Tag Archives: flaring

Weekly News Check-In 2/25/22

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Welcome back.

The invasion of Ukraine is underway, and Russia is deploying access to oil and gas for advantage over that country (and Europe more broadly) just as brutally as missiles, bombs, and bullets. In a perfect world, we would have nearly completed our transition to clean energy by now – possibly avoiding this conflict altogether. In a rational world, this violence would focus and strengthen everyone’s resolve to accelerate the current sluggish pace of change. But we’re human – neither perfect nor even particularly rational – and so this moment presents a boon to the fossil fuel industry. As extraction sharply increases and windfall profits roll in, the continuing rise of global emissions is sowing seeds of future conflicts.

But there’s hopeful news too. Legal actions against fossil fuel polluters and infrastructure are finally forcing regulators to focus on environmental and climate impacts. The broadening divestment movement is calling out corporate conflicts of interest and operating with increasing coordination and sophistication. And cities like Boston are driving opportunities for greening the economy into communities that have previously been left out.

Progress is also happening in energy efficiency, where air-source heat pumps are proving they can keep homes comfortable through frosty New England winters. Advances in energy storage using non-toxic, abundant materials is hastening the day when renewables + storage can entirely support the electric grid. And we’re finding creative ways to deploy solar arrays that provide benefits beyond power generation.

Meanwhile, so-called hard to decarbonize industries like steel and cement could one day use “heat batteries” charged up from wind and solar sources to deliver high-temperature, zero-emissions process heat. This suggests an even greener (and cheaper) solution than using hydrogen for industrial processes.

All those good things are happening because people are paying attention and staying involved. And there’s plenty to do. Pipelines continue to be proposed and permitted, grid operators still resist modernizing, and some of the biggest polluters are pushing false solutions like carbon capture and storage as an excuse to extend their ride on business as usual. Cities attempting to ban gas hookups in new construction are meeting resistance from the gas industry and their Republican enablers. But state utility regulators are – at least in some cases – starting to take a hard look at the need to decarbonize the natural gas distribution system, to the point of paring it back in favor of building electrification.

We’ll close with a look at the effect of plastics in the environment, and check progress on the UN’s global plastics treaty currently being drafted in Nairobi, Kenya. Fiercely opposed by the fossil fuel and chemical industries, the limitation of single-use plastics is hugely popular all over the world.

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

SCOTUS on DAPL
US supreme court rejects Dakota Access pipeline appeal
Pipeline operator sought to overturn 2020 legal victory striking down a key federal permit
By Nina Lakhani, The Guardian
February 22, 2022

The US supreme court has rejected a case by the Dakota Access oil pipeline operator to avoid a legally mandated environmental review, in a major victory for tribes and environmentalists campaigning to permanently shut down the polluting energy project.

Energy Transfer, the pipeline operator, had sought to overturn a legal victory won by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in 2020 that struck down a key federal permit that violated the National Environmental Policy Act (Nepa).

On Tuesday the US supreme court rejected the company’s bid to challenge the 2020 ruling, which required the US army corps of engineers to conduct a comprehensive environmental impact statement (EIS).

As a result, the lower court’s decision remains intact and the army corps must complete a review of the pipeline’s route underneath Lake Oahe, which straddles the border of North Dakota and South Dakota, that complies with Nepa. Indigenous communities rely on the lake, which they consider sacred, for drinking water and food.

The ruling is a huge victory for North Dakota tribes including the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe which rallied support from across the world and sued the US government in a campaign to stop the environmentally risky pipeline being built on tribal lands.

It signals the end of the litigation road for the Texan energy company, but the pipeline, known as DAPL and open since 2017, will continue to operate as the review is carried out.
» Read article      

» More about protests and actions       

PIPELINES

pipe dreams 2022
Global Gas Pipeline Boom Poses Climate, Financial Disaster
“The fact that nearly half-a-trillion dollars of gas pipelines are in development makes no sense economically as many of these projects will become stranded assets as the world transitions to renewables.”
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
February 22, 2022

As campaigners and scientists continue to demand keeping fossil fuels in the ground, an analysis on Tuesday revealed the incredible amount of gas development humanity has planned, despite the climate and financial risks.

The new report—entitled Pipe Dreams 2022: Stranded assets and magical thinking in the proposed global gas pipeline build-out—was authored by a trio of experts at the San Francisco-based Global Energy Monitor (GEM).

“A slowdown in gas pipeline development in 2021 was, unfortunately, more about Covid than a recognition that gas is contributing to the climate crisis,” said report co-author Baird Langenbrunner, a research analyst at GEM, in a statement.

“Looking ahead, the fact that nearly half-a-trillion dollars of gas pipelines are in development makes no sense economically,” he warned, “as many of these projects will become stranded assets as the world transitions to renewable.”

Stranded assets, as Carbon Tracker explains, are “assets that turn out to be worth less than expected as a result of changes associated with the energy transition.”

The GEM report states that “after a Covid-19-related drop in pipeline commissionings in 2021, the gas industry and gas-positive countries led by China, India, Russia, Australia, the United States, and Brazil are pushing ahead with plans to commission tens of thousands of kilometers of gas pipelines in 2022.”

The analysis projects that the planned expansion of the global gas pipeline network—70,889 kilometers (km) or 44,048 miles in construction and another 122,477 km or 76,104 miles in pre-construction development—creates a $485.8 billion stranded asset risk, in addition to jeopardizing the chances of meeting the Paris climate agreement’s goals.
» Read article     
» Read the GEM report

business as usual project
Eversource establishes gas reliability project plan, despite concerns
By Sarah Heinonen and Matt Conway, The Reminder
February 18, 2022

Eversource Energy introduced a gas reliability project during the latter half of 2021, with the proposed structure potentially adding a new point of delivery system in Longmeadow.

The proposed project would also bring the installation of a steel mainline between the new Longmeadow location and the gas line’s existing regulator station in Springfield, as well as upgrades to the existing gas line connected to an Agawam regulator station. As Eversource presents to the central communities involved, the project is already garnering an array of different perspectives.

Springfield’s Sustainability and Environment Committee heard the first Eversource presentation of the project during an Oct. 14 meeting. Eversource Energy’s Community Relations and Economic Development Specialist Joseph Mitchell showcased a presentation detailing, according to Eversource, the project’s necessity, stressing that the proposed point of delivery system will ensure that residents would not experience service outages if one of the points of delivery systems are affected by extreme weather or other disruptions.

“This is a reliability project, not an expansion project. We want to mitigate the risk in the greater Springfield area,” said Mitchell. Before finalizing the new point of delivery system’s plans, Mitchell presented different deviations of the pipeline’s potential route. Eversource’s shortest and preferred route would cost $22.7 million, while the company’s largest route costs $32.7 million.

In the aftermath of the presentation, Chairman of the Sustainability and Environment Committee and City Councilor At-Large Jesse Lederman expressed his perspective on the project by calling for an Independent Cost/Benefit Analysis from the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU). The councilor explained his concerns as a part of his mission to ensure accountability between public utilities and Springfield.

Lederman cited two major reasons for calling for the independent examination. He expressed concern about investing in gas projects as the nation steadily embraces renewable energy sources while also questioning the viability of the proposed point of delivery system as a necessary addition.

“If we know that the benefit is not really there, then I think you’re going to have a strong case for the DPU to push back on this proposal,” said Lederman in an interview with Reminder Publishing. The councilor shared that the reliability project started as a rumor when Columbia Gas worked with the city before being acquired by Eversource in 2020.
» Read article      

» More about pipelines

DIVESTMENT

Elsevier conflictedRevealed: leading climate research publisher helps fuel oil and gas drilling
Elsevier’s work with fossil fuel companies ‘drags us towards disaster’, climate researcher says
By Amy Westervelt, The Guardian
February 24, 2022

Scientists working with one of the world’s largest climate research publishers say they’re increasingly alarmed that the company works with the fossil fuel industry to help increase oil and gas drilling, the Guardian can reveal.

