Tag Archives: green hydrogen

Weekly News Check-In 9/16/22

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Welcome back.

This has been one of those weeks when a particular theme connected wide-ranging news stories with a coherent thread. The so-called Law of the Instrument was having a moment. Simply stated, “If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”. That could be why utilities, in the face of growing calls for gas bans, see strategies like injecting hydrogen and “renewable natural gas” (RNG) into our current pipeline system that distributes fossil (natural) gas to homes and businesses, as a solution. Nice job, National Grid – “nailed” it!

It might also explain why private equity firms, rather than divesting from fossil fuels, continue pumping billions of dollars into projects that are exposing investors, including pensioners, to unknown financial risks as the planet burns and governments face escalating pressure to act.

The world is drowning in plastics. The solution? Make more! Two stories illustrate the pressures and the stakes for communities and the planet. A third story, describing fossil fuel industry efforts to chemically recycle plastics into… more fossil fuels… draws a line under our Law of the Instrument theme.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s motivating powerful people, though. That’s where the Law of the Instrument seems a bit naive. A more applicable rule might be the one widely attributed to either novelist Upton Sinclair or journalist-curmudgeon H. L. Mencken: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

We’re on thin ice whenever we ascribe motives to someone else’s actions, but “salary” (also wealth, power, influence, etc.) is a hard one not to settle on when observing industry resistance to the necessary and inevitable shift away from fossil fuels. Climate science lays out a very clear path to follow, and makes a strong case against continuing business as usual. But the fossil fuel industry continues to probe for opportunities to expand throughout Africa before countries there can leapfrog straight to clean generation. Utilities in this country knew for decades about coming climate impacts, yet chose to broadcast denial and sow confusion to buy more time to build profitable pipelines and power plants. The European Union is fully aware of the climate and ecosystem devastation resulting from their embrace of biomass energy, yet continue to classify it as a renewable resource.

It’s also easier to keep “not understanding” something when you can lock up pesky activists who try to get in your face about it. With help from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), anti-protest legislation is chilling actions against pipelines and other gas and oil expansion projects in 24 Republican-dominated states.

But let’s talk about the good stuff, starting with an explanation of the idea of a just transition to a green, sustainable economy. It’s a concept closely related to the environmental justice movement founded decades ago by Dr. Robert Bullard and others.

We took a tour through some exciting innovations that will help get us to that greener future. Clean energy is heading into deeper, windier waters with a big infusion of cash aimed at developing floating offshore wind. The Gulf of Maine and much of the West coast are too deep for today’s fixed turbine platforms.

Researchers at MIT and elsewhere announced initial success with a new kind of energy storage battery made from inexpensive, abundant materials, and promising excellent safety and durability performance. The importance of batteries in the modern grid can’t be overstated. A big reason California’s grid survived the recent record heatwaves is the massive batteries that have recently come online there.

In terms of powering electric transportation, engineers at Harvard are developing a solid state battery that appears to solve some of the reliability and lifecycle problems plaguing other design teams. Prototypes have shown an ability to last 10,000-lifetime cycles, and can charge in as little as three minutes.

We’re learning more about co-locating utility-scale solar installations on productive agricultural land. “Agrivoltaics” has come to a research corn field at Purdue, which is studying the impacts on crop production.

And finally, if the world can stop burning trees for energy and figure out how to reverse the decline of forests, sustainably-harvested timber could be used in mid-rise buildings as a substitute for steel and concrete – both huge carbon emitters. But we can’t see timber buildings as just another forest product to monetize, because that would further accelerate the decline of critical habitat.

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— The NFGiM Team

GAS BANS

home heat
Hydrogen shouldn’t have a role in heating buildings
Green hydrogen should only be used where decarbonization is difficult
By Kyle Murray, CommonWealth Magazine | Opinion
September 11, 2022

NATIONAL GRID New England President Stephen Woerner recently wrote an op-ed noting how Greek architects practiced “a methodical, systematic style that appropriately balanced aspiration with sound architectural order for enduring results.” He compared this approach to National Grid’s planned strategies for injecting hydrogen and “renewable natural gas” (RNG) into our current pipeline system that distributes fossil (natural) gas to homes and businesses. Had the ancient Greek architects utilized such a short-sighted approach, the Parthenon would have long since crumbled to dust.

