methods, it’s technologically and financially feasible to use energy storage systems to almost completely eliminate the need for fossil fuels to operate regional power grids.

Let’s make it happen.

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

involved
When You Can’t Read Anymore About Climate, Take Action
By Meredith Rose, Yes! | Opinion
May 18, 2022
Meredith Rose has taught composition and literature at San Francisco City College. Her short stories have been published in a handful of literary magazines. With her life partner, she is raising two teenaged kids in Pasadena, CA.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done? It might have been something reckless or impulsive, adventurous, or just plain stupid. Here’s mine: I joined a group that works on creating solutions to climate change. Nuts, right? Who does stuff like that when the headlines remind us daily of our impending doom? Well, I did, and I’m learning that it’s not so crazy after all. I admit that when I simply recycled toilet paper rolls and bought LED lights, life was easier. Joining an organization and showing up was definitely out of my comfort zone, let alone actually meeting with my congresswoman. But it seems that every summer where I live in Southern California, the thermometer tops 100 degrees for days on end, and I’m pretty uncomfortable then too.

Now, I’m doing something, along with thousands of others, and together, we’re making a difference. I see it in the laws proposed in Congress and in state legislatures as well. By getting involved, I’ve also met a range of people who haven’t given up, who are determined to take whatever action they can to meet this crisis.

For years, the mainstream media told me who really cared about The Environment: latte-drinking, Volvo-driving elites, or else wild-haired, amoral, eco-terrorists. When I attended my local chapter meeting of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, I met folks who (possibly) drank lattes and (occasionally) had some hairs out of place, but who for the most part were passionate, clear-eyed, and determined. The more involved I got, the more inspired I became. I signed up to staff an info table at a local library event. With me was Rob, a scientist from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and then the head of the local chapter. He knew all the facts backward and forward, but when he talked to people, he spoke from the heart. He encouraged me when, for the first time ever, I talked to total strangers about climate change, and he thanked me for my efforts when my shift was over. I had wanted this scientist to tell me that everything was going to be OK, that the powers that be would figure it out in time, but he never did. Instead, he showed me that every contact with another person—listening first and then responding—was the key to addressing our challenge.
» Read article   

» More about protests and actions

DIVESTMENT

suspense
As California Considers Dropping Fossil Fuels from Major Pension Funds, New Report Calls Out ‘Misinformation’ on Costs
CalPERS and CalSTRS, which oppose fossil fuel divestment legislation, have “wildly exaggerated” divestment costs, according to Fossil Free California’s latest report.
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
May 13, 2022

A newly published report by Fossil Free California finds California’s pension fund managers are circulating divestment “misinformation” by exaggerating the costs involved in shedding their fossil fuel investments in documents prepared for state lawmakers.

California lawmakers are currently considering Senate Bill 1173 (SB-1173), California’s Fossil Fuel Divestment Act, which would require the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), to stop investing in fossil fuels before the decade is out. The move would impact billions of dollars currently invested in oil, gas, or coal on behalf of California’s teachers, firefighters, and other public employees.

The report titled “Hyperbole in the Hearings” found that the pension “funds have wildly exaggerated losses from past divestments” like those involving tobacco, firearms, and some forms of coal. It concludes that CalPERS and CalSTRS estimates for costs associated with fossil fuel divestment are also exaggerated.

Extraordinary sums of money, invested on behalf of California’s public employees and teachers, are on the line. The two pension funds have estimated holdings of $7.4 billion and $4.1 billion respectively in fossil fuel investments that would need to be divested if the law went into effect.

Before it’s enacted, SB-1173 has to survive what California lawmakers call “suspense,” where the fiscal impacts of the law are considered — and it’s become known in the state as the place where bills “are killed without public debate.” That’s because debate between lawmakers during the suspense process is done behind closed doors and there’s no public vote when a bill is killed “on the suspense file.”
» Read article   

» More about divestment

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Northvolt operational
Northvolt’s battery recycling plant Hydrovolt commences operations in Norway
By Cameron Murray, Energy Storage News
May 17, 2022

Commercial operations have begun at the Hydrovolt battery recycling plant in Norway, a joint venture (JV) between Norwegian materials processing company Hydro and Sweden-headquartered lithium battery manufacturing startup Northvolt.

The facility in Fredrikstad, southern Norway, has been under construction since February last year and its JV partners have invested NOK120 million (US$13.94 million) into the project while another NOK43.5 million was put in by Norwegian government enterprise Enova.

It is Europe’s largest electric vehicle battery (EV) recycling plant with the capacity to process approximately 10,900 tonnes (12,000 tons) of battery packs per year, equating to around 25,000 EV batteries. The batteries will be supplied by Batteriretur, a Norwegian company that collects batteries for recycling.

That is sufficient to recycle the entire end-of-life battery market in Norway, Hydrovolt said. CEO Frederik Andresen told Energy-Storage.news when construction started that, although it was EV-focused, the facility is also capable of recycling batteries from stationary energy storage systems (ESS).

Hydrovolt has a long-term aim of increasing its recycling capacity in Europe to 63,500 tonnes of battery packs by 2025 and 272,000 tonnes by 2030.

The Fredrikstad facility can recover and isolate some 95% of the materials in batteries including plastics, copper, aluminium and black mass, a compound containing nickel, manganese, cobalt and lithium. The recovered aluminium will be delivered to Hydro for recirculation into commercial grade aluminium products.
» Read article   

high pressure
Gas is a dangerous distraction for Africa
Arguments for gas exploration and gas-fired power infrastructure in Africa are robbing us of vital time to switch to clean energy.
By Vanessa Nakate, Al Jazeera | Opinion
May 16, 2022
Vanessa Nakate, 25, is a climate activist from Uganda and founder of the Africa-based Rise Up Movement.

At the start of this century, when much of the developed world woke up to the dangers of smoking, Big Tobacco turned to Africa to seek out new profits.

To this day, in my country, Uganda, and many others, foreign tobacco companies work to undermine regulations designed to protect people against the industry – they even market cigarettes to schoolchildren in some African countries.

Now, the same is happening in the context of the global fight against climate change.

As the world finally begins to wake up to the climate emergency, major oil and gas companies from Europe and North America are increasingly losing their licence to operate there, so they are turning to Africa to try and secure at least a few more years of extraction and profit.

Despite United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres recently warning that investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is “moral and economic madness”, leaders in Africa are being persuaded that extracting more gas is a prerequisite for the continent’s development.

It is true, at least in the short term, that encouraging people to use gas rather than wood fuel to cook is crucial to prevent indoor air pollution. We need to invest in local storage and bottling plants for cooking gas. However, such measures do not require new gas-fired power infrastructure and exploration. These are two completely separate issues.

Arguments for gas exploration and gas-fired power infrastructure in Africa are robbing us of vital time to switch to clean energy.

Decades of fossil fuel development in Africa have failed to bring prosperity and reduce energy poverty. African countries whose economies rely on the production and export of fossil fuels suffer slower rates of economic growth – sometimes up to three times slower – than those with more diverse economies. In Mozambique, where foreign companies have built a $20bn offshore natural gas field and onshore liquefied natural gas facility, 70 percent of the country still lives without access to electricity. The gas is not for local people.
» Read article   

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

hands off
The Fed Is Neglecting Its Duty on Climate Change
Global warming is introducing unprecedented risk into the financial system. The Fed has the power to limit that risk. Instead, Jerome Powell is sitting on his hands.
By Aaron Regunber, The New Republic | Opinion
May 19, 2022
Aaron Regunberg is a longtime progressive organizer, former Rhode Island state representative, and law student.