Elsevier, a Dutch company behind many renowned peer-reviewed scientific journals, including the Lancet and Global Environmental Change, is also one of the top publishers of books aimed at expanding fossil fuel production.

For more than a decade, the company has supported the energy industry’s efforts to optimize oil and gas extraction. It commissions authors, editors and journal advisory board members who are employees at top oil firms. Elsevier also markets some of its research portals and data services directly to the oil and gas industry to help “increase the odds of exploration success”.

Several former and current employees say that for the past year, dozens of workers have spoken out internally and at company-wide town halls to urge Elsevier to reconsider its relationship with the fossil fuel industry.

“When I first started, I heard a lot about the company’s climate commitments,” said a former Elsevier journal editor who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity. “Eventually I just realized it was all marketing, which is really upsetting because Elsevier has published all the research it needs to know exactly what to do if it wants to make a meaningful difference.”

What makes Elsevier’s ties to the fossil fuel industry particularly alarming to its critics is that it is one of a handful of companies that publish peer-reviewed climate research. Scientists and academics say they’re concerned that Elsevier’s conflicting business interests risk undermining their work.
» Read article     

loyalty
The campus divestment movement has a sophisticated new legal strategy
Students at five universities have launched a coordinated legal campaign against fossil fuel investments.
By Emily Pontecorvo, Grist
February 16, 2022

Students and faculty have been asking universities to divest from fossil fuels for more than a decade now. But what started as a campaign to erode the industry’s “social license to operate” is developing more sophisticated arguments about fiduciary duty and prudent investing.

On Wednesday, student divestment activists from Yale, Princeton, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, and Vanderbilt filed legal complaints with their respective states’ attorney generals’ offices accusing their schools of violating the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act, or UPMIFA. Every state in the U.S. except for Pennsylvania has passed a version of UPMIFA, which establishes investing principles that nonprofit endowment managers must follow. The students hope the coordinated action will not only pressure their own schools into divesting but potentially set a new legal precedent for all institutional investors.

“We didn’t just write this 80-page document to, like, make Yale scared,” said Molly Weiner, a freshman at Yale and organizer with the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition, a campus activist group. “If Attorney General William Tong does decide to open an investigation into fossil fuel investments, that means that in all of Connecticut, there is a clear imperative for pension funds and all other sort of institutional endowments with charitable statuses to divest. And it sets a powerful precedent for other states as well.”

While the law varies slightly by state, UPMIFA generally binds institutional endowment managers to consider the “charitable purpose” of the institution while investing, to invest with “prudence,” and to invest with “loyalty.”
» Read article      

» More about divestment

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Davo Jefferson
Boston will put young people to work as part of city’s Green New Deal
By Dharna Noor, Boston Globe
February 23, 2022

Moving to a new green economy could bring thousands of new jobs to Boston, but right now, that transition isn’t happening fast enough. An upcoming city initiative aims to speed up the process while ensuring new positions go to those who need them most.

The Youth Green Jobs Corps will provide green job training and placement for unemployed and underemployed Boston residents between the ages of 18 and 30, including formerly incarcerated people. Last week, Mayor Wu announced the program will be led by Davo Jefferson, a longtime social justice reform advocate who says he “gets a charge like nothing else” out of helping people find jobs.

“This is my life’s passion, to help folks prepare for opportunities that they may have difficulty preparing for on their own,” he said.

Jefferson has spent the past 20 years helping kids, young adults, and re-entering citizens find work of all kinds, from entry-level finance roles to jobs in warehouses. Bringing those skills to the green economy, he said, “just makes sense.”

“This is an emerging field with tremendous growth potential for livable wage employment,” he said.

Jefferson says the new program will accelerate the transition to an economy that is not only more climate-friendly, but also fairer. Right now, green jobs aren’t equally accessible to people of all backgrounds. Employees of both the National Park Service and the solar industry, for instance, are overwhelmingly white.

“Marginalized communities are always last to get a seat at the table when these types of opportunities are available,” he said. “This will give the people from those communities a chance to get their foot in the door.”
» Read article      

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

Gelsenkirchen coal plant
Climate Fears on Back Burner as Fuel Costs Soar and Russia Crisis Deepens
Energy security has gained prominence while the conflict in Ukraine raises concerns over the possible interruption in the supply of oil and natural gas.
By Patricia Cohen, New York Times
February 23, 2022

It was only three months ago that world leaders met at the Glasgow climate summit and made ambitious pledges to reduce fossil fuel use. The perils of a warming planet are no less calamitous now, but the debate about the critically important transition to renewable energy has taken a back seat to energy security as Russia — Europe’s largest energy supplier — threatens to start a major confrontation with the West over Ukraine while oil prices are climbing toward $100 a barrel.

For more than a decade, policy discussions in Europe and beyond about cutting back on gas, oil and coal emphasized safety and the environment, at the expense of financial and economic considerations, said Lucia van Geuns, a strategic energy adviser at the Hague Center for Strategic Studies. Now, it’s the reverse.

“Gas prices became very high, and all of a sudden security of supply and price became the main subject of public debate,” she said.

The renewed emphasis on energy independence and national security may encourage policymakers to backslide on efforts to decrease the use of fossil fuels that pump deadly greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Already, skyrocketing prices have spurred additional production and consumption of fuels that contribute to global warming. Coal imports to the European Union in January rose more than 56 percent from the previous year.

In Britain, the Coal Authority gave a mine in Wales permission last month to increase output by 40 million tons over the next two decades. In Australia, there are plans to open or expand more coking coal mines. And China, which has traditionally made energy security a priority, has further stepped up its coal production and approved three new billion-dollar coal mines this week.

“Get your rig count up,” Jennifer Granholm, the U.S. energy secretary, said in December, urging American oil producers to raise their output. Shale companies in Oklahoma, Colorado and other states are looking to resurrect drilling that had ceased because there is suddenly money to be made. And this month, Exxon Mobil announced plans to increase spending on new oil wells and other projects.

Ian Goldin, a professor of globalization and development at the University of Oxford, warned that high energy prices could lead to more exploration of traditional fossil fuels. “Governments will want to deprioritize renewables and sustainables, which would be exactly the wrong response,” he said.
» Read article      

western slope fog
Climate change is intensifying Earth’s water cycle at twice the predicted rate, research shows
Rising temperatures pushing much more freshwater towards poles than climate models previously estimated
By Donna Lu, The Guardian
February 23, 2022

Rising global temperatures have shifted at least twice the amount of freshwater from warm regions towards the Earth’s poles than previously thought as the water cycle intensifies, according to new analysis.

Climate change has intensified the global water cycle by up to 7.4% – compared to previous modelling estimates of 2% to 4%, research published in the journal Nature suggests.

The water cycle describes the movement of water on Earth – it evaporates, rises into the atmosphere, cools and condenses into rain or snow and falls again to the surface.

“When we learn about the water cycle, traditionally we think of it as some unchanging process which is constantly filling and refilling our dams, our lakes, and our water sources,” the study’s lead author, Dr Taimoor Sohail of the University of New South Wales, said.

But scientists have long known that rising global temperatures are intensifying the global water cycle, with dry subtropical regions likely to get drier as freshwater moves towards wet regions.

Last August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth assessment report concluded that climate change will cause long-term changes to the water cycle, resulting in stronger and more frequent droughts and extreme rainfall events.

Sohail said the volume of extra freshwater that had already been pushed to the poles as a result of an intensifying water cycle was far greater than previous climate models suggest.

“Those dire predictions that were laid out in the IPCC will potentially be even more intense,” he said.
» Read article
» Read the study

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

high energy bills
Will rising gas prices hasten the switch to renewables?
The soaring cost of energy is top of mind for consumers worldwide. How will the increase affect climate and energy policy?
By Dave Keating, Energy Monitor
February 21, 2022

Energy prices are soaring, chiefly driven by a sharp increase in the price of natural gas. Few places are feeling this more acutely than Europe, which is heavily reliant on gas imports for both heat and electricity. Natural gas in Europe now costs as much as €150 per megawatt hour (MWh), compared with an average of €49/MWh last year. During a visit to Washington, D.C. earlier this month, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said one way to ride out the storm is to accelerate the energy transition toward renewables – but is there any evidence this is happening in the short term?

