Tag Archives: EV

Weekly News Check-In 1/14/22

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Welcome back.

Soon after Netflix released director Adam McKay’s doomsday thriller Don’t Look Up, the climate activist network started buzzing. For decades, those of us urging action have been frustrated by the vague, “sometime in the future” aspect of global warming’s effects, which has enabled a lot of can-kicking down the road. In this context, the film’s killer comet allegory is brilliant. If civilization’s end were total, certain, and precisely timed, it might finally focus the mind.

Divestment from fossil fuels has been increasingly impactful, to the point that Big Oil & Gas is having some trouble financing expansion projects. An even more direct action is to mount an actual takeover of a corporate polluter, and aggressively reorient it toward sustainability.

Pipeline developers often gain access to agricultural land by promising to bury the structure under fields and then “fully restore” the surface. The pitch to farmers: get some steady income for very little bother. Except that research now confirms that the combination of soil compaction by heavy construction equipment combined with the mixing of topsoil with deeper material, results in years of significantly reduced crop yield.

Of course, a great way to discourage those pipelines is to kick the gas habit. Massachusetts recently established the Commission on Clean Heat, with a mission to develop a pathway to greener buildings. Activists are keeping up the pressure for full electrification and gas hookup bans.

People all over the northern hemisphere who suffered the deadly combination of record temperatures, long brutal heat waves, epic floods, intense drought, and hellish wildfires, probably felt a little let down by recent climate reports that ranked 2021 only the 6th warmest year on record. We found an article that puts it all in perspective – and yes, your pain is real.

This week was full of encouraging news regarding innovations that will speed up a green transition. Battery recycling is developing quickly, roofing materials giant GAF announced a promising solar roof shingle, and Massachusetts startup AeroShield promises to revolutionize energy efficient windows using materials better known for heat-resistant tiles on space shuttles. We also take a closer look at long-duration energy storage using gravity, cranes, and heavy blocks.

On the clean energy downside, current-generation geothermal plants need to be located near relatively near-surface sources of very hot water. This often carries negative environmental and cultural impacts. But new deep-drilling methods may help solve that problem by allowing geothermal facilities to locate almost anywhere.

With huge SUVs increasingly clogging roadways, and with most legacy car manufacturers introducing their first round of EV models on crossover, SUV, and light truck platforms, we were wondering if there’s a future for the basic four-door sedan or hatchback. The answer is yes, and it looks pretty sleek.

We explore why so many states continue to approve new gas power plants, and also expose the plastics industry’s greenwashing efforts behind their big push for federal dollars to improve recycling.

And we close with coal, which is throwing a party that the planet just can’t afford.

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

POPULAR CULTURE

don't look up
Don’t Just Watch: Team Behind ‘Don’t Look Up’ Urges Climate Action
The satirical film, about a comet hurtling toward Earth, is a metaphor for climate change that has broken a Netflix record. Its director hopes it will mobilize the public.
By Cara Buckley, New York Times
January 11, 2022

“Don’t Look Up” is a Hollywood rarity on several fronts. It’s a major film about climate change. It racked up a record number of hours viewed in a single week, according to Netflix. It also unleashed a flood of hot takes, along with — in what may be a first — sniping between reviewers who didn’t like the film and scientists who did.

What remains to be seen is whether the film fulfills a primary aim of its director, Adam McKay, who wants it to be, in his words, “a kick in the pants” that prompts urgent action on climate change.

“I’m under no illusions that one film will be the cure to the climate crisis,” Mr. McKay, whose previous films include “The Big Short” and “Vice,” wrote in an email to the Times. “But if it inspires conversation, critical thinking, and makes people less tolerant of inaction from their leaders, then I’d say we accomplished our goal.”

In “Don’t Look Up,” a planet-killing comet hurtling toward Earth stands in as a metaphor for the climate crisis, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence playing distraught scientists scrambling to get politicians to act, and the public to believe them.

After the film premiered in December, climate scientists took to social media and penned opinion essays, saying they felt seen at last. Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted that it seemed like a documentary. Several admirers likened the film to “A Modest Proposal,” the 18th-century satirical essay by Jonathan Swift.
» Read article  

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

fracker flipped
Leading UK fracking firm taken over by green energy group
Third Energy now has ‘absolutely no interest in fossil gas’ and is targeting renewable energy
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
January 14, 2022

A high-profile UK fracking company has been taken over by a green energy group and now has an anti-fracking campaigner as a director.

Yorkshire-based Third Energy was at the forefront of efforts to produce fossil gas and intended to use high-pressure fluids to fracture shale rocks under the county. But it was hampered by permit delays and fierce local opposition.

Now the company has been taken over by Wolfland Group, a renewable energy company. It has halted all fossil fuel production from its conventional gas wells and has no plans for further exploration or development. Instead it will focus on green energy, including solar farms, and the use of existing wells for geothermal energy and the burial of captured carbon dioxide emissions.

Steve Mason was a leading figure in the anti-fracking campaign in Yorkshire and is now a director of Wolfland Group. “The current energy crisis has shown that we must be energy independent as a nation and that fossil fuels need to be urgently replaced by clean renewable energy supplies, which will lead to cheaper energy and help us tackle climate change,” he said.

“We believe we’re now a real-life example of walking the talk and turning stranded fossil fuel assets into green energy solutions.”
» Read article              

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

keeps on robbing
Pipelines keep robbing the land long after the bulldozers leave
A flurry of new research shows the long-term effects of pipelines on crop yields.
By Jena Brooker, Grist
January 7, 2022

Before it began digging into the earth to bury its two-and-half-foot-wide, 1,172-mile-long pipeline in the ground, Dakota Access, LLC promised to restore the land to its previous condition when construction was finished. The pipeline company signed that pledge in its contracts with landowners stretching from North Dakota to Illinois, and the project was approved by the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission under that condition. But farmers in the path of the pipeline have a different story to tell – one of broken promises and sustained damage to their land.

Now, there’s data to back them up.

Researchers at Iowa State University found that in the two years following construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline corn yields in the 150-foot right-of-way declined by 15 percent.  Soybean yields dropped by 25 percent.

One of the selling points that energy companies often tout is that pipeline infrastructure is seemingly invisible, buried and forgotten over the long run. The new study, published in the journal Soil Use and Management, seems to contradict that claim.

The scientists said the major issue is that soil is compacted by heavy machinery during pipeline construction, and that topsoil and subsoil are mixed together. Taken together, the damage “can discourage root growth and reduce water infiltration in the right-of-way,” Robert Horton, an agronomist at Iowa State and the lead soil physicist on the project, said in a statement. He and his colleagues also found changes in available water and nutrients within the soil.

The findings are important for a number of planned pipelines across the Midwest. In one instance, the planned Midwest Carbon Express would be built on land already used for the Dakota Access pipeline, leaving farmers reeling from double impact on their crops.
» Read article             
» Read the study

» More about pipelines

DIVESTMENT

on the edge
Climate Justice Through Divestment
By Ray Levy Uyeda, Yes! Magazine
January 4, 2022

In recent years, a growing movement to achieve climate justice has connected the root cause of climate change not just with greenhouse gases but also with a more entrenched, insidious foe: capitalism. The United States supports a system that allows a few corporations and people to earn money off climate degradation, mainly through the extraction and proliferation of fossil fuels, such as coal or gas. And the very people who are tasked with regulating these industries, like federal elected officials, continue to choose not to. Time is running out to curb emissions and restore balance to global ecosystems, which is why front-line land defenders and climate activists are going straight to the source of climate chaos: financial firms.

The movement is called “divestment,” and it’s growing both inside and outside financial institutions’ walls. The idea is simple: Pull money, talent, and public approval away from banks and financial institutions that invest in fossil fuel extraction. Most often, this comes in the form of grassroots student-led campaigns at universities and colleges, as was the case with the Harvard students whose protests convinced the president and board of trustees to divest its $42 billion endowment from fossil fuel-related investments.