Far from the safe and successful heating source that National Grid describes, hydrogen is a highly combustible fuel that poses a significant safety risk in the context of residential and commercial buildings.  In fact, the lion’s share of energy flowing through the gas system would still be made up of methane, a greenhouse gas that is more than 84 times as potent as carbon dioxide.

This methane can come in several forms – natural gas, “renewable natural gas,” or “synthetic natural gas” – but they all suffer from a common problem: producing, distributing, and using these fuels results in massive amounts of methane being released directly to the atmosphere. Updates to New York state’s greenhouse gas accounting for natural gas emissions revealed that over 47 percent of total emissions associated with natural gas consumption in New York are the result of methane leaks along the entire gas supply chain. Massachusetts has gas infrastructure that is in similar shape, if not worse.

In “Majority of US Urban Natural Gas Emissions Unaccounted for in Inventories,” a long-term study by Harvard scientists released in 2021, the authors found six times more methane leaking into the air around Boston than reported in the Massachusetts Greenhouse Gas Inventory compiled by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

[…] We agree with National Grid that there are industries which are genuinely difficult to decarbonize, such as shipping and aviation, and will require creative solutions that include green hydrogen. However, that is a far cry from utilizing it for home heating, where better choices are available. It’s essentially the equivalent of saying you could heat your home using $20 bills as kindling in your living room fireplace. Sure, you may be able to do it, but is that really the wisest idea?
» Read article       

» More about gas bans

LEGISLATION

Alec backlash
Revealed: rightwing US lobbyists help craft slew of anti-protest fossil fuel bills
Legislation drafted by Alec part of backlash against indigenous communities and environmentalists opposing oil and gas projects
By Nina Lakhani, The Guardian
September 14, 2022

Republican-led legislatures have passed anti-protest laws drafted by an extreme right corporate lobbying group in a third of all American states since 2018, as part of a backlash against Indigenous communities and environmentalists opposing fossil fuel projects, new research has found.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) helped draft legislation criminalizing grassroots protests against pipelines, gas terminals and other oil and gas expansion projects in 24 states, under the guise of protecting critical infrastructure.

Alec, which is funded by rightwing state lawmakers, corporate sponsors and trade groups, and wealthy ideologues, creates model legislation on a whole range of conservative issues such as gun control, abortion, education funding and environmental regulations.

The laws were passed in 17 Republican-controlled states, including Oklahoma, North and South Dakota, Kansas, West Virginia and Indiana, where protesters now face up to 10 years in prison and million dollar fines, according to a new report from the nonprofit Climate Cabinet.

The anti-protest bills, which were rolled out in response to the success of mostly Indigenous-led campaigns slowing down fossil-fuel infrastructure projects, have used intentionally vague language to create a chilling effect on free speech and assembly – both constitutionally protected rights, according to the report Critical Infrastructure Laws: A Threat to Protest & the Planet.

“Indigenous-led demonstrations opposing fossil-fuel projects have been one of the most successful and effective forms of climate action to date … in an affront to the protected freedoms of our constitution, state legislatures have found a new legislative mechanism to oppress frontline communities and cause further harm and destruction to our planet,” said Jonathon Borja, co-author of the report.
» Read article       

revolting
Progressive Revolt Against Manchin’s Energy Side Deal Could Snarl Government Funding
More than 70 House Democrats warned leadership against a special deal with West Virginia’s Democratic senator to win his Inflation Reduction Act support.
By Jonathan Nicholson, Huff Post
September 9, 2022

Seventy-two House Democrats, including several committee chairs, warned House leadership Friday not to agree to ease restrictions on new energy projects in the push to keep the federal government funded past Sept. 30.

The warning came in a letter organized by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, and follows similar opposition by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Senate. With Democrats holding paper-thin margins in each chamber, almost any defections on a temporary funding bill vote could cause big problems.

“In the face of the existential threats like climate change and MAGA extremism, House and Senate leadership has a greater responsibility than ever to avoid risking a government shutdown by jamming divisive policy riders into a must-pass continuing resolution,” Grijalva said in a statement about the letter.

“Permitting reform hurts already-overburdened communities, puts polluters on an even faster track, and divides the caucus. Now is just not the time,” he said.

Grijalva had been circulating the letter for weeks. Though it was signed by many members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, 19 of the signatories were not CPC members, according to a Natural Resources Committee spokesperson, and 13 signers were members of the pro-business New Democrat Coalition. The chairs of the Financial Services, Armed Services and Budget committees were among those who signed.