The good news, according to a recent report by climate think tank Ember, is gas power generation is being replaced with renewable energy because renewables have become the cheapest form of electricity by far. Last year saw a decline in fossil fuels’ share of electricity production in the EU, from 39% in 2019 to 37% in 2021. Renewable electricity has had an average annual growth of 44 terawatt-hours over the past two years, and more than half of that new wind and solar power replaced gas plants.

The bad news is those renewables were until now going to replace coal instead of gas. From 2011 to 2019, more than 80% of new renewables came at the expense of coal, according to the Ember report. Because there are not yet enough renewables online to replace both, that means the decline in coal is slowing because there are less renewables available to replace it – they are busy replacing gas – and yet coal is much more emissions-intensive than gas.

“The gas crisis has really demonstrated that Europe needs to get serious about renewables deployment,” says Charles Moore from Ember. “Europe has been focused on coal, but not gas. The gas crisis is a big wake-up call. We need to get off both coal and gas by 2035.”
» Read article      

Amsterdam wind farm
US offshore wind auction attracts record-setting bids
The auction marks the US effort to bolster renewable energy development projects – it has lagged behind Europe.
By Al Jazeera
February 23, 2022

The largest ever US sale of offshore wind development rights – for areas off the coasts of New York and New Jersey – attracted record-setting bids on Wednesday from companies seeking to be a part of President Joe Biden’s plan to create a booming new domestic industry.

It is the first offshore wind lease sale under Biden, who has made expansion of offshore wind a cornerstone of his strategy to address global warming and decarbonise the US electricity grid by 2035, all while creating thousands of jobs.

With bidding still under way, the auction was on track to easily top the $405m US offshore wind auction record set in 2018, according to updates posted on the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) website.

The auction’s scale marks a major step forward for offshore wind power in the United States, which has lagged European nations in developing the technology. Currently, the US has just two small offshore wind facilities, off the coasts of Rhode Island and Virginia, along with two additional commercial-scale projects recently approved for development.

BOEM, which has not held an auction for wind leases since 2018, is offering 488,201 acres (197,568 hectares) in shallow waters between New York’s Long Island and New Jersey, an area known as the New York Bight.
» Read article      

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Martin HP
Granite Geek: Heat pumps don’t seem like they’d work here but they’re the future of home heating – and air conditioning
By DAVID BROOKS, Concord Monitor
February 21, 2022

Heat pumps are getting attention because one of the main slogans for those trying to reduce future climate change is to “electrify everything.”  Electricity can become clean in ways that fossil fuels can never be and electric motors are usually more efficient than internal-combustion motors – and heat pumps are more efficient than fossil-fuel furnaces, often by a factor of three or four. This is why Massachusetts wants to switch 1 million homes from oil or gas to heat pumps by 2030.

So what is a heat pump? (Terrible name, by the way). Just a machine with the same technology as a refrigerator. It absorbs heat in one place by condensing liquids, pumps that liquid somewhere else and then expands it to release the heat.

Most home heat pumps consist of an outdoor compressor that looks like a ground-mounted air conditioning unit, with tubes that go into the building carrying liquid or vapor, generally ending up in wall-mounted units called mini-splits (another terrible name). Those units blast out warm or cool air.

Cool air? One of their huge advantages is that the heat can be moved from indoors to outdoors or the other way around. In other words, they are simultaneously a furnace and an air conditioner.

As New Hampshire’s summers get hotter this is a big selling point, said Austin Atamian, who owns Atamian Heating in Greenland.

“A lot of people call and say hey, I’ve got baseboard hot-water heat and looking to add A.C. When I let them know they can use this for heat and save money. it’s usually a huge perk,” he said. “Generally people are in search of A.C. and the heat is a bonus.”

And before you ask – yes, modern heat pumps can keep us warm even in mid-winter, although they lose efficiency on the coldest nights and cost more to run. In case you doubt this, consider that they are very popular in Sweden, where winters are at least as gnarly as ours.
» Read article      

» More about energy efficiency

BUILDING MATERIALS

hot product
How a high-tech twist on a 19th-century process could clean up steel and cement making
This startup made a heat battery using old-school materials
By Justine Calma, The Verge
February 22, 2022

Greenhouse gas emissions need to virtually disappear within the next few decades to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and the most difficult emissions to erase could come from industries like steel and cement set to play a big role in new, green infrastructure. Wind turbines, for example, are made mostly of steel — but, at least until now, it’s been almost unheard of to make that steel using renewable energy.

That could start to change if a startup developing a “heat battery” can successfully move from the lab to the real world. It’s what Oakland, California-based Rondo Energy aims to do with $22 million in new funding from Bill Gates’ climate investment fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, and utility-backed investment firm Energy Impact Partners.

The heat battery is supposed to be able to supply heavy industry with extreme heat generated by renewable energy, a solution that could help clean up the pesky industrial operations that make up about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions. The company thinks its technology can cut down global emissions by 1 percent over the next decade.

Until recently, a lot of efforts to cut planet-heating carbon dioxide emissions have focused on getting the power sector to run on clean energy and then electrifying other sources of pollution like cars and buildings. But that doesn’t necessarily slash pollution that comes from making many construction materials, chemicals, and fertilizers.

Those industries have been called “hard to decarbonize” because they often rely on coal, oil, or gas to fire up kilns or furnaces to extremely high temperatures. Steelmaking, for instance, conventionally involves heating up coal to about 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result of this dirty process and steel’s ubiquity in construction, the steel industry alone makes up about 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

To change that, Rondo Energy has found a new way to use old tricks. Its battery draws on renewable energy to heat up a sort of brick that’s similar to refractory bricks already used in blast furnaces for steel.

Rondo Energy CEO John O’Donnell describes his company’s battery as a large “insulated shoebox full of brick.” Electricity heats the brick rapidly. As air passes through the array of bricks, it gets superheated — reaching about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That heat can be used directly or turned into high-pressure steam often used in manufacturing.

“Because it’s simple and boring, [the technology] can go to a very large scale with economics driving it and attack a big problem,” O’Donnell tells The Verge.
» Read article      

» More about building materials

ENERGY STORAGE

ESS flow battery
We’re going to need a lot more grid storage. New iron batteries could help.
Flow batteries made from iron, salt, and water promise a nontoxic way to store enough clean energy to use when the sun isn’t shining.
By Dawn Stover, MIT Technology Review
February 23, 2022

One of the first things you see when you visit the headquarters of ESS in Wilsonville, Oregon, is an experimental battery module about the size of a toaster. The company’s founders built it in their lab a decade ago to meet a challenge they knew grid operators around the world would soon face—storing electricity at massive scale.

Unlike today’s lithium-ion batteries, ESS’s design largely relies on materials that are cheap, abundant, and nontoxic: iron, salt, and water. Another difference: while makers of lithium-ion batteries aim to make them small enough to fit inside ever shrinking phones and laptops, each version of the iron battery is bigger than the last.

In fact, what ESS is building today hardly resembles a battery at all. At a loading dock on the back side of the ESS facility, employees are assembling devices that fill entire shipping containers. Each one has enough energy storage capacity to power about 34 US houses for 12 hours.

[…]ESS’s key innovation, though, is not the battery’s size—it’s the chemistry and engineering that allow utilities to bank a lot more energy than is economically feasible with grid-connected lithium-ion batteries, which are currently limited to about four hours of storage.