Divestment first emerged as a strategy in the 1980s in the fight against South African apartheid. Environmental activist and founder of 350.org Bill McKibben was one of the first major U.S. figures to recycle the idea to apply to universities and financial firms, outlining the case for divestment in a 2013 Rolling Stone piece. “The logic went something like this: Most people don’t live near a coal mine [or] oil pipeline, but everyone is near some pot of money—their college endowment, their church pension fund, their local pension fund in their community,” McKibben says. “Those are all sites where you could take effective action about climate change.”
» Read article                      
» Read Bill McKibben’s 2013 Rolling Stone article

» More about divestment

GREENING THE ECONOMY

battery recycler
Inside Clean Energy: Here Come the Battery Recyclers

As battery use skyrockets for EVs and energy storage, a recycling industry is taking shape.
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
January 13, 2022

The battery economy is booming, and with it a recycling industry is bracing itself for a wave of battery waste.

Battery Resourcers of Worcester, Massachusetts, said last week that it is planning to build a plant in Georgia that will be capable of recycling 30,000 metric tons of lithium-ion batteries per year. It will be the largest battery recycling plant in North America when it opens later this year.

But its reign will be brief because Li-Cycle, based in the Toronto area, is building an even larger battery recycling plant near Rochester, New York, that is scheduled to open in 2023. The company said last month that it is modifying its plans in a way that increases the plant’s size, a response to forecasts of high demand for recycling.

To help understand what’s happening, I reached out to Jeff Spangenberger, a researcher at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois and also director of the ReCell Center, a collaboration between the government and industry to improve battery recycling technologies.

“If the process is good enough, there’s no reason why you can’t make battery materials from the battery materials,” he said.

For him, the development of a battery recycling industry is one of the most important and exciting parts of the transition to clean energy.

It’s important because the growth of electric vehicles and battery storage systems will eventually lead to millions of tons of batteries that are unusable unless they are recycled. And it’s exciting because researchers and entrepreneurs are coming up with cost-effective ways to reuse most of that waste.
» Read article                       

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

locally hotLast Year’s Overall Climate Was Shaped by Warming-Driven Heat Extremes Around the Globe
A quarter of the world’s population experienced a record-warm year in 2021, research shows.
By Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News
January 14, 2022

Earth’s annual average temperature checkup can mask a lot of the details of the climate record over the previous year, and 2021 showed that deadly heat-related climate extremes happen, even if it’s not a record-warm year.

Global average temperature isn’t always the most important measure, University of Michigan climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck said, after United States federal agencies released the Global State of the Climate report, ranking 2021 as the sixth-warmest year on record for the planet.

“As with politics, it is often what happens locally that matters most, and 2021 was one of the most deadly and destructive years on record because of the unusually warm atmosphere that is becoming the norm,” he said. “Extreme heat waves were exceptional in 2021, including the deadly Pacific Northwest U.S. and Canada heatwave that killed hundreds and also set the stage for fires that wiped out a whole town.”

Last year, the climate “was metaphorically shouting to us to stop the warming, because if we don’t, the warming-related climate and weather extremes will just get worse and worse, deadlier and deadlier,” he said. “Even tornadoes are now thought to strengthen as a result of the warming, and this effect probably also was the reason we had tornadoes in 2021 that reached northward into parts of Minnesota for the first time ever in December.”

The Pacific Northwest heat wave was the most extreme hotspot in a series of heat extremes that together seemed to stretch across the entire northern hemisphere for much of the summer, said Chloe Brimicome, a climate scientist and heat expert at the University of Reading.

“What really stood out for me was this period in summer, in July,” she said. “Everywhere you looked, consecutive records in many countries for temperature were being broken, day on day on day. I don’t think we’d ever really seen that before, or at least we hadn’t heard about it in the same way before.”
» Read article                       

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

roof disrupted
New Nail-On Solar Shingle Could Transform Residential Solar Industry
By The Energy Mix
January 12, 2022

California-based GAF Energy has developed a mass-market shingle that could revolutionize rooftop solar generation.

“What we’ve built is a nailable solar shingle that goes on as fast or faster than a regular shingle, looks great, and generates electricity,” GAF President Martin DeBono told Canary Media.

GAF Energy is a division of Standard Industries and was co-launched with GAF, one of the largest roofing materials companies in the world. With Tesla and other tech companies pushing towards new approaches to rooftop solar, the roofing giant put its foot in the game to “disrupt the roofing industry” before someone else does.

According to DeBono, GAF Energy’s edge comes from approaching the shingles from the perspective of a roofing company, rather than a solar company. Their emphasis on the product’s utility as a roofing material can help rooftop solar move away from the (relatively) clunky panels we’ve come to know and love.

Customer acquisition is typically costly for solar businesses, but because GAF Energy is already embedded in the roofing industry, it’s in a good position to solarize the roofing market, a quarter of which GAF already commands, Canary Media says.

The 45-watt shingles take one to three days to install and measure 60 inches long, 16 inches tall, and less than a quarter-inch deep. The design strings together mono PERC (Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell) solar cells that contain a single crystal of silicon and are coated on the back to reflect back into the panel any light that passes through. At 23% efficiency when using standard industry technology, the product is at the high end of average range for the industry as a whole. The stringed cells are then laminated onto a backsheet made of a common commercial waterproofing membrane, then “encapsulated and topped with glass and a textured material that allows the shingle to be walked on,” writes Canary Media.
» Read article                       

headwinds for gas
Reality Check: US Renewable Energy Portfolios Can Outcompete New Gas Plants
By Laurie Stone, RMI | Blog
January 4, 2022

As coal plants shut down across the United States, there is a pervasive belief that gas is the necessary “bridge” to a low-carbon grid. As of late 2021, utilities and other investors are anticipating investing more than $50 billion in new gas power plants over the next decade. However, currently available renewable energy technologies are often cheaper than gas.

In fact, a recent RMI report found that clean energy portfolios—combinations of renewable energy, efficiency, demand response, and battery storage—are a cheaper option than more than 80 percent of gas plants proposed to enter service by 2030. At least 70 GW of proposed gas plants could be economically avoided with cleaner alternatives, saving $22 billion and 873 million metric tons of CO2 over project lifetimes. This is the equivalent of taking more than 9 million vehicles off the road each year.

Already, more than half of gas plants proposed to come online in the past two years have been canceled before construction began:

For example, in New Mexico, the Public Service Company (PNM) is planning to retire the coal-powered San Juan Generating Station in 2022. To replace capacity, PNM proposed a 280 MW gas plant, the Piñon Energy Center, along with solar and storage projects. However, stakeholders pushed back on the plan, and in July 2020, the commission approved an alternate 100 percent renewable and storage replacement for San Juan based on costs, economic development, and New Mexico energy law.

And in Maryland, the Mattawoman Generating Station—a 990 MW gas plant—was approved in 2015 in a majority-Black community of Prince George’s County. However, due to economics (clean energy portfolios became cheaper than the proposed gas plant in 2018), a federal civil rights complaint, and pipeline cancellations, the project was declared no longer feasible, and was canceled in January 2021.

Replacing all of the proposed power needs with clean, renewable power also has other benefits, based on RMI’s report. It creates 20 percent more job-years, mostly in construction and manufacturing, and would prevent $1.6 billion to $3.7 billion in health impacts each year​ compared with fossil alternatives. And many of these job and health impacts will be found in low-income communities and communities of color.
» Read article                      
» Read the report

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

clean heat now
Commission on Clean Heat eyes road map to cut building emissions
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service, in The Berkshire Eagle
January 14, 2022

The new advisory commission created to help the state meet its carbon reduction requirements by shifting to cleaner buildings and addressing heating fuels that contribute to emissions was sworn in Wednesday and will begin gathering public input on the transition in March.

Gov. Charlie Baker created the Commission on Clean Heat, which his office says is a first-in-the-nation effort, through an executive order last year and gave the panel a Nov. 30 deadline to recommend policies that “seek to sustainably reduce the use of heating fuels and minimize emissions from the building sector while ensuring costs and opportunities arising from such reductions are distributed equitably.”