In early May, the United States Federal Reserve ordered the largest interest rate hike in over 20 years. This week, Fed Chair Jerome Powell declared he “won’t hesitate” to go even further, calling action on inflation an “unconditional need.”

This urgency to maintain price stability highlights a disturbing contrast at the heart of U.S. monetary policy: As the Fed goes all out to curb inflation, it continues to ignore a far more profound threat to our economic and financial stability—climate change.

By the year 2100, according to one study, the high-end cost of unchecked climate change could be $551 trillion. That’s more money than currently exists on earth. Yet just last year, Powell told a panel of his global colleagues, “Today, climate change is not something that we directly consider in setting monetary policy.”

Such a head-in-the-sand approach to climate is simply not compatible with a livable future, given the critical role that fossil fuel finance plays in driving this crisis. A recent report found that the world’s 60 largest banks invested $4.6 trillion in fossil fuels in the six years since the adoption of the Paris Agreement, with four U.S. banks—JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America—together accounting for one-quarter of all fossil fuel financing. The Fed has the power and the responsibility to rein in these disastrous investment patterns, both to insulate our financial system from the contagious collapse of a dead-end fossil fuel industry and to protect the U.S. economy from the ravages of climate change.

Thus far, however, the Fed has failed to take any meaningful action on climate. This contrasts sharply with its peer institutions around the world. The European Central Bank has announced policies that make green assets eligible for purchase or discount. The Bank of England is actively exploring climate-related capital requirements and has committed to reducing the carbon intensity of its corporate bond purchasing program. The People’s Bank of China and the Bank of Japan have launched dedicated lending facilities to offer discounted funding for clean energy—and the list goes on.

The Fed, alone, has refused to acknowledge that climate requires an active central bank response, with opponents arguing that such actions exceed the statutory limits placed upon the Fed by Congress. This argument both misreads the Fed’s legislative mandates and underestimates the profound havoc that climate devastation will wreak on our financial system. In truth, the Fed’s legislative directives not only allow it to take steps to prevent and mitigate climate change, they actually require the Fed to do so.
» Read article   

» More about climate change

CLEAN ENERGY

Hywind Scotland
Floating offshore wind prepares to go commercial
The recent ScotWind offshore wind leasing round heralds a step change for floating offshore wind as a vital renewable technology for energy transition and energy security. Costs are starting to come down but other hurdles remain.
By Jocelyn Timperley, Energy Monitor
May 16, 2022

Back in 2017, the world’s first floating offshore wind farm, a 30MW demonstration project, was installed off the east coast of Scotland.

Five years on, the UK is targeting 5GW of floating offshore wind by 2030, which is equal to half its current total offshore wind capacity. In the recent ScotWind offshore wind leasing round – the world’s first fully commercial leasing round to support large-scale floating wind – the technology was awarded 14.5GW out of a total 25GW. The Crown Estate is planning a further 4GW of leasing for floating wind in the Celtic Sea.

Five years ago floating offshore wind was seen as potentially interesting and able to play a role in the UK’s renewable energy mix, says Rhys Wyn Jones, director of RenewableUK Cymru, the Wales branch of trade association RenewableUK. “It is now seen as absolutely central to offshore renewables’ contribution to the energy transition between now and 2050. We are on the cusp, and I think ScotWind puts rocket boosters underneath floating wind.”

[…] Floating wind offers several advantages over conventional fixed-bottom offshore wind, the most obvious of which is that floating turbines can be located in seabed depths of several hundred metres, compared with a maximum of around 65m for fixed-bottom. This allows far more flexibility in where it is put. Offshore wind can already access higher wind speeds than onshore, but this allows floating wind to take advantage of the very best spots.

“The fact that you can operate floating wind in much deeper waters gives you access to a far larger resource,” says Wyn Jones. “Stronger winds out in deeper waters have a huge benefit.”
» Read article   

Empowered
Rep. Haddad is star of energy documentary
‘Empowered’ places Somerset’s struggles in historical context
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
May 16, 2022

REP. PATRICIA HADDAD of Somerset, long a powerful figure in the Massachusetts House, is now also the star of a new documentary written, directed, and produced by California-based filmmaker Kiki Goshay about America’s love affair with energy.

The documentary’s strength is the long look it takes at the country’s haphazard energy evolution from one president to the next, and from one crisis to the next. The story is told using Haddad and Somerset as the laboratory where those twists and turns play out – often with devastating personal and environmental consequences.

“It is a microcosm of all of America,” Goshay says of Somerset on The Codcast.

Somerset is a small community located on Mount Hope Bay across from Fall River. Electricity has long been its chief export, but the fuel used to produce the power has changed with the times. At Brayton Point, the power plant started with coal, shifted to oil when that fuel was cheap and plentiful, and then reverted to coal with the formation of OPEC and the run-up in oil prices in the 1970s.

Then came the environmental movement and the discovery that the Brayton Point plant was polluting the air and killing off the fish in the bay. That led to expensive scrubbers and cooling towers, which made the plant too costly to operate when cheap fracked natural gas came along. The plant was torn down and the cooling towers were imploded in April 2019, paving the way for a turn to offshore wind that has taken far longer than planned with the foot-dragging of the Trump administration finally giving way to the full-speed-ahead approach of the Biden administration.

[…] Goshay said she felt she needed to push ahead with the project for personal reasons as she watched the country fail to wake up to the dangers of climate change. She interviewed scientists, entrepreneurs, and policymakers like Haddad and came away far more optimistic about the nation’s future.

“I called [the documentary series] ‘Empowered’ because it’s exactly how I felt personally,” she said. “When I did this deep dive and met all of these people over the course of two years, I felt this excitement for the future for the first time. I really thought, wow, things are going to be better in five years and even better than that in 10 years because I met the people that are doing the work and I realized we have the tools.”
» Read article or listen to The Codcast

» More about clean energy

ENERGY STORAGE

flow battery graphic
Inside Clean Energy: Flow Batteries Could Be a Big Part of Our Energy Storage Future. So What’s a Flow Battery?
A battery project uses a technology that could be vital for meeting the need for long-duration energy storage.
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
May 19, 2022

A clean energy development this week in the San Diego area isn’t much to look at. Workers will deliver four white shipping containers that house battery storage systems. Soon after, workers will hook up the containers so they can store electricity from a nearby solar array.

The part that I care about is the “flow battery” technology inside those shipping containers, developed by ESS Tech Inc., an Oregon startup. Flow batteries have the potential to be an important part of the energy transition because they can provide electricity storage that runs for much longer than the typical four hours of the dominant technology, lithium-ion batteries.

So what is a flow battery? A key design element is the use of two external tanks that contain electrolyte fluids that get pumped through the battery as it charges and discharges.

The duration of the battery, which is how long it can run before recharging, increases based on the size of the tanks. Think of this as the battery equivalent of one of those novelty baseball helmets that hold two cans of soda. If you switch out cans of soda for two-liter bottles, you can drink a lot more.

“For the whole machine, what you need to do is add more liquid rather than adding many, many more batteries,” said Jun Liu, a University of Washington professor and a fellow at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. He also is director of the federal government’s Battery500 Consortium, which develops next-generation batteries for electric vehicles.

In contrast to flow batteries, lithium-ion batteries and most other batteries are self-contained, with less flexibility in their design, he said.

[…] And one of ESS’ selling points to investors and customers is that it doesn’t rely on rare metals like lithium or vanadium at all. The main ingredients of its fluid are iron, salt and water.
» Read article   

fuel storage tanks
More energy storage is needed to support wind and solar power, MIT study finds
By David Abel, Boston Globe
May 16, 2022

A new report released Monday by researchers at MIT finds that it’s technologically and financially feasible to use energy storage systems, such as massive batteries or hydroelectricity, to almost completely eliminate the need for fossil fuels to operate regional power grids.