To keep government agencies open past the end of the government’s fiscal year on Sept. 30, Congress must pass at least a temporary funding bill, known as a continuing resolution. Continuing resolutions generally just keep funding at existing levels and allow the government to operate through a specific date until a longer-term agreement can be reached. But as must-pass legislation, they can and often do become legislative Christmas trees for lawmakers to festoon with other bills that could not pass on their own.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) reached an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in the summer to pass changes in site permitting requirements for new energy projects, including pipelines, in exchange for Manchin’s support of the Democrats’ big climate and tax law, the Inflation Reduction Act.

But with the IRA now signed and Manchin’s leverage gone, Democratic leaders face a tough fight to make good on Manchin’s “sidecar” pact, especially after Manchin angered progressives earlier in the process by causing the climate and tax bill to be stripped of most of its social spending.
» Read article       

» More about legislation

DIVESTMENT

private equity beachPrivate equity still investing billions in dirty energy despite pledge to clean up
Carlyle, Warburg Pincus and KKR are the worst offenders according to a new scorecard of private equity climate risks
By Nina Lakhani, The Guardian
September 14, 2022

Private equity firms pumping billions of dollars into dirty energy projects are exposing investors, including pensioners, to unknown financial risks as the planet burns and governments face escalating pressure to act, new research finds.

The first-of-its-kind climate risks scorecard ranks Carlyle, Warburg Pincus and KKR as the worst offenders among eight major private equity companies with significant fossil fuel portfolios.

All three continue investing heavily in greenhouse-gas-emitting projects with no adequate plan on transitioning away from oil and gas, according to the analysis by two financial watchdog non-profits of publicly available information. The firms also have scant transparency on political and climate lobbying, the report finds.

Private equity refers to an opaque form of financing away from public markets in which funds and investors buy and restructure companies including startups, troubled businesses and real estate operations.

The eight firms on the scorecard manage a combined $3.6tn in assets including about $216bn in energy projects – an amount equivalent to the fossil fuel financing by the world’s five biggest banks last year.

Carlyle is rated F, the lowest in the climate credentials scorecard that has been created by the Private Equity Stakeholder Project (Pesp) and Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund (Afref).
» Read article     
» Read the report and scorecard

» More about divestment

GREENING THE ECONOMY

JT explained
What does ​‘just transition’ really mean?
Here’s a primer on the term advocates use to describe the shift to a clean energy economy that benefits everyone.
By Alison F. Takemura, Canary Media
September 15, 2022

To address the climate crisis, the world must rapidly shift from fossil fuels to clean energy. For this transition to be a just one, we need to repair the harms of the fossil-fuel economy and equitably distribute the benefits of the clean energy economy, so that no one is left behind.

U.S. labor organizer Tony Mazzocchi is thought to have pioneered the concept of a just transition in response to the unfair treatment of workers as stronger environmental regulations throughout the 1970s and ​’80s led to job losses in toxic U.S. industries.

For example, in 1987 the Environmental Protection Agency brokered an agreement with the Velsicol Chemical Corporation under which the company stopped selling chlordane and heptachlor, two pesticides linked to cancer, liver damage and seizures. Not long after, Velsicol closed one of its manufacturing plants, located in Marshall, Illinois, and laid off all of its hourly workers. The EPA designated the facility a Superfund site and dedicated more than $10 million to its cleanup. But the plant’s employees, Mazzocchi wrote in a rousing 1993 article, were ​“tossed onto the economic scrap heap.”

Mazzocchi supported stricter environmental laws but also championed workers’ rights, arguing that the government should provide workers transitioning out of toxic industries with broad financial and educational support.

[…] The phrase ​“just transition” quickly took root among environmental justice advocates, who expanded the term to include support for communities who bear a disproportionate burden of industrial and fossil fuel pollution while being denied commensurate economic benefits. Among these are the low-income communities of color dwelling in sacrifice zones, where toxic air inflicts health problems such as asthma and high rates of cancer.

Today, as the clean energy economy gains momentum, a just transition is a rallying cry for fossil fuel workers and front-line communities. It has even taken on global resonance as countries with economies that rely on coal and other fossil fuels call for assistance from wealthier nations to help them switch to clean energy.