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides tapped Undersecretary of Energy and Climate Solutions Judy Chang to serve as her designee and chair of the commission. The commission’s roster also includes William Akley, the president of Eversource’s gas business; Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts President Emerson Clauss III; Passive House New England founder Mike Duclos; Dharik Mallapragada, a research scientist working on MIT’s Energy Initiative; Robert Rio, senior vice president of government affairs for Associated Industries of Massachusetts; NAIOP Massachusetts CEO Tamara Small; and Environmental Defense Fund Director of Energy Markets and Regulation Jolette Westbrook.

“Climate leadership over the next decade will require a fundamental transition in how we heat and cool our homes and buildings,” Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Patrick Woodcock said.
» Read article                       

high temp HP
Vattenfall launches high-temperature heat pump solution to replace gas boilers
Developed in partnership with Dutch heating specialist Feenstra, the all-electric heat pump solution will initially be available in the Netherlands. The system’s buffer works as a heat battery that is used to provide heat to radiators and generate hot tap water.
By Emiliano Bellini, PV Magazine
January 7, 2022

Swedish utility Vattenfall and Dutch heating and hot water systems provider Feenstra have launched in the Netherlands a high-temperature heat pump solution for existing single-family homes that is claimed to be an easy replacement for traditional gas central heating boilers.

“The similarities between Dutch and British gas central heating mean these high-temperature heat pumps could be suitable for UK housing in suburban and rural areas,” the two companies said in a joint statement. “They could enable households to swap out their existing gas boilers without needing to go to the additional expense and disruption of changing the rest of their heating system or installing additional insulation at the same time.”

The heat pump is claimed to be able to provide a water temperature of between 60 and 80 degrees Celsius, which means its use doesn’t require the improvement of a house’s insulation, the setting up of underfloor heating or the adaptation of radiators, all of which is necessary when a conventional air heat pumps are utilized.

The system’s buffer works as a heat battery that is used to provide heat to radiators and generate hot tap water.
» Read article                       

» More about energy efficiency

BUILDING MATERIALS

AeroShield
Massachusetts startup sees path to more efficient windows with new material

AeroShield is working to commercialize a clear, lightweight material that, when sandwiched between two panes of glass, produces windows that are more insulating than bulkier, more expensive options.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
January 13, 2022

A new material developed in Massachusetts could someday help make super-efficient windows more affordable for home and business owners.

A Cambridge startup called AeroShield has developed a clear, lightweight material that, when sandwiched between two panes of glass, produces windows that are more insulating than even bulkier, more expensive options.

Early research by the company indicates that windows incorporating its material could cut residential heating and cooling costs by 20%. The first prototypes could be installed in demonstration projects by the end of 2022, and products could hit the wider market in 2023 or 2024.

“We’re really excited by a change we could start in the industry by enabling some better designs and some better products,” said co-founder Elise Strobach.

As the country grapples with the urgent need to lower greenhouse gas emissions, the energy consumption of buildings is a key problem to solve. Fossil fuel combustion in buildings accounted for about 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in 2018, according to a report from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a Virginia-based climate and clean energy nonprofit.

Lowering these emissions will require switching from fossil fuels to electricity wherever possible, generating cleaner electricity on the grid, and reducing overall power usage. And a key strategy for decreasing energy consumption is to create extremely tight building envelopes.

Windows, however, have always posed a challenge to achieving high levels of efficiency: Heat lost or gained through windows is responsible for up to 30% of the energy used to heat or cool a home, the federal Department of Energy estimates.

AeroShield began with research Strobach conducted for her doctorate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, searching for ways to better insulate solar panels so they would generate power more efficiently. She looked to silica aerogel which, despite what its name suggests, is not sticky or oozy. It is a very light, highly porous solid glass that is such a good insulator that NASA has used it to protect critical equipment.

First invented in 1931, aerogels are not a new technology. However, silica aerogel has always been a cloudy, pale blue color, too opaque to let sufficient sunlight pass through to solar panels. Strobach’s goal was to figure out how to make the material transparent.

“It’s one of the most insulating materials in the world,” Strobach said. “But it had never been clear.”

Her research succeeded even beyond her original goal. The material she created not only let adequate sunlight pass, but it was also clear enough to see through. Essentially, she explained, her team made nanoparticles of glass and the pores between them smaller than the wavelength of visible light, so, in the final material, the light doesn’t interact with the material.
» Read article                       

» More about building materials

LONG-DURATION ENERGY STORAGE

heavy blocks
Gravity Could Solve Clean Energy’s One Major Drawback
Finding green energy when the winds are calm and the skies are cloudy has been a challenge. Storing it in giant concrete blocks could be the answer.
By Matt Reynolds, Wired
January 4, 2022

Without a way to decarbonize the world’s electricity supply, we’ll never hit net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Electricity production and heat add up to a quarter of all global emissions and, since almost every activity you can imagine requires electricity, cleaning up power grids has huge knock-on effects. If our electricity gets greener, so do our homes, industries, and transport systems. This will become even more critical as more parts of our lives become electrified— particularly heating and transport, which will be difficult to decarbonize in any other way. All of this electrification is expected to double electricity production by 2050 according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. But without an easy way to store large amounts of energy and then release it when we need it, we may never undo our reliance on dirty, polluting, fossil-fuel-fired power stations.

This is where gravity energy storage comes in. Proponents of the technology argue that gravity provides a neat solution to the storage problem. Rather than relying on lithium-ion batteries, which degrade over time and require rare-earth metals that must be dug out of the ground, Piconi and his colleagues say that gravity systems could provide a cheap, plentiful, and long-lasting store of energy that we’re currently overlooking. But to prove it, they’ll need to build an entirely new way of storing electricity, and then convince an industry already going all-in on lithium-ion batteries that the future of storage involves extremely heavy weights falling from great heights.
» Read article                       

» More about long-duration energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

low Cd
In the shift to electric, the three-box sedan is obsolete: Here’s why

By Bengt Halvorson, Green Car Reports
January 12, 2022

Not everyone who wants an electric vehicle wants an SUV. There’s still life for longer and lower electric cars—especially as highway models that are optimized toward maximizing driving range.

But fewer of them than you might think will be traditional three-box sedans, with a hood, a cabin, and a trunk. And more of them will have swoopy “kammback” rooflines and hatchbacks.

Simply put, if you design a car around lower aerodynamic drag, it will be able to cover more highway miles per kilowatt-hour of stored battery energy—which means a lower cost and a lower environmental footprint for the car. The sedan shape is turbulence-prone behind the rear window, but a softer slope and tapered sides near the rear remedy the issue.

That’s especially critical for entry luxury models, where all the numbers have to stand out versus basic commuter devices and yet keep to a price point. It’s why, with the Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX, which previews a generation of compact to midsize EVs on the upcoming MMA platform debuting in 2024, Mercedes went all out with aero.

The EQXX concept achieves an excellent 0.17 coefficient of drag—far below that of any current production four-door. And company officials pointed to its aerodynamics as one of the keys to its projected real-world range of 621 miles on a battery pack with less than 100 kwh, perhaps with air-cooling for the battery.
» Read article                       

» More about clean transportation

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY

BLM in hot water
Clean energy goes up against tribal rights and biodiversity in Nevada
A geothermal power plant is the latest battlefield for Biden’s green vision.
By Emily Pontecorvo, Grist
January 7, 2022

The Biden administration is facing critical questions about how to balance the urgency of transitioning to clean energy with other progressive priorities. On Monday, a U.S. district judge halted construction of two geothermal power plants on public land in Nevada. The decision was in response to a lawsuit filed in December by the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental nonprofit, and the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, against the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, for approving the project.

Geothermal power plants pump hot water from deep underground and use it to generate steam to produce clean electricity. The Nevada plants are set to be built on a verdant wetland in the desert called Dixie Meadows. The suit alleges that the project threatens to dry up the hot springs that support the wetland and are of religious and cultural significance to the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone. The ecosystem is also home to the Dixie Valley toad, a species that is not known to exist anywhere else on Earth.