The iron “flow batteries” ESS is building are just one of several energy storage technologies that are suddenly in demand, thanks to the push to decarbonize the electricity sector and stabilize the climate. As the electric grid starts depending more on intermittent solar and wind power rather than fossil fuels, utilities that just a couple of years ago were looking for batteries to store two to four hours of electricity are now asking for systems that can deliver eight hours or more. Longer-lasting batteries will be required so that electricity is available when people need it, rather than when it’s generated—just as ESS’s founders anticipated.
» Read article      

» More about energy storage

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLES

Turlock irrigation canal
In Parched California, a Project Aims to Save Water and Produce Renewable Energy
Plan calls for building solar canopies over canals, and may be the first project of its kind in the United States
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
February 24, 2022

A project near Modesto, California, would have the double benefit of saving water and generating renewable energy.

The Turlock Irrigation District announced this month that it is building solar electricity-generating canopies over portions of the district’s canal system, working in partnership with a Bay Area start-up, Solar AquaGrid.

A series of canopies would cover more than a mile of canals, going online by 2024 with solar panels that would have a capacity of about 5 megawatts. By shading the sun, the structures would reduce evaporation, leaving more water for the district’s customers. And the cost, estimated at $20 million, is being picked up by the state government.

This is the first demonstration project by Solar AquaGrid, a company that sees the potential to install similar canopies over thousands of miles of canals in California and elsewhere.

Jordan Harris, the company’s CEO, told me that the idea for Solar AquaGrid came from him noticing how California canals were often in direct sunlight, while canals in France are often shaded by canopies of trees.
» Read article      

agrivoltaic pilot
Kenya to use solar panels to boost crops by ‘harvesting the sun twice’
Successful trials found growing crops beneath panels – known as agrivoltaics – reduced water loss and resulted in larger plants
By Geoffrey Kamadi, The Guardian
February 22, 2022

Solar panels are not a new way of providing cheap power across much of the African continent, where there is rarely a shortage of sunshine. But growing crops underneath the panels is, and the process has had such promising trials in Kenya that it will be deployed this week in open-field farms.

Known as agrivoltaics, the technique harvests solar energy twice: where panels have traditionally been used to harness the sun’s rays to generate energy, they are also utilised to provide shade for growing crops, helping to retain moisture in the soil and boosting growth.

An initial year-long research collaboration between the University of Sheffield, World Agroforestry and the Kajiado-based Latia Agripreneurship Institute has shown promising results in the semi-arid Kajiado county, a 90-minute drive from the Kenyan capital of Nairobi and this week the full project will be officially launched.

For example, cabbages grown under the 180, 345-watt solar panels have been a third bigger, and healthier, than those grown in control plots with the same amount of fertiliser and water.

Other crops such as aubergine and lettuce have shown similar results. Maize grown under the panels was taller and healthier, according to Judy Wairimu, an agronomist at the institute.

“We wanted to see how crops would perform if grown under these panels,” said Wairimu. But there is another pragmatic reason behind the technology: doubling up the output of the same patch of earth to generate power and cultivate food can go a long way towards helping people with limited land resources, she said.

According to Dr Richard Randle-Boggis, a researcher at the University of Sheffield’s Harvesting the Sun Twice project, the trial initiative will determine the potential of agrivoltaic systems in east Africa.
» Read article      

» More about siting impacts of renewables

MODERNIZING THE GRID

PJM fat market
How PJM’s ‘fat market’ for capacity fuels environmental injustice and consumer expense
By Liz Stanton and Joshua Castigliego, Utility Dive | Opinion
February 24, 2022

A lot of ears perked when Federal Energy Commission Chair Richard Glick called out the “obsession” with increasing power plant revenues in the largest U.S. wholesale power market. It’s not every day the nation’s top energy regulator speaks quite so bluntly, urging an end to the focus on “bolstering uneconomic generation” in the 13-state PJM Interconnection region.

There has been attention before to the ways PJM’s annual market for electric “capacity” – power to meet future demand – overbuys and overpays generation owners. But prior analysis has typically focused on the total megawatts of excess capacity being procured. To get more specific is difficult, given that individual power plant costs are not publicly disclosed. Yet communities and state officials would be well-served with more detail. Which types of units are being paid even though their capacity is expensive and unnecessary? Are there implications for environmental justice communities given the plants’ locations?

To help provide some daylight, our research team used public data on power plants’ size, age, location, plant type and history of use to model the costs of existing and proposed coal and gas units in PJM’s market to buy capacity for 2021/22, which was held in 2018. We also mapped generators in relation to environmental justice communities using the definition of the Department of Environmental Protection in Pennsylvania, the state where PJM is headquartered. This means census tracts in which more than 20% of residents live at or below the federal poverty level, or where more than 30% are people of color.

Region-wide in PJM, we find that the majority of existing fossil fuel units are located directly in or within a mile of an environmental justice community. More than 80% are located within five miles. Zeroing in on just those existing and proposed coal and gas units benefitting from excess capacity procurement in the PJM market, what we term the PJM “fat market,” we estimate that there are 77 uneconomic generating units receiving these excess payments. This is based on modeling plants’ capacity market offer prices and also estimating the market clearing price we might see in a more efficiently-run PJM market, one that’s not overbuying so much.

A third of the 77 units we estimate to be receiving fat market revenues in PJM are proposed gas units, which often rely partly on capacity payments to secure financing. Two-thirds are existing units on the grid today. Significantly, a substantial majority of these 77 “fat market” coal and gas units are located or planned within five miles of an environmental justice community, and nearly half are within a mile. We estimate that, region-wide, customers are paying $4.3 billion for the excess capacity.
» Read article      

» More about modernizing the grid       

CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE

Petra Nova scrap heapCarbon capture tech is advancing in the wrong direction
It’s increasingly being paired with fossil fuel power plants
By Justine Calma, The Verge
February 18, 2022

Carbon capture tech that’s often sold as a solution for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from heavy industry — the most difficult sector to decarbonize — is still far off track from accomplishing that, according to a recent analysis by financial services firm ING.

The pipeline of new carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects, which aim to remove CO2 from power plants’ and industrial facilities’ emissions, is growing. But the majority of projects expected to come online this decade don’t tackle industrial pollution. Instead, the biggest growth is expected to be in carbon capture paired with fossil fuel power plants, similar to how the majority of the 40 million metric tons of CCS capacity the world has today is used in natural gas processing.

That outlook doesn’t seem to jive with what some CCS proponents say is the best use case for the technologies. A lot of the recent enthusiasm for the tech has centered on its ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from crucial industries like cement, steel, and fertilizer production. To be sure, some advocates would rather see polluting facilities move out of their neighborhoods than outfitted with new climate tech. But industrial pollution makes up about a third of global carbon dioxide emissions, and it’s hard to eliminate because this sort of manufacturing often requires extremely high temperatures that have been difficult to reach using renewable energy.

CCS is rapidly gaining momentum in the US, with support from Republicans and the Biden administration alike. Earlier this week, as part of a broader effort to slash pollution from the industrial sector, the Biden administration announced new federal guidelines for evaluating CCS projects that could encourage “widespread deployment” of the technologies. And in a bid to speed up permitting in Louisiana, Republican Senator Bill Cassidy threatened to block the appointment of Biden’s nominees for Environmental Protection Agency leadership because of the agency’s “delays” in approving his state’s application to regulate wells for captured carbon dioxide.

Despite those efforts, carbon capture as a strategy for tackling climate change is still divisive among environmentalists, in part because it’s been used to extend the reign of dirty power plants. An aging coal plant, for example, might be able to claim some green credentials if it captures some of its carbon emissions — even though other impacts of mining and burning coal, like habitat destruction and air pollution, remain.

What’s more, the CCS projects the US has funded in the past have a checkered track record. Since 2009, the Department of Energy has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in carbon capture initiatives for several coal plants that never came to fruition, largely because of high costs and investors’ cold feet, according to a December report by the Government Accountability Office.
» Read article      

» More about CCS

GAS BANS

red light
Mass. building code draft renews push for local autonomy on natural gas bans

A proposed building code update in Massachusetts would allow an option for continued use of fossil fuels in new construction, prompting cities and towns to renew a push for legal authority to prohibit new natural gas hookups.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
February 21, 2022

Activists and municipal leaders say a bill allowing Massachusetts cities and towns to ban natural gas in new construction and renovations is needed more than ever in light of a new building code proposal.