Crucially, the concept is as relevant to new industries in the energy transition as it is to old ones. The manufacturers of clean energy technologies can also exploit workers and communities — take, for example, forced Uyghur labor in China used to produce polysilicon, a key component of solar panels, and the often-problematic ways in which minerals integral to clean energy technologies are mined. A just transition also means improving conditions for those who work in or live near these industries.
» Read article

Robert Bullard
At 75, the Father of Environmental Justice Meets the Moment
The White House has pledged $60 billion to a cause Robert Bullard has championed since the late seventies. He wants guarantees that the money will end up in the right hands.
By Cara Buckley, New York Times
September 12, 2022

HOUSTON — He’s known as the father of environmental justice, but more than half a century ago he was just Bob Bullard from Elba, a flyspeck town deep in Alabama that didn’t pave roads, install sewers or put up streetlights in areas where Black families like his lived. His grandmother had a sixth grade education. His father was an electrician and plumber who for years couldn’t get licensed because of his race.

Now, more than four decades after Robert Bullard took an unplanned career turn into environmentalism and civil rights, the movement he helped found is clocking one of its biggest wins yet. Some $60 billion of the $370 billion in climate spending passed by Congress last month has been earmarked for environmental justice, which calls for equal environmental protections for all, the cause to which Dr. Bullard has devoted his life.

Some environmentalists have slammed the new legislation for allowing more oil and gas drilling, which generally hits disadvantaged communities the hardest. For Dr. Bullard, the new law is reason for celebration, but also caution. Too often, he said, federal money and relief funds are doled out inequitably by state and local governments, and away from people of color and poor communities, who are the most afflicted by pollution and most vulnerable to climate change. This might be a major moment for environmental justice, he said, but never before has so much been at stake.

“We need government watchdogs to ensure the money follows need,” Dr. Bullard said in a recent interview. “Climate change will make the inequities and disparities worse, and widen that gap. That’s why this time, we have to get this right.”
» Read article       

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

tipping points
Climate tipping points may be triggered even if warming peaks at 1.5C
By Fritz Habekuss, Bloomberg, in Boston Globe
September 9, 2022

The drought- and flood-stricken summer of 2022 has shown the impact of 1.1° Celsius of global warming — the amount that’s already occurred since pre-industrial times. Now a major scientific reassessment finds that several critical planetary systems are at risk of breaking beyond repair even if nations restrain warming to 1.5°C, the lower threshold stipulated by the Paris Agreement.

At that level of warming, coral reefs may die off, ice sheets in Greenland and the West Antarctic may melt and permafrost may abruptly thaw, according to a new paper in the journal Science.

The paper compiles evidence that major changes in the climate system, with massive environmental and societal consequences, are likely to occur at lower temperatures changes that previously assumed. It was written by a team of international scientists led by David Armstrong McKay of Stockholm University in Sweden and the University of Exeter in the UK.

“With this paper we show clearly that 1.5°C is not a climate limit to take lightly,” said Johan Rockström, one of the authors and director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “Exceed it, and we are likely to trigger several tipping points.” The current trajectory of planetary warming is estimated to reach about 2.6°C.

Rockström and colleagues analyzed global and regional “tipping points”— thresholds beyond which climatic changes become self-perpetuating. The authors break them down by sensitivity to warming and offer confidence levels of low, medium and high in estimating the temperatures that will trigger them and the timescales in which they may happen.

Crossing these thresholds isn’t the planetary equivalent of suddenly driving off a cliff, from safety to danger. Rather, every increment of warming raises the odds of changes that become self-perpetuating. “Every tenth of a degree counts,” Rockström said.

At about 1.5°C some tipping points may be reached, including for the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, accelerated thawing of boreal permafrost, and die-off of tropical coral reefs. But the authors “cannot rule out” that ice-sheet tipping points have already been passed and that some other tipping elements have minimum thresholds in range of 1.1°C to 1.5°C of warming.
» Read article       

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

make it float
The Biden administration’s big new plans for floating offshore wind turbines
Floating turbines can go where no fixed-bottom turbine has gone before
By Justine Calma, The Verge
September 15, 2022

The Biden administration announced splashy new goals today aimed at positioning the US as a leader in the development of next-generation floating wind turbines. The announcement substantially expands Biden’s previous offshore wind ambitions by opening up new areas that traditional fixed-bottom turbines haven’t been able to reach.