The plaintiffs have reason to be skeptical. The geothermal company behind the Dixie Meadows project, Ormat Technologies, opened a geothermal power plant in 2011 about 40 miles away on another hot springs called Jersey Valley. The springs dried up entirely a few years after the plant began operating.

To date, geothermal power plant development has been limited to areas with known geothermal resources close to the surface of the earth, which are often indicated by natural hot springs. But research underway at the Department of Energy and by private companies to tap into geothermal resources much deeper underground could open up new areas to geothermal development, potentially sparing treasured natural resources like Dixie Meadows.
» Read article                       

» More about siting impacts

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

unused and useless
Unused and useless: States must act to end flawed natural gas power plant buildouts
By Grant Smith, Utility Dive | Guest Opinion
January 11, 2022
Grant Smith is senior energy policy advisor at Environmental Working Group (EWG)

Nothing exemplifies the irrational utility business model more than the billions of dollars companies have wasted on the massive buildout of natural gas capacity over the last decade, ignoring obvious market trends favoring renewables and energy storage.

One great tool to end this financial mismanagement would be enforcing the once prominent “used and useful” standard through which states could mandate that new power plants be completed and providing service before a utility can recover costs from ratepayers. And those generation resources must remain economic, or useful, throughout their lifecycles.

But states have scrapped or severely weakened this requirement across the U.S.

And their approval of new, unnecessary natural gas infrastructure also rests in part on power companies’ misleading claims in their investment plans.
» Read article                       

» More about electric utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

coal was dying
Coal was dying. Then 2021 happened.
The dirtiest fossil fuel is on the rise — and with it, U.S. carbon emissions.
By Shannon Osaka, Grist
January 10, 2022

Coal was supposed to be on its deathbed. For the past seven years, coal use in America has been trending down. Faced with falling natural gas prices and the growth in wind and solar energy, coal plants from Illinois to New Mexico closed their doors. In 2005, coal plants generated 2 trillion kilowatt-hours of American power; by 2020, that number had been cut by more than half. And as coal vanished, replaced by less carbon-intensive natural gas, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions edged down. In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic cratered carbon dioxide emissions overall, coal use fell by a whopping 19 percent.

Then 2021 happened.

According to a report released Monday by the energy research firm Rhodium Group, coal use rebounded for the first time since 2014, growing 17 percent in 2021. That coincided with a rebound in overall greenhouse gas emissions as the economy slowly recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, U.S. emissions fell by 10.3 percent, the largest drop since World War II; in 2021, they climbed 6.2 percent — not returning to 2019 emission levels, but perilously close.

That’s bad news for the climate. Over the past decade, most of the United States’ emissions cuts have come from cheap natural gas replacing coal. But last year, rising natural gas prices helped resuscitate the dirtiest fossil fuel. A cold winter and declining supply sent natural gas prices skyrocketing to more than double their 2020 average. In response, utilities leaned more on coal to generate electricity across the country — and emissions climbed.
» Read article                      
» Read the Rhodium Group report

» More about fossil fuels

PLASTICS RECYCLING

single use
Energy Department slammed for funding ‘false’ plastics solutions
Advocates say the agency’s efforts to develop chemical recycling are a “waste of tax dollars.”
By Joseph Winters, Grist
January 14, 2022

The U.S. Department of Energy, or DOE, announced this week that it will invest $13.4 million in research funding to address the plastic industry’s contributions to pollution and climate change. But while the agency cast the investment as an opportunity to address urgent environmental problems while creating an “influx of clean manufacturing jobs for American workers,” environmental advocates said it was the wrong approach.

“It’s a waste of tax dollars,” said Judith Enck, a former regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency and founder of the advocacy group Beyond Plastics. Taking aim at the funding’s focus on “upcycling” and biodegradable plastics, she said the grants perpetuated “false solutions” that would keep the U.S. hooked on single-use plastics and do little to reduce the glut of plastic waste entering the oceans each year.

Enck’s take is a stark departure from the tone set by the DOE’s press release, which says it will contribute up to $2.5 million each to seven plastic-related research projects led by corporations and universities. It cites the need to “build a clean energy economy and ensure the U.S. reaches net-zero carbon emissions by 2050” and includes laudatory quotes from Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts.

But environmental advocates say most of the projects set to be funded by the DOE — “infinitely recyclable single-polymer chemistry,” “catalytic deconstruction of plasma treated single-use plastics to value-added chemicals” — are just industry-speak for a process known as “chemical recycling.” This process, which theoretically melts plastic into its constituent molecules so it can be repurposed into new plastic products, has been criticized as an industry pipe dream; due to technological and economic difficulties, most chemical recycling facilities end up just melting used plastic into oil and gas to be burned. One 2020 analysis from the nonprofit Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, or GAIA, found that of the 37 chemical recycling facilities proposed in the U.S. since 2000, only three are operational, and zero specialize in plastic-to-plastic conversion.

According to GAIA, the plastics industry has spent decades researching chemical recycling without much to show for it.
» Read article                      
» Read the GAIA analysis

» More about plastics recycling

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Weekly News Check-In 7/19/19

WNCI-2
Welcome back.

Each week we scour news outlets for articles related to energy, climate, and the transition to a carbon-free economy. We also cover related issues, like plastics and biomass. Here’s a distillation of the most interesting and useful news uncovered this week – from local to global.

This edition includes articles about the Weymouth compressor station and Columbia Gas TGP 261 upgrade project. We also found interesting news on climate, clean energy alternatives, clean transportation, fossil fuel industry, the EPA, and electric utilities.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

ARENA, Weymouth: Correcting compressor station misstatements
Letter to the Editor by Alice Arena, FRRACS, Patriot Ledger
July 17, 2019

I would like to correct the record in your article from Friday July 12, 2019, “Top regulator upholds air permit…” Mr. Steven Dodge, lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, makes two misstatements.

First, FERC has no opinion of the siting of a facility. The commission only approves the project itself, no matter where placement is considered. FERC does not consider safety or risk. Second, Enbridge only considered Weymouth from the beginning due to financial considerations, not considerations of public safety or safe and reliable delivery.
» Read article   

Mass. OKs Air Permit For Controversial Weymouth Compressor
By Barbara Moran, WBUR
July 12, 2019

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Friday granted an air permit for a proposed natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, removing another hurdle for the controversial project to proceed.
A statement from MassDEP spokesman Ed Coletta noted that the “ruling relies on an evidence and science-based evaluation of air quality and health impacts associated with the proposed project [and] takes into account all applicable state and federal requirements.”
In a written statement, Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund said he was disappointed with the decision, “but not surprised given how this process has been conducted thus far.” He called the process unfair to Weymouth and all South Shore residents.
“This entire process has demonstrated that our regulatory entities seem to be beholden to industry interests,” Hedlund said.
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

COLUMBIA GAS / TGP 261 UPGRADE

Equitable transition to renewable energy can create millions of jobs (Letter to the Editor)
By Letters to the Editor | The Republican and MassLive
July 16, 2019

In her recent letter to the editor, “Energy moratoriums a danger to Western Mass. business,” June 30, page C4, Springfield Regional Chamber President Nancy Creed criticized the moratoria on new gas hook-ups imposed by utilities like Columbia Gas.

She neglected to mention that we have 11 years to avert worldwide climate disaster, according to the IPCC. A move away from “natural” gas is decades overdue.
» Read article    

» More TGP 261 upgrade articles

CLIMATE

Climate Litigation Has Become a Global Trend, New Report Shows
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog (Originally published on Climate Liability News)
July 15, 2019

Climate change-related lawsuits, once mostly limited to the U.S., have now been filed in nearly 30 countries, targeting governments and corporate polluters, according to the latest analysis of the trend.

A new report was published this month by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics. It tracks the progress of the suits — filed since 1990 — as they have expanded beyond the U.S., and predicts the trend will continue.

