Tag Archives: FERC

Weekly News Check-In 8/19/22

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Welcome back.

Our last two newsletters focused on two big pieces of climate legislation, one in Massachusetts, and the other – the Inflation Reduction Act – for the whole country. We’re leading this week’s news with climate activist Bill McKibben’s thoughts on what needs to be done next.

Here in Massachusetts, we’re watching developments as Boston declares its intent to file a home rule petition which may allow it to ban natural gas hookups in new buildings. Trouble is, the climate bill only allows ten communities to participate in a pilot project banning those hookups, and that list is already full. Boston’s participation depends on one of those smaller communities getting bumped.

Gas bans are surging nation wide, and both rules and opportunities vary by state. Rockie Mountain Institute offers a guide for communities who want to require electrification in new construction.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is looking at a permit request from the Regional Energy Access Expansion (REAE) pipeline project, designed to support growing demand for natural gas in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Typical of pipeline projects, it’s the developer (Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC in this case) that’s claiming increased gas demand. New Jersey state officials, however, have told FERC that the Garden State doesn’t need more gas, in part because of the state’s climate policies and energy efficiency goals. The case offers an opportunity for FERC to reconsider its approach – something clean energy advocates have requested for years.

Two reasons that states are projecting lower demand for gas include more building electrification along with surging demand for weatherization services. Maine is seeing a doubling of projects over the past year, and contractors are having a hard time keeping up with demand.

Climate change is intensifying heat waves, which are growing longer, hotter, and deadlier.    A new study predicts that a Midwestern ‘heat belt’ will come to dominate dangerous-conditions forecasts over the next 30 years. For those of us living outside the Midwest – don’t feel left out – there’s plenty to go around.

The proliferation of wind farms in the West is displacing coal production, benefiting the climate, and providing lots of good jobs. But wind turbines are killing golden eagles. This is a powerful narrative for considering the tradeoffs and uncomfortable choices associated with the energy transition. Turns out, climate change is more of a threat to the overall golden eagle population than turbine blades, and eagle collisions can be reduced by properly siting wind farms.

For some green energy good news, we can report that new solar installations around the world are expected to grow by a whopping 30% this year, and the industry believes double-digit annual growth will continue through 2025.

Energy storage is surging too, and will be considerably goosed by investment tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act. Importantly, the IRA extends these credits to standalone projects (just batteries, for example – not hybrid projects co-locating batteries with renewable energy technologies like solar or wind). This will allow an acceleration of storage build-out, which is essential for a clean, resilient grid.

And in long-duration energy storage, Oregon-based iron flow battery company ESS Inc has recognized revenues for the first time since it publicly listed, while also closing in on its targeted annual production capacity of 750MWh. Theirs is a battery made entirely of non-toxic, non-flammable, Earth-abundant materials – yes, yes, yes!

Our neighbors in Vermont are showing how widely-distributed small residential storage batteries increase the resiliency of a modern grid. Utility Green Mountain Power helped thousands of customers get home batteries, and now it taps them at peak times to prevent high costs and grid outages. Meanwhile, traditional utilities have resorted to emailing their customers on hot days, begging them to back off their air conditioners.

The electric vehicle revolution is upon us, but the public charging system has some catching up to do. EV early adopters mostly recharge at home, and that’s both convenient and reliable. But drivers taking occasional long road trips, and folks dependent on public facilities are encountering a high percentage of broken chargers. With a major effort underway to build hundreds of thousands of public chargers – the federal government alone is spending $7.5 billion – improving reliability is a top issue.

We’re learning more about health effects from the witches brew of chemicals pumped into the ground during fracking operations. A new peer-reviewed study conducted by the Yale School of Public Health finds that young children living near fracking wells at birth are up to three times more likely to later develop leukemia.

The fracking industry has always guarded its secrets – declining to disclose the full list of chemicals used to smash open subterranean rock and facilitate the flow of hydrocarbons. That obfuscation – especially under-reporting emissions – goes right up the chain as the fuels are transported, processed, and eventually burned. A recent example is Cheniere Energy, a major exporter of U.S. liquefied natural gas. The company is engaged in “greenwashing”  its operations in order to portray gas exports as a climate solution and clear the way for further expansion, according to a new report.

Global demand for gas has soared in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine, sparking a scramble by U.S. gas exporters to increase export volumes, with the backing of the Biden administration.

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

BABY BOY LOOKING UP AND POINTING

BABY BOY LOOKING UP AND POINTING

One Down – Reflections on a Remarkable Year
By Bill McKibben, Substack.com
August 14, 2022

Well, check off one of the Crucial Years. If our civilization has a fighting chance of survival, we need to cut emissions in half by 2030; it’s the greatest challenge we’ve ever faced as a species, and the greatest drama imaginable.

I’ve been writing this newsletter for a particularly remarkable trip around the sun. It’s been a pivot year: the U.S. Congress finally passed climate legislation, by the thinnest of margins, and filled with all the gifts to Big Oil that Joe Manchin could cram in. But it’s what we should have done 30 years ago: started moving aggressively towards clean energy. And so now the game is on. The next year is going to see at least three crucial things

1)     Having gotten some concessions from Politics, the movement is now going to go hard against Money—Wall Street will be as much the target as Washington

2)    They don’t call it global warming for nothing, and so it will be fascinating to see if the Biden administration can leverage American action to help move the rest of the world (which is a way of saying I’m looking forward to reporting from the climate talks in Cairo)

3)    Execution. With the burst of money from DC, it’s time to build out all those EV chargers and offshore wind farms; figuring out how to make it happen in timely fashion is going to be crucial.

So we’ll watch these things together—but this is a fighting newsletter. So we’ll also figure out ways to help spur change on.

In our first year together we had one clear win as a community: convincing the president in late spring to sign legislation using the Defense Production Act to start producing heat pumps as a response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Heat Pumps for Peace and Freedom” went from a newsletter post to American policy inside a hundred days, and you folks made it happen, with a storm of organizing. More to come.
» Read article      

» More about protests and actions

NATURAL GAS BANS

Mayor Wu
Boston seeks to ban fossil fuels in new buildings
By The Associated Press, in WBUR News
August 16, 2022

Boston is seeking to ban fossil fuels from new building projects and major renovations, Mayor Michelle Wu announced Tuesday.

The Democrat said the state’s largest city will take advantage of a key provision in the climate change bill signed into law by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker last week.

That legislation, which is meant to bring the state closer to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, calls for a pilot project allowing 10 Massachusetts cities and towns to require new building projects be all-electric, with the exception of life sciences labs and health care facilities.

Wu said the city will file a home rule petition with the state Legislature to join the pilot.

“Boston must lead by taking every possible step for climate action,” she said in a statement. “Boston’s participation will help deliver healthy, energy efficient spaces that save our residents and businesses on utilities costs and create local green jobs that will fuel our economy for decades.”

Wu’s office said natural gas, oil and other fossil fuels used in buildings represent more than one-third of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Other major U.S. cities have already moved to ban fossil fuel hookups in new buildings, including New York City and Washington, D.C.
» Read article     

Concord Millrun
Ten cities and towns are poised to ban fossil fuels from new buildings
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
August 14, 2022

The small housing development just off Main Street in Concord is almost complete. Many of the neat one-, two- and three-bedroom homes are already occupied, and the rest have just a few plumbing and electrical jobs that need wrapping.

From the outside, this 14-unit development looks relatively unremarkable — except for one key difference: there are no gas hookups, no oil or propane tanks. All the homes are completely fossil-fuel free.

In recent years, small developments such as Concord Millrun have cropped up in recognition that the climate crisis calls for radical changes in our use of fossil fuels. And now, a new climate bill signed last week by Governor Charlie Baker contains a provision that could change the landscape significantly: 10 communities in the state can participate in a pilot program that bans the use of fossil fuels in new buildings and major renovations. Where once they were the exception, in these 10 communities, fossil-fuel-free developments will become the rule.

And if the effort succeeds in those communities, advocates say, the rest of the state could eventually follow.

“Ultimately, we need to stop building with fossil fuels, and the easiest way to decarbonize our buildings is for them not to be carbon-full from the beginning,” said Amy Boyd, policy director of the clean energy advocacy group Acadia Center. “The more we keep building with fossil fuels, the harder it’s going to be.”

Cutting emissions from buildings, which account for nearly one third of emissions in Massachusetts, is key to addressing the climate crisis and reaching the state’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. To get there, the state’s climate roadmap calls for widespread electrification of homes, primarily through the use of heat pumps that use electricity to heat and cool homes.

While progress has been slow so far, updates to the energy efficiency program known as Mass Save aim to change that, with new incentives up to $10,000 for installing heat pumps as the sole source of heating and cooling.

[…] “It will, ideally, show that a natural gas ban or a building electrification requirement is feasible, cost-effective, and not something to be afraid of, particularly in the Northeast region of the country,” said Amy Turner, a senior fellow with the Cities Climate Law Initiative at Columbia University’s Sabin Center. “By allowing a handful of municipalities to go ahead and do this, we hopefully will get some more data to support building electrification movement generally.”

Ten cities and towns have already secured local approval and have submitted home rule petitions: Cambridge, Newton, Brookline, Lexington, Arlington, Concord, Lincoln, Acton, Aquinnah, and West Tisbury. But it’s unclear if all of them will meet the affordable housing requirement, and other towns and cities can still apply. The Department of Energy Resources will decide which communities participate.

One potential contender: the city of Boston, where a spokesperson for Mayor Michelle Wu said they are “closely reviewing the rules for participating in the pilot program as part of our broader agenda.” If Boston were to pass a ban on fossil fuels in new buildings, it would be among the first major US cities to take the step, joining New York City, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
» Read article      

skyline
How Local Governments and Communities Are Taking Action to Get Fossil Fuels out of Buildings
By  Leah Louis-Prescott,  Rachel Golden, RMI | Blog Post
August 9, 2022

Across the United States, 80 cities and counties have adopted policies that require or encourage the move off fossil fuels to all-electric homes and buildings. As of August 2022, nearly 28 million people across 11 states live in a jurisdiction where local policies favor fossil fuel-free, healthy buildings. And the momentum behind these policies keeps building — dozens more local governments have strong commitments to decarbonize their buildings stock, which will soon become formal policy.

This national wave of action is motivated by the numerous benefits — in terms of climate, air quality, health, economics, resilience, and safety — of shifting from fossil fuels to zero-emissions electric appliances.

Local governments across the nation are feeling the heat and are eager to help their residents and businesses get off fossil fuels like gas. With the help of local experts, they have created a range of policy solutions, including:
» Blog editor’s note: This article will be of particular interest to activists and policy makers who wish to implement fossil-free building guidelines in their communities.
» Read article     

» More about gas bans

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

high pressure on FERC
N.J. pipeline project could shake up FERC gas reviews
By Niina H. Farah and Miranda Willson, E&E News
August 17, 2022

A proposed Northeast pipeline expansion could test the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approach to scrutinizing demand for new natural gas infrastructure at a time when a slew of states are trying to use less of the fossil fuel.

The Regional Energy Access Expansion (REAE) project is designed to support growing demand for natural gas in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland, according to developer Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC. New Jersey state officials, however, have told FERC that the Garden State doesn’t need more gas, in part because of the state’s climate policies and energy efficiency goals.

The tension offers an unusual opportunity for the commission to consider a state’s climate targets before signing off on a pipeline project, according to some legal experts. At the same time, it exposes a key question for the commissioners as they contemplate new approaches to natural gas reviews: What evidence and perspectives should carry the most weight?

“We finally get to see what FERC will do now that they have these data from the state showing that we don’t need more gas capacity,” said Jennifer Danis, a senior staff attorney at the Niskanen Center, a libertarian-leaning think tank that is representing the New Jersey Conservation Foundation opposing the project before the commission.

In a potential first for a pipeline proceeding, the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) have presented FERC with an independent study on the state’s natural gas capacity. Conducted by the consulting firm London Economics International for the BPU last year, the analysis concluded that New Jersey was “well-positioned with available interstate supply beyond 2030,” contrary to gas utilities’ claims of potential shortfalls.

The study was commissioned by the BPU last year as New Jersey seeks to transition off fossil fuels. The Garden State has a target of 100 percent clean energy by 2050 across the electric power, transportation and buildings sectors.
» Read article     

» More about FERC

GREENING THE ECONOMY

heavy demand
Maine weatherization contractors race to hire and expand as demand booms
Contractors registered with Efficiency Maine are on pace to insulate twice as many houses this year as last, with wait times now close to three months. State incentives and soaring oil prices are driving the surge in demand.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
August 16, 2022

Maine weatherization contractors are scrambling to hire and expand as state incentives and soaring oil prices cause a surge in demand for their services.

Contractors registered with Efficiency Maine, the major administrator of efficiency programs in the state, are on pace to insulate twice as many houses this year as last. The average wait time to receive services is now close to three months.