Those turbines haven’t been able to conquer depths greater than 60 meters deep, where most of the world’s usable offshore wind resources can be found. Nearly 60 percent of the US’s offshore wind resources are at those depths. That includes much of the west coast, which has lagged behind the East Coast when it comes to offshore wind development because the Pacific Ocean drops off steeply close to the California and Oregon shore.

“Offshore wind is a critical part of our planning for the future. Some of the nation’s best potential for wind energy is along the southern coast of Oregon and the northern coast of California,” Oregon Governor Kate Brown said on a press call. “At the same time, the depth of our oceans off the West Coast and other technical challenges necessitate the development of floating offshore wind technology,” Brown said.

By 2035, the Biden administration wants to deploy 15 gigawatts of floating offshore wind capacity. It would be enough energy to power more than 5 million American homes, according to the Department of Interior (DOI). To make that happen, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced nearly $50 million of funding to research and develop floating offshore wind technologies.

The US Departments of Energy, Interior, Commerce, and Transportation jointly launched what they’re calling the “Floating Offshore Wind Shot.” They plan to work together to bring down the costs of floating offshore wind energy by 70 percent. The goal is for the technology to reach $45 per megawatt hour by 2035. For comparison, the average cost of fixed-bottom offshore wind projects in the US was $84 per megawatt-hour in 2021.
» Read article       

bathtub ring
What the Western drought reveals about hydropower
By Jason Plautz, E&E News
September 13, 2022

The relentless Western drought that is threatening water supplies in the country’s largest reservoirs is exposing a reality that could portend a significant shift in electricity: Hydropower is not the reliable backbone it once was.

Utilities and states are preparing for a world with less available water and turning more to wind and solar, demand response, energy storage and improved grid connections. That planning has helped Western states keep the lights on this summer even in severe drought conditions.

Take California, which experienced record demand during a heat wave last week but did not have to impose any rolling blackouts. That’s despite the fact that hydropower — which on average makes up about 15 percent of the state’s power generation mix under normal conditions — has dipped by as much as half this summer.

“Obviously, water and energy are very much intertwined,” said Newsha Ajami, the director of urban water policy for Stanford University’s Water in the West initiative. “The interesting part here is that losing reliability in one is impacting reliability of the other. It’s hotter, it’s drier and people are using a lot more electricity as we rely on hydropower as one of our baseline power generators, but lake levels are lower.”

During the heat wave, officials timed releases from hydropower projects, which accounted for as much as 10 percent of the electricity for the state at some times of day, according to data from the California Independent System Operator. Elsewhere across the West, planners are accounting for growing demand while factoring in reductions in hydropower.

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, Southwestern hydropower and thermal power plant generation are “decreasing as a result of drought and rising temperatures.” A February study in the journal Water using World Wildlife Fund data found that by 2050, 61 percent of global hydropower dams will be at very high or extreme risk of droughts and/or floods.
» Read article      
» Read the study

» More about clean energy

ENERGY STORAGE

three shots
A new concept for low-cost batteries
Made from inexpensive, abundant materials, an aluminum-sulfur battery could provide low-cost backup storage for renewable energy sources.
By David L. Chandler, MIT News Office
August 24, 2022

As the world builds out ever larger installations of wind and solar power systems, the need is growing fast for economical, large-scale backup systems to provide power when the sun is down and the air is calm. Today’s lithium-ion batteries are still too expensive for most such applications, and other options such as pumped hydro require specific topography that’s not always available.

Now, researchers at MIT and elsewhere have developed a new kind of battery, made entirely from abundant and inexpensive materials, that could help to fill that gap.

The new battery architecture, which uses aluminum and sulfur as its two electrode materials, with a molten salt electrolyte in between, is described today in the journal Nature, in a paper by MIT Professor Donald Sadoway, along with 15 others at MIT and in China, Canada, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

“I wanted to invent something that was better, much better, than lithium-ion batteries for small-scale stationary storage, and ultimately for automotive [uses],” explains Sadoway, who is the John F. Elliott Professor Emeritus of Materials Chemistry.