“The proposal was just disappointing on every level,” said Lisa Cunningham, a climate activist and member of the town of Brookline’s representative town meeting. “They’re allowing the installation of fossil fuels at every single level — they’re driving us in the wrong direction.”

Decarbonizing building operations, which account for 27% of the state’s carbon emissions, is a major component of Massachusetts’ plan for going carbon-neutral by 2050, but there is not yet any unified strategy for achieving this goal.

Some towns have attempted to take direct action by trying to prohibit new fossil fuel infrastructure within their own borders. In 2019, Brookline, an affluent town adjacent to Boston, passed by an overwhelming margin a bylaw banning fossil fuel hookups in new construction and major renovations, the first such measure passed outside California. Inspired by the move, other towns began preparing their own proposals.

In July 2020, however, state Attorney General Maura Healey struck down the measure, saying cities and towns do not have the legal authority to supersede state building energy codes. Brookline, along with the towns of Acton, Arlington, Concord and Lexington, responded by passing home rule petitions — requests that the state legislature grant them a specific power usually reserved by the state, in this case, the authority to enact prohibitions on new fossil fuel infrastructure.

As the movement grew, state Rep. Tami Gouveia and state Sen. Janie Eldridge, who both represent Acton, filed their own legislation that would grant every city and town in Massachusetts the right to adopt a requirement for all-electric construction without petitioning the state legislature.

“It would allow any community to prohibit new fossil fuel infrastructure,” Eldridge said. “It’s an important tool in the toolbox at a time when you’re seeing a lot of new development in Massachusetts.”
» Read article      

preemption laws
Cities tried to cut natural gas from new homes. The GOP and gas lobby preemptively quashed their effort
By Ella Nilsen, CNN
February 17, 2022

In 2019, the city council in Berkeley, California, held a stunning vote: it would ban natural gas hookups in all new building construction to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the city’s impact on the climate crisis.

No gas furnaces in new homes, the council said. No gas stoves or ovens.

Other progressive cities followed suit with similar bans. San Francisco passed its own ban in 2020. New York City became the largest US city to pass a version in 2021, with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul vowing to pass a statewide law that would ban natural gas by 2027.

But other municipalities looking to take similar action are running into a brick wall. Twenty states with GOP-controlled legislatures have passed so-called “preemption laws” that prohibit cities from banning natural gas.

It’s bad news for municipal climate action: Taking natural gas out of the equation and switching to electric appliances is one of the most effective ways cities can tackle the climate crisis and lower their emissions, multiple experts told CNN.

“Natural gas bans are kind of low-hanging fruit,” said Georgetown Law professor Sheila Foster, an environmental law expert. Foster said cities can make a significant impact by moving away from natural gas and toward electricity, especially considering what little federal action there’s been on climate, and the mixed record of states.

The climate stakes are high. Residential and commercial emissions made up 13% of total US emissions in 2019, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. About 80% of those emissions came from the combustion of natural gas, the fuel that heats homes or powers a restaurant’s cooking stoves, and emits planet-warming gases like methane and carbon dioxide in the process.

But clean alternatives exist: Electric heat pumps can heat homes more sustainably than gas furnaces; induction ranges can replace gas stoves. And experts stress that to fully transition to renewable energy sources like solar and wind, homes and businesses need to operate on electricity – not gas.
» Read article      

» More about gas bans

GAS UTILITIES

NARUC panel
Transmission, reliability and gas system decarbonization top of mind for state utility regulators in 2022

By Michelle Solomon and Hadley Tallackson, Utility Dive | Opinion
February 23, 2022

The power and gas system is rapidly changing from meeting relatively predictable customer demand with fossil fuels, to managing increasingly frequent extreme weather while integrating unprecedented amounts of clean energy. State utility regulators are trying to navigate this transition by guiding their electric and gas utilities to reduce emissions while maintaining affordable rates and reliable service.

This tension captured regulators’ attention at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ (NARUC) 2022 Winter Policy Summit last week, manifesting in three imperatives: transmission planning to unlock access to low-cost renewables, holistic approaches to planning for system reliability in the wake of last February’s Winter Storm Uri, and opportunities to reduce emissions from natural gas systems.

[…]In addition to winterization to protect against extreme weather, regulators are looking to address the root cause of climate change through gas system decarbonization, but they must be cautious about proposals that may not prove viable over the long term.

Gas utilities subject to emissions reduction requirements are exploring immediate actions for methane leak reduction through monitoring and pipeline repair. However, many are also eagerly proposing renewable natural gas (RNG) and hydrogen as part of their longer-term decarbonization pathway.

NARUC panelists discussed the potential of near-term uptake of “certified natural gas” with verified low-methane emissions intensity to plug methane hemorrhaging from the gas supply chain. Panelists from the utility Washington Gas and gas producer EQT both highlighted the minimal cost impact of switching to certified natural gas, but regulators should ask their utilities how they will achieve close-to-zero methane emission intensities while exploring larger transition pathways.

However, RNG resource availability has thus far been limited, and widespread RNG reliance may not be scalable. While GTI Energy promoted hydrogen as a fixture of a decarbonized gas system, hydrogen production can still generate sizable emissions depending on the production method. Cost impacts and challenges around scalability, pipeline and end-use appliance compatibility, and safety also require additional regulatory scrutiny before significant investments are approved. Regulators must determine the feasibility and decarbonization potential of these proposals by requesting extensive information on total supply chain emissions and how they compare on cost and emissions bases to other end-use decarbonization strategies like electrification.
» Read article      

» More about gas utilities     

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

seventy percent
BREAKING: Fossils Emit 70% More Methane than Governments Report: IEA Tracker
By Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix
February 23, 2022

Emissions of climate-busting methane from fossil fuel operations are 70% higher than national governments are reporting, according to the 2022 edition of the Global Methane Tracker released this morning by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The gap between the reporting and the reality is “massive” and “alarming”, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a release.

The tracker “shows emissions from oil, gas, and coal are on the rise again, underscoring need for greater transparency, stronger policies, and immediate action,” the IEA writes. “Methane is responsible for around 30% of the rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution, and quick and sustained emission reductions are key to limiting near-term warming and improving air quality.”

Methane is a shorter-lived greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but it’s 80 to 85 times more potent a warming agent over a 20-year span—the period in which humanity will be scrambling to get the climate emergency under control.

Before and immediately after the groundbreaking science assessment released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last August, scientists identified methane reductions as the best opportunity to curb greenhouse gas emissions through 2040, and predicted climate catastrophe without immediate action. At last year’s COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow, more than 100 countries congratulated themselves for signing a global methane pledge, though experts quickly warned that their 30% reduction target by 2030 fell short of what’s needed.

Now, the Paris-based IEA says methane emissions from energy production increased nearly 5% in 2021, with almost equal proportions coming from coal, oil, and natural gas operations. The 135 million tonnes from the entire sector, including nine megatonnes from incomplete wood burning and four Mt from inefficient fuel-burning equipment, accounted for 38% of methane emissions resulting from human activities, making energy a slightly less methane-intensive sector than agriculture.

The biggest sources of energy-related methane emissions were China, at 28 Mt, followed by Russia at 18 Mt and the United States at 17 Mt. Satellite measurements in 2021 picked up major methane releases from oilfields in Texas, Turkmenistan, and other parts of Central Asia.
» Read article     
» Read IEA’s Global Methane Tracker 2022

» More about fossil fuels

PLASTICS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

garbage pile
U.N. pact may restrict plastic production. Big Oil aims to stop it
By John Geddie, Valerie Volcovici and Joe Brock, Reuters
February 18, 2022

United Nations member states are set to meet this month in Nairobi to draft the blueprint for a global plastics treaty, a deal that could see countries agree for the first time to reduce the amount of single-use plastics they produce and use.