Such systems are becoming in greater demand in New England, and beyond, as more renewable energy powers homes and businesses and they require ways to keep the lights on when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.

“Our study finds that energy storage can help [renewable energy]-dominated electricity systems balance electricity supply and demand while maintaining reliability in a cost-effective manner,” said Robert Armstrong, director of the MIT Energy Initiative, which commissioned the three-year study.

The authors of the report estimated that the costs of transforming power grids in the Northeast, Southeast, and Texas will range between 21 percent and 36 percent higher than if nothing was done to promote storage-backed renewable energy. The costs will be higher in the Northeast, where there are greater energy demands in the winter.

But they described those costs as “relatively modest” and noted there would be many hours when the costs of electricity would be near zero. That means future power grids are more likely to enable the low-cost charging of increased numbers of electrical vehicles and homes with electrical heating systems. They will be able to be charged when prices dip.

“These cost increases are relatively modest compared to the costs of not doing anything, and especially compared to the costs of climate change, which is an existential threat,” said Dharik Mallapragada, one of the authors of the report.
» Read article   
» Read the MIT report

» More about energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

guilt money
Do Airline Climate Offsets Really Work? Here’s the Good News, and the Bad.
Carbon credits could eventually play an important role in fighting climate change, but right now a few dollars’ worth won’t change much.
By Maggie Astor, New York Times
May 18, 2022

Carbon offset programs have become ubiquitous. You’ve probably seen them as check-box options when booking flights: Click here to upgrade to a premium seat. Click here to cancel your greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s an appealing proposition — the promise that, for a trivial amount of money, you can go about your business with no climate guilt. But if it sounds too good to be true, that’s because, at least for now, it is.

The New York Times asked readers this spring to submit their questions about climate change, and several asked about carbon offsets. How do they work? Do they work at all, or, as one reader put it, “is it just guilt money?”

The idea of carbon offsets, sometimes called carbon credits or climate credits, is simple. We know human activity releases tens of billions of tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases every year. We also know it is possible to remove or sequester carbon from the atmosphere by, for example, planting trees.

Offsets seek to compensate for emissions in one place — for example, from passenger airplanes — by funding emission reductions or carbon removal somewhere else, like forests.

Some experts see them as an essential tool to limit environmental damage, at least in the short to medium term, until the world can make a full transition to renewable energy. Governments including California, the European Union and Australia are relying on them to meet their national goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

At some point, carbon offset programs will have to become more transparent and effective, said Bruce M. Usher, a professor of professional practice at Columbia Business School and the former chief executive of EcoSecurities Group, which has designed emissions-reduction projects in developing countries.

Scientists are clear that the world needs to reach net-zero emissions — the point where we either stop pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, or fully counteract the gases that we do produce — by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and “it’s virtually impossible to get to zero” without offsets, he said.

But that doesn’t mean offsets work today, and Professor Usher’s advice to people right now is hardly a ringing endorsement. “If you wish to because it aligns with your values, sure, you should buy carbon credits,” he said. “But don’t be under the illusion that, for every credit you buy, it’s absolutely 100 percent reducing emissions by an equal amount.”

Many offset projects do not even come close to 100 percent of the benefits they promise.
» Read article   

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

early retirement
Shut down fossil fuel production sites early to avoid climate chaos, says study
Nearly half existing facilities will need to close prematurely to limit heating to 1.5C, scientists say
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
May 17, 2022

Nearly half of existing fossil fuel production sites need to be shut down early if global heating is to be limited to 1.5C, the internationally agreed goal for avoiding climate catastrophe, according to a new scientific study.

The assessment goes beyond the call by the International Energy Agency in 2021 to stop all new fossil fuel development to avoid the worst impacts of global heating, a statement seen as radical at the time.

The new research reaches its starker conclusion by not assuming that new technologies will be able to suck huge amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere to compensate for the burning of coal, oil and gas. Experts said relying on such technologies was a risky gamble.

The Guardian revealed last week that 195 oil and gas “carbon bombs” are planned by the industry. This means projects that would each produce at least 1bn tonnes of CO2. Together, these carbon bombs alone would drive global heating beyond the 1.5C limit. But the dozen biggest oil companies are on track to spend $103m (£81m) a day until 2030 on climate-busting schemes.

Greg Muttitt, at the International Institute for Sustainable Development, was one of the leaders of the new research and said: “Halting new extraction projects is a necessary step, but still not enough to stay within our rapidly dwindling carbon budget. Some existing fossil fuel licences and production will need to be revoked and phased out early. Governments need to start tackling head-on how to do this in a fair and equitable way, which will require overcoming opposition from fossil fuel interests.”

Kelly Trout, at Oil Change International, the other lead author of the work, said: “Our study reinforces that building new fossil fuel infrastructure is not a viable response to Russia’s war on Ukraine. The world has already tapped too much oil and gas.” The researchers said governments should accelerate the introduction of renewable energy and efficiency measures instead.
» Read article   

fenceline benzene
US oil refineries spewing cancer-causing benzene into communities, report finds
Analysis shows alarming level of benzene at fence-line of facilities in Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Indiana and US Virgin Islands
By Aliya Uteuova, The Guardian
May 14, 2022

A dozen US oil refineries last year exceeded the federal limit on average benzene emissions.

Among the 12 refineries that emitted above the maximum level for benzene, five were in Texas, four in Louisiana, and one each in Pennsylvania, Indiana and the US Virgin Islands, a new analysis by the Environmental Integrity Project revealed on Thursday.

Benzene is a known carcinogen that is highly toxic and volatile when exposed to air. Much of the excess emissions come through leaks from valves, tanks, pumps and other means that are hard to detect.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 6.1 million people in the US live within three miles of a refinery, with low-income people and people of color represented at rates nearly twice that of the general population.

Out of 129 operable oil refineries in 2021, 118 reported benzene concentration registered at or near the site, otherwise known as the fence-line.

Nearly half of these refineries released benzene levels above 3 micrograms per cubic meter, which the Environmental Integrity Project defines as a long-term potential health threat.
» Read article   
» Read the EIP analysis

» More about fossil fuels

BIOMASS

ramping up
Missing the emissions for the trees: Biomass burning booms in East Asia [Part 1 of 2]
By Justin Catanoso, Mongabay
May 11, 2022

The European Union and the United Kingdom are ramping up controversial wood burning to generate energy and heat as they follow legal mandates to phase out coal. But this practice is leaving smokestack carbon emissions uncounted and the atmosphere in arguably worse shape.

Now, on the other side of the world, two industrial Asian giants are following Europe’s lead, though with less media scrutiny to date.

Japan and South Korea, the world’s third- and 10th-largest economies, have been increasingly relying on burning wood for energy since 2012, taking advantage of a United Nations-tolerated loophole that enables them, like the EU and the U.K., to allow emissions from biomass burning to be counted as carbon neutral, putting it in the same category as renewables such as solar and wind energy.

The result may be an undercounting of their actual greenhouse gas emissions, allowing them to meet their Paris Agreement goals — at least on paper. Both Japan and South Korea pledged in 2020 to reach net zero emissions by 2050; the EU and the U.K. have the same goal.

Western and Eastern biomass usage is creating a surging demand for wood pellets, putting even more pressure on native forests in the southeastern United States, western Canada, and Eastern Europe. Experts say this demand could lead to similar logging in Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Environmental Paper Network, a global coalition of forest advocates that tracks biomass usage, estimates that demand for pellets in Japan will rise to 9 million metric tons annually by 2027, up from 0.5 million metric tons in 2017.