In addition to being expensive, lithium-ion batteries contain a flammable electrolyte, making them less than ideal for transportation. So, Sadoway started studying the periodic table, looking for cheap, Earth-abundant metals that might be able to substitute for lithium. The commercially dominant metal, iron, doesn’t have the right electrochemical properties for an efficient battery, he says. But the second-most-abundant metal in the marketplace — and actually the most abundant metal on Earth — is aluminum. “So, I said, well, let’s just make that a bookend. It’s gonna be aluminum,” he says.

Then came deciding what to pair the aluminum with for the other electrode, and what kind of electrolyte to put in between to carry ions back and forth during charging and discharging. The cheapest of all the non-metals is sulfur, so that became the second electrode material. As for the electrolyte, “we were not going to use the volatile, flammable organic liquids” that have sometimes led to dangerous fires in cars and other applications of lithium-ion batteries, Sadoway says. They tried some polymers but ended up looking at a variety of molten salts that have relatively low melting points — close to the boiling point of water, as opposed to nearly 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit for many salts. “Once you get down to near body temperature, it becomes practical” to make batteries that don’t require special insulation and anticorrosion measures, he says.

The three ingredients they ended up with are cheap and readily available — aluminum, no different from the foil at the supermarket; sulfur, which is often a waste product from processes such as petroleum refining; and widely available salts. “The ingredients are cheap, and the thing is safe — it cannot burn,” Sadoway says.
» Read article      
» Obtain the technical paper

Kearny cubes
Op-Ed: California’s giant new batteries kept the lights on during the heat wave
By Mike Ferry, Los Angeles Times
September 13, 2022

California just stared down its most extreme September heat event in history and survived better than expected — thanks in part to a new system of huge, grid-connected batteries.

The severity and duration of this latest climate-driven heat tested the state’s electricity grid like never before, setting records for power demand that pushed the supply to its limits. But the system held. The lights stayed on.

Additional tests lie ahead, for California and other states and nations. But after this round, California has a clear lesson for the world: Battery storage is a powerful tool for grids facing new strains from heat, cold, fire, flood or aging networks. And just as important, batteries are key to the zero-carbon future we need to avoid even greater stresses down the line.

Californians delivered big time this month when asked to cut use at critical moments during the crisis. But without storage capacity from new battery systems, reducing demand might not have been enough, and many consumers would have faced painful outages.

To be clear, the batteries that saved California this month are not like the ones in your phone, tablet and laptop, or even the bigger batteries in some homes ready to provide power during outages. The batteries that saved California are big — industrial big. Individual units weigh tens of thousands of pounds, and entire systems can be larger than a football field.

Many are installed at utility-scale solar fields, while “standalone” systems are strategically located throughout the state. These are not small add-ons to our electricity grid — they play the role of major power plants. In fact, some of the biggest batteries literally occupy the real estate and buildings that once housed fossil-fueled generators. And California has more batteries than anywhere else in the world, having grown its fleet more than 10-fold in just the last two years. Altogether, California’s batteries are now its biggest power plant.

For the vast majority of the year, these batteries play an essential role in stabilizing the grid, smoothing power flows and balancing variable energy. They also play a big part in leveling wholesale energy prices by charging up when electricity is cheap — usually during the midday “solar peak” — then discharging the energy back to the grid later that day, when prices are higher, a practice that keeps the market in check and reduces energy costs for Californians. But early this month, these batteries went from being everyday workhorses to crisis saviors.
» Read article      

» More about energy storage

BUILDING MATERIALS

timber framed
‘Timber Cities’ Might Help Decarbonize the World
New research suggests that using wood for construction could avoid 100 gigatons of CO2 emissions through 2100, but building skylines of timber requires careful forest planning.
By Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News
September 12, 2022

Buildings constructed with more wood, and less cement and steel, would help decarbonize the construction and housing industries in line with global goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050, new research shows.

The paper, published Aug. 30 in Nature Communications, explains that building mid-rise wood dwellings to meet the demand from rapidly expanding urban populations could avoid about 100 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions through 2100—about 10 percent of the reduction needed to cap global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

“We do know we need to reach this net zero target as soon as possible,” said lead author Abhijeet Mishra, with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research. “Reaching 1.5 degrees is getting quite dicey to achieve. An earlier paper from our colleagues really looked at how buildings can be a global carbon sink.” But that work did not answer the question of where the wood would come from. “The idea was to fill that gap,” he said.