It’s being touted as the most important environmental pact since the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

A global explosion of disposable plastic, which is made from oil and gas, is increasing carbon emissions, despoiling the world’s oceans, harming wildlife and contaminating the food chain. More than 50 countries, including all 27 members of the European Union, are calling for the pact to include measures targeting plastic production.

That’s a problem for big oil and chemical companies. The industry is projected to double plastic output worldwide within two decades.

Publicly, plastic industry groups representing firms like ExxonMobil Corp (XOM.N), Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Dow Inc (DOW.N), have expressed support for a global agreement to tackle this garbage.

Behind the scenes, however, these trade organizations are devising strategies to persuade conference participants to reject any deal that would limit plastic manufacturing, according to emails and company presentations seen by Reuters, as well as interviews with a dozen officials involved in the negotiations.

Leading that effort is the American Chemistry Council (ACC), a powerful group of U.S.-based oil and chemical firms. The Washington-based ACC is attempting to forge a coalition of big businesses to help steer treaty discussions away from production restrictions, according to an Oct. 21 email sent from the trade group to a blind-copied list of recipients.
» Read article      

» More about plastics and the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 3/13/20

WNCI-6

Welcome back.

A lot of this week’s news relates to the widening effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. With public health a top priority, Weymouth Compressor Station opponents have begun to postpone some planned gatherings. You’ll see the virus take a lead role in articles throughout this post.

Opponents of the Granite Bridge Pipeline stood up and were counted at Exeter’s town meeting. Meanwhile, Greenpeace activists who blocked access to Houston’s oil port last September avoided felony charges for that unconventional act of protest.

We found some interesting examples of pending state and federal legislation. Even a quick scan of these articles offers insight about the support and opposition surrounding efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Our climate section underscores the urgency for action, including a recent report by the World Meteorological Organization that warns we’re falling far behind the emissions reduction schedule required to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

Clean transportation may benefit from General Motors’ recommitment to electric vehicles. The EV press is warily hopeful that the company is serious this time, since some of its past efforts have fallen short of the hype.

The fossil fuel industry is battered by low prices and falling demand at a time when fracking finances are already on shaky ground. At the same time, climate-related lawsuits multiply, advance, and demand a reckoning. Even so, the industry continues to wield incredible influence and remains a formidable barrier to meaningful action on climate change.

And last week, Rolling Stone published a big article calling out the plastics and fossil fuel industries for flooding the planet with forever-pollutants while working overtime to avoid shouldering the cleanup costs – passing those off to consumers and the environment. “More than half the plastic now on Earth has been created since 2002″….

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

gatherings discouraged
Coronavirus cancelations hit South Shore as residents, employers prepare
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger, in Wicked Local Weymouth
March 10, 2020

Weymouth resident Andrea Honore planned to host a political meet-and-greet with candidate Brianna Wu and several dozen others at her house on March 25, but said she decided to postpone the event on Monday after seeing that the countries forcing quarantines and limiting gatherings are having some success controlling the disease.
» Read article

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

NH Primary Source: Exeter voters oppose Granite Bridge pipeline
By John DiStaso, WMUR News
March 12,  2020

TOWN MEETING VOTE. Exeter voters on Tuesday turned thumbs down on the proposed Granite Bridge natural gas pipeline project, which is currently under review by the state’s Public Utilities Commission.

The project calls for a $414 million, 27-mile, 16-inch pipeline and a liquified national gas storage tank in Epping. If approved by the PUC, the project would then be subject to review by the state Site Evaluation Committee. Consultants hired by the PUC opposed approval of the project last fall.

The plan calls for the pipeline to be located on state property along Route 101 from Exeter to Manchester, passing through Brentwood, Epping, Raymond, Candia and Auburn.

Although the communities affected have no veto power, Exeter residents voted by a 1,605-897 margin, approving a warrant article that asks town officials to express opposition to the project.
» Read article

» More about the Granite Bridge Pipeline

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

hanging tough
Greenpeace Activists Avoid Felony Charges Following a Protest Near Houston’s Oil Port
Prosecutors in Harris County downgraded charges against a group of protesters to misdemeanors before a grand jury indictment Wednesday.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, InsideClimate News
March 6, 2020

Texas prosecutors downgraded charges filed against a group of Greenpeace activists on Wednesday, deferring a potential courtroom debate over a controversial new law the state passed last year.

More than two dozen protesters were arrested in September after several had dangled themselves off a bridge over the Houston Ship Channel, a vital conduit in one of the nation’s busiest oil ports.

The Harris County District Attorney’s office had originally charged the protesters with felonies under the new law, which imposes harsh penalties on anyone who disrupts energy infrastructure. But prosecutors changed the charges to misdemeanors on the same day that a grand jury indicted 23 of the protesters on those misdemeanors.
» Read article

» More about protests and direct action

LEGISLATION

misguided energy bill
Delayed Senate Energy Bill Promotes LNG Exports, ‘Clean Coal’ and Geoengineering
By Steve Horn, DeSmog Blog
March 11, 2020

The huge bipartisan energy bill currently stalled in the Senate would fast-track exports of fracked gas, offer over a billion dollars in subsidies to “clean coal” efforts and make available hundreds of millions in tax dollars for a geoengineering pilot project.

Called the the American Energy Innovation Act, the 600-page bill is a compilation of 50 bills previously introduced by members of Congress.

The legislation has thus far received bipartisan support because it contains subsidies for renewable energy sources including wind, solar, and geothermal. It also creates federal financial incentives for creating energy-efficient buildings and boosts funding for energy storage. For that, it has garnered lobbying support from the likes of the American Council on Renewable Energy, the Nature Conservancy, and the Environmental Defense Fund.

The act has garnered widespread fossil fuel industry approval from organizations such as the American Gas Association, American Petroleum Institute, industry front group the Consumer Energy Alliance, the petrochemical trade association the American Chemistry Council, the National Mining Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and a slew of others.

Outside of the renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage clauses, the energy bill contains provisions aiming to ease the way for exports of so-called “small scale” LNG export terminals, which rely on slightly smaller tankers and keep the LNG in liquid form instead of re-gasifying it.

The Senate bill also offers over $367.8 million in federal funding through 2024 to test out a geoengineering pilot project for a technique called direct air capture, which involves vacuuming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Geoengineering is a proposal to use various technologies with goals of either removing greenhouse gases already emitted or reversing global warming.
» Read article

Act on Climate 2020
Act on Climate bill faces resistance in [RI] House Environment Committee
By Steve Ahlquist, Uprise RI
March 8, 2020

Public testimony was heard by the House Environmental Committee on the Act on Climate 2020 bill, H7399. Dozens of people came out to testify for the short, simple bill that would strengthen Rhode Island’s commitment to fighting climate change through the establishment of a statewide greenhouse gas emission reduction mandate. The bill would require Rhode Island to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 100 percent by 2050 and would bring Rhode Island into line with the mandatory, enforceable greenhouse gas emission reductions already in place in neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut.
» Read article       
» Read Act on Climate 2020 bill H7399

Clean Economy Act VAVirginia Mandates 100% Clean Power by 2045
The Clean Economy Act will drive utility Dominion to procure gigawatts of solar, offshore wind and energy storage.
By Jeff St. John, GreenTech Media
March 6, 2020

Virginia has become the latest state to pass a law that sets it on a path to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045, as well as setting targets for massive investments in energy efficiency, energy storage, and in-state solar and wind power.

The Clean Economy Act passed Virginia’s House of Delegates by a 51-45 vote on Thursday and the state Senate by a 22-17 vote on Friday, clearing the way for the bill to be signed by Governor Ralph Northam, who issued an executive order calling for it last year.