[…] In South Korea, government subsidies for further biomass development have been so heavy that they are reducing investment in renewables such as wind and solar, according to a report by Seoul-based NGO Solutions For Our Climate (SFOC).

Meanwhile, “proposed Japanese demand for wood pellets would require the use of all the forests in Virginia,” Tim Searchinger, an expert on biomass for the World Resources Institute, told environmentalists in Japan during a recent presentation to forest advocates. More ominously for forests, his research indicates that “to provide 2% of global primary energy from wood requires doubling global commercial wood harvest.” Searchinger based the 2% prediction on current rising demand forecasts.

This trend comes even as nations proclaim the value in keeping forests intact. In November of last year, more than 100 nations agreed at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow to reduce global deforestation as a primary climate-mitigation strategy. But the nonbinding pledge left plenty of room for commercial logging, which feeds wood-pellet manufacture, to continue unabated.
» Read article   

chipster
As biomass burning surges in Japan and South Korea, where will Asia get its wood? [Part 2 of 2]
By Annelise Giseburt, Mongabay
May 19, 2022

Under the guise of “carbon neutral” energy, Japan and South Korea’s appetite for woody biomass for electricity generation has increased exponentially over the past decade and continues to grow. The two nations’ biomass subsidies are spurring an increase in the production of wood for burning in Southeast Asia and North America, putting pressure on forests in those regions.

Burning woody biomass for electricity takes stored CO2 out of trees and puts it back into the atmosphere. However, United Nations carbon accounting rules define burning woody biomass as carbon neutral because newly planted trees absorb CO2. As a result, neither Japan nor South Korea counts that CO2 among its emissions, despite the fact that numerous studies have challenged industry claims of biomass burning’s carbon neutrality.

In 2021, Japan and South Korea imported a combined 6 million metric tons of wood pellets, according to data compiled by the nonprofits Biomass Industry Society Network (BIN) and Solutions for Our Climate (SFOC). They both also import palm kernel shells, a byproduct of palm oil production. A smaller percentage of both countries’ biomass fuel, including wood chips, is sourced domestically.

Encouraged by generous subsidies and the long-standing carbon accounting loophole, wood pellet demand in Japan and South Korea is expected to rival that of the United Kingdom and European Union by 2027. The EU currently supplies 60% of its supposedly renewable energy through biomass.

Although Asian woody biomass sourcing is just one production demand being made on the world’s forestry industry (wood for pulp, paper and construction are others), experts warn that a surge in biomass production could lead to increased deforestation — for a fuel that, no matter what the carbon accounting rules say, emits higher levels of CO2 at the smokestack than even coal and large amounts of particulate air pollution.
» Read article   

» More about biomass

PLASTICS RECYCLING

Berawa Beach
Exxon doubles down on ‘advanced recycling’ claims that yield few results
The petroleum company is under investigation for misleading the public while exacerbating the global plastic pollution crisis
By Amy Westervelt, The Guardian
May 11, 2022

Accused of misleading the public for decades on the promise of plastic recycling, oil and chemical companies are pushing a new idea: “advanced recycling”. Environmental advocates, however, say it’s more of the same old greenwash and litigators hope holding companies accountable for past lies might prevent the spread of a new one.

In late April, California attorney general Rob Bonta launched an investigation into ExxonMobil for its role in exacerbating the global plastic pollution crisis. Bonta says he was partly inspired by a 2020 investigation from NPR and Frontline that showed how companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, Dow and Dupont were aware of the inefficacy of plastic recycling, yet they still strategized marketing campaigns that told a different story to the public.

For oil companies, those campaigns often included removing themselves from the story altogether. Even some climate advocates forget that plastic, which is made from either petroleum or ethane (a byproduct of fracking), is very much part of the climate crisis. Bonta says his investigation started with ExxonMobil because they’ve been a leader, in the plastics industry and in the messaging around recycling. A report out last year from the Mindaroo Foundation found that just 100 companies produce 90% of the world’s plastic pollution. It pinpointed ExxonMobil as the top producer in the world of single-use plastic.
» Read article   

» More about plastics recycling   

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Weekly News Check-In 11/19/21

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Welcome back.

Recently concluded COP26 climate talks in Glasgow featured a lot of promises from diplomats, along with plenty of street demonstrations – like those demanding banking giant JP Morgan Chase cease fossil fuel investment. It’s significant that most of the climate fight is being led by young women, while high-level negotiations are primarily conducted by older men. 

The old guys made incremental progress, but left many of the hard decisions till next year. Hooray for something… but science requires a more robust and urgent agenda, and activists continue to press for that through protests and actions. This week, No Fracked Gas in Mass, Mothers Out Front, and others, mounted an action to urge all three Massachusetts public gas utilities to comply with their legal obligation to establish a clean energy transition plan by March – and weighed in with demands to drop natural gas and hydrogen in favor of clean electrification.

Meanwhile, opponents of the planned Peabody peaking power plant rallied to insist that additional environmental and public health reviews be conducted to assess the gas plant’s likely effect on nearby residents who already bear the environmental burden of poor air quality. Similarly, Springfield City Councillor Jesse Lederman is asking utility Eversource to perform a cost-benefit analysis of their planned pipeline expansion project. The common theme connecting all of this is that activists continue to pressure fossil fuel interests to justify new infrastructure in light of climate, public health, and fiscal considerations, compared to clean energy alternatives.

Post COP26, it’s worth taking a breath, appreciating the fact that there were some real successes, and readying ourselves to keep on keepin’ on, as Pete Seeger always did. We lead our Climate section with some good advice on how to approach all this in a healthy, balanced way.

Developing and sustaining the green economy is going to take some re-thinking of supply chains. COVID-19 disruptions have forced a reckoning, and the US solar industry is currently too dependent on materials and products from abroad. Domestic wind power is in much better shape, supply-wise, and costs for offshore wind keep falling as turbines grow taller and more efficient. Meanwhile, all this solar and wind power needs to partner with lots of energy storage, which is set to grow exponentially to a global capacity of one terawatt-hour by 2030. One TWh is a watt of electric power with twelve zeroes behind it, run for an hour. It would support over 400 million 100W devices for 24 hours.

Connecticut is a good example of a congested state with limited good places to put all the solar power it wants.  A recent study shows the benefits of building arrays over parking lots. Lithium mining is another potentially destructive enterprise whose harm can be mitigated through careful site selection. A new geothermal energy plant near California’s Salton Sea is drilling toward a super-heated reservoir and rich lithium source. If successful, the plant will generate clean electricity along with a whole lot of lithium for electric vehicles.

But lithium isn’t the only element that can move us around. Already, the clean transportation industry is actively experimenting with other, cheaper metals for batteries. And from our Department of Extreme Innovation… Plasma Kinetics has developed a way to store hydrogen in solid form at room temperature on thin film – which is released by exposure to laser light to power vehicles using fuel cells. Long haul heavy transport, farm and construction equipment, and even aviation has been waiting for something like this.

We’ll close with a few last words on COP26, and how some of the agreements were squishy enough to be spun by fossil fuel interests for PR points. Such is the case for coal, the fuel that has contributed more than any other to global heating. Australia’s conservative government wasted no time in claiming victory there. Likewise, the UK’s huge Drax biomass power station used the conference to fake up a “Sustainable Bioenergy Declaration” that wasn’t even an official conference agreement – it’s just another layer of greenwashing over that destructive industry.