“Holding government and businesses to account for failing to combat climate change has become a global phenomenon,” said Joana Setzer, research fellow at the Grantham Research Institute and co-author of the report. “People and environmental groups are forcing governments and companies into court for failing to act on climate change, and not just in the United States. ”

Climate change is also becoming a wider cause for concern by investors, who have begun pushing harder to companies to disclose the risks to their businesses.  According to the report, “failing to report climate risks and/or comply with recommendations is likely to increase litigation risk.”
» Read article  

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Berkeley becomes first U.S. city to ban natural gas in new homes
By Sarah Ravani, San Francisco Chronicle
July 17, 2019

Berkeley has become the first city in the nation to ban the installation of natural gas lines in new homes. The City Council on Tuesday night unanimously voted to ban gas from new low-rise residential buildings starting Jan. 1.

The natural gas ordinance, introduced by Councilwoman Kate Harrison, requires all new single-family homes, town homes and small apartment buildings to have electric infrastructure.
» Read article   

Vineyard Wind Project Receives Potential Setbacks
Offshore wind turbines
By Sarah Mizes-Tan, WCAI
July 11, 2019

Vineyard Wind’s proposed 800 megawatt offshore windfarm received news of setbacks this week – most notably, a delay in the release of a final environmental impact statement from the federal government’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

The final statement was due at the end of this week, but has been delayed with no future relase date given. The company had planned to break ground on the wind farm at the end of 2019, but this delay could push that timeline back.
» Read article    

In Setback for Vineyard Wind, Conservation Commission Denies Cable
By Noah Asimow, Vineyard Gazette
Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Developers who plan to build the nation’s first industrial-scale offshore wind farm south of Martha’s Vineyard saw their first major setback this week, when the Edgartown conservation commission voted to deny the construction of two undersea cables that would connect the 84-turbine, 800-megawatt wind farm to mainland Massachusetts.

The conservation commission voted 5-1 Wednesday night to deny the cables.
The surprising vote puts the giant renewable energy development on hold and marks the first denial of a project that has already received approval from a half-dozen regulatory agencies throughout the Cape and Islands, including the Cape Cod Commission, the Nantucket conservation commission, and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
» Read article    

» More clean energy alternatives articles

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Arizona’s new EV growth plan could save customers billions, groups say
Robert Walton, Utility Dive
July 12, 2019

The commission is moving ahead with plans to expand Arizona’s use of electric vehicles, and has approved guidelines for EV pilot programs that include a focus on infrastructure, education and outreach.

The guidelines also include an analysis of where to locate charging stations, best practices and consumer protections, rate design, incentives and rebates, and cost recovery for the pilot programs. Regulators directed utilities to submit EV pilot programs for review.

Several groups applauded the decision, which they say will improve air quality and save Arizona customers billions of dollars.
» Read article   

» More clean transportation articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Disputed ground: The future of landfill gas-to-energy
Gas capture at landfills creates electricity and revenue, but also has economic and environmental disadvantages.
By Max Witynski, Utility Dive
July 15, 2019

Operators champion landfill gas as a source of renewable energy and revenue. But as communities seek to divert more organics and climate anxiety intensifies, the practice has been decried as greenwashing.

The full story of landfill gas (LFG) is complicated. Capturing LFG creates beneficial use opportunities and earns operators revenue, in addition to reducing the global warming potential of the gas that is successfully captured. However, the system may be imperfect from an economic and environmental standpoint. Other forms of electricity generation from waste have efficiency advantages, and the ability of LFG capture systems to effectively mitigate net greenhouse gas emissions is contested.
Still, major landfill operators often refer to the positive effects of their LFG projects as being on par with other renewable sources.
» Read article  

» More fossil fuel industry articles

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

E.P.A. Broke Rules in Shake-Up of Science Panels, Federal Watchdog Says
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
July 15, 2019

The Trump administration failed to follow ethics rules last year when it dismissed academic members of Environmental Protection Agency advisory boards and replaced them with appointees connected to industry, a federal watchdog agency concluded Monday.

The agency, the Government Accountability Office, found that the administration “did not consistently ensure” that appointees to E.P.A. advisory panels met federal ethics requirements. It also concluded that Trump administration officials violated E.P.A. guidelines by not basing the appointments on recommendations made by career staff members.

Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s first E.P.A. administrator who resigned last year amid ethics scandals, remade the agency’s science advisory panels because he said they did not fairly represent the United States geographically, or the industries affected by regulations.
» Read article 

E.P.A. Plans to Curtail the Ability of Communities to Oppose Pollution Permits
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
July 12, 2019

The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to weaken rules that for the past quarter-century have given communities a voice in deciding how much pollution may legally be released by nearby power plants and factories.

The changes would eliminate the ability of individuals or community advocates to appeal against E.P.A.-issued pollution permits before a panel of agency judges. However, the industrial permit-holders could still appeal to the panel, known as the Environmental Appeals Board, to allow them to increase their pollution.
» Read article    

» More EPA articles

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

Rural co-op transition to renewables impeded by coal financing obligations, NGOs find
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
July 8, 2019

Rural electric cooperatives are struggling to access the cash flow necessary to participate in the clean energy transition as they are locked into long-term generation contracts, often driven by outstanding coal plant debt, according to a new study.

The federal government is on the hook for about $8.4 billion of loan guarantees on existing coal assets for co-ops, according to a June report published by the Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA), Clean Up the River, Environment Minnesota and We Own It. The groups identified a series of potential solutions on a federal level, including a potential bailout for co-ops with federal debt.
» Read article

» More electric utilities articles

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Weekly News Check-In 7/5/19


Welcome back.

Each week we scour news outlets for articles related to energy, climate, and the transition to a carbon-free economy. We also cover related issues, like plastics and biomass. Here’s a distillation of the most interesting and useful news uncovered this week – from local to global.

This edition includes articles on climate, clean energy alternatives, clean transportation, the Weymouth compressor station, Granite Bridge Pipeline, the fossil fuel industry, electric utilities, and the plastics/fracking connection.

— The NFGiM Team

CLIMATE

Anchorage, Alaska Hit 90 Degrees for First Time on July 4th
By Olivia Rosane, Eco Watch
July 5, 2019

“At 5pm this afternoon, #Anchorage International Airport officially hit 90 degrees for the first time on record,” NWS Anchorage tweeted Thursday afternoon.

As the nation’s fastest-warming state, Alaska is dramatically impacted by the climate crisis. Its temperatures are rising at twice the global average and its springs average two to five degrees warmer than they did 50 years ago, according to The New York Times.

The warming is melting sea ice on the Bering and Chukchi Seas, which disappeared weeks ahead of normal this year in some places. This, in turn, leads to warmer surface ocean temperatures as the dark water absorbs more sunlight. Surface temperatures are currently ranging from four to 10 degrees above normal.
» Read article

Restoring forests could capture two-thirds of the carbon humans have added to the atmosphere
By Mark Tutton, CNN
July 5, 2019

The researchers identified ecosystems around the world that would naturally support some level of tree cover, but have become “degraded” — deforested for timber, for example, or turned into farmland that has since been abandoned. They excluded areas that are currently used as urban or agricultural land, or that would naturally be grasslands or wetlands, because these ecosystems can themselves be valuable carbon stores, as well as supporting biodiversity.

They concluded that there’s enough suitable land to increase the world’s forests by about a third. That would give the planet more than a trillion extra trees and 900 million hectares of additional tree canopy, an area about the size of the United States.
» Read article

Heat Wave Nudged the Planet to Its Hottest June, European Forecasters Say
By Henry Fountain, New York Times
July 3, 2019

The heat wave that smothered much of Europe at the end of June helped raise average global temperatures to a record for the month, a European weather forecasting agency has said.

The European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts said Tuesday that global temperatures for June were about 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0.1 degree Celsius, higher than the previous record for the month, set in 2016. Europe itself was even warmer, about 2 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the 2016 record.
» Read article

June was hottest ever recorded on Earth, European satellite agency announces

Experts say climate change contributed to record-breaking temperatures across Europe
By Conrad Duncan, The Independent
July 2, 2019

Last month was the hottest June ever recorded, the EU‘s satellite agency has announced.