The scale of wood construction envisioned would require about 555,000 square miles of additional tree plantations, an area slightly bigger than Alaska, on top of the 505,000 square miles of tree farms that exist globally today.
» Read article      
» Read the paper

» More about building materials

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY RESOURCES

tasseling
Research seeks ways to grow solar and crops together in the skeptical Corn Belt
By Sarah Bowman/Indianapolis Star, Brittney J. Miller/The Gazette and Joshua Rosenberg/The Lens, in Energy News Network
September 14, 2022

Acres of corn stand tall on both sides of a narrow country road in northwest Indiana. It’s late August and the corn is tasseling, its golden crown coated in dew droplets that are glinting off the morning summer sun. Then there is a different gleam on the horizon, one that’s brighter.

Sprouting out of the corn like a super crop are four arrays of solar panels standing 20 feet high and towering above the stalks growing below. Both corn and panels are harvesting the sun.

“Either way, they are storing solar energy,” said Mitch Tuinstra, a professor of plant breeding and genetics at Purdue University. “One is storing them as electrons and the other in the plants.”

Tuinstra is one of several Purdue faculty and graduate students studying these solar arrays on the university’s research field, just a few miles off campus in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Farmland is well suited for solar development of all kinds, for the same reasons it’s good for growing crops — it’s largely flat, drains well and gets lots of sun. What makes these Purdue research panels different is that they haven’t taken farmland out of production — they’re built overtop of the corn itself.

It’s a practice known as “agrivoltaics” or “agrisolar,” where active farming and solar happen in the same place instead of separately. The approach brings many complications that researchers are still trying to address — but they see big benefits in trying to hone in on best practices.

Farmers who want to lease their land for solar as an extra income source will reap even more economic benefits if that land stays in production — and some approaches to agrivoltaics may even help the crops themselves, researchers say.

“We want to see if we can devise systems that have minimal losses in terms of crop productivity, while maximizing their electricity output,” Tuinstra said.

Moreover, he said, researchers want to see how the co-location strategy could be a salve to a growing strain between solar and farming in the Corn Belt — where residents and towns are pushing back on what they see as industrialization in rural communities.
» Read article       

» More about siting impacts of renewables

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Adden Energy
Harvard engineers develop solid-state battery with performance, reliability improvements
By Joey Klender, Teslarati
September 12, 2022

Engineers in the lab of Xin Li, an Associate Professor of Materials Science at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, have developed a new solid-state battery that is capable of 10,000-lifetime cycles and a charge rate as fast as three minutes. The revolutionary technology has brought in an exclusive grant from Harvard’s Office of Technology Development for Li’s startup Adden Energy, Inc., which will help develop cells with improvements in reliability and performance that could be used in future applications for electric vehicles.

Li, along with Fred Hu, William Fitzhugh, and Luhan Ye, all Ph.D. recipients at Harvard, founded Adden Energy in 2021. The startup was launched last year to help develop palm-sized pouch cells for various applications. The cells are essentially a trial run for future projects, which include a full-scale vehicle battery within the next three to five years.

“If you want to electrify vehicles, a solid-state battery is the way to go,” Li said in an interview with Harvard. “We set out to commercialize this technology because we do see our technology as unique compared to other solid-state batteries. We have achieved in the lab 5,000 to 10,000 charge cycles in a battery’s lifetime, compared with 2,000 to 3,000 charging cycles for even the best in class now, and we don’t see any fundamental limit to scaling up our battery technology. That could be a game changer.”

Solid-state batteries utilize a solid material to allow energy to flow from the cathode to the anode, instead of traditional lithium-ion cells, which utilize a liquid electrolyte solution. EV makers have not been able to switch to solid-state technology as of late due to its complex manufacturing processes. Additionally, researchers have not been able to find ideal solutions for the material it would utilize in the batteries, and this continues to be a pain point of the development.

However, Adden Energy’s grant from Harvard, along with a $5.15 million funding round earlier this year, will help develop the recently-successful palm-sized cell into an upstream process that will hopefully yield a new, full-scale EV battery. Adden’s cell achieved charging rates as fast as three minutes and over 10,000 cycles in its lifetime. It also displayed high energy density and stability that was incredibly more predictable than lithium-ion cells.