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

gas is pastProtesters call for Berkshire Gas to move off fossil fuels. The company called police.
Mothers Out Front, 350 Massachusetts, Berkshire Environmental Action Team members advocate for clean heat
By Danny Jin, The Berkshire Eagle
November 17, 2021

PITTSFIELD — Calling for Berkshire Gas to move from fossil fuels to clean heating sources, climate activists Wednesday did not get the meeting they desired with the company’s leadership.

Instead, they got a brief visit from police, who responded to a call from the company after protesters arrived at the Berkshire Gas headquarters on Cheshire Road.

The state, which has set a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, requires all local distribution companies, including Berkshire Gas, to submit a decarbonization plan by March 2022 to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities.

About a dozen protesters said they want Berkshire Gas to submit a proposal that is “all-electric, safe and affordable for all,” rather than propose controversial sources, such as hydrogen or renewable natural gas.

Members of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team and the Berkshire node of 350 Massachusetts, as well as a representative from the Cambridge-based national nonprofit Mothers Out Front, demonstrated Wednesday, holding signs as they walked from Allendale Plaza to the Berkshire Gas building on Cheshire Road.

They tried to deliver 151 postcards, signed by residents from the company’s Berkshire County and Pioneer Valley service areas, urging the company to adopt “real climate solutions.” A woman inside the building asked the protesters to leave private property and said protesters could not drop off the postcards outside.

Rosemary Wessel, who led the demonstration, said the new plan is to send the postcards by mail and to request a formal meeting with Berkshire Gas President Sue Kristjansson.
» Read article                  

Vanessa Nakate
Young Women Are Leading the Climate Fight. Who’s Leading the Negotiations?
By The Energy Mix
November 14, 2021

Many of the fiercest climate activists attending COP 26 were young women, while many of the most powerful negotiators at the conference were older men, a demographic siloing that risks serving the interests of the fossil status quo.

“The two sides have vastly divergent views of what the summit should achieve. Indeed, they seem to have different notions of time,” writes the New York Times, pointing to the legions of young activists who were angry about the slow pace of the negotiations.

Illustrative of this imbalance at COP 26 were two reactions to the results. On one hand, 77-year-old U.S. climate envoy John Kerry declared midway through the conference that he was impressed at the progress they had made. “I’ve been to a great many COPs and I will tell you there is a greater sense of urgency at this COP,” Kerry told reporters. 

That “sense of urgency” was not obvious to someone like 24-year-old climate activist Vanessa Nakate of Uganda, who, expressed her dissatisfaction with the summit towards its end. She demanded urgent action to cut emissions and support those being ravaged by the climate crisis. 

“1.2°C is already hell,” Nakate observed, her views aligning with those of protesters outside the barricades who had declared the conference a failure. Nakate said the protesters were committed to keep up the pressure, “to continue holding leaders accountable for their actions,” the Times reports. 

For Nakate and her fellow activists, the incremental approach advocated by most official climate negotiators forfeited its claims to credibility decades ago. The Times notes that “world leaders have been meeting and talking about the need to address climate change since before most of the protesters were born, with few results.”

It’s that failure, combined with the negotiators’ adherence to the same, slow path, that “makes the climate movement’s generational divide so pointed—and the fury of the young so potent,” the Times says.
» Read article                  

» More about protests and actions                     

 

PEAKING POWER PLANTS

do your job
Peabody Generator Opponents Petition State For Additional Reviews
North Shore elected officials joined advocacy groups in demanding an environmental and health study of the proposed ‘peaker’ plant.
By Scott Souza, Patch
November 17, 2021

PEABODY, MA — North Shore elected officials joined opponents of a planned 55-megawatt surge capacity generator at the Peabody Waters River substation in demanding additional environmental and health reviews of the fossil fuel-powered generator on Wednesday.

State Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem) and State Rep. Sally Kerans (D-Danvers) joined more than 30 advocates and community representatives in delivering a petition with more than 1,200 signatures to the office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Katherine Theoharides calling on the state to reopen the state Environmental Protection Agency process based on current regulations and the status of portions of Danvers, Peabody and Salem as state environmental justice communities.

“A Health Impact Assessment of the proposed Peabody peaker plant project is a reasonable request and that’s why neighbors, ratepayers and advocates for action on climate change are appealing to Secretary Theoharides,” Kerans said in a statement to Patch. “Without it, residents and ratepayers won’t be fully knowledgeable about its impact on our air.

“It’s disrespectful to our communities given that Essex County has a ‘D’ rating in ozone air quality and this community has been so overburdened in the past.”

The MA Municipal Wholesale Electric Co. (MMWEC) has repeatedly said the new generator is expected to operate about 239 hours a year and is 94 percent more efficient than current generators being used across the state.

Opponents have argued that any new plant or generator that uses gas or diesel oil — regardless of how efficient — has potential climate and health implications and violates the spirit of 2021 state climate legislation aimed at making the state carbon neutral by 2050.
» Read article                  

» More about peaker plants             

 

PIPELINES

Springfield City Councilor Jesse LedermanCity Councilor Lederman calls for cost benefit analysis on gas pipeline proposal in Springfield
By Waleed Azad, WWLP.com, 22 News
November 15, 2021

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Springfield City Councilor Jesse Lederman, chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Sustainability and Environment, is calling on the state department of public utilities to do a cost benefit analysis of Eversource’s proposed secondary gas pipeline through Springfield.

According to the news release, the pipeline is reported to potentially cost over $40 million, as well as their larger proposal which includes hundreds of millions in statewide proposals. Councilor Lederman is calling on the DPU as well to refuse any request by Eversource to further increase the cost by allowing their shareholders to profit from projects that are necessary for public safety.

“Ratepayers in the City of Springfield deserve to know what the impact to their bills will be from this proposed pipeline and whether it is actually necessary,” said Councilor Lederman, “Furthermore, ratepayers should not pay a premium to Eversource investors for projects they claim are safety related. Safety projects should be required, not incentivized, and recouped at cost, not at a profit. We deserve to know who stands to profit from this proposal at our expense and by how much.”
» Read article                  

» More about pipelines                

 

DIVESTMENT

blood money
‘Shame On You’: Indigenous Campaigners Demand JPMorgan End Fossil Fuel Finance
The major American bank is helping fund the Coastal Gaslink pipeline, which threatens First Nation lands in Canada.
By Phoebe Cooke, DeSmog Blog
November 11, 2021

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND — Indigenous activists on Wednesday staged a protest outside JPMorgan Chase headquarters in central Glasgow as pressure on banks to halt oil and gas extraction grows.

A crowd of over a hundred chanted “enough is enough” and “shame on you” outside the American multinational bank’s office building, just over a mile from where crucial talks at the COP26 climate conference are currently taking place.

JPMorgan Chase is the world’s biggest financier of fossil fuels, according to environmental organisations. In 2020 the bank pledged to end fossil fuel loans for Arctic oil drilling and phase out loans for coal mining. However, a recent report shows the bank provided £230 billion in support for fossil fuels between 2016-2020. A DeSmog investigation also found that every one of Chase’s board of directors had connections to polluting industries.

This includes the Coastal Gaslink pipeline being constructed in British Columbia, Canada, which is set to cross through Indigenous lands and is threatening vital ecosystems.

Speakers also criticised Line 3, a proposed pipeline expansion to bring nearly a million barrels of tar sands oil per day from Alberta in Canada to Wisconsin, part-funded by JPMorgan.