“Every contractor is fully booked,” said Andy Meyer, senior program manager for Efficiency Maine. “Most for months, some for more than that.”

Weatherization is one of the strategies Maine is using in its efforts to cut emissions by 80% by 2050. The state has set a goal of weatherizing 35,000 homes by 2030. And in the past year, several factors have converged to pique consumers’ interest in implementing such measures.

At the beginning of 2022, Efficiency Maine increased its rebates for weatherization services, boosting the rebate rate from 30% to 50% and the lifetime cap on rebates from $3,500 to $5,500. In concert, it launched a $1 million marketing campaign spreading awareness of the incentive program.

Then, fossil fuel prices shot up: The price of heating oil more than doubled from May 2021 to the same month this year, bringing the cost of filling a standard tank over $1,500 in a state where 60% of homes use heating oil.

Now, record numbers of homeowners are interested in better insulating and sealing their homes to cut down on fuel use and costs. By June of this year, requests for rebates were up 254% over June 2021.
» Read article     

sea jack
World’s biggest offshore wind farm company sets 100% renewable target for all suppliers
By Joshua S Hill, Renew Economy
August 15, 2022

Denmark’s Ørsted – the world’s biggest developer of offshore wind projects – has set “a clear expectation” for all its suppliers to use 100% renewable electricity by 2025, marking them as the first company in the world to do so.

In April 2020, Ørsted asked its main suppliers to disclose their own emissions and to set science-based carbon reduction targets, and to begin using 100% renewable electricity in the manufacturing of wind turbines, foundations, cables, substations, and components.

Ørsted is now expanding its supply chain decarbonisation programme to include all its 22,000 suppliers across component manufacturing, transportation, installation, and operation of renewable energy assets, requiring them all to begin using 100% renewable electricity.

“A sustainable future for our planet requires a rapid transition to renewable energy and limiting global warming to 1.5 °C,” said Mads Nipper, group president and CEO of Ørsted.

“That’s why the renewables industry must lead the pack by decarbonising its own supply chain. We’ve transformed Ørsted into a global leader in renewable energy and strongly believe that companies must demand science-aligned climate action from each other as well.”

“We recognise the efforts undertaken by all existing and new suppliers who share our ambitions and will commit to using 100 % renewable electricity. We look forward to working together to achieve this goal as soon as possible and to set a new gold standard for the renewable energy industry.”

Ørsted’s overarching goal is to become carbon-neutral in its own energy generation and operations by 2025, on track to achieving a carbon neutral footprint across the company, its supply chain, and energy trading by 2040.
» Read article     

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

extreme heat belt
Climate study predicts Missouri will see days of 125 degrees by 2053 as part of ‘heat belt’
By Andrew Sullender, Springfield News-Leader
August 17, 2022

Amid this year’s heat wave in southwest Missouri, a new study predicts a new Midwestern ‘heat belt’ to dominate forecasts over the next 30 years.

Released Monday, the peer-reviewed ‘Extreme Heat Model’ created by the First Street Foundation studies the future of climate change in the United States and “identifies the impact of increasing temperatures at a property level, and how the frequency, duration, and intensity of extremely hot days will change over the next 30 years from a changing climate.”

In the study, “Extreme Danger Days” of heat are defined as when temperature exceeds 125 degrees in a given day. The model predicts only 50 counties next year will experience an Extreme Danger Day of heat. But more than 1,000 counties in the United States will experience days of over 125 degrees by 2053.

The vast majority of these counties are geographically concentrated in the Midwest, the model finds — dubbing the more than quarter of U.S. land mass the “Extreme Heat Belt.” This emerging heat belt stretches from the northern Texas and Louisiana borders to Illinois, Indiana, and even into Wisconsin. Of course, right in the center of the heat belt is all of Missouri.

“Increasing temperatures are broadly discussed as averages, but the focus should be on the extension of the extreme tail events expected in a given year,” said Matthew Eby, founder and CEO of First Street Foundation. “We need to be prepared for the inevitable, that a quarter of the country will soon fall inside the Extreme Heat Belt with temperatures exceeding 125 degrees Fahrenheit and the results will be dire.”
» Read article     

heat islands
As Heat Waves Worsen, THIS Policy Predicts Where People Will Die
PBS Weathered, YouTube
August 16, 2022

» Watch video     

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

golden eagle hazard
Wind energy boom and golden eagles collide in the US West
By MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press
August 17, 2022

CODY, Wyo. (AP) — The rush to build wind farms to combat climate change is colliding with preservation of one of the U.S. West’s most spectacular predators — the golden eagle — as the species teeters on the edge of decline.

Ground zero in the conflict is Wyoming, a stronghold for golden eagles that soar on 7-foot (2-meter) wings and a favored location for wind farms. As wind turbines proliferate, scientists say deaths from collisions could drive down golden eagle numbers considered stable at best.

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.

That leaves golden eagles doubly vulnerable — to the shifting climate and to the wind energy promoted as a solution to that warming world.

“We have some of the best golden eagle populations in Wyoming, but it doesn’t mean the population is not at risk,” said Bryan Bedrosian, conservation director at the Teton Raptor Center in Wilson, Wyoming. “As we increase wind development across the U.S., that risk is increasing.”

Turbine blades hundreds of feet long are among myriad threats to golden eagles, which are routinely shot, poisoned by lead, hit by vehicles and electrocuted on power lines.

[…] Despite the deaths, scientists like Bedrosian say more turbines are needed to fight climate change. He and colleague Charles Preston are finding ways wind companies can reduce or offset eagle deaths, such as building in areas less frequented by the birds, improving habitat elsewhere or retrofitting power poles to make them less perilous when eagles land.

“It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, but it’s a start and I think it’s the way to go,” Preston said. “It’s a societal question: Is there room for them and us? It’s not just golden eagles. They are kind of a window into the bigger picture.”
» Read article     

solar growth
Solar On Track for ‘Staggering’ 30% Growth This Year
By The Energy Mix
August 15, 2022

New solar installations around the world are poised to grow by a “staggering” 30% this year, and the industry can look ahead to double-digit growth each year through 2025, according to a Bloomberg.com analysis that predates the ambitious clean energy provisions in the US$369-billion Inflation Reduction Act adopted by the U.S. Congress last week.

“At the end of the day, the global solar picture is just staggering at this point,” Bloomberg senior clean energy analyst Rob Barnett told Yahoo Finance in late July. “We are on track to install something like 250 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity this year. I know most folks don’t think in gigawatts, but that is a very large amount. It’s more than the installed capacity of a number of European countries.”

(A gigawatt is one billion watts of electricity generating capacity, enough to power about 750,000 North American homes.)

Yahoo cites massive growth in many parts of the world. China, already the world leader in solar capacity, plans to double its new deployment this year. Germany broke its solar generation record in the midst of a searing heat wave July 17, and solar plus wind generation covered 28% of U.S. electricity demand in April, an all-time high.

Barnett maintained the boom is just beginning. “There really is this big, top-line growth scenario that we see unfolding for all of the companies that are participating in the solar supply chain,” he said. And while the cascade of extreme weather events around the world is increasing concern about climate change, the big push is coming from high oil and gas prices driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, coupled with plummeting solar costs.

“I do think there is increasing focus on all sorts of solutions to try to help manage emissions and tackle the concerns of climate change,” Barnett told Yahoo. “But I would actually argue that the bigger driver for clean energy demand, particularly here in Europe, is elevated energy costs.”

Though solar is still an intermittent power source without some form of storage, and fossil energy costs are beginning to come down, “the economics [of renewables] are already quite good,” he added. “And so you’d have to see such a sea change in terms of gas prices or coal prices, if you’re thinking about the power grid, to really reverse some of the trends. And I just don’t think there’s any appetite for it, either.”
» Read article     

» More about clean energy

ENERGY STORAGE

BFD inked
Energy storage industry hails ‘transformational’ Inflation Reduction Act
By Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
August 17, 2022

US President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act yesterday, bringing with it tax incentives and other measures widely expected to significantly boost prospects for energy storage deployment.

“The Inflation Reduction Act invests US$369 billion to take the most aggressive action ever — ever, ever, ever — in confronting the climate crisis and strengthening our economic — our energy security,” Biden said.

The legislation was readied for Biden’s signature at a speed which took many by surprise, from the announcement of compromises being reached by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the end of July, to its quick passing in the Senate and then the House of Representatives in just over a fortnight.

Its investment in energy security and climate change mitigation targets a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) levels by 2030, supporting electric vehicles (EVs), energy efficiency and building electrification, wind, solar PV, green hydrogen, battery storage and other technologies.

Most directly relevant to the downstream energy storage industry is the introduction of an investment tax credit (ITC) for standalone energy storage. That can lower the capital cost of equipment by about 30%, although under some prevailing conditions it will be more or less, depending on, for example, use of local unionised labour.

It also unties developers from pursuing a disproportionately high percentage of solar-plus-storage hybrid projects, since prior to the act, batteries were eligible for the ITC, but only if they charged directly from the solar for at least 70% of every year in operation. The industry has campaigned for the standalone ITC for many years.

For the upstream battery and energy storage system value chains, there are also tax incentives for siting production within the US, as there are for wind and solar PV equipment manufacturers that source components or make their products domestically.

There are also 10-year extensions to existing wind and solar ITCs along with new or extended clean energy production tax credits (PTCs) and the ITC for solar goes up from 26% to 30%, while the standalone storage ITC will also be in place for the next decade.
» Read article     

» More about energy storage

LONG-DURATION ENERGY STORAGE

ESS revenue
ESS Inc ramps iron flow battery production capacity to 500MWh, signs 12GWh Australia deal
By Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
August 12, 2022

Iron flow battery company ESS Inc has recognised revenues for the first time since it publicly listed, while also closing in on its targeted annual production capacity of 750MWh.

Alongside its latest quarterly financial results release yesterday, the Oregon, US-headquartered technology provider also announced a major deal for up to 12GWh of its systems to be deployed in a new partnership.

ESS Inc listed on the New York Stock Exchange in late 2021 after a SPAC merger. Having said from the outset that it would likely be a couple of years before it would be able to reach profitability, it has also not been able to recognise revenues until this quarter.

It registered revenues of US$686,000 for Q2 2022, relating to the sale and installation of three of its Energy Warehouse systems, which are behind-the-meter commercial and industrial (C&I) devices of 400kWh capacity each.

ESS Inc is the only manufacturer and holder of patents on its flow batteries, which use an iron and saltwater electrolyte in rugged systems that can deliver long-duration energy storage (4-12 hours’ duration) over many years without the degradation that lithium-ion batteries experience with use, in particular from frequent and deep cycling.

The company also talks up the fact that its electrolyte is non-toxic and uses more abundant raw materials than other flow batteries in their manufacture, with other providers tending to opt for vanadium dissolved in sulfuric acid, or in some cases, zinc-bromine. Alongside Energy Warehouse it also offers a grid-scale unit, Energy Center, which is a 3MW system.
» Read article     

» More about long-duration energy storage

MODERNIZING THE GRID

GMP VPP
This utility keeps customers cool during heat waves while saving them money
Vermont’s Green Mountain Power helped thousands of customers get home batteries. Now it taps them at peak times to prevent high costs and grid outages.
By Julian Spector, Canary Media
August 11, 2022

Again and again this summer, U.S. power grids have struggled to meet demand for electricity to run air conditioners amid heat waves. Utilities and grid operators have asked people to use less electricity in hopes of averting widespread outages in places like Indiana, New York and Texas.

Such pleas put the onus on regular people to keep the grid up and running, instead of the companies that make money from producing electricity. And though ​“demand flexibility” is something that power companies pay for, these emergency calls for customer cutbacks ask people to donate this service for free.

Voluntary customer conservation has helped grids stay functional in dicey situations. But the power sector can do better than hoping people choose not to use air conditioning in a heat wave — especially as extreme weather events and ensuing grid crises worsen due to climate change.

Against that backdrop, Vermont utility Green Mountain Power wants people to know there’s a readily available alternative: instead of asking customers to sacrifice, it uses clean, decentralized energy sources to reduce consumption and save millions of dollars.

[…] Many utilities worry about losing control (and, potentially, revenue) in a world of consumer-owned energy devices; indeed, many startups that sell such devices frame their products as an explicit challenge to the centrally managed, monopolistic utility system. GMP embodies a different vision: a creative utility managing the influx of new localized energy technologies to benefit everyone in its territory.

The fact that this model exists implicitly challenges other utilities to do more with readily available consumer energy technology. There are high-tech alternatives to the frantic pleas to turn down the AC.

[…] Back in 2015, GMP offered customers in its service territory a discount to buy or lease their own Tesla Powerwall home batteries, on one condition: In a pinch, the utility can control the battery for its own needs.

The customers get to use the batteries (offerings now include brands beyond Tesla) however they want almost all the time. Key benefits include storing rooftop solar power and keeping the lights on during a grid outage. But if GMP senses a major weather event — like a storm threatening power lines, or a heat wave driving a spike in air conditioning — it takes control, makes sure the battery is charged up ahead of time and discharges it during the event to deliver extra power when it’s needed most.