Data provided by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the EU, showed that the global average temperature for June 2019 was the highest on record for the month.
» Read article

Alaska’s heat wave fuels dangerous smoke, melts glaciers
By Yereth Rosen, Reuters
July 1, 2019

Record warmth and near-record warmth in most of the state has created flammable conditions from the Canadian border in the east to the Bering Sea coast in the west. In all, there were 354 wildfires covering 443,211 acres in Alaska as of Sunday morning, according to state and federal fire managers. Melting glaciers and mountain snowfields are bloating rivers and streams across a large swath of south central Alaska.
» Read article

Freak summer hailstorm buries Mexico’s Guadalajara city in 1.5 metres of ice
Governor blames climate change for extreme weather after heavy storm
By Conrad Duncan The Independent
July 1, 2019
Guadalajara hail storm

Enrique Alfaro Ramírez, Jalisco’s governor, suggested that the extreme weather had been caused by climate change after evaluating the damage yesterday. “I witnessed scenes that I had never seen before: the hail more than a metre high, and then we ask ourselves if climate change is real,” he wrote on Twitter.
» Read article

Senators target 50% national renewable energy standard by 2035, zero-carbon by 2050
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
June 27, 2019

Under the bill, each new kilowatt-hour of renewable energy would be eligible for a renewable energy credit from the federal government and the Secretary of Energy would be required to submit a plan to Congress aiming to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050. Solar, wind, ocean, tidal, geothermal energy, biomass, landfill gas, incremental hydropower and hydrokinetic energy all qualify as renewable resources under the bill.
Blog editor’s note: the bill includes biomass, which is environmentally destructive, carbon-emitting, and far from clean. Removing that energy source is a necessary amendment to this proposed legislation.
» Read article

New York City declares a climate emergency, the first US city with more than a million residents to do so
By Scottie Andrew and Saeed Ahmed, CNN
June 27, 2019

New York City officials declared a climate emergency in an effort to mobilize local and national responses to stall global warming.

It’s the largest city in the US, with over 8.62 million inhabitants.

The New York City Council passed the legislation Wednesday, calling for an immediate response to the global climate crises. The bill referenced several reports on the state of global warming and its impact, imparting that extreme weather events brought about by rising temperatures demonstrates that the planet is “too hot to be a safe environment.”
» Read article

New England Coastal Waters Warming More Than Anywhere Else In U.S.
By Lexi Peery, WBUR
June 27, 2019

Waters off the coast of New England have warmed up more than any other coastal areas in the United States — up to 3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1901. That’s according to a new analysis of recently collected federal ocean data by the independent research nonprofit Climate Central.

Their report also notes that fresh and salt waters across the United States are warming 40% faster than expected.
» Read article

Agriculture Department buries studies showing dangers of climate change
By Helena Bottemiller Evich, Politico
06/23/2019

The Trump administration has refused to publicize dozens of government-funded studies that carry warnings about the effects of climate change, defying a longstanding practice of touting such findings by the Agriculture Department’s acclaimed in-house scientists.

The studies range from a groundbreaking discovery that rice loses vitamins in a carbon-rich environment — a potentially serious health concern for the 600 million people world-wide whose diet consists mostly of rice — to a finding that climate change could exacerbate allergy seasons to a warning to farmers about the reduction in quality of grasses important for raising cattle.
» Read article

Report: Sea level rise to hit Cape Cod hard
By Doug Fraser, Cape Cod Times
June 20, 2019

Adapting to the changing landscape and massive ecosystem shifts of a world that is heating up rapidly is the most dramatic economic and social struggle in history, the executive director of The Center for Climate Integrity said Wednesday.

Richard Wiles was speaking at a telephone press conference introducing a report that he said conservatively estimated $400 billion in costs to coastal communities nationwide to deal with sea level rise in the next 20 years. Barnstable County ranked the highest in the state, and the third highest nationally, with an estimated $7.04 billion in estimated costs to protect public infrastructure from sea level rise.
» Read article

Kuwait with 52.2 degree was the hottest in the world yesterday
(126F)
By Kwt Today
June 6, 2019

Kuwait was the hottest country in the world, with the temperature hitting 52.2 degrees Celsius in the shadow, in the region of Matraba in North Kuwait, yesterday.
» Read article

» More climate articles 

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

VRF Program Closure
By Peter McPhee, Program Director, Renewable Thermal, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center
June 28, 2019

On June 28, 2019, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center announced the closure of our Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) heat pump program. Over the last two years we’ve supported 110 large commercial buildings in transitioning from fossil fuel heating to highly efficient heat pumps. In doing do, we’ve helped demonstrate that the technology, industry, and market exists today for VRF heat pumps.

We started down this pathway two years ago with one primary question in mind: how do we decarbonize heating in commercial buildings? Commercial building heating makes up nearly 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts, and we wanted to test an approach for reducing commercial building emissions to near zero by 2050. Because Massachusetts is legally mandated to reduce state-wide emissions 80% by 2050, this is a problem we need to solve.
» Read article

» More clean energy alternatives articles

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Climate Change Denialists Dubbed Auto Makers the ‘Opposition’ in Fight Over Trump’s Emissions Rollback
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
July 2, 2019

In the early months of the Trump administration, automakers pleaded for — and appeared set to receive — some relief from fuel economy standards that they said were too difficult to meet.

But newly released government emails show how a coalition of groups that reject established climate science quickly muscled into the picture, urging the administration to go much further and roll back the rules entirely and characterizing the automakers as their opponents in achieving that goal.
» Read article

Alice, 9-Seat Electric Airplane, Gets Its 1st Buyer — Cape Air
By Nicolas Zart, Clean Technica
June 27th, 2019

Alice electric airplane
Our friends at Eviation unveiled the first “fully operational” Alice, an electric airplane commuter, at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, France. Furthermore, Eviation secured a high note thanks to Cape Air becoming its first official customer.
» Read article

Canada Signals a Willingness to Challenge Trump on His Clean-Car Rollback
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
June 26, 2019

Traditionally, Canada has aligned its auto emissions standards with federal rules in the United States. However, several analysts said they saw Wednesday’s announcement as a clear step toward a more concrete shift in which Canada could potentially switch to the environmentally stricter standards of California and other states. Such a move could undercut Mr. Trump’s efforts to weaken environmental policy by creating a much larger market for cleaner cars, thereby making it more economically viable for auto manufacturers to build cars to the higher standards.
» Read article

» More clean transportation articles

ATLANTIC BRIDGE PIPELINE / WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Compressor station opponents say they’ll go to court
By Chris Lisinski / STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE in Wicked Local Weymouth
July 2, 2019

Weymouth protest photo
Slamming a “broken process” unfolding at the Department of Environmental Protection, about 50 environmental activists protested Tuesday outside the State House and called for an independent investigation into the administration’s permitting of a controversial natural gas compressor station.

Residents of the Fore River region, near the Weymouth site of the proposed station, gathered with members of about half a dozen advocacy groups, where they attempted to tie Gov. Charlie Baker personally to the issue and, alleging conflicts of interest, implored Auditor Suzanne Bump or Attorney General Maura Healey to step in.

The protest came less than a week after a DEP hearing officer suggested upholding an air-quality permit for the facility despite a chaotic appeal process that saw the department reveal it had failed to disclose relevant testing data from the site.
» Read article

» More Atlantic Bridge / Weymouth Compressor Station articles

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

The dog ate my homework: How utilities avoid least-cost planning
By D. Maurice Kreis, Opinion, InDepthNH
June 27, 2019

Regardless of how urgent a problem you consider climate change, from a ratepayer standpoint it’s bad news if a natural gas utility is not considering the full extent to which so-called “non-pipeline alternatives” can substitute cost-effectively for more pipelines and more gas.  Examples include geographically targeted energy efficiency, heat pumps, and thermal storage.  Even if these resources cannot entirely eliminate Liberty’s need to expand its supply portfolio, experience in other jurisdictions has shown that the modular nature of these resources allows a utility to defer a project into the future, buying time to see if forecasted growth in demand actually materializes.
» Read article

» More Granite Bridge Pipeline articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

America’s liquefied natural gas boom may be on a collision course with climate change
By Matt Egan, CNN Business
July 1, 2019

The US energy industry is scrambling to build dozens of expensive export terminals that can be used to ship cheap natural gas to China and other fast-growing economies that want to move away from coal.