“Banks need to stop financing fossil fuels, because they are killing our people and they are killing our territory,” Nemo Andy Guiquita, director of women and health for the confederation of Indigenous nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE), told the crowd.
» Read article                  

» More about divestment                

 

GREENING THE ECONOMY

green supply chain
Democrats stress need to beef up clean energy supply chains as Republicans knock rising gas prices
By Emma Penrod, Utility Dive
November 18, 2021

Two-fifths of global power now comes from zero carbon sources, and consumers are on track to purchase 5 million EVs this year, up from a half million in 2015, Ethan Zindler, head of Americas for BloombergNEF, testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s energy, and environment and climate change subcommittees on Tuesday. As demand for renewable energy and electric transportation grows, he said, the need for related materials such as steel, glass and copper, and rare minerals such as lithium and cobalt, will increase dramatically, presenting enormous financial opportunities for those industries.

But while the U.S. is one of only six countries that can produce all components of an onshore wind turbine domestically, Zindler said, the U.S. is “essentially a nonplayer” in solar supply chains.

“I am an industry analyst, not a policymaker,” he said. “I can just tell you if the U.S. is going to install 30 GW of solar capacity this year, 80-90% will be imported materials. Is that something you want, or something you would like to adjust?”

While Zindler and other experts warned that U.S. supply chains are not prepared for an influx of demand for renewable energy and electric vehicles, Republicans spent most of Tuesday’s hearing saying that the federal government should spend less time on clean energy and more time on the current crisis of rising gasoline and home heating costs.
» Read article                  

taboo
Denmark and Costa Rica Launch Anti-Oil and Gas Alliance at COP26
The countries involved produce only a small proportion of global oil and gas supply, but see the world-first diplomatic effort as a starting point.
By Rich Collett-White, DeSmog Blog
November 11, 2021

A group of countries and regions led by Denmark and Costa Rica have pledged to phase out oil and gas production in a new initiative launched today at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow.

Wales, Ireland, France, Greenland, Québec and Sweden have joined the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) as “core” members, which requires winding down any existing projects by a Paris Agreement-aligned date and not issuing new licences.

California, Portugal, and New Zealand are associate members of the initiative, having adopted policies to restrict fossil fuel supply but not yet banned licensing of further developments.

Italy has signed up as a “friend” of the alliance, signalling its support for BOGA’s objectives but not taking action to cut fossil fuel production at this time.

None of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers, such as the US, Saudi Arabia and Russia, have joined, and the total oil production of those signed up makes up a small proportion globally. The UK hosts of the summit also shunned the effort.

But Denmark’s climate minister pointed out at the launch that his country was the EU’s largest oil producer as of 2019, and Greenland had “huge” reserves, enough to cover global oil demand, which it would now not be exploiting.

The initiative marks a stark contrast to the message other countries have been giving at the summit, with only two of them – Denmark and South Africa – mentioning the need to cut fossil fuel production in their official pavilions.

The subject of fossil fuels has long been taboo at UN climate summits, with the landmark Paris Agreement omitting any mention of them.
» Read article                  

» More about greening the economy                   

 

CLIMATE

ten ways
Ten ways to confront the climate crisis without losing hope
It’s easy to despair at the climate crisis, or to decide it’s already too late – but it’s not. Here’s how to keep the fight alive
By Rebecca Solnit, The Guardian
November 18, 2021

The world as we knew it is coming to an end, and it’s up to us how it ends and what comes after. It’s the end of the age of fossil fuel, but if the fossil-fuel corporations have their way the ending will be delayed as long as possible, with as much carbon burned as possible. If the rest of us prevail, we will radically reduce our use of those fuels by 2030, and almost entirely by 2050. We will meet climate change with real change, and defeat the fossil-fuel industry in the next nine years.

If we succeed, those who come after will look back on the age of fossil fuel as an age of corruption and poison. The grandchildren of those who are young now will hear horror stories about how people once burned great mountains of poisonous stuff dug up from deep underground that made children sick and birds die and the air filthy and the planet heat up.

We must remake the world, and we can remake it better. The Covid-19 pandemic is proof that if we take a crisis seriously, we can change how we live, almost overnight, dramatically, globally, digging up great piles of money from nowhere, like the $3tn the US initially threw at the pandemic.

The climate summit that just concluded in Glasgow didn’t get us there, though many good and even remarkable things happened. Those people who in many cases hardly deserve the term “leader” were pulled forward by what activists and real leaders from climate-vulnerable countries demanded; they were held back by the vested interests and their own attachment to the status quo and the profit to be made from continued destruction. As the ever-acute David Roberts put it: “Whether and how fast India phases out coal has nothing at all to do with what its diplomat says in Glasgow and everything to do with domestic Indian politics, which have their own logic and are only faintly affected by international politics.”

Six months ago, the usually cautious International Energy Agency called for a stop to investment in new fossil-fuel projects, declaring: “The world has a viable pathway to building a global energy sector with net-zero emissions in 2050, but it is narrow and requires an unprecedented transformation of how energy is produced, transported and used globally.” Pressure from activists pushed and prodded the IEA to this point, and 20 nations committed at Cop26 to stop subsidies for overseas fossil fuel projects.

The emotional toll of the climate crisis has become an urgent crisis of its own. It’s best met, I believe, by both being well grounded in the facts, and working towards achieving a decent future – and by acknowledging there are grounds for fear, anxiety and depression in both the looming possibilities and in institutional inaction. What follows is a set of tools I’ve found useful both for the inward business of attending to my state of mind, and for the outward work of trying to do something about the climate crisis – which are not necessarily separate jobs.
» Read article                  

blah blah blah
1.5° Goal ‘Hanging by a Thread’: COP 26 Makes Small Gains, Leaves Toughest Issues to Next Year
By Paul Brown with files from Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix
November 14, 2021

Glasgow’s COP 26, billed as the last chance to save the world from catastrophic climate change, failed to make the radical steps scientists said were needed but finally ended in a political consensus agreement 24 hours later than planned.

The UK’s stated aim to “keep 1.5°C alive”, in other words to keep the planet’s temperature from exceeding that dangerous threshold of warming, was not achieved by the agreements at the conference. The world is still on course to warm by 2.4°C if all the country’s promises in Glasgow are kept. The hopes of keeping to 1.5°C were left “hanging by a thread”, said UN Secretary General António Guterres, relying on actions at next year’s COP 27 in Egypt and beyond.

The ministerial declaration by 197 countries did go further than at any past COP in pushing for more action on climate change. But much of it was in language “urging” governments to act, which #FridaysforFuture founder Greta Thunberg memorably characterized as “Blah, Blah, Blah.”

Countries were told, however, that to rescue the 1.5°C aspiration they must increase their efforts to reduce carbon emissions and come to COP 27 with updated plans for deeper emissions cuts by 2030.

Beyond that weak outcome, the whole conference nearly foundered on the issue of money for the developing world. There was an ambition to double the US$100 billion-a-year fund to adapt to climate change, but no separate funds to cover the sweeping loss and damage the world’s most vulnerable countries are already experiencing. This is a long-standing demand by the developing world for a reparation fund from the rich countries to help them survive and repair damage caused by extreme weather events like typhoons, floods, droughts, and sea level rise.
» Read article                  

» More about climate                  

 

CLEAN ENERGY

big turbines
Inside Clean Energy: For Offshore Wind Energy, Bigger is Much Cheaper
Consumers stand to win in the race to build larger offshore wind turbines, new research shows.
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
November 18, 2021

Five years ago, when workers off of Rhode Island installed the first offshore wind farm in the United States, the 6-megawatt turbines were almost disorienting in their size, nearly double the height of the Statue of Liberty and its base.

But big keeps getting bigger.