All these batteries are pretty small. But there are thousands of them, thanks to years of customer outreach. After starting as a pilot program, the battery offering was codified as a rate option customers can select for their utility services. Renters can participate, with permission from their landlords. And if a resident gets a battery on their own, they can sign it up to participate. GMP now also controls around 1,000 smart electric-car chargers, as well as large-scale batteries at solar power plants, which it can also dispatch to send power to the grid.

All those devices, working in unison, give GMP ample capacity to play with in the form of what’s called a ​“virtual power plant,” or VPP. If the utility control center predicts an hour when demand will peak, it can throw its VPP at it.
» Read article     

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

charge angels
A Frustrating Hassle Holding Electric Cars Back: Broken Chargers
Owners of battery-powered cars sometimes struggle to refuel on longer trips because public chargers don’t work or malfunction while cars are plugged in.
By Niraj Chokshi, New York Times
August 16, 2022

The federal government is doling out billions of dollars to encourage people to buy electric vehicles. Automakers are building new factories and scouring the world for raw materials. And so many people want them that the waiting lists for battery-powered cars are months long.

The electric vehicle revolution is nearly here, but its arrival is being slowed by a fundamental problem: The chargers where people refuel these cars are often broken. One recent study found that about a quarter of the public charging outlets in the San Francisco Bay Area, where electric cars are commonplace, were not working.

A major effort is underway to build hundreds of thousands of public chargers — the federal government alone is spending $7.5 billion. But drivers of electric cars and analysts said that the companies that install and maintain the stations need to do more to make sure those new chargers and the more than 120,000 that already exist are reliable.

Many sit in parking lots or in front of retail stores where there is often no one to turn to for help when something goes wrong. Problems include broken screens and buggy software. Some stop working midcharge, while others never start in the first place.

Some frustrated drivers say the problems have them second-guessing whether they can fully abandon gas vehicles, especially for longer trips.

“Often, those fast chargers have real maintenance issues,” said Ethan Zuckerman, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who has owned a Chevrolet Bolt for several years. “When they do, you very quickly find yourself in pretty dire straits.”

[…] The climate and energy bill that Congress approved last week includes tax credits for purchases of electric cars and chargers. And last year, lawmakers passed an infrastructure law that authorized $7.5 billion in federal spending to help build public chargers. Just having more chargers available means drivers will be much less likely to become stranded or frustrated if the first one or two they pull up to malfunction.

The money also comes with a requirement that chargers be functional 97 percent of the time and adhere to technical standards for communicating with vehicles.
» Read article     

leading through loans
Bank Australia to steer customers towards electric vehicles with halt to loans for fossil fuel cars in 2025
Announcement at national electric vehicle summit comes as climate change minister seeks input on national EV strategy
By Adam Morton, The Guardian
August 18, 2022

An Australian bank will stop offering loans for new fossil fuel cars from 2025 in a step it says will encourage more people to buy electric vehicles.

The customer-owned Bank Australia will announce the self-imposed ban at a national EV summit in Canberra on Friday, arguing it is a responsible step to ensure its lending practices did not “lock our customers into higher carbon emissions and increasingly expensive running costs”.

The bank’s chief impact officer, Sasha Courville, said the bank, which has 185,000 customers, would continue to fund loans for second-hand cars with internal combustion engines as it recognised not everyone would be able to afford an EV in three years.

But she said the announcement would send a message that “if you’re considering buying a new car you should think seriously about an electric vehicle, both for its impact on the climate and for its lifetime cost savings”.

“We’ve chosen 2025 because the change to electric vehicles needs to happen quickly and we believe it can with the right supporting policies in place to bring a greater range of more affordable electric vehicles to Australia,” she said.
» Read article     

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

fracking site
Children born near fracking wells more at risk for leukemia – study
Report looked at over 400 cases of acute lymphoblastic leukemia out of a sample of 2,500 Pennsylvania children ages two to seven
By Tom Perkins, The Guardian
August 17, 2022

Young children living near fracking wells at birth are up to three times more likely to later develop leukemia, a new peer-reviewed study conducted by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The alarming report, published on Wednesday in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal, looked at over 400 cases of acute lymphoblastic leukemia out of a sample of about 2,500 Pennsylvania children ages two to seven. The form of leukemia is the most common type of cancer in children, and though the survival rate is high, it frequently leads to other health problems later in life, like cognitive disabilities and heart disease.

Hydraulic fracking is the process by which oil and gas are extracted from deep beneath the Earth’s surface, and the number of wells proliferated in the 2000s in Pennsylvania and across the country as the industry boomed. More than 10,000 fracking wells were drilled in Pennsylvania between 2002 and 2017, and about one-third are located within 2km (a little over a mile) of a residential groundwater well, the study states.

The study found the risk is highest for those living within 2km of a fracking site, and who were exposed in utero. The data accounted for other factors that could influence cancer risk.

“[Fracking] can both use and release chemicals that have been linked to cancer, so the potential for children living near [fracking wells] to be exposed to these chemical carcinogens is a major public health concern,” said Nicole Deziel, the study’s senior author and an associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health.

Though mounting evidence suggests a connection between exposure to fracking pollution and health problems, few studies have examined the connection between exposure and childhood cancer. The Yale study is the largest to examine health impacts on children, and the first to use a novel metric that measures exposure to contaminated drinking water and distance to a well. It fills a significant data gap, the authors say.

The fracking process requires the injection of high amounts of chemical-laden water and sand into the ground, which forces oil and gas into a collection well. Hundreds of chemicals linked to cancer and other health issues may be used in the process, including heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, benzene and radioactive material.

Local ground and surface water is frequently contaminated through spills or releases of fracturing fluids or wastewaters that percolate into groundwater: Pennsylvania recorded about 1,000 spills and 5,000 state environmental violations between 2005 and 2014, the study states.
» Read article     
» Read the study

mug shot
Critics Call Dems’ Climate Bill a “Devil’s Bargain” on Climate. Here’s What the Devil Is Getting.
Evaluating the ugly parts of the historic legislation.
By Nitish Pahwa, Slate
August 13, 2022

Americans feeling the heat of climate change will find a lot to like in the Inflation Reduction Act—and a decent bit to criticize. Overall, the climate movement has cheered the bill’s $370 billion climate investment, albeit with reservations about some of its fossil-fuel tradeoffs. My colleague Jordan Weissmann recently addressed some of the more prominent complaints: that the bill requires federal lands and offshore waters utilized for renewable energy development to also be opened up for oil and gas drilling, and that the deal reached with Sen. Joe Manchin included future concessions that could greenlight a West Virginia gas pipeline and ease the process for permitting new energy projects. Add to all that nitpicks like the IRA’s subsidy of arguable climate solutions like “clean” hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, biofuels, and big electric automobiles to the exclusion of non-car EVs. It’s a lot of buts.

As always, two things can be true: The IRA is an unprecedented and necessary climate bill that will reduce emissions to a significant degree, and it has some flaws. It was never going to be any other way—Democrats’ narrow hold on the Senate, the influence of big business, a hostile judiciary, and Americans’ extreme sensitivity to gas prices meant there would have to be compromises on any climate package. Yet even with these snags, many analyses of the bill have determined it to be a net good. The think tank Energy Innovation calculates that for every ton of carbon emissions from new oil and gas, there will be 24 tons reduced due to measures governing buildings’ energy use, home electrification, and green lands set aside as carbon sinks. So with the IRA now making its way to President Joe Biden’s desk, it’s worth taking stock of just how much of a boon it will be to fossil fuels.
» Read article     

» More about fossil fuels

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

methane downplay
LNG Exporter Downplays Emissions to Justify Expansion
Cheniere Energy has introduced “cargo emissions tags” to assuage climate concerns of potential buyers. But a new report says these tags are riddled with problems.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
August 12, 2022

A major exporter of U.S. liquefied natural gas is “seeking to greenwash” its operations in order to portray gas exports as a climate solution and clear the way for further expansion, according to a new report.

Global demand for gas has soared in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine, sparking a scramble by U.S. gas exporters to increase export volumes, with the backing of the Biden administration. But building out LNG infrastructure to address an energy crisis is at odds with governments simultaneously trying to slash emissions to address the climate emergency.

In recent months, Cheniere Energy, the largest LNG exporter in the United States, has begun providing emissions data, which it calls “carbon emissions tags,” or CE tags, for its gas.

The tags quantify the greenhouse gas emissions of a given LNG cargo, with the aim of easing buyers’ concerns. The CE tags include emissions from where the gas is drilled upstream, all the way down to the point of export on the coast. The logic is to offer transparency to buyers overseas by disclosing the emissions of each shipment, which would help to clean up the supply chain over time.

But a new report from Oil Change International and Greenpeace USA says the program is riddled with flaws and is broadly aimed at portraying LNG as a clean fuel, rather than actually cleaning up the supply chain, at a time when gas developers are hoping to take advantage of the war in Ukraine to expand operations.

“The industry realizes they have a problem with methane emissions,” Tim Donaghy, a senior research specialist for Greenpeace USA and a coauthor of the report, told DeSmog. He pointed to the 2020 decision by French energy company Engie to back out of a U.S. LNG deal over concerns about runaway methane emissions in American fracking fields. Donaghy said that event hammered home the message to the U.S. gas industry “that they do have to clean up their act, or at least be seen as making progress.”

Cheniere has responded to growing climate concerns by pointing to a study that it funded that shows that emissions from its Sabine Pass facility in Louisiana could displace electricity generated by coal in China, cutting emissions intensity by 47 to 57 percent. Cheniere then introduced CE tags to quantify the emissions of its LNG cargoes.

But Cheniere’s CE tags downplay the industry’s environmental impact, Donaghy said. They rely on EPA calculations that have been shown to underestimate methane releases by shale drillers. The general rule of thumb is that if gas drillers are leaking more than 3.2 to 3.4 percent of the gas they produce, then gas is worse for the climate than coal. The EPA assumes a national methane leakage rate of about 1.4 percent. But it uses models, rather than actual measurements.

Studies have shown that the EPA has consistently undercounted methane pollution from oil and gas operations. The Permian basin in West Texas and New Mexico is particularly dirty — a recent study pegged methane leaks at 9.4 percent, six times worse than EPA estimates, and offered evidence that Permian gas is vastly worse for the climate than coal.

“In the scientific literature, people have come around to the perspective that the EPA is sort of systematically underestimating methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure,” Donaghy said. And because Cheniere’s data is premised on the EPA approach, it too is undercounting methane, the report alleges.
» Read article     
» Read the Oil Change International report
» Read the Permian Basin methane leak study

» More about LNG

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Weekly News Check-In 7/8/22

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Welcome back.

We’ll kick off this week’s news with groundbreaking court action in The Netherlands. Two Dutch environmental groups represented by ClientEarth are suing airline KLM over claims that its 2019 “Fly Responsibly” ad campaign amounts to greenwashing – a marketing ploy meant to project an image of environmental sustainability that isn’t supported by reality.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the energy transition is accelerating at a time of global supply chain bottlenecks, and this is forecast to create a vast and growing market for recycled solar photovoltaic (PV) panel components. This part of the global green economy is expected to be worth more than $2.7 billion in 2030. That’s a 1,500% increase over the current value of $170 million in 2022, and it’ll grow much more by 2050 when solar will provide around 40% of total energy worldwide. But as our second story in this section illustrates, that economic green wave first has to move aside some of the entrenched relationships that keep state and local budgets reliant on tax revenue from oil, gas and coal to fund schools, hospitals and more.

Joe Biden’s election triggered a global surge in optimism that the climate crisis would finally be decisively confronted. But the US supreme court’s recent decision to curtail America’s ability to cut planet-heating emissions dealt a devastating blow to a faltering effort that is now in danger of becoming largely moribund. We include a climate story that reminds us why it matters. A new study finds that methane is four times more sensitive to global warming than previously thought, due to a nasty feedback loop associated with the increase in carbon monoxide from wildfires. This helps explain underlying causes of the recent stronger-than-expected rise in atmospheric methane.

The court’s EPA decision could also hobble the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is seen as critical for advancing clean energy.

So with the federal government sidelined, progress on clean energy remains largely at the state level. The Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs just published a roadmap for the state to achieve its emissions reductions targets, including cutting greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030 relative to 1990 levels. The Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2025 and 2030, or CEC, takes two main approaches — electrification of end uses, and the decarbonization of Massachusetts’ electricity system.

Meanwhile, deploying renewable energy resources like large solar arrays can do more harm than good if sites are inappropriate. The Berkshire County town of Lenox is fighting a project now.