The primary feature of the law, SB 851, is its call for Dominion Virginia (the state’s dominant utility) and the smaller Appalachian Power Co. to supply 30 percent of their power from renewables by 2030, and to close all carbon-emitting power plants by 2045 for Dominion and by 2050 for Appalachian.
» Read article 

fracking ban support
Over 570 Groups Endorse Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez’s Fracking Ban Act as ‘Essential and Urgent Climate Action’
“The path to a Green New Deal starts with bold action to restrict the supply of fossil fuels, and that is precisely why a ban on fracking is an absolute necessity.”
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
February 20, 2020


More than 570 national, regional, and local groups signed on to a letter Thursday endorsing the first-ever national legislation that would immediately prohibit federal permits for new fracking or related infrastructure and fully ban the practice in the United States beginning in 2025.

“At a time when study after study reveals the urgent need to rapidly move away from fossil fuels and onto 100% renewable energy, we write to express our strong support for the Fracking Ban Act,” declares the letter (pdf), organized by the national advocacy group Food & Water Action. “As we witness increasingly extreme impacts of the climate crisis, the federal government must act to stop the expansion of fossil fuels.”

The Fracking Ban Act (S. 3247/H. 5857) was introduced in the upper chamber last month by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a top 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, and in the lower chamber last week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a supporter of Sanders’ presidential campaign and the main House sponsor of the Green New Deal.
» Read article       
https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/02/20/over-570-groups-endorse-sanders-and-ocasio-cortezs-fracking-ban-act-essential-and
» Read letter
» Read The Fracking Ban Act (
S. 2347 / H. 5857)

» Read more about climate legislation

CLIMATE

you got to move
Trump Administration Presses Cities to Evict Homeowners From Flood Zones

By Christopher Flavelle, New York Times
March 11, 2020

WASHINGTON — The federal government is giving local officials nationwide a painful choice: Agree to use eminent domain to force people out of flood-prone homes, or forfeit a shot at federal money they need to combat climate change.

That choice, part of an effort by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect people from disasters, is facing officials from the Florida Keys to the New Jersey coast, including Miami, Charleston, S.C., and Selma, Ala. Local governments seeking federal money to help people leave flood zones must first commit to push out people who refuse to move.

In one city in the heartland, the letters have already started going out.
» Read article

Unisphere chiller
‘Time is fast running out’: World Meteorological Organization warns climate efforts are falling short
“Climate change is the defining challenge of our time,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.
By Denise Chow, NBC News
March 10, 2020

The world is significantly falling short when it comes to efforts to curb climate change, according to a new report released Tuesday by the World Meteorological Organization.

The intergovernmental organization’s assessment evaluated a range of so-called global climate indicators in 2019, including land temperatures, ocean temperatures, greenhouse gas emissions, sea-level rise and melting ice. The report finds that most of these indicators are increasing, which means the planet is veering way off track in trying to control the pace of global warming.
» Read article       
» Read report        

Hawaii dives in
‘Fossil Fuel Companies Knew’: Honolulu Files Lawsuit Over Climate Impacts
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
March 9, 2020

Hawaii has officially joined the fight to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the climate crisis. On Monday the City of Honolulu filed a lawsuit against 10 oil and gas companies, seeking monetary damages to help pay for costs associated with climate impacts like sea level rise and flooding.

The lawsuit, filed in Hawaii state court, is based on claims of nuisance, failure to warn, and trespass and alleges that the climate impacts facing the city stem from the oil companies’ decades-long campaign to mislead policymakers and the public on the dangers of fossil fuels.

“For decades and decades the fossil fuel companies knew that the products they were selling would have tremendous damaging economic impacts for local governments, cities, and counties that our taxpayers are going to be forced to bear,” Honolulu’s chief resilience officer Josh Stanbro said at a press briefing outside the courthouse on Monday. “Instead of disclosing that information, they covered up the information, they promoted science that wasn’t sound, and in the process have sowed confusion with the public, with regulators, and with local governments.”

“This case is very similar to Big Tobacco lying about their products, as well as the pharmaceutical companies pushing an opioid epidemic,” added Council Budget Chair Joey Manahan.
» Read article

state rights asserted
Maryland Climate Ruling a Setback for Oil and Gas Industry
The decision thwarts the fossil fuel industry’s argument that the city’s lawsuit belongs in federal court, and may influence similar cases around the country.
By David Hasemyer, InsideClimate News
March 6, 2020

A lawsuit for damages related to climate change brought by the city of Baltimore can be heard in Maryland state courts, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday. The decision is a setback for the fossil fuel industry, which had argued that the case should be heard in federal court, where rulings in previous climate cases have favored the industry.

In a unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit of Appeals dismissed the industry’s argument that the lawsuit was more appropriate for federal court because the damage claims should be weighed against federal laws and regulations that permitted the industry to extract oil and gas, the primary cause of the greenhouse gas emissions that drive global warming.
» Read article

» Read more about climate      

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Ultium platform
Inside Clean Energy: General Motors Wants to Go Big on EVs
The auto giant’s Bolt and Volt models never sold well, but now the company is touting a battery that has more range than Tesla’s.
By Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
March 12, 2020

General Motors had a splashy event last week to announce a rededication to electric vehicles.

A lot was said, but what got my attention was one number: $100 per kilowatt-hour.

That’s the battery cost at which the price of an EV will be at about parity with the cost of a gasoline vehicle, according to analysts. And that’s the number GM said it soon will meet and then beat with a new Ultium battery system it is developing through a partnership with LG Chem.

Another important number: GM said its new battery system will be capable of going up to 400 miles on a single charge, which is slightly more than the current industry leader Tesla’s range of about 390 miles.
» Read article       
» Reality check on the Tesla-beater claim

flight clinic
Coronavirus Could Slow Efforts to Cut Airlines’ Greenhouse Gas Emissions
By Brad Plumer and Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
March 6, 2020

The coronavirus outbreak is pushing the world’s airlines toward financial crisis — and that is starting to complicate efforts to tame airlines’ greenhouse gas emissions, which had been growing rapidly in recent years.

Even though, in the short term, airlines have seen a sharp decline in air travel, and therefore emissions, demand is widely expected to bounce back eventually as the world resumes its embrace of flying. But in the meantime, the airline industry, an increasingly important contributor of planet-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is citing the financial pain caused by the heath scare as reason to weaken longer-term efforts to fight global warming.
» Read article

» More about clean transportation       

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Senate hearing on climate threat to econ
In Senate Hearing, Economic Experts Warn Climate Crisis Could Spur Financial Crash Like 2008
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
March 12, 2020

Could the climate crisis precipitate a financial crash akin to or even greater than the one in 2008? With markets currently in turmoil due to the coronavirus pandemic, experts testified Thursday that there is high risk for an even larger economic crisis absent urgent climate policy.

A panel of economic experts brought this message to a handful of senators on Capitol Hill during a March 12 hearing convened by the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis. This hearing on the economic risks of climate change delivered a clear warning that continued inaction on climate will result in enormous economic and societal consequences.

In his closing remarks, Sen. Whitehouse called out the fossil fuel industry and its allies for continued obstruction of climate policy.

“At the moment, what I want to share with the panel and with the world, is that while some of the worst behavior of the fossil fuel industry has been moderated or obscured through deniable intermediaries, and while in my opinion evil institutions like the Heartland Institute appear to be suffering a collapse which could not be more helpful, nevertheless the prevailing political weight of the fossil fuel industry on this body, both directly and through its vast array of intermediary front groups, remains completely opposed to any serious climate legislation,” Whitehouse said.
» Read article

Permian flare Exxon
The Future of Exxon and the Permian’s Flaring Crisis

By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
March 11, 2020

On March 5, there was a sense of drama and tension unlike in years past as ExxonMobil’s top executives gathered for their annual Investor Day presentation, a highly anticipated event where the oil major lays out its plans for the next few years in an effort to woo investors.

Long a darling of Wall Street, that day the oil major’s share price had fallen to a 15-year low. Battered by a volatile oil market and increasing scrutiny over the climate crisis, investors wanted answers on how Exxon planned on dealing with the shifting landscape.