Last month, GE Renewable Energy said it has begun operating a prototype of a 14-megawatt offshore wind turbine, nearly three times the height of the Statue of Liberty and its base, in the waters off Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Siemens Gamesa and Vestas, two other leading turbine manufacturers, are developing 15-megawatt models. The growth will continue, with companies and analysts saying that a 20-megawatt turbine is within reach.

This race to build bigger turbines has a practical purpose. As turbines get taller and increase their generating capacity, they become more efficient and their electricity becomes cheaper for consumers.

A recent paper, published in the journal Applied Energy, shows the scale of the savings with a level of detail that was not previously available. The research, by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, shows a 24 percent savings per unit of electricity for a hypothetical wind farm using 20-megawatt offshore wind turbines, compared to a wind farm using 6-megawatt turbines.

The decrease in costs is a big deal, to the point that it makes offshore wind competitive with the costs of electricity from natural gas power plants. (Onshore wind and solar are still cheaper than all other alternatives).

“A 20 percent change is significant, it’s very significant,” said Matt Shields, an engineer at the energy lab and lead author of the report.
» Read article                 
» Read the study            

blue clean and green
Green hydrogen beats blue on emissions and financial cost, Australian study finds
Greenhouse gas emissions from hydrogen produced using fossil fuels such as natural gas are ‘substantial’, researchers say
Royce Kurmelovs, The Guardian
November 17, 2021

Hydrogen produced by fossil fuels is more expensive, will release more greenhouse gas emissions and comes with a greater risk of creating stranded assets, according to new research from the Australian National University.

In the paper, published in the peer-reviewed engineering journal Applied Energy, researchers compared the emissions and financial cost of producing hydrogen using fossil fuels or renewable energy.

“Blue hydrogen” is produced using natural gas while “green hydrogen” is made by running an electric current through water using an electrolyser powered by renewable energy such as wind or solar.

“Clean hydrogen” is the term used for when carbon capture and storage is used to capture carbon dioxide emissions during the production process, similar to proposals for “clean coal”.

But the ANU researchers found emissions from hydrogen made from fossil fuels would still be “substantial”.

Researchers found current emissions estimates of CCS fail to account for fugitive emissions such as methane – a potent greenhouse gas that leaks into the atmosphere during the extraction of natural gas.

These emissions are not caught by CCS and because creating hydrogen from natural gas is not totally efficient – it takes more gas to make hydrogen for energy than it would to simply burn the gas – methane emissions will continue to grow with the rate of extraction.

As the rate of extraction grows to supply export markets, so will these emissions.

The researchers also found the financial cost of creating blue hydrogen using CCS becomes more expensive as a plant gets closer to capturing 90% of emissions. This is because it becomes harder to capture CO2 as concentrations begin to fall.

Dr Fiona Beck, a co-author of the report and an engineer with the ANU Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions, said CCS requires an expensive “bespoke solution for every plant” which adds to the risk these projects may become stranded assets.

“Green hydrogen is more expensive right now but it has the capacity to very quickly reduce in cost,” Beck said. “Unless we have some form of incentive for people to apply CCS, it’s never going to make sense to make blue hydrogen.”

“It does beg the question who’s going to invest in blue hydrogen?”
» Read article                 
» Read the study             

» More about clean energy                  

 

ENERGY STORAGE

TWh by 2030
Terawatt-hour of energy storage by 2030: BloombergNEF forecasts boom in installations
By Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
November 15, 2021

The 2020s are “the energy storage decade,” and the world will surpass a terawatt-hour of installations by the time they are over, according to predictions made by analysts at BloombergNEF. 

From 17GW / 34GWh online as of the end of 2020, there will be investment worth US$262 billion in making 345GW / 999GWh of new energy storage deployments, with cumulative installations reaching 358GW / 1,028GWh by 2030, the firm forecasts in the latest edition of its Global Energy Storage Outlook report. 

“This is the energy storage decade. We’ve been anticipating significant scale-up for many years and the industry is now more than ready to deliver,” BloombergNEF head of decentralised energy Yayoi Sekine said. 

Just over half of that new capacity will be built to provide energy shifting, storing surplus solar and wind generation for dispatch to the grid and to be used when it’s most needed at a later time. This is already being seen in the growing popularity of renewable energy-plus-storage projects, particularly solar-plus-storage. 

While large-scale, front-of-the-meter energy storage is likely to dominate those capacity additions, about a quarter will be deployed at residential and commercial & industrial (C&I) scale, with consumers seeking both higher shares of renewable energy integration and the back up power capability that energy storage can provide.
» Read article                  

» More about energy storage            

 

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLES

Hotel MarcelStudy: Connecticut could conserve land by installing solar above parking lots
A study published in the current issue of Solar Energy shows that Connecticut could generate more than a third of the state’s annual electricity consumption with solar canopies built over large, existing parking lots.
By Lisa Prevost, Energy News Network
November 15, 2021

Connecticut could greatly expand its solar energy capacity without displacing farms and forests, according to a study published in the official journal of the International Solar Energy Society.

The study, which appears in the current issue of Solar Energy, identified 8,416 large parking lots across the state that are suitable for power-producing solar canopies. Together, those sites could generate 9,042 gigawatt-hours annually, the equivalent of 37% of the state’s annual electricity consumption. 

“It’s not that we can do everything in parking lots — we’re still going to need some utility-scale arrays,” said Mark Scully, the president of People’s Action for Clean Energy, or PACE, which commissioned the study. “But there are significant advantages to putting them on this already-degraded real estate. And they can be placed in environmentally disadvantaged and underserved communities.”

Solar canopies are elevated structures that sit over land already being used for something else. They can provide shelter from the elements for parked vehicles, reduce the urban heat island effect, and support electric vehicle charging stations.

Because the siting of solar in Connecticut can be highly contentious when projects are proposed for farms or woodlands, Scully said, PACE wanted to figure out what the potential is on existing paved sites.
» Read article                 
» Read the study                  

Elmore geothermal plant
Drilling for ‘white gold’ is happening right now at the Salton Sea
By Sammy Roth, Los Angeles Times
November 15, 2021

Barely a mile from the southern shore of the Salton Sea — an accidental lake deep in the California desert, a place best known for dust and decay — a massive drill rig stands sentinel over some of the most closely watched ground in American energy.

There’s no oil or natural gas here, despite a cluster of Halliburton cement tanks and the hum of a generator slowly pushing a drill bit through thousands of feet of underground rock. Instead, an Australian company is preparing to tap a buried reservoir of salty, superheated water to produce renewable energy — and lithium, a crucial ingredient in electric car batteries.

The $500-million project is finally getting started after years of hype and headlines about the Imperial Valley someday becoming a powerhouse in the fight against climate change. The developer, Controlled Thermal Resources, began drilling its first lithium and geothermal power production well this month, backed by millions of dollars from investors including General Motors.

If the “Hell’s Kitchen” project succeeds — still a big “if” — it will be just the second commercial lithium producer in the United States. It will also generate clean electricity around the clock, unlike solar and wind farms that depend on the weather and time of day.

General Motors plans to introduce 30 electric vehicle models by 2025 and to stop selling gasoline-fueled cars by 2035, in line with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s target for California. Ford expects to invest $22 billion in EVs over the next few years, including the all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck. Overall, Consumer Reports says nearly 100 battery-electric cars are set to debut by 2024.

As prices have fallen, batteries have also become popular among utility companies looking to balance out solar and wind power, and among homes looking for blackout insurance. There are already 60,000 residential batteries in California, and that number is expected to grow substantially as the electric grid is battered by more extreme fires and storms fueled by climate change.