Connecticut is also stepping up. A new energy efficiency program is expected to help cut energy bills and improve living conditions for low-income residents throughout the state. Importantly, the program will pay for the cleanup of mold, asbestos and other health and safety barriers that can prevent homeowners from pursuing weatherization projects. And on the west coast, a project aims to address two of Richmond, California’s greatest problems: a lack of affordable housing and unreliable electricity. The project will create a “virtual power plant,” by using software to coordinate solar and storage batteries on housing units to export power to the grid, selling its electricity at times of high demand and high prices.

Our Clean Transportation section offers a reality check for folks buying into the auto industry spin that electric vehicles are green even if they’re huge and powerful. Big vehicles need big batteries to move them any distance. Lithium, the highly reactive silver-white metal that is a crucial ingredient in those batteries, is becoming much more expensive. Its price has risen six-fold since the start of the year, largely because demand is outpacing supply. Other battery chemistries are in development, but this fact of physics will always be true: smaller, lighter vehicles require less energy to move around, and that’s ultimately greener.

For those currently driving EVs in Massachusetts, the utility National Grid has launched a new initiative to give drivers rebates for charging their electric vehicles during off-peak hours. It’s a great idea, but some advocates worry the incentives aren’t high enough to significantly change behavior.

More Massachusetts news: our two major electric utilities currently wield considerable power by choosing the wind farm projects that can be built off the coast. When state-sanctioned clean energy contracts go out to bid, Eversource and National Grid (along with Unitil) get to pick the winners. It’s a power that has prompted conflict-of-interest questions, and state lawmakers may now take the decision-making authority away from the utilities and hand it to a third party, such as the state Department of Energy Resources.

Carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) works by capturing carbon dioxide emissions at their source to prevent their release into the atmosphere, then injecting the CO2 into rocks deep underground. Critics are concerned that CCS is being treated as an easy fix for the climate crisis by polluters who view the technology as a way to avoid strict emissions reductions. We’re focused on three CO2 pipeline projects in early planning in Iowa. The companies behind them have been contacting landowners in hopes of getting them to grant easements, but hundreds of people say they won’t sign.

We’ll wrap up with a look at the fossil fuel industry, and how the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and inflation are forcing the Biden administration to balance forces that conflict with urgent climate mitigation priorities. As it tries to lower gasoline prices and increase energy exports to counter Russia’s dominance of western European energy, the Biden administration took two of its biggest steps yet to open public lands to fossil fuel development. It held its first onshore lease sales and released a proposed plan for offshore drilling that could open parts of the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Cook Inlet to leasing through 2028.

On top of that, blue hydrogen is having a moment. That’s the flavor of hydrogen that’s derived from natural gas, and the governments of Australia, the Netherlands, Canada, and the European Union believe it’s a “bridge” to an energy-rich future. Meanwhile, environmentalists have cautioned for years that blue hydrogen is little more than the newest attempt by the oil and gas industry to lock in dependency on fossil fuels.

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

KLM greenwashing
In Historic Case, Green Groups Sue KLM for Greenwashing
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
July 6, 2022

In an ad campaign launched in 2019, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines invited airplane travelers and the rest of the aviation industry to join it in “flying responsibly.” A video advertisement released in July of that year said that customers could achieve this goal by scheduling virtual meetings when possible, taking the train instead, packing lighter and offsetting the carbon dioxide emissions from the flight.

Now, two Dutch environmental groups represented by ClientEarth are taking the airline to court over claims that its “Fly Responsibly” ad campaign amounts to greenwashing.

“We’re going to court to demand KLM tells the truth about its fossil-fuel dependent product.” Hiske Arts, a campaigner at Fossielvrij Netherlands — one of the two groups behind the suit — said in a ClientEarth press release. “Unchecked flying is one of the fastest ways to heat up the planet. Customers need to be informed and protected from claims that suggest it is not.”

In a tweet announcing the suit, Fossielvrij Netherlands said it was the first greenwashing case brought against an airline.

Flying is an extremely carbon-intensive activity. A roundtrip flight across the Atlantic generates the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as a single European resident heating their home for a year. Therefore, experts argue that air traffic must fall if the industry is to meet its climate goals and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. A recent report from Transport & Environment, for example, found that the net-zero goal could be achieved by ending EU airport expansion and reducing corporate travel to 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

The green groups behind the lawsuit — Reclame Fossielvrij in addition to Fossielvrij Netherlands — argue that KLM’s ad campaign offers frequent flyers a false way out. It tells them that they can offset their flight emissions by paying for reforestation efforts or to support KLM’s acquisition of biofuels. However, funding these projects doesn’t actually compensate for the emissions generated by a present-day flight. These claims therefore violate European laws against misleading consumers, the groups argue.
» Read article       

» More about protests and actions

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

stepped on
Could Supreme Court ruling thwart FERC’s clean energy plans?
By Miranda Willson, E&E News
July 6, 2022

The landmark Supreme Court decision last week restricting EPA’s regulation of climate-warming emissions could spill over to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is seen as critical for advancing clean energy.

In a 6-3 opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act did not authorize EPA to craft a broad rule targeting emissions from power plants like the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

The court majority justified the ruling using the “major questions” doctrine, a relatively new legal theory that holds that Congress must clearly express when agencies are allowed to decide matters of “vast economic and political significance”. Some observers say that could stunt potential new rules from agencies such as FERC, particularly on issues that pertain to climate change.

“The major questions doctrine, as they articulated it now, is so broad you could apply it to any major rulemaking,” said Harvey Reiter, a partner at Stinson LLP whose focus includes energy regulations. “[The decision] talks about cases of great ‘economic and political significance,’ but that could characterize any major rule of any agency.”

Charged with overseeing wholesale power markets and interstate energy projects, FERC is weighing rules that could transform the electric power sector and help facilitate the deployment of solar, wind and other clean energy resources. With support from its Democratic majority, the five-person commission this year also proposed changing how it reviews new natural gas projects to account for effects on the climate, nearby landowners and environmental justice communities.

Some legal experts say those actions fall clearly within FERC’s authority to ensure “just and reasonable” energy rates — as outlined in the Federal Power Act — and to approve gas pipelines that are shown to be in the public interest. But others said the Supreme Court decision may give ammunition to industry groups and others who’ve argued for a more narrow reading of what FERC can and cannot do, experts said.

“Even though agencies are different and have different statutory mandates, any agency that’s thinking about being ambitious in addressing climate change now has to worry that a federal court may use the language of the major questions doctrine to attack whatever the agency is doing,” said Joel Eisen, a professor of law at the University of Richmond.

In particular, a proposal issued in February to assess natural gas pipelines’ greenhouse gas emissions could be at risk of being abandoned or changed significantly due to concerns about the major questions doctrine, some analysts said.
» Read article       

» More about FERC

GREENING THE ECONOMY

avoidable
Solar panel recycling market to be worth billions by 2030, say researchers
By Joshua S Hill, Renew Economy
July 7, 2022

Demand for recycled solar photovoltaic (PV) panel components is expected to grow dramatically through the remainder of the decade as installation numbers skyrocket and developers look to avoid supply bottlenecks.

New research published this week by Rystad Energy predicts that recyclable materials from solar PV panels reaching the end of their lifespan will be worth more than $US2.7 billion in 2030 – a mind boggling 1,500% increase over the current value of $US170 million in 2022.

Unsurprisingly, this trend will only accelerate, and is expected to hit $US80 billion by 2050.

In terms of the need for solar PV recycling, current expectations are that solar PV waste will grow to 27 million tonnes each year by 2040.

Conversely, Rystad Energy believes that recovered materials from retired panels could make up 6% of solar PV investments by 2040, as compared to only 0.08% today.

But it is the role in swerving away from an otherwise unavoidable supply bottleneck that is potentially the most important aspect of a solar PV recycling sector. Solar development continues to accelerate, with both residential and large-scale solar farms demanding ever more materials that are in increasing levels of short supply.

Specifically, demand for materials and minerals used in solar PV development will accelerate dramatically, likely causing higher prices, as solar grows to meet around 40% of the world’s power generation in 2050 – equivalent to 19 TW, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) net-zero emissions scenario.
» Read article       

oildorado
California Plans to Quit Oil. Resistance Is Fiercer Than You Think.
Dozens of state and local budgets depend heavily on tax revenue from oil, gas and coal to fund schools, hospitals and more. Replacing that money is turning out to be a major challenge in the fight against climate change.
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
Photographs by Alisha Jucevic
July 7, 2022

TAFT, Calif. — Every five years, this city of 7,000 hosts a rollicking, Old West-themed festival known as Oildorado. High schoolers decorate parade floats with derricks and pump jacks. Young women vie for the crown in a “Maids of Petroleum” beauty pageant. It’s a celebration of an industry that has sustained the local economy for the past century.

This is oil country, in a state that leads the country in environmental regulation. With wildfires and drought ravaging California, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, wants to end oil drilling in the state by 2045. That has provoked angst and fierce resistance here in Kern County, where oil and gas tax revenues help to pay for everything from elementary schools to firefighters to mosquito control.

“Nowhere else in California is tied to oil and gas the way we are, and we can’t replace what that brings overnight,” said Ryan Alsop, chief administrative officer in Kern County, a region north of Los Angeles. “It’s not just tens of thousands of jobs. It’s also hundreds of millions of dollars in annual tax revenue that we rely on to fund our schools, parks, libraries, public safety, public health.”

Across the United States, dozens of states and communities rely on fossil fuels to fund aspects of daily life. In Wyoming, more than half of state and local tax revenues comes from fossil fuels. In New Mexico, an oil boom has bankrolled free college for residents and expanded medical care for new mothers. Oil and gas money is so embedded in many local budgets, it’s difficult to imagine a future without it.

Disentangling communities from fossil-fuel income poses a major obstacle in the fight against climate change. One study found that if nations followed the urging of scientists and cut emissions from oil, gas and coal deeply enough to avert catastrophic warming, United States tax revenues from oil and gas production, currently about $34 billion per year, could fall by two-thirds by 2050.
» Read article      
» Read the study

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

tatters
Global dismay as supreme court ruling leaves Biden’s climate policy in tatters
Biden’s election was billed as heralding a ‘climate presidency’ but congressional and judicial roadblocks mean he has little to show
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
July 6, 2022

Joe Biden’s election triggered a global surge in optimism that the climate crisis would, finally, be decisively confronted. But the US supreme court’s decision last week to curtail America’s ability to cut planet-heating emissions has proved the latest blow to a faltering effort by Biden on climate that is now in danger of becoming largely moribund.

The supreme court’s ruling that the US government could not use its existing powers to phase out coal-fired power generation without “clear congressional authorization” quickly ricocheted around the world among those now accustomed to looking on in dismay at America’s seemingly endless stumbles in addressing global heating.

The decision “flies in the face of established science and will set back the US’s commitment to keep global temperature below 1.5C”, said Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, in reference to the internationally agreed goal to limit global heating before it becomes truly catastrophic, manifesting in more severe heatwaves, floods, droughts and societal unrest.

“The people who will pay the price for this will be the most vulnerable communities in the most vulnerable developing countries in the world,” Huq added.

The “incredibly undemocratic Scotus ruling” indicates that “backsliding is now the dominant trend in the climate space,” said Yamide Dagnet, director of climate justice at Open Society Foundations and former climate negotiator for the UK and European Union. António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations who has called new fossil fuel infrastructure “moral and economic madness”, said via a spokesman that the ruling was a “setback” at a time when countries were badly off track in averting looming climate breakdown.

In the 6-3 ruling, backed by the rightwing majority of justices, the supreme court did not completely negate the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to regulate emissions from coal plants. But it did side with Republican-led states in stating that the government could not set broad plans to shift electricity generation away from coal because of the nebulous “major questions doctrine” that demands Congress explicitly decide on significant changes to the US economy.
» Read article       

LA wildfires
Methane much more sensitive to global heating than previously thought – study
Greenhouse gas has undergone rapid acceleration and scientists say it may be due to atmospheric changes
By Kate Ravilious, The Guardian
July 5, 2022

Methane is four times more sensitive to global warming than previously thought, a new study shows. The result helps to explain the rapid growth in methane in recent years and suggests that, if left unchecked, methane related warming will escalate in the decades to come.

The growth of this greenhouse gas – which over a 20 year timespan is more than 80 times as potent than carbon dioxide – had been slowing since the turn of the millennium but since 2007 has undergone a rapid rise, with measurements from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recording it passing 1,900 parts a billion last year, nearly triple pre-industrial levels.

“What has been particularly puzzling has been the fact that methane emissions have been increasing at even greater rates in the last two years, despite the global pandemic, when anthropogenic sources were assumed to be less significant,” said Simon Redfern, an earth scientist at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

About 40% of methane emissions come from natural sources such as wetlands, while 60% come from anthropogenic sources such as cattle farming, fossil fuel extraction and landfill sites. Possible explanations for the rise in methane emissions range from expanding exploration of oil and natural gas, rising emissions from agriculture and landfill, and rising natural emissions as tropical wetlands warm and Arctic tundra melts.