While those investments make sense today, they will likely be derailed in the longer run by a combination of plunging renewable energy costs and rising climate change concerns, according to the Global Energy Monitor, a network of researchers tracking fossil fuel projects.
» Read article

Limpert: Pipeline coating is dangerous
By William Limpert, Editorial, Roanoke Times
June 30, 2019

The MVP, and the ACP are coated with 3M Scotchkote Fusion Bonded Epoxy 6233 (FBE) which is designed to protect the pipes from corrosion, which leads to leaks, and explosions. FBE degrades, chalks off the pipes, and becomes thinner and less protective when exposed to sunlight.

We should all be concerned when state and federal agencies fail to act to protect the public, without proof there is no risk, and while making vague and evasive statements to support their inaction. Likewise for the pipeline industry.
» Read article

U.S. Oil Companies Find Energy Independence Isn’t So Profitable
By Clifford Krauss, New York Times
June 30, 2019

In the last four years, roughly 175 oil and gas companies in the United States and Canada with debts totaling about $100 billion have filed for bankruptcy protection. Many borrowed heavily when oil and gas prices were far higher, only to collectively overproduce and undercut their commodity prices. At least six companies have gone bankrupt this year, and Weatherford International, the fourth-leading oil services company, which owes investors $7.7 billion, is expected to file for bankruptcy protection on Monday.
» Read article   

» More fossil fuel industry articles

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

Diversifying the Northeast power mix: Is offshore wind + storage key to the region’s reliability?
As more New England states roll out offshore wind mandates, bringing the technology to scale is a portfolio priority.
By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
July 2, 2019
Offshore wind and battery storage are about to come into the Northeastern power mix in a big way.

With more states requiring offshore wind targets, almost 18 GW are mandated to come online by 2035 in states across New England. But how that intermittent capacity will fit into an increasingly clean energy mix, how it will impact system reliability and whether the region’s utilities are ready for more change, remains in question.
» Read article

» More electric utilities articles

PLASTICS/FRACKING CONNECTION

Boom Goes the Plastics Industry
With demand for oil expected to slow, oil companies seek a lifeline in plastics
By Antonia Juhasz, Sierra Magazine / Sierra Club
June 30, 2019

ExxonMobil and Saudi Aramco, among the world’s largest fossil fuel companies, are betting big on plastics. In its latest investor report, ExxonMobil acknowledged a sharp decline in demand for gasoline. The company expects it will help fill the gap with chemicals and predicts a 30 percent increase in demand by 2025. A recent investor article released by Bank of America Merrill Lynch was titled “Oil’s Future Paved With Plastic.”

This pivot is already well underway. The excess of oil and gas has contributed to a frenzy of pipeline construction geared toward shipping ever greater quantities of fossil fuels to the coasts, where facilities distill the chemical building blocks needed for plastic production. The American Chemistry Council reports that since 2010, plans for 333 new chemical-manufacturing projects have been announced in the United States, representing more than $200 billion in capital investments; the industry association notes that “much of the investment is geared toward export markets for chemistry and plastics products.” A great deal of the build-out is along the Gulf Coast, led by Chevron, Phillips 66, and ExxonMobil. Shell Oil and other companies are building chemical-production capacity on the East Coast and along the Ohio River in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
» Read article

» More plastics/fracking connection articles

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Weekly News Check-In 6/21/19


Welcome back.

We scour many news outlets for articles related to energy, climate, and the transition to a carbon-free economy. We also cover related issues, like plastics and biomass. What follows is a distillation of the most interesting and useful news uncovered this week – ranging in scope from global to local.

Click any Read Article link to go directly to the published source. To explore related articles on the No Fracked Gas in Mass website, click the HEADINGS above the articles.

Look for a fresh reading list every week.

— The NFGiM Team

CLIMATE NEWS

E.P.A. Finalizes Its Plan to Replace Obama-Era Climate Rules
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
June 19, 2019

The Trump administration on Wednesday replaced former President Barack Obama’s effort to reduce planet-warming pollution from coal plants with a new rule that would keep plants open longer and undercut progress on reducing carbon emissions.

The rule represents the Trump administration’s most direct effort to protect the coal industry. It is also another significant step in dismantling measures aimed at combating global warming, including the rollback of tailpipe emissions standards and the planned withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.
» Read Article 

Scientists amazed as Canadian permafrost thaws 70 years early
Matthew Green, Reuters
June 18, 2019

Scientists are concerned about the stability of permafrost because of the risk that rapid thawing could release vast quantities of heat-trapping gases, unleashing a feedback loop that would in turn fuel even faster temperature rises.
» Read Article 

Climate change: Arctic permafrost now melting at levels not expected until 2090
Series of ‘anomalously warm summers’ caused ground to thaw, researchers say
By Alessio Perrone, The Independent
June 15, 2019
A “series of anomalously warm summers” has dramatically accelerated melting rates at three sites despite average annual ground temperatures remaining low. Ponds and hillocks have formed as a result.
» Read Article  

Half of Greenland’s Surface Started Melting This Week, Which Is Not Normal
By Brian Kahn, Gizmodo
June 13, 2019

A major warm spell has caused nearly half the surface of the Greenland ice sheet to start melting, something that’s highly unusual for this time of year. And while this spike may pass, the gears could already be in motion for record-setting melt on the ice sheet’s western flank.
» Read Article 

U.S. Climate Change Litigation in the Age of Trump: Year Two—A New Sabin Center Working Paper
By Dena Adler, Climate Law Blog, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School
June 7, 2019

The Trump Administration is losing on climate in the courts. More than two and a half years into the Trump Administration, no climate change-related regulatory rollback brought before the courts has yet survived legal challenge.   Nevertheless, climate change is one arena where the Trump Administration’s rollbacks have been both visible and real. In total, the Sabin Center’s U.S. Climate Deregulation Tracker identifies a total of 94 actions taken by the executive branch in 2017 and 2018 to undermine and reverse climate protections.
» Read Article 

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS  

‘This Pipeline Will Not Be Built,’ Indigenous and Climate Leaders Tell Trudeau After Canada Approves Trans Mountain Expansion
The federal government’s decision on the dirty energy project came just a day after the House of Commons voted to declare a climate emergency
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
June 19, 2019
Climate activists and Indigenous groups held an emergency rally in downtown Vancouver Tuesday night in response to the government’s announcement and are planning a march in solidarity with the Tiny House Warriors—who, for years, have challenged Kinder Morgan and now the Canadian government by constructing small structures in the pipeline’s proposed path—for Saturday.

“It is our basic responsibility as settlers to support Indigenous struggles. Indigenous people worldwide are on the frontline against resource developments that are pushing our biosphere to the brink of climate and ecological collapse,” said march organizer Bobby Arbess. “We must help stop the massive expansion of tar sands driving the Trans Mountain project. It represents a lethal tipping point that is not morally acceptable in a climate emergency.”
» Read Article 
On Monday, Canada declared a ‘climate emergency.’ On Tuesday, it approved a pipeline expansion.
By Emily Rauhala, Washington Post
June 18, 2019
The move will be welcomed by the country’s struggling oil sector and the many Canadians whose fortunes are tied to it. Landlocked Alberta produces four-fifths of Canadian crude but struggles to get it abroad, and so must settle for selling at steep discounts against global benchmarks — hitting the province hard.