Those energy storage systems will require huge amounts of lithium. Industry data provider Benchmark Mineral Intelligence projects that demand for the metal — sometimes known as “white gold” — will grow from 429,000 tons this year to 2.37 million tons in 2030.

Today, most of the world’s lithium comes from destructive evaporation ponds in South America and hard-rock mines in Australia. Proposals for new lithium mines in the United States — including the Thacker Pass project on federal land in Nevada and plans for drilling just outside Death Valley National Park — face fierce opposition from conservationists and Native American tribes.

The Imperial Valley resource, by comparison, could offer vast new lithium supplies with few environmental drawbacks.
» Read article                  

» More about siting impacts of renewables                 

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Plasma Kinetics
Plasma Kinetics May Revolutionize Hydrogen Storage For EVs
By Gustavo Henrique Ruffo, Auto Evolution
August 13, 2021

Alex Guberman interviewed Paul Smith, the company’s founder.

Smith has a background in computer chip manufacturing, and he approached the hydrogen storage issue with the same idea. In chips, engineers try to “layer up materials and get the conductivity the way you want it.” In Plasma Kinetics’ invention, they did the same to conduct light through a “whole bunch of negatively charged material.”

What happens is that his negatively charged material absorbs hydrogen. When light passes through it, the polarity of the bonds changes to positive, and the hydrogen is released. That’s a much better process than compressing hydrogen to 5,000 psi up to 10,000 psi, as today’s fuel cells need. For example, the Toyota Mirai holds 5.5 kg of hydrogen at that pressure.

This material Plasma Kinetics developed can be used as a disc or as a film that is just one-tenth of the thickness of a human hair. At first, the discs helped the company to explain the technology: hydrogen would be released when the laser hit it as a compact disc would “release music” when the laser reader hit it. However, the nano graphite film proved to be a better means to deal with hydrogen storage.

One of the main advantages it presents is mass. The “cassette” with this hydrogen-filled film would offer the same amount of hydrogen a tank with hydrogen pressed at 5,000 psi would without the extra energy for compressing the gas. That would allow the Plasma Kinetics solution to store hydrogen generated by renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power plants.

Being more specific, Smith said that a 15-pound roll of this film could get an FCEV to drive 20 miles. Trucks get a 370-lb (168-kg) cylinder that offers 570 mi (917 km) of range. Even aircraft companies would be considering using it. The Plasma Kinetics founder said that his company’s solution weighs only one-third of batteries for the same amount of energy.
» Read article                 
» Watch video: Energy Storage Breakthrough – Solid Hydrogen Explained                 

NIO battery pack
China’s EV battery manufacturers race to develop new technologies that are less reliant on pricey metals
By Daniel Ren, South China Morning Post
October 23, 2021

At present, nearly all batteries used to power EVs fall into the category of lithium-ion, or Li-ion, batteries.

Li-ion is a type of rechargeable battery in which lithium ions move from the negative electrode through an electrolyte to the positive electrode during discharge, and back the other way when charging.

It comprises four main parts: cathode, anode, electrolyte and separator.

The battery is usually named after its cathode materials, as in the case of an NCM battery or LFP battery.

NCM, composed of lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese, LFP made up of lithium, iron and phosphate, and NCA that contains nickel-cobalt and aluminium are the three major types of battery to power the world’s bestselling electric cars.

CATL produces LFP and NCM batteries. BYD makes LFP batteries known as blade batteries because of their long, thin shape.

Technically, those batteries containing the more expensive metals, nickel and cobalt, have the advantage in energy density.

Watt-hours are used as a measure of power output.

In mainland China, LFP batteries are now more widely used than their NCM and NCA counterparts by EV assemblers.

CATL is developing a new sodium-ion battery which uses cheaper raw materials.

The company claims to offer EV makers an alternative to existing technologies that use cobalt as the main ingredient.

The new technology enables the prototype battery pack to have an energy storage capacity of 160Wh per kg, and the next-generation product’s density is expected to exceed 200Wh per kg, according to Robin Zeng Yuqun, founder and chairman of CATL.
» Blog editor’s note: this article offers a fairly comprehensive summary of EV battery technologies – current and under development.
» Read article                  

» More about clean transportation          

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

huge win for coal
Australia hails COP26 “green light for more coal,” won’t budge on 2030 target
By Sophie Vorrath, Renew Economy
November 15, 2021

With the ink barely dry on the Glasgow Climate Pact, the Morrison Coalition government has settled straight back into its domestic routine of climate obfuscation and obstruction, proudly declaring its intent to ignore one of the global pact’s most urgent requests, to ratchet up weak 2030 emissions targets.

On Sunday, Australia’s minister for emissions reduction Angus Taylor issued a statement welcoming the “positive outcomes” of COP26, among which he appears to count one of its most widely lamented failures – the down-playing of the urgency to phase out fossil fuels.

The last minute watering down of the pact – which quite literally brought tears to the eyes of COP26 president Alok Sharma – changed the wording of the agreement to call for a “phase down” of unabated coal use, as opposed to a “phase out.”

And while that aberration has been attributed to India and China, it is just fine with the Morrison government, including resources minister Keith Pitt, who quickly welcomed it as an endorsement of “our commitment … that we won’t be closing mines and closing coal-fired power stations.”

Equally thrilled was fellow Nationals MP Matt Canavan, who took to Sky News to hail the agreement struck at COP26 as a “green light for more coal production,” which in turn, he argued, would bring more and more people out of poverty.
» Read article                  

» More about fossil fuel               

 

BIOMASS

Drax power station
‘Sustainable Bioenergy Declaration’ Signed by Drax During COP26 Talks ‘Incompatible’ With Paris Agreement, Expert Warns
The ‘sustainability principles’ outlined in the document could in fact contribute to increased carbon emissions in the atmosphere, a policy analyst has claimed.
By Phoebe Cooke and Rachel Sherrington, DeSmog Blog
November 12, 2021

A bioenergy declaration signed by Drax during COP26 is further proof of the company’s “greenwashing”, campaigners have claimed.

The Yorkshire-based biomass giant is among over a dozen signatories to an industry-backed document that claims bioenergy could increase its output to nearly threefold, and reduce net global emissions by over one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050. 

However, campaigners and experts say the document, which cites the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Net Zero Emissions scenario, is fundamentally misleading.

“This so-called ‘Glasgow declaration on sustainable bioenergy’ is not an official COP document,” Sally Clark, from biomass campaign group Biofuelwatch, told DeSmog.

“It is simply another attempt by Drax and other companies in the wood pellet and biomass industries to greenwash dangerous false solutions. Our forests and climate are under threat like never before and polluters like Drax should have no place at climate talks.”

Drax, which last year received over £800 million in UK government subsidies to burn wood pellets for energy, previously operated one of Europe’s largest coal-fired power stations.

The company has now converted four of its six plants to biomass, which is categorised as a renewable energy under UK law. 

“Converting Drax power station to use sustainable biomass instead of coal transformed the business into Europe’s biggest decarbonisation project and has helped Britain decarbonise its electricity system at a faster rate than any other major economy,” said a Drax spokesperson.

Recent research has found that Drax is the single biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in the UK. The Yorkshire power station, which sources wood pellets from the southeastern United States and from Canada, has piloted the BECCS (bioenergy with carbon capture storage) technology since 2018, and aims to deliver its first fully operational plant by 2027 as part of plans to become a “carbon negative company” by 2030.

Studies have raised major concerns over the sustainability of the wood Drax uses to make pellets, the carbon footprint of transporting wood pellets thousands of miles from Louisiana in the U.S. to Yorkshire, in the UK, and the emissions impact of burning wood for power.
» Read article                  

» More about biomass               

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