But another explanation could be a slowdown of the chemical reaction that removes methane from the atmosphere. The predominant way in which methane is “mopped up” is via reaction with hydroxyl radicals (OH) in the atmosphere.

“The hydroxyl radical has been termed the ‘detergent’ of the atmosphere because it works to cleanse the atmosphere of harmful trace gases,” said Redfern. But hydroxyl radicals also react with carbon monoxide, and an increase in wildfires may have pumped more carbon monoxide into the atmosphere and altered the chemical balance. “On average, a carbon monoxide molecule remains in the atmosphere for about three months before it’s attacked by a hydroxyl radical, while methane persists for about a decade. So wildfires have a swift impact on using up the hydroxyl ‘detergent’ and reduce the methane removal,” said Redfern.
» Read article       

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

green energy plan
Massachusetts releases clean energy plan, roadmap to cut GHG emissions 50% by 2030
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
July 1, 2022

The Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs on Thursday published a roadmap for the state to achieve its emissions reductions targets, including cutting greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030 relative to 1990 levels. The Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2025 and 2030, or CEC, also sets the state on a path towards carbon neutrality by 2050.

The plan takes two main approaches — electrification of end uses, and the decarbonization of Massachusetts’ electricity system — to reduce emissions from buildings, the transportation sector, power generation, industrial processes and other sources.

Strategies include transitioning to electric vehicles, reducing growth in total vehicle miles traveled, adding offshore wind, solar and storage, and converting building heating systems to utilize heat pumps.

[…] An economic analysis of the CEC plans’s potential impacts sees significant job growth, said officials. According to the plan, modeling shows the 2025 and 2030 targets result in a net gain of over 22,000 jobs by 2030, “most of which will be in installing electric vehicle chargers, solar photovoltaic projects, energy efficiency retrofits in buildings, offshore wind projects, and transmission lines to connect the clean energy that powers the economy.”
» Read article      
» Read the Clean Energy Plan

happy Putin
‘Putin rubbing hands with glee’ after EU votes to class gas and nuclear as green
Parliament backs plan to classify some projects as clean power investments
By Jennifer Rankin, The Guardian
July 6, 2022

The European parliament has backed plans to label gas and nuclear energy as “green”, rejecting appeals from prominent Ukrainians and climate activists that the proposals are a gift to Vladimir Putin.

One senior MEP said the vote was a “dark day for the climate”, while experts said the EU had set a dangerous precedent for countries to follow.

The row began late last year with the leak of long-awaited details on the EU’s green investment guidebook, intended to help investors channel billions to the clean power transition.

The European Commission decided some gas and nuclear projects could be included in the EU taxonomy of environmentally sustainable economic activities, subject to certain conditions.

Under the plans, gas can be classed as a sustainable investment if “the same energy capacity cannot be generated with renewable sources” and plans are in place to switch to renewables or “low-carbon gases”. Nuclear power can be called green if a project promises to deal with radioactive waste.

The plan could only be stopped by a majority of EU member states or members of the European parliament.

With most EU governments in favour, attention turned to the European parliament, but on Wednesday MEPs failed to muster a blocking majority. Only 282 MEPs voted in favour of an amendment against the inclusion of gas and nuclear, falling short of the 353 votes needed to overturn the decision.

Bas Eickhout, the vice-president of the European parliament’s environment committee, said it was “dark day for the climate and energy transition”.
» Read article       

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

plug and spackle
Connecticut weatherization program will tackle mold, asbestos, other barriers
Mold, asbestos and other hazards can prevent energy efficiency contractors from moving ahead with weatherization projects. A new state program will create funding to help homeowners address those barriers.
By Lisa Prevost, Energy News Network
July 7, 2022

A new Connecticut program is expected to help cut energy bills and improve living conditions for low-income residents throughout the state.

The Statewide Weatherization Barrier Remediation Program, overseen by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, will pay for the cleanup of mold, asbestos and other health and safety barriers that can prevent homeowners from pursuing weatherization projects.

Leticia Colon De Mejias, owner of an energy efficiency contracting company and executive director of the nonprofit Efficiency for All, said the program is long overdue. She has been advocating for a more equitable approach in the state’s efficiency programs since 2015.

That was the year she figured out that 30% to 40% of the homes her staff was visiting had barriers that prevented efficiency work from being done. Most were low-income and under-resourced households. Other contractors she talked to were experiencing the same thing, and, she learned, the weatherization programs simply paid them a fee for their time. The homeowners received no additional support.

“I said, that’s crazy — what are we doing to help these people?” she said. “That’s wrong. That’s exclusionary.”

The new program is expected to cover the cost of remediating hazardous conditions for up to 1,000 income-eligible households over the next three years. The program will draw from a utility-maintained list of some 20,000 homes that have been deferred from participation in the state’s energy efficiency programs due to barriers.

After remediation, the households will receive energy efficiency improvements through either the state-managed or utility-managed weatherization programs. Those programs provide home energy audits to customers at little to no cost, while also making improvements like sealing air leaks and installing low-flow showerheads.
» Read article      
» Check out the program

» More about energy efficiency       

MODERNIZING THE GRID

going virtual
This Virtual Power Plant Is Trying to Tackle a Housing Crisis and an Energy Crisis All at Once
A Bay Area project combines subsidized housing with solar and battery systems that work together to support the larger grid.
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
July 7, 2022

Vicken Kasarjian is giddy as he describes a project that aims to address two of Richmond, California’s greatest problems: a lack of affordable housing and unreliable electricity.

Kasarjian is the chief operating officer of MCE, a nonprofit electricity provider that serves parts of four Bay Area counties. MCE’s plan is to retrofit about 100 houses and 20 businesses with rooftop solar, batteries and smart appliances, and then sell excess electricity from the solar and batteries into the grid.

“It is so interesting, enlightening and fun to do this,” he said.

He’s talking about a “virtual power plant,” which is when a company uses software to coordinate a series of energy systems—usually batteries—to export power to the grid at the same time. The result is a power plant that can participate in the state power market, selling its electricity at times of high demand and high prices.

There are dozens of virtual power plants in development across the country, with thousands of households and businesses involved. What’s different about the MCE project is it has a housing component, with plans to renovate abandoned properties and then sell them at subsidized prices to first-time homebuyers with qualifying incomes.

Richmond, with a population of about 110,000, has suffered for decades from air pollution from a giant Chevron oil refinery. The city has low incomes for the region, but high housing prices due to a lack of supply and proximity to some of the most affluent parts of the country, like Berkeley, which is 10 miles away.

“A virtual power plant is decentralized, decarbonized and democratized,” said Alexandra McGee, MCE’s manager of strategic initiatives.
» Read article       

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Tesla parking
‘Insane’ lithium price bump threatens EV fix for climate change
The price of the metal used in batteries for electric cars has risen six-fold since the start of the year.
By Ian Neubauer, Al Jazeera
July 7, 2022

Lithium, the highly reactive silver-white metal that is a crucial ingredient in batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs), is becoming much more expensive – and fast.

In April, as prices hit a record $78,000 a tonne, Tesla CEO Elon Musk floated the idea of the electric carmaker mining and refining the lightweight metal itself due to the “insane” increase in costs.

For governments ranging from China to the European Union that have pledged to phase out combustion engines in the near future, the soaring cost and growing scarcity of the metal raise questions about how they will meet their deadlines, many of which come due as soon as 2035.

With combustion engines accounting for one-quarter of carbon emissions, according to the United Nations, a delay in transitioning away from petrol and diesel cars would deal a serious blow to efforts to reduce carbon emissions and avert the worst effects of climate change.

“As Elon Musk has said, ‘lithium will be the limiting factor,’” Joe Lowry, an expert on the global lithium market and the founder of Global Lithium LLC, told Al Jazeera. “It is very simple math.”

Despite retreating from its April highs, the price of Lithium has jumped more than 600 percent since the start of the year, from about $10,000 per metric tonne in January to $62,000 in June, according to Benchmark Market Intelligence. Citigroup has predicted more “extreme” price hikes on the way.

[…] “The main takeaway here is that the EV market faces many decades of strong, compound growth,” Fastmarkets said in its most recent lithium report.

“For any supply chain that relies on getting raw materials out of the ground, it is going to be a supreme challenge to keep up with year after year of high compound growth.”

Lithium production will need to quadruple by 2030 to keep up with expected demand, according to Fastmarkets.
» Read article       

off-peak charge
National Grid offers incentives for off-peak electric vehicle charging. Are they enough?

The pilot program could cut the cost of summer charging by more than 17%; advocates say that the discount should be greater.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
July 6, 2022

Massachusetts utility National Grid has launched a new initiative to give drivers rebates for charging their electric vehicles during off-peak hours, but some advocates worry the incentives aren’t high enough to propel meaningful change.

The new program rewards customers who charge their vehicles between 9 p.m. and 1 p.m., when demand on the grid is lower and the power flowing into the system is generally cleaner and less expensive. The goal of the program is to ease the burden on the grid, help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and motivate more drivers to consider switching from gasoline-fueled cars.

“It helps improve the business case for charging at home and hopefully encourages some customers to buy electric vehicles,” said Rishi Sondhi, clean transportation manager for National Grid.

Today, electric vehicles make up just 56,000 of the 5 million vehicles registered in the state. But Massachusetts has set the ambitious target of putting 300,000 zero-emissions vehicles on the road by 2025 as part of its plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

As electric vehicle adoption increases, so will the load on the power grid. Currently about 44% of electric vehicles’ charging in Massachusetts is done during times of peak demand, according to National Grid’s testimony to the state public utilities department. If that pattern holds as more people buy electric vehicles, the transmission and distribution infrastructure will require expensive upgrades, and older, dirtier power plants will be called into action more often.
» Read article       

» More about clean transportation

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY RESOURCES

Mountainview
Is a solar energy project a farm? That’s the question, as Lenox faces a legal challenge from a major developer
By Clarence Fanto, Berkshire Eagle
July 5, 2022

LENOX — A major developer is threatening to escalate a legal confrontation with Lenox, as it lays groundwork for a bid to install solar panels on land mostly in a residential area.

So far, it’s been hot words at municipal meetings and filings in local court.

Several Lenox officials want an end to “bombastic” statements by the developer and suggest they are not getting the whole truth about whether land adjacent to Lenox Dale will be used for farming or a large photovoltaic solar array.

The developer says the town is blocking a property owner’s use of its land for agricultural purposes — and the company will do what it takes to prevail.

[…] Alarm bells might have sounded, since the buyer was listed as PLH Vineyard Sky LLC. That’s the real estate partner of Ecos Energy, based in Minneapolis, which operates 37 solar projects across the nation for its parent company, Allco Renewable Energy LTD, headquartered in New Haven, Conn.

In 2018, the Housatonic Street property had been targeted for a $10 million commercial solar project by Sustainable Strategies 2020 and its partner, Syncarpha Capital of New York City. But local opposition doomed the project. In North Adams, Syncarpha’s $9 million, 3.5-megawatt solar array built in 2015 produces enough energy to meet the city’s municipal electricity needs.

But in Lenox, neighbors argued that the array of solar panels would obstruct scenic views and depress property values.

The current Lenox zoning bylaw for ground-mounted solar installations allows them “by right” only in industrial zones. While a small slice of the Housatonic property adjoining Willow Creek Road is zoned industrial, most of the land is in the residential zone.
» Read article       

» More about the siting impacts of renewables

CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE

no easement
The bitter fight to stop a 2,000-mile carbon pipeline
Three pipeline projects are in early stages of planning in Iowa. An alliance of farmers, Indigenous groups and environmentalists wants to stop them
By Jenny Splitter, The Guardian
Photographs by Danny Wilcox Frazier
July 7, 2022

[…] There are three CO2 pipeline projects in early stages of planning in Iowa. The companies behind them – Summit, Navigator and a partnership of Wolf Carbon Solutions and Archer Daniel Midlands – have been contacting landowners in hopes of getting them to grant easements.

But hundreds of people say they won’t sign. Not only that, they don’t want to see these projects go forward at all. Webb and other landowners from different Iowa counties, some who farm and some who rent to other farmers, have joined forces in an unusual alliance with Indigenous groups and environmental organizations, to fight against the pipelines.

[…] Carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) works by capturing carbon dioxide emissions at their source to prevent their release into the atmosphere, then injecting the CO2 into rocks deep underground.

It has become a much-hyped answer to the need to rapidly reduce global carbon emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest working group report identifies seven pathways for limiting global warming – all but one include CCS. The Biden administration has pledged $2.3bn in funding to enhance capacity for existing US-based projects, each of which would be able to store at least 50m metric tons of captured CO2.

But critics are concerned that CCS is being treated as an easy fix for the climate crisis, especially by polluters who may rely on the technology to avoid strict emissions reductions. In some instances, captured carbon is used for enhanced oil recovery – a technique that uses liquefied CO2 to flush out residual oil – which serves to entrench fossil fuel production rather than replace it.