But many Canadians have protested the expansion proposal out of concern for oil spills and the continuing promotion of climate-changing fossil fuels. They question whether this is the moment to increase Canadian shipments of oil.
» Read Article 

Australia, in a Victory for Coal, Clears the Way for a Disputed Mine
By Somini Sengupta
June 13, 2019
Plans for a fiercely contested coal mine in northeastern Australia received a long-awaited government green light on Thursday, less than a month after conservative politicians who champion coal triumphed in national elections.
» Read Article 

 

BIOMASS NEWS

New Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership reaches starting line
By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle
June 19, 2019

Blog editor’s note: Environmental groups will be keeping an eye on developments here, especially in light of Baker Administration support for commercial biomass interests.
» Read Article 

 

UTILITIES NEWS – ELECTRIC

Utilities are ‘the new cyber battlefield,’ as US ramps up pressure on Russia’s electric grid
Robert Walton, Utility Dive
June 18, 2019

The United States has increased efforts to insert malicious code into Russia’s electric grid, a development the The New York Times warned “enshrines power grids as a legitimate target” in the nations’ cold war of cyber one-upmanship.

While President Trump denied the story on Twitter, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said it meant a cyberwar between the two countries is a “hypothetical possibility.”

With utilities in the cross-hairs of malicious actors, experts say there are health, safety and economic risks for those who rely on the grid, particularly if escalation continues.
» Read Article 

U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid
By David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, New York Times
June 15, 2019

The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said.

In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections.
» Read Article 

The rise of EVs could overwhelm the grid, but PG&E has a better plan
A new framework gives utilities a way to identify and seize electrification value with managed charging
Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
June 13, 2019

The power demand from the 20 million electric vehicles (EVs) expected to be on U.S. roads by 2030, up from today’s 1.1 million, could overwhelm the nation’s grids.

But the coming EV load could deliver great value to utilities and their customers if it is shifted away from high-priced peak demand periods. That would increase utilities’ electricity sales without adding stress to their grids, while also lowering drivers’ charging costs. Investing in the communications systems and planning needed to properly manage charging can deliver transportation electrification’s full value, stakeholders told Utility Dive.

EVs are the biggest “electric load opportunity for utilities” since the 1950s air conditioning explosion, a May 2019 Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) study reports. But without proper planning to integrate that load, “EVs could lead to grid constraints and increased transmission and distribution peaks” that require new “peaker plants, unplanned grid upgrades, and other costly solutions.”
» Read Article 

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Another Deceptive Letter Bashing the Electric Car Tax Credit Circulating Congress, Courtesy of FreedomWorks
By Ben Jervey, DeSmog Blog
June 16, 2019

As the Drive America Forward Act, which would lift the cap on electric cars eligible for the credit, has gained co-sponsors across party lines, those industries most threatened by the widespread adoption of EVs are clearly fighting back, through the media and in these letters to Congress, as well as extensive lobbying on Capitol Hill. Without fail, these efforts to skew public and political opinion on the tax incentives include these deceptive talking points and oil-funded reports deployed in Rep. Mooney’s letter.

As Elliot Negin of the Union of Concerned Scientists recently wrote for Common Dreams, the “oil and gas industry’s anti-EV tax credit campaign is a prime example of how fossil fuel interests construct a disinformation echo chamber to drown out government efforts to address the climate crisis.”

Negin continues:

“This is basically how it works: The industry underwrites a network of faux free-market groups to surreptitiously advocate on its behalf; it pays seemingly independent think tanks to publish deceptive studies; and it bankrolls the campaigns of federal legislators, who then cite industry-funded studies and invite industry-funded spokespeople to testify before Congress.”
» Read Article 

 

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES NEWS

North Adams, Williamstown teaming up to educate residents on benefits solar energy
By Adam Shanks, The Berkshire Eagle
June 18, 2019
» Read Article 

 

NATURAL GAS HEALTH RISKS

Physicians call for halt to natural gas fracking projects
By Jeffrey Mize, The Columbian
June 19, 2019

Two physicians groups have issued a 145-page report calling for an immediate halt to projects involving hydraulically fracked natural gas in the Northwest.

“Fracked Gas: A Threat to Healthy Communities” identifies six major projects, including a proposed $2 billion plant at the Port of Kalama to convert natural gas into methanol for export to Asia.
» Read Article 

 

ATLANTIC BRIDGE NEWS

Confused About The Weymouth Compressor? Here’s What You Need To Know
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
June 19, 2019

For the last few years, a coalition of South Shore towns and local activists have worked to block the construction of a natural gas compressor station in North Weymouth. The project involves multiple permits and court cases at the state and federal level, making it hard for even the most avid news consumer to follow. Blog editor’s note: This excellent reporting untangles a complex story and illuminates a critical local battle against gas infrastructure expansion.
» Read Article 

Compressor foes state their case at hearing
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
June 17, 2019
The compressor station proposal has drawn strong local opposition from officials and residents who said the plant would vent pollution and toxic gases and that it could explode in the densely populated and industrialized neighborhood. There are more than 1,000 homes near the proposed site.
» Read Article 

Weymouth residents fight proposed compressor station near Fore River bridge
By Julie Leonardi, Boston 25 News
June 17, 2019

Residents in Weymouth continue to fight against a proposed natural gas compressor station near the Fore River bridge.
» Read Article

 

COLUMBIA GAS / MERRIMACK VALLEY DISASTER

Kempic “confident” disasters won’t happen again
By Jessica Valeriani, Andover Townsman
June 13, 2019
He credits his confidence to two features the utility has been including in their restoration work. The first is a regulator at each house which shuts off gas, preventing over-pressurization. The second feature is an excess flow valve, located right on the service lines. Kempic said the valve shuts off gas automatically if a line is unintentionally struck by digging equipment.

Blog editor’s note: Begs the question… why weren’t/aren’t these safeguards already required standard equipment? If Columbia Gas built cars, would they be expressing renewed confidence in the safety of their product because from now on, vehicles will be provided with brakes and steering?
» Read Article 

 

TALES OF VICTORY

Invenergy Defeated, Power Plant Denied Permit
CLF and Burrillville residents prevail against energy giant
By Jake O’Neill, Conservation Law Foundation
June 20, 2019
Rhode Island’s Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) decided today that it would not grant a permit necessary for the construction of Invenergy’s fossil fuel plant in Burrillville. After years of legal challenges from CLF and residents, the plant will not be built.

“This is a huge victory for Rhode Island and for the health of our communities,” said CLF Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer. “In the face of climate emergency, opening a fossil fuel plant that will spew carbon pollution for decades is simply reckless. After years of lies and misinformation, Invenergy’s efforts to pave over a forest to build this dirty plant have been dealt a substantial loss. Today’s decision is proof that communities can stand up to big gas and win.”
» Read Article 

 

PLASTICS, HEALTH & ENVIRONMENT

Where does your plastic go? Global investigation reveals America’s dirty secret
A Guardian report from 11 countries tracks how US waste makes its way across the world – and overwhelms the poorest nations
By Erin McCormick, Bennett Murray , Carmela Fonbuena , Leonie Kijewski, Gökçe Saraçoğlu , Jamie Fullerton, Alastair Gee and Charlotte Simmonds, The Guardian / United States of Plastic
June 17, 2019
“People don’t know what’s happening to their trash,” said Andrew Spicer, who teaches corporate social responsibility at the University of South Carolina and sits on his state’s recycling advisory board. “They think they’re saving the world. But the international recycling business sees it as a way of making money. There have been no global regulations – just a long, dirty market that allows some companies to take advantage of a world without rules.”
» Read Article 

As the world grapples with plastic, the U.S. makes more of it — a lot more
By Center for Public Integrity
June 13, 2019
Plastic waste is piling up, increasing amounts of it going to landfills as U.S. recycling programs — dependent on Asian countries that no longer want our scrap — struggle to adjust. In March the United Nations, “alarmed” by the environmental and public health consequences of plastic items intended to be used once and thrown away, urged countries to “take comprehensive action.”

Against this backdrop, the United States is about to make a whole lot more of the stuff.
» Read Article 


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