“ExxonMobil is committed to being part of the solution,” CEO Darren Woods said. “We’re investing in new energy supplies to improve global living standards, working on technologies that are needed to reduce emissions and supporting sensible policies, such as those putting a price on carbon or regulations to reduce emissions of methane.”

Beneath that rhetoric is a bitter reality: Exxon flares more gas than any other company in the Permian Basin, America’s most prolific oil field, emitting massive volumes of greenhouse gases as well as toxic pollution that fouls the air in West Texas. The oil giant’s long history of funding climate science denial has given way to a craftier position of pledging support for climate goals while leaving an aggressive drilling and growth strategy mostly unchanged.
» Read article 

BP what it takes
The Loopholes Lurking in BP’s New Climate Aims

By Emily Bugden and Kelly Trout, Oil Change International, Blog Post
March 11, 2020

What would a meaningful climate commitment from BP look like?

Figure 2 below gives a sense of what a serious commitment to the Paris goals would look like for BP. It shows Rystad Energy’s projection of BP’s production to 2050, based on the company’s existing plans, against the rate of decline for oil and gas use under the most precautionary illustrative 1.5ºC energy pathway included in the IPCC special report (P1, which excludes BECCS).

If BP is serious about aligning with the full ambition of the Paris Agreement, the company’s investment in new exploration and expansion would need to stop today. More than that, it would need to decide which already-developed projects it will shut down early.
» Read article

Mr Misstep
Stock Market Turmoil Undermines Claimed Energy Dominance Benefits of US Shale Drilling
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
March 9, 2020

Oil prices collapsed today amid falling energy demand and the global response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide reached over 113,000. On Friday, talks disintegrated inside the so-called OPEC+ alliance, which includes Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as well as non-OPEC members like Russia.

This breakdown kicked off a global oil price war that left Wall Street reeling on Monday, threatening the already troubled U.S. shale oil and gas industry and challenging the resilience of the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” theory that argues domestic shale oil production benefits national security and insulates the U.S. against the actions of other countries. Instead, relying on a shaky shale industry may have left the U.S. economy more vulnerable during times of crisis.

The price tag on a barrel of oil plunged over the weekend and continued its steep fall on Monday. Goldman Sachs Group warned that oil prices could fall as low as $20 a barrel. Meanwhile, the minimum price it would take for a new shale well to recoup its costs in Texas’ Permian basin is $48 a barrel, Goldman projects. In contrast, Saudi Arabia’s production costs are said to be $2.80 a barrel.
» Read article

what it means
Saudi Oil Price Cut Is a Market Shock With Wide Tremors
Oil producers in the United States and other nations brace for lower revenue, reduced investment and job losses as a global glut is compounded.
By Clifford Krauss, New York Times
March 9, 2020

HOUSTON — The sudden upheaval in the oil markets may claim victims around the world, from energy companies and their workers to governments whose budgets are pegged to the price of crude.

The fallout may take months to assess. But the impact on the American economy is bound to be considerable, especially in Texas and other states where oil drives much of the job market.

With the coronavirus outbreak slowing trade, transportation and other energy-intensive economic activities, demand is likely to remain weak. Even if Russia and Saudi Arabia resolve their differences — which led the Saudis to slash prices after Russia refused to join in production cuts — a global oil glut could keep prices low for years.
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boss move
How a Saudi-Russian Standoff Sent Oil Markets Into a Frenzy
Moscow refused to accept production cuts to offset the effect of the coronavirus outbreak. Now Saudi Arabia is trying an alternative: inflicting pain.
By Stanley Reed, New York Times
March 9, 2020

For the last three years, two factors have been hugely influential in the oil markets. The first has been the surge of shale oil production in the United States, which has turned the country from a large oil importer to an increasingly important exporter. The second is the alliance between Saudi Arabia and Russia, which recently have cooperated in trimming production to try to counter shale’s impact.

Now that cooperation between two of the world’s three largest oil producers — the third is the United States — appears to be at an end. Saudi Arabia, as the dominant member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, last week proposed production cuts to offset the collapse in demand from the spreading coronavirus outbreak. Russia, which is not an OPEC member, refused to go along. And the impasse has turned into open hostilities.
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dog day Dow
As Dow falls by 2,000 points, White House calls on Wall Street executives
Wall Street executives are to meet with President Trump on Wednesday to discuss the response to the outbreak.
By Lucy Bayly, NBC News
March 9, 2020

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged by more than 2,000 points Monday afternoon, part of a global market rout caused by collapsing oil prices and fears that the coronavirus epidemic would stymie the global economy.

Traders had anticipated a bloodbath on Monday, after oil prices cratered overnight by 30 percent and European exchanges saw their worst day since June 23, 2016, when Britain voted to leave the European Union.
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cheap and crude
Oil Prices, Stocks Plunge After Saudi Arabia Stuns World With Massive Discounts
By Avie Schneider, Camila Domonoske, NPR Morning Edition
March 8, 2020

Oil prices and stock indexes were in freefall Sunday after Saudi Arabia announced a stunning discount in oil prices — of $6 to $8 per barrel — to its customers in Asia, the United States and Europe.

Benchmark Brent crude oil futures dove 30% — the steepest drop since the Gulf War in 1991 — in early trading Sunday night before recovering slightly to a drop of 24%. The benchmark Brent crude oil price fell below $34 per barrel.

The oil price shocks reverberated throughout financial markets. Dow futures dropped more than 1,000 points, S&P 500 futures hit their limits after tumbling 5%, and the key 10-year Treasury note yield fell below 0.5%, a record low.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s second-largest producer, this weekend said it will actually boost oil production instead of cutting it to stem falling prices, in a dramatic reversal in policy.
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expensive and underperforming
‘Expensive and underperforming’: energy audit finds gas power running well below capacity
Report challenges justification for [Australia] government underwriting of up to five new gas-fired generators
By Adam Morton, the Guardian
March 7, 2020

Australia’s existing gas power plants are running well below capacity, challenging the justification for a Morrison government program that may support up to five new gas-fired generators, according to a new report.

Energy analyst Hugh Saddler, from Australian National University’s Crawford school of public policy, found the combined-cycle gas plants in the national grid – those expected to be available near constantly, sometimes described as “baseload” – ran at just 30% capacity across the past 18 months.

The Australia Institute, the thinktank that publishes Saddler’s monthly energy audit which includes the gas analysis, said it suggested the government’s commitment to underwrite new gas generators made little sense, and if it wanted to increase supply it should find ways to get the current fleet to operate at greater capacity.
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THE PLASTICS / FRACKING CONNECTION


planet plastic
Planet Plastic

How Big Oil and Big Soda kept a global environmental calamity a secret for decades
By Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone
March 3, 2020

More than half the plastic now on Earth has been created since 2002, and plastic pollution is on pace to double by 2030. At its root, the global plastics crisis is a product of our addiction to fossil fuels. The private profit and public harm of the oil industry is well understood: Oil is refined and distributed to consumers, who benefit from gasoline’s short, useful lifespan in a combustion engine, leaving behind atmospheric pollution for generations. But this same pattern — and this same tragedy of the commons — is playing out with another gift of the oil-and-gas giants, whose drilling draws up the petroleum precursors for plastics. These are refined in industrial complexes and manufactured into bottles, bags, containers, textiles, and toys for consumers who benefit from their transient use — before throwing them away.

“Plastics are just a way of making things out of fossil fuels,” says Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basel Action Network. BAN is devoted to enforcement of the Basel Convention, an international treaty that blocks the developed world from dumping hazardous wastes on the developing world, and was recently expanded, effective next year, to include plastics. For Americans who religiously sort their recycling, it’s upsetting to hear about plastic being lumped in with toxic waste. But the poisonous parallel is apt. When it comes to plastic, recycling is a misnomer. “They really sold people on the idea that plastics can be recycled because there’s a fraction of them that are,” says Puckett. “It’s fraudulent. When you drill down into plastics recycling, you realize it’s a myth.”
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» More about the plastics / fracking connection  

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