In Iowa, the pipelines – proposed for ethanol and fertilizer plants and any other agricultural facility that emits carbon dioxide – would transport the CO2 to nearby states, such as North Dakota, which have the right kind of rock formations to store the gas.

According to the companies, these projects would be able to store a total of 25m metric tons of CO2 a year and – of particular interest to Iowa’s corn ethanol industry – boost ethanol’s climate credentials. All three projects say their permits are for CO2 storage only and there are no plans to use the gas to extract oil.
» Read article       

» More about CCS

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

sniff test failed
Eversource faces conflict of interest questions in wind-energy contracts
State lawmakers aim to rein in utility company influence when it comes to selecting wind farm projects off the Massachusetts coast
By Jon Chesto, Boston Globe
July 3, 2022

The state’s two major electric utilities wield considerable power by choosing the wind farm projects that can be built off the coast of Massachusetts. Maybe not for much longer.

When state-sanctioned clean energy contracts go out to bid, Eversource and National Grid (along with Unitil) get to pick the winners. It’s a power that has prompted conflict-of-interest questions since before the Legislature passed the original law allowing it six years ago. Both of the big utilities have arms that invest in offshore wind projects, meaning they might end up with affiliates across the table bidding on these contracts. Even with internal firewalls, critics worry the utilities could still steer the process for their benefit.

This issue came to a head in the third and latest round of wind farm contracts. Eversource’s Bay State Wind venture with Danish energy company Ørsted didn’t even compete this time. But a new report from an independent evaluator, consulting firm Peregrine Energy Group, claims Eversource may have interfered to benefit its own offshore investment by unsuccessfully trying to knock another venture, Mayflower Wind, out of the bidding.

In the end, Mayflower Wind chief executive Michael Brown says he’s happy with the results: In December, his project won contracts for 400 megawatts — enough energy for 200,000-plus homes — while Avangrid’s Commonwealth Wind landed 1,200 megawatts. But the whole brouhaha could help push state lawmakers to take the decision-making authority away from the utilities and hand it to a third party, such as the state Department of Energy Resources.

That’s how these prizes are awarded in New York and Connecticut. Why not here in Massachusetts? Peregrine essentially poses this very question in its latest report.
» Read article      
» Read the independent evaluator report by Peregrine Energy Group

» More about electric utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Huntington Beach
Biden Administration Opens New Public Lands and Waters to Fossil Fuel Drilling, Disappointing Environmentalists
The president’s campaign promise to end fossil fuel development on public lands was thwarted by US courts, high gas prices and Russia’s domination of western European energy.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News
July 1, 2022

This week, the Biden administration took two of its biggest steps yet to open public lands to fossil fuel development, holding its first onshore lease sales and releasing a proposed plan for offshore drilling that could open parts of the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Cook Inlet to leasing through 2028.

The moves run counter to Joe Biden’s campaign pledge to halt new oil and gas development on federal lands and waters, and come as the president is under mounting political pressure to address high energy prices.

Biden faces a range of conflicting interests on climate change, energy and the economy as he tries to lower gasoline prices and increase energy exports to counter Russia’s dominance of western European energy, all without abandoning the ambitious climate agenda he brought to the White House. On Thursday, the Supreme Court dealt another blow to that agenda with a 6-3 decision that restricted the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to curb climate pollution from the power sector.

The Bureau of Land Management was also expected to release a new environmental impact statement for a major oil development proposed in the Alaskan Arctic this week, but the report was not public at the time of publication. That statement could amount to an endorsement for decades of future production from a sensitive and rapidly warming habitat.

“It is definitely a week that I would say calls into question Biden’s commitment to climate change,” said Nicole Ghio, fossil fuels program manager at Friends of the Earth, an advocacy group.

For many climate advocates, the new oil and gas leasing comes as a bitter disappointment, particularly because any new oil production will take years and is therefore highly unlikely to alleviate current high energy prices. Instead, advocates say, all the leasing will do is lock in additional oil and gas production years from now, when the nation’s climate targets dictate that oil and gas use should be on the decline.

“It is impossible to fight climate change if we continue to lease public lands and waters to fossil fuels,” Ghio said. “We cannot meet our international commitments, we cannot keep stable to 1.5 degrees [Celsius],” a level of warming beyond which climate impacts are likely to grow far worse, scientists say.
» Read article       

truck talk
Hype, Hope, and Hot Air: Inside Canada’s Hydrogen Strategy
Industry and governments are eager to embrace hydrogen power. But the plan to do so is “overly optimistic” and based on “unfounded assumptions.”
By Danielle Paradis, DeSmog Blog
July 5, 2022

Hydrogen is the future of net-zero — at least that is what the governments of Australia, the Netherlands, Canada, and the European Union believe.

Mining billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, however, has slammed key elements of these governments’ plans at a recent hydrogen summit in London, calling the movement towards blue hydrogen, a process that turns natural gas into hydrogen and carbon monoxide and dioxide and then sequesters the CO2 emissions using carbon capture and storage, an ineffective greenwash.

Nevertheless, examples of the energy industry’s overly optimistic hype on hydrogen abound. In late April, Nikola Corporation parked a prototype of its next hydrogen-powered semi-truck on a ballroom floor at the Edmonton Convention Centre in Alberta, Canada. The gleaming white Nikola Tre FCEV (fuel cell electric vehicle) was the star of the inaugural Canadian Hydrogen Convention, a three day gathering that aimed “to demonstrate Canada’s leadership in hydrogen.”

[…] However, environmental campaigners have cautioned for years that blue hydrogen is little more than the newest attempt by the oil and gas industry to lock in dependency on fossil fuels. With carbon capture and storage technology still largely unreliable, the key to making this type of hydrogen environmentally friendly is little more than wishful thinking. Even if CCS becomes more dependable, it would only capture emissions in the process of turning natural gas into hydrogen; all the methane — a powerful climate-warming gas — emitted in the production and transport of natural gas, would be unabated.

The problems don’t stop there. A scathing report from Jerry DeMarco, Canada’s federal environment commissioner, concluded that the optimism at the convention does not reflect the reality of hydrogen in Canada. The report, which was released during “hydrogen week,” found that the hydrogen-derived emissions reduction targets set by the federal government were unrealistic and that Canada may be unable to meet its Paris Agreement goals. The report sheds light on inconsistencies between various government agencies’ models of hydrogen’s potential to reduce emissions.
» Read article      
» Read the report

» More about fossil fuels

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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 6/10/22

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Welcome back.

A case that took six years to move through the courts finally concluded this week when the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the U.S. Department of the Interior must analyze the climate impacts of oil and gas leasing on 4 million acres of federal land spanning five states before drilling can commence. This comes after the oil and gas industry failed to strike down three separate settlements arising out of lawsuits brought against the DoI by U.S. conservation groups.

In a surprising twist, Massachusetts may become the first state to pass legislation reversing a national trend in which states open their electricity markets to competition. But studies show that retail electric suppliers have generally offered plans that turn out to be more expensive for consumers than default rates from utilities.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s first-ever senior counsel for environmental justice and equity, Montina Cole, has stated that the commission can “absolutely” improve its assessments of natural gas projects to better account for environmental justice issues. We’re looking forward to seeing how this translates into action. FERC recently declared that the Weymouth compressor station should never have been permitted, but then declined to actually do anything about this unhealthy and dangerous facility located within an environmental justice community.

On a related topic, we offer an interview with one of the authors of a new paper arguing that policies focused only on greenhouse gas emissions will be less successful than a broader approach that tackles inequality and climate change together. Turns out that climate change increases inequality – something we already knew – but inequality also makes climate change worse and more difficult to address.

In climate news, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere just surpassed anything seen on Earth in the past four million years. There’s also new research saying we have greater than a 50% chance of locking in global warming of more than 1.5°C unless greenhouse gas emissions can be dramatically reduced before 2025.

That certainly lays down a challenge, so we’re happy to report that the Biden Administration this week took executive action, invoking the Defense Production Act to build up domestic production of all sorts of clean energy products including solar panels, electric transformers, heat pumps, insulation and hydrogen-related equipment. At the same time, we found a cautionary article about hydrogen, calling attention to several chemical pathways by which it could become another powerful greenhouse gas if leaked into the atmosphere. The message: limit hydrogen to applications for which there are no alternatives, and stop hyping it as the answer to all-things-energy.

The European Commission is responding to Russian energy blackmail associated with its war in Ukraine by proposing to end sales of fossil fuel boilers by 2029. That will boost the energy efficiency of building heat by encouraging a more rapid adoption of heat pumps and district geothermal networks, but experts are saying the timeline should be more ambitious.

Out west, Wyoming is preparing to bump coal off its position as the state’s top energy revenue earner, through grid modernization in the form of two major high-voltage transmission lines connecting itself to several other states in the West. The Gateway South and TransWest Express transmission lines will allow a major expansion of wind energy development.

The road to clean transportation isn’t always smooth. Two Massachusetts state senators are calling out the Baker administration for broken electric vehicle chargers along the Mass Turnpike – two of six having been inoperable for over a year. But in the ‘win’ column, Colorado-based Solid Power just took a major step toward realization of its solid state EV battery with completion of its pilot production line. This is necessary to prove production capability at commercial scale, and also allows the long testing and safety certification process to begin.

We have a couple of articles on how some electric utilities have worked behind the scenes to undermine progress toward clean energy, and even to promote climate denial. But regulations are changing to make that harder. In others cases, courts are coming for the worst offenders in the same way they’re going after fossil fuel producers who internally acknowledge climate risk while telling a different story to investors and the public.

We’ve known for a long time about health risks associated with natural gas infrastructure, but it’s difficult to monitor how pollutants move through the air at the local level. A recent innovative study in a heavily fracked Ohio county showed that regional air quality monitors failed to capture short-term neighborhood-level variations in pollution that affect people’s health. But low-cost local monitors revealed the true story.

Wrapping up the energy news, a huge spike in the cost of fossil fuels is driving worldwide inflation. Natural gas futures hit a 13-year high ahead of what traders expect to be a very hot summer. This sort of price volatility is a risk associated with energy derived from fuels traded on global commodity markets. Renewable energy and energy storage are technology-based and therefore tend to experience price reductions over time.

The last word goes to another fossil-derived product: single-use plastics, which the Biden administration just committed to phasing out in all U.S. public lands including national parks. Once fully implemented, it will cut 80,000 tons from the Department of the Interior’s annual waste stream.

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

climate impactsJudge: U.S. Must Conduct Climate Review Of Leases Before Drilling Can Commence
By Julianne Geiger, Oil Price
June 3, 2022

The U.S. Department of the Interior must analyze the climate impacts of oil and gas leasing on 4 million acres of federal land spanning five states before drilling can commence, a legal settlement reached this week concluded, according to Reuters.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruling comes after oil and gas industry groups failed to succeed with their motion to strike down three separate settlements arising out of lawsuits brought against the DoI by U.S. conservation groups.

This week’s settlement is just the latest in the six-years-long saga that started when conservation groups WELC and WildEarth Guardians sued the Department of the Interior over millions of federal acres that were leased to oil and gas companies in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

Years ago—well before the Biden Administration took office, U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras blocked drilling permits and required the DoI to do a more thorough environmental analysis that included GHG emissions. Today confirms that ruling despite oil and gas industry challenges.

The Biden Administration must now conduct a more thorough environmental review of those leases. For Biden, this is a precarious position indeed, particularly in the runup to mid-term elections. On the one hand, the U.S. President has taken heavy criticism for his energy policies in the wake of record-high gasoline prices. On the other, he has taken heavy criticism from his green supporters for his failure to live up to some of his anti-fossil fuel campaign promises.
» Read article       

» More about protests and actions

LEGISLATION

Wikimedia MA Statehouse
Massachusetts lawmakers consider ending retail electric choice for residential customers
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
June 8, 2022

At least 18 states have opened up their electricity markets to competition. Arizona backed away from plans to allow retail choice in the early 2000s in the face of the Western energy crisis, but no states have reversed course so far after allowing it, retail choice advocates say. Massachusetts, which opened its retail electricity market to competition in 1998, could be the first, after studies and support from the Office of the Attorney General showed retail electric supplier offers as generally being more expensive than the default utility supply offer.

The state legislature has considered this issue in the House of Representatives since 2018, as the AG reported higher costs for customers who left municipal or investor-owned utility service. Healey’s testimony on S. 2150 last summer noted that arrears increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that residents were being charged more by electric suppliers in nearly every community examined.

“I know it is a big deal for us to call for the banning of an industry,” Healey told the state Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, but “this industry has overcharged Massachusetts customers for far too long.”

However, the 2021 study is “riddled with inaccurate results,” creating an unrealistic picture for state legislator support of eliminating retail choice for residential customers, Christopher Ercoli, president of the Retail Energy Advancement League, said in an interview with Utility Dive.

According to REAL, retail suppliers lock rates in at the beginning of a contract, so many retail energy customers in Massachusetts that are locked into rates from last fall are currently saving money as energy prices are currently increasing in the country and internationally.
» Read article      

» More about legislation

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

Montina Cole
FERC’s EJ counsel says agency can bolster gas oversight
By Miranda Willson, E&E News
June 2, 2022

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can “absolutely” improve its assessments of natural gas projects to better account for environmental justice issues, according to the agency’s first-ever senior counsel for environmental justice and equity.

One year into her role at FERC, Montina Cole joined a webinar yesterday to discuss how the commission is becoming more responsive to historically disadvantaged communities affected by its decisions and policies — something that environmental justice advocates say has long been overlooked.

Cole said FERC is planning to build staff capacity focused on justice and equity in natural gas proceedings, as well as hold a public workshop on environmental justice issues “that are arising in the gas facility review process.” A FERC spokesperson said the timing on the public workshop has not been determined.

“I’m very, very optimistic and looking forward to ways that we can improve [gas permitting],” Cole said during the webinar, hosted by the Wires Group, a trade association for the electric transmission industry.

[…] Earlier this year, FERC proposed changes to its guidelines for assessing new natural gas pipelines, calling for “robust consideration” of projects’ effects on environmental justice communities as part of a costs and benefit analysis. In its updated permitting policy, the majority of commissioners said that FERC would try to more accurately identify disadvantaged communities. They also said the commission would consider a new pipeline’s cumulative impacts — meaning the total burdens or benefits that affected communities could experience from the facility and other infrastructure in the area.

Critics, however, said the new policy went too far on environmental and landowner issues and would make it difficult and expensive for new gas projects to get built. In March, FERC turned the proposal and another, related policy into “drafts,” open to further consideration and revisions (Energywire, March 25).

While Cole did not directly address that controversy, she said she is reviewing the commission’s “key regulations and guidance” for the siting of new natural gas projects. That effort will include consideration of projects’ cumulative impacts and the “thresholds” currently used by FERC to identify environmental justice communities, Cole said.
» Read article       

» More about FERC

GREENING THE ECONOMY

GND climate case
Q&A: The Causal Relationship Between Inequality and Climate Change
DeSmog interviewed an author of a new paper that says that policies focused only on greenhouse gas emissions will be less successful than a broader approach that tackles inequality and climate change together.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
June 3, 2022

Climate change has worsened global inequality, with poorer countries less able to withstand and adapt to climate change’s effects. It also has worsened inequality within countries between the rich and the poor: The impacts of drought, floods, hurricanes, and extreme heat are disproportionately felt by low-income communities and communities of color.

But new research suggests the reverse is also true: Not only is climate change contributing to greater inequality, but inequality is also fueling climate change. A new peer-reviewed paper by Fergus Green and Noel Healy, published in One Earth, analyzes the various ways in which inequality contributes to more greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously making climate action even more difficult to pursue. The paper also asserts that climate policies that only focus on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, while ignoring inequality, will prove less effective at addressing the climate crisis compared to a much broader movement — like the Green New Deal — that attacks both inequality and climate change at the same time.

DeSmog spoke with one of the authors, Fergus Green, a lecturer in political theory and public policy at University College London, about the new research. The following conversation was edited for brevity and clarity.
» Read article      
» Read the paper

Welcome to Ithaca
Inside Ithaca’s plan to electrify 6,000 buildings and grow a regional green workforce using private equity funds

The city has mustered $105 million in private funds to support low-cost loans for businesses and residents to install heat pumps.
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
June 2, 2022

Ithaca, New York, made headlines last year when its city council voted to fully decarbonize. Achieving the 2030 goal will require grid decarbonization, electrifying transportation and rolling out heat pumps to the city’s 6,000 aging commercial and residential buildings.

Ithaca is known for its progressive politics — in the 90s the city pioneered a time-based currency to inspire local spending, for example. But the decarbonization plan is among its most ambitious efforts, according to Director of Sustainability Luis Aguirre-Torres.

“When I came to Ithaca last year … my job was to craft a plan to decarbonize in eight years. I told the mayor, ‘You’re nuts. This is very difficult to achieve,’” said Aguirre-Torres, who took the job in April 2021.

Ithaca’s plan is “innovative,” Building Decarbonization Coalition Executive Director Panama Bartholomy said, and is an example of the kind of work many cities are now exploring.

“It’s encouraging to see a city take a wholesale approach to buildings instead of trying to adopt policies that are more reactive,” Bartholomy said. “Every major city in the United States right now is trying to figure out the right model for how to do this.”

Installing heat pumps and making other efficiency improvements makes financial sense for some buildings: the energy savings will pay for the improvements. Other projects may be close, or simply not pencil out. Either way, the savings accrue slowly. So in order to get all buildings decarbonized, the city aggregated blocks of buildings to manage project risk, and then securitized the project to attract private capital.

“The numbers work for some [buildings], they don’t work for some. But in the end, as a whole, it works for the investor,” Aguirre-Torres said. The program is essentially a way of covering the upfront costs of making building improvements and turning it into “electrification as a service,” he explained, resulting in long-term leasing or long-term lending at a low interest.
» Read article       

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

future on fire
“Limited time:” World will lock in 1.5°C warming by 2025 without big emissions cuts
By Michael Mazengarb, Renew Economy
June 7, 2022

The world faces a greater than 50 per cent chance of locking in global warming of more than 1.5°C  unless greenhouse gas emissions can be dramatically reduced before 2025, new research suggests.

In a new paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers from the University of Washington, Seattle, warn that the world needs an ‘abrupt cessation’ of greenhouse gas emissions to prevent locking in global warming above safe levels.

The research also confirm that net zero targets by 2050 are insufficient to cap average global warming  below 2°C, and that does not include like feedback loops that will accelerate temperature rises.

“Gobal warming is projected to exceed 1.5°C within decades and 2°C by mid-century in all but the lowest emission scenarios, the paper says. “That is, there is limited time and allowable carbon dioxide emissions (a remaining carbon budget) before these temperature thresholds are exceeded.”

The research, led by oceanography researcher Michele Dvorak, used geophysical modelling that finds the world already has a 42 per cent chance of exceeding 1.5°C of global warming – even if further greenhouse gas emissions were immediately ceased.

The probability of breaching this and higher temperature levels will increase year-on-year, the research shows, until the world achieves a status of zero net emissions.
» Read article       

Mauna Loa ABO
Carbon Dioxide Levels Are Highest in Human History
Humans pumped 36 billion tons of the planet-warming gas into the atmosphere in 2021, more than in any previous year. It comes from burning oil, gas and coal.
By Henry Fountain, New York Times
June 3, 2022

The amount of planet-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere broke a record in May, continuing its relentless climb, scientists said Friday. It is now 50 percent higher than the preindustrial average, before humans began the widespread burning of oil, gas and coal in the late 19th century.

There is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than at any time in at least 4 million years, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said.

The concentration of the gas reached nearly 421 parts per million in May, the peak for the year, as power plants, vehicles, farms and other sources around the world continued to pump huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Emissions totaled 36.3 billion tons in 2021, the highest level in history.

As the amount of carbon dioxide increases, the planet keeps warming, with effects like increased flooding, more extreme heat, drought and worsening wildfires that are already being experienced by millions of people worldwide. Average global temperatures are now about 1.1 degrees Celsius, or 2 degrees Fahrenheit, higher than in preindustrial times.

Growing carbon dioxide levels are more evidence that countries have made little progress toward the goal set in Paris in 2015 of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s the threshold beyond which scientists say the likelihood of catastrophic effects of climate change increases significantly.
» Read article       

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

DPA invoked
Biden invokes Defense Production Act to boost domestic manufacturing in clean energy, grid sectors
By Ethan Howland, Utility Dive
June 7, 2022

The U.S. Department of Energy aims to build up domestic production of solar panels, electric transformers, heat pumps, insulation and hydrogen-related equipment under the Defense Production Act, or DPA, determinations issued Monday by the White House.

The DOE could support those sectors through commitments to buy clean energy products from U.S. manufacturers; direct investments in facilities; and aid for clean energy installations in homes, military sites and businesses, Charisma Troiano, department press secretary, said in an email.

The Biden administration’s move to use its executive power is a “game changer” that will establish and bolster a manufacturing base to support the renewable energy transition, according to Jean Su, energy justice program director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The DPA, which President Joe Biden has invoked to spur COVID-19 vaccine and electric battery production, allows the White House to coordinate with industry to obtain supplies that are deemed to be in the interest of national defense, according to Su.

The White House issued similar DPA determinations for the solar, hydrogen, heat pump, insulation and grid equipment sectors.

“Ensuring a robust, resilient, and sustainable domestic industrial base to meet the requirements of the clean energy economy is essential to our national security, a resilient energy sector, and the preservation of domestic critical infrastructure,” Biden said in the findings.

The Center for Biological Diversity in February urged Biden to use his executive powers, including through the DPA, to tackle climate change.
» Read article       

H2 pathways
Hydrogen Leaks Could Make Climate Change Worse, Scientists Warn
By The Energy Mix
June 5, 2022

As the world invests billions in hydrogen fuel systems, scientists are urging vigilance against leakage, since its release into open air can trigger chemical reactions that significantly warm the atmosphere.

Widely seen as one of the only ways to decarbonize sectors that aren’t easily electrified (like heavy industry and aviation), hydrogen has much to recommend it as a clean fuel—unless it leaks into the air, where three chemical pathways can transform it into an indirect greenhouse gas with 33 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over 20 years, writes Bloomberg.

The first pathway involves hydrogen’s tendency to react with atmospheric hydroxyl (OH), an element which also reacts with methane in a manner that helps remove this dangerous greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. The more hydrogen that leaks into the atmosphere, the less hydroxyl will be available to neutralize the warming effects of methane, which is about 85 times more powerful a warming agent than CO2 over a 20-year span.

The second pathway is hydrogen’s involvement, near ground level, in a chemical chain reaction that produces ozone, another potent greenhouse gas.

Finally, leaked hydrogen that makes it into the stratosphere produces more water vapour, “which has the overall effect of trapping more thermal energy in the atmosphere.”

Most leaked hydrogen would not escape into the air, but would rather be absorbed by microbes in the soil. But any hydrogen that does get airborne can wreak climate havoc, at least in the short term.

And it’s the short term that matters, given the speed with which global temperatures are rising, say climate scientists with the U.S. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

“The potency is a lot stronger than people realize,” EDF climate scientist Ilissa Ocko told Bloomberg. “We’re putting this on everyone’s radar now, not to say ‘no’ to hydrogen, but to think about how we deploy it.”
» Read article       

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

  

Meissen rooftops
Ditching gas boilers for heat pumps will take EU “well beyond next winter”
To quit Russian gas, the European Commission now wants to end sales of fossil fuel boilers by 2029. Some experts are pinning new hopes on geothermal heat pumps.
By Nour Ghantous, Energy Monitor
June 3, 2022

As part of its REPowerEU proposal to end Russian fossil fuel imports, the European Commission announced an increase in its energy efficiency target for 2030 from 9% to 13% on 18 May 2022. Part of achieving this ambition will be to double the roll-out of heat pumps, with a view to banning gas boilers by 2029, and integrating geothermal and solar thermal energy in modernised district and communal heating systems.

The move is a win for energy efficiency campaigners who argue that the best way to reduce energy imports is to reduce our energy demands in the first place. “A structural reduction of energy demand must be at the core of any strategy to increase EU energy security,” said Arianna Vitali Roscini, secretary-general of the Coalition for Energy Savings, in a statement about the plans. She suggests that the Commission’s inclusion of energy efficiency targets in its proposal will ensure long-term solutions to the energy crisis: “REPowerEU [proposes] measures that go well beyond next winter only.”

The general response in the EU energy sphere has been a sigh of relief at seeing more robust energy efficiency policies proposed, but no festivities just yet as some argue the plans still fall short of necessary ambition.

“We are very happy to see a phase-out date [for gas boilers] but we are not happy with the date itself,” says Davide Sabbadin, senior policy officer for climate and circular economy at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), a network of environmental NGOs.
» Read article       

cut by half
St. Paul school is latest to conclude geothermal is ‘the way to go’
Space constraints, energy savings and the long-term return on investment convinced St. Paul Public Schools to install a ground-source geothermal heat pump system at a high school that until now hasn’t had a cooling system.
By Frank Jossi, Energy News Network
June 7, 2022

[…] In St. Paul, only about a third of public schools have air conditioning — a growing liability as heat waves become more common, resulting in potentially distracting or dangerous temperatures in classrooms. The district also has a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its buildings by 45% by 2030.

Johnson High School, in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood on the city’s East Side, is among the sites that have lacked cooling options. Its 1961 facade and interior were refreshed a few years ago but its HVAC system is decades old.

Space constraints limited the school’s options. While geothermal systems can require a large underground footprint, relatively little equipment is installed above ground, which along with financial aspects made it a good option.

“Geothermal seemed the way to go,” said Henry Jerome, facilities project manager.

The school district hired a local firm, TKDA, to consult on the project. Over the spring, the district hired a contractor to bore 160 wells 305 feet deep into the school’s baseball field. A liquid glycol mixture will run through buried pipes, transferring heat between the ground and the school’s heat pump.

The school won’t be able to entirely depend on geothermal during the coldest stretches of winter. A high-efficiency condensing boiler and two steam boilers will remain in operation when temperatures drop below freezing, but the school expects to cut natural gas consumption by more than half.

[…] Geothermal can cost more upfront than conventional heating and cooling systems and require enough land for well drilling. But the economics can appeal to schools, governments, and other building owners with long-term outlooks. After installation, the systems require a relatively small amount of electricity to operate.

Peter Lindstrom, a manager for Minnesota’s Clean Energy Resource Teams, specializes in helping public sector organizations with clean energy projects. He said geothermal is getting more attention recently as public schools and other institutions aim to reduce emissions and energy costs. Other Minnesota schools that have installed geothermal systems include Pelham, Onamia, and Watertown-Mayer Schools. And it may not be the last in St. Paul.
» Read article    

» More about energy efficiency

MODERNIZING THE GRID

Seven Mile Hill
Greenlit powerlines forecast Wyoming wind energy boom

Developers are poised to double Wyoming’s wind energy capacity, replacing coal as the state’s top source of electrical generation.
By Dustin Bleizeffer, WyoFile, in Energy News Network
June 3, 2022

Having recently cleared key legal and permitting hurdles, developers are slated to begin construction of two major high-voltage transmission lines connecting Wyoming to several states in the West. When completed, the Gateway South and TransWest Express transmission lines will open the door to a major expansion of wind energy development in the Cowboy State, industry officials say.

“The TransWest Express project opens the ability for Wyoming wholesale electricity supplies to reach new markets, like southern California, Arizona and Nevada, that the state is not directly serving today,” Power Company of Wyoming Communications Director Kara Choquette said.

The $3 billion, 732-mile long TransWest Express transmission line will transport electricity from Power Company of Wyoming’s Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project in south-central Wyoming, as well as other potential new wind energy facilities. Situated in Carbon County, the project’s 900 wind turbines with a total capacity of 3,000 megawatts will be the largest onshore wind energy facility in the United States.
» Read article       

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

EVstop
Senators blast Baker administration over broken EV chargers on Mass. Pike
By Aaron Pressman, Boston Globe
June 7, 2022

Two state senators are taking the Baker administration to task for broken electric vehicle chargers along the Massachusetts Turnpike.

As the Globe reported in April, two of the six chargers installed at rest stops along the 138-mile highway — in Natick and the westbound Charlton stop — have been out of service for over a year. EVgo, the company that operated the chargers, withdrew all six charger locations from its listings and said it could not repair the problems on its own.

On Monday, in a letter to Secretary of Transportation Jamey Tesler, state senators Cynthia Creem and Michael Barrett demanded that the broken chargers be fixed by July 1 and asked for information about who was responsible for their operation and maintenance.

“The continued inoperability of these chargers hampers the Commonwealth’s ability to reach its EV goals, not only because it makes it more difficult for EV drivers to travel across the Commonwealth, but also because it feeds into an inaccurate yet prevalent narrative that EVs are not reliable for long-distance travel,” the pair wrote to Tesler.

MassDOT did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We would like to see the broken EV chargers on the Pike returned to operation by no later than July 1 of this year, ahead of the busiest periods of summer travel,” the senators added. “We would also like to know that there is a plan in place to ensure that future issues with chargers are resolved immediately.”

The chargers were first installed in 2017. Matthew Beaton, then-secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said they would give “consumers confidence that they will have access to charging stations on long trips, a commonly cited hurdle in transitioning to zero emission vehicles.”
» Read article       

Solid Power pilot line
Solid-state batteries for EVs move a step closer to production
Solid Power wants to give cells to BMW and Ford for testing later this year.
By Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica
June 6, 2022

Solid Power, a Colorado-based battery developer, moved one step closer to producing solid-state batteries for electric vehicles on Monday. The company has completed an automated “EV cell pilot line” with the capacity to make around 15,000 cells per year, which will be used first by Solid Power and then by its OEM partners for testing.

“The installation of this EV cell pilot line will allow us to produce EV-scale cells suitable for initiating the formal automotive qualification process. Over the coming quarters, we will work to bring the EV cell pilot line up to its full operational capability and look forward to delivering EV-scale all-solid-state cells to our partners later this year,” said Solid Power CEO Doug Campbell.

Solid-state batteries differ from the lithium-ion batteries currently used in EVs in that they replace the liquid electrolyte with a solid layer between the anode and cathode. It’s an attractive technology for multiple reasons: Solid-state cells should have a higher energy density, they should be able to charge more quickly, and they should be safer, as they’re nonflammable (which should further reduce the pack density and weight, as it will need less-robust protection).

It’s one of those technologies that to a very casual observer is perennially five years away, but in Europe there are already operational Mercedes-Benz eCitaro buses with solid-state packs.
» Read article       

» More about clean transportation  

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

under the radar
Meet the group lobbying against climate regulations — using your utility bill
The federal government is considering a rule change that would make it harder for utility companies to recover trade association dues.
By Nick Tabor, Grist
June 7, 2022

A typical electricity bill leaves the customer with the sense that she knows exactly what she’s paying for. It might show how many kilowatts of power her household has used, the costs of generating that electricity and delivering it, and the amount that goes to taxes. But these bills can hide as much as they reveal: They don’t indicate how much of the customer’s money is being used to build new power plants, for example, or to pay the CEO’s salary. They also don’t show how much of the bill goes toward political activity — things like lobbying expenses, or litigation against pollution controls.

Most U.S. utility bills also fail to specify that they’re collecting dues payments for trade associations. These organizations try to shape laws in electric and gas companies’ favor, in addition to more quotidian functions like coordinating regulatory compliance. On any given billing statement, these charges may only add up to pennies. By collecting them from tens of millions of households, however, trade associations have built up enormous budgets that translate to powerful political operations.

The Edison Electric Institute, an association that counts all of the country’s investor-owned electric utilities as its members, is the power industry’s main representative before Congress. With an annual budget of over $90 million, Edison is perhaps the largest beneficiary of the dues-collection baked into utility bills. In recent years, it’s attracted attention for its national campaign against rooftop solar panels, and for its role in the legal fight against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

Within the next year or two, however, this financial model could come to an end. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, the top government agency overseeing the utility industry, is considering a rule change that would make it harder for companies to recover these costs. While utilities are already nominally barred from passing lobbying costs along to their customers, consumer advocates and environmental groups argue that much trade association activity that isn’t technically “lobbying” under the IRS’s definition is still political in nature — and that households are being unfairly charged for it.
» Read article       

Plant Scherer
Warned of ‘massive’ climate-led extinction, Southern Company funded crisis denial ads

The Georgia-based utility spent at least $62.1 million running campaigns to deceive the public about climate change, new research has found.
By Geoff Dembicki, The Guardian
June 8, 2022

In 1980, a report circulated to a division of one of the biggest coal-burning utilities in the U.S. warned that “fossil fuel combustion” was rapidly warming the atmosphere and could cause a “massive extinction of plant and animal species” along with a “5 to 6-meter rise in sea level” across the world.

Several years later an official at the utility co-chaired a conference where scientific researchers fretted that “as we continue to exploit the vast deposits of fossil fuels” it could cause “disruptive climate changes.”

Not only did Southern Company fail to adjust its business model towards cleaner energy sources, it began paying for print advertisements saying climate change was not real. “Who told you the earth was warming,” asks one ad from 1991.

Major oil and gas producers are now being sued in more than 20 U.S. jurisdictions for running campaigns to deceive the public about climate change while internally acknowledging the risks of burning fossil fuels. And the new report suggests that coal-burning electric utilities like Southern Company, which were also warned about climate change for decades, could be sued next.

The Georgia-based utility made its multimillion-dollar payments between 1993 and 2004, according to the Energy and Policy Institute’s analysis of corporate filings. It was a crucial period when aggressive U.S. action to combat the climate crisis could have potentially made the emergency less intense than it is now.
» Read article       

» More about electric utilities

HEALTH RISKS – NATURAL GAS INFRASTRUCTURE

Yuri Gorby
In Ohio, researchers find EPA data doesn’t tell the whole story on fracking pollution

Scientists working with community organizations established a network of local-level air monitors, finding details that regional monitors can miss.
By Kathiann M. Kowalski, Energy News Network
June 8, 2022

A recent study in a heavily fracked Ohio county found that regional air quality monitors failed to capture variations in pollution at the local level, spotlighting the need to address gaps in data on fossil fuel emissions.

Existing Environmental Protection Agency monitors track broad regional trends in air quality. But they don’t reflect differences from place to place within an area. And their reporting often misses short-term spikes that can affect human health, said lead study author Garima Raheja at Columbia University.

“Health is not a broad regional effect,” Raheja said. Health impacts from pollution often depend on more local conditions and can vary “day to day, hour to hour,” she noted.

[…] The team developed a grassroots, community-based network of low-cost air monitoring stations. Each monitoring station used PurpleAir monitors. The monitors cost a couple hundred dollars each, compared to up to $100,000 or more for equipment at the regional EPA air monitoring stations, Raheja said.

The equipment measures levels of fine particulate matter, or PM. Corrected data from PurpleAir monitors correlate strongly with those from reference-grade monitors, studies have found. Tweaks to the monitors also let the network track levels of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. And community members kept logs about physical symptoms or things they noticed in the area.

Additionally, the researchers made an inventory of all pollution emissions already permitted for the area. The data let them model how pollution could travel in the area.

“We wanted to show what people are actually experiencing,” Raheja said. “And we wanted to show some examples of plumes from different sources.”

General trends in emissions levels were similar for the EPA monitoring stations and the local monitors. However, there were substantial variations in the emissions levels recorded by the two types of stations. Those results showed that exposure to pollutants varies throughout the study area.

The results also showed multiple cases when spikes in certain emissions tracked closely with log entries about residents’ health symptoms or other events in the area, such as pipeline pigging or compressor station blowdowns.
» Read article     
» Read the study

» More about gas infrastructure health risks

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

blistering
Natural Gas Futures Hit 13-Year High As Traders Expect “Blistering Hot Summer”
By Tom Kool, Oil Price
June 6, 2022

On Monday, Henry Hub natural gas futures were up nearly 10% at a 13-year high.

At 5:00pm EST, Henry Hub prices for July contracts sat at $9.368, up 9.91%. August contracts were at $9.350, up 9.87%.

A key reason for the sudden surge is heat, with temperatures expected to rise significantly in the middle part of this month, with production declining and demand threatening to exceed supply.

Natural Gas Intelligence (NGI) quoted EBW analyst Eli Rubin as saying in a note to clients that a “blistering hot summer” is first and foremost among fears. Rubin said the increasing demand for natural gas for cooling in the coming weeks “could ignite another substantial rally in Nymex futures into mid-summer”.

Texas, in particular, is expected to see demand for natural gas soar to a historical record this week–even before the hottest part of summer sets in.

Also driving natural gas futures upward is rising demand, declining production, and soaring exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the U.S. Gulf coast, diverting domestic supplies.
» Read article       

» More about fossil fuel

PLASTICS BANS

ban single use
US government to ban single-use plastic in national parks
Biden officials make announcement on World Oceans Day in effort to stem huge tide of pollution from plastic bottles and packaging
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
June 8, 2022

The Biden administration is to phase out single-use plastic products on US public lands, including the vast network of American national parks, in an attempt to stem the huge tide of plastic pollution that now extends to almost every corner of the world.

The US Department of the Interior will halt the sale of single-use plastics in national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands, though not entirely until 2032, with a reduction planned in the meantime. The government will look to identify environmentally preferable alternatives to plastic bottles, packaging and other products, such as compostable materials.

Previously, national parks were able to ban the sale of plastic water bottles but this was stopped by Donald Trump when he was president. The Trump administration echoed the sentiments of the bottled water industry in preventing the ban.

The new plastics ban will eventually span 480m acres of federal land, a size about four times larger than Spain, and will cut the 80,000 tons of waste the Department of the Interior creates each year.

“The interior department has an obligation to play a leading role in reducing the impact of plastic waste on our ecosystems and our climate,” said Deb Haaland, the secretary of the interior.

Plastic pollution is now widespread across the US and the rest of the world, with trillions of tiny pieces of plastic found in the oceans, where much of the waste ends up. Plastics are so pervasive they have been found in the lungs of people and in freshly fallen snow in Antarctica.

The growing production of cheap, disposable plastics has been exacerbated by a falling recycling rate, which has dipped to about 5% in the US following some countries’ refusal to take shipments of American waste.
» Read article      

» More about plastics bans

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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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