Li, along with other Adden founders, all maintain that developing a solid-state cell could help improve affordability, availability, and the overall EV market share.
» Read article       

» More about clean transportation

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

utility climate denail
America’s electric utilities spent decades spreading climate misinformation
Utilities knew about climate change as early as the 1960s and misled the public in order to continue turning a profit.
By Zoya Teirstein, Grist
September 7, 2022

America’s electric utilities were aware as early as the 1960s that the burning of fossil fuels was warming the planet, but, two decades later, worked hand in hand with oil and gas companies to “promote doubt around climate change for the sake of continued … profits,” finds a new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

The research adds utility companies and their affiliated groups to the growing list of actors that spent years misleading the American public about the threat of climate change. Over the past half decade, oil companies like BP and ExxonMobil have had to defend themselves in court against cities, state attorneys general, youth activists, and other entities who allege the world’s fossil fuel giants knew about the existence of climate change as far back as 1968, yet chose to ignore the information and launch disinformation campaigns. Recent investigations show the coal industry did something similar, as did fossil fuel-funded economists.

But while the role Big Oil played in misleading the public has been widely publicized, utilities’ culpability has largely flown under the radar. So researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara began collecting and analyzing public and private records kept by organizations within the utility industry.

[…] Emily Williams, a postdoctoral student at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the lead author of the study, told Grist that the documents provide a sense of when the utility industry’s climate denial began — and how it has evolved over time. The takeaways are stark: Utilities became aware of the dangers of burning fossil fuels in the 1960s and ‘70s, and acknowledged the risks it posed for the industry. “If [climate change turned] out to be of major concern, then fossil fuel combustion will be essentially unacceptable,” an article by the Electric Power Research Institute stated in 1977. But for the next two decades, those same utilities promoted false doubt about humanity’s role in climate change and tried to delay action. An article from the Edison Electric Institute published in 1989 said that, “any plan calling for urgent and extreme action to reduce utility CO2 emissions is premature at best.”

By the 2000s, the industry and its related groups had publicly acknowledged the scientific consensus that humans are largely responsible for warming the planet, but shifted from a strategy of denial to one of delay. The sector has spent some $500 million over the past two decades lobbying Congress and state legislatures against renewable energy and climate policies.
» Read article      
» Read the study

» More about electric utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

pyramid scheme
Exclusive: African civil society speaks out against continent’s $400bn gas trap
Civil society groups argue that $400bn being spent on natural gas will not benefit the African people, and would be better spent on the new green economy.
By Nick Ferris, Energy Monitor
September 14, 2022

Civil society groups have spoken out against plans to develop new gas infrastructure across Africa, as an investigation from Energy Monitor reveals that $400bn worth of new projects are on the way.

The figure is based on a new analysis of exclusive datasets provided by GlobalData, Energy Monitor’s parent company, and includes planned upstream, midstream and downstream developments. In all, it is worth around 15% of the entire GDP of Africa in 2021.

“The $400bn pipeline poses major threats to Africa’s energy sovereignty,” says Amos Wemanya from the Kenya-based think tank Power Shift Africa. “Beyond accelerating the already run-away climate crisis, investing in fossil fuels infrastructure such as pipelines risks leaving African economies with stranded assets and debts to repay.”

Avena Jacklin, from the South Africa-based environmental NGO Groundwork, adds that developing Africa’s gas pipeline will only benefit “European countries looking for alternative gas supplies, and oil and gas multinational corporations looking to make huge profits”.

“The IEA’s net-zero 2050 report states that if the world is to avoid irreversible, catastrophic climate change, no new oil and gas fields should be developed,” she said.

Debate rages over whether gas can be considered a ‘transition fuel’ for Africa. On the one hand, the remaining global carbon budget is so limited scientists now stress there is no scope for licensing new gas extraction if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. Renewables are also now a cheaper source of power in most markets.

At the same time, with more than 600 million people still lacking access to electricity and 930 million people lacking access to clean cooking fuels, Africa’s development needs remain profound. Many governments are keen to extract gas to bring in export revenue, while gas power plants represent a route to reliable grid power. Advocates for gas also point out that Africa is responsible for just 4% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions, and gas produces around half the emissions of coal when burnt.

Many African leaders are calling on rich nations to continue funding gas extraction and gas-fired power stations in their countries. At an August 2022 summit, the African Union (AU) called on nations to “continue to deploy all forms of its abundant energy resources including renewable and non-renewable energy to address energy demand”. It added that financing gas continues to make sense “in the short to medium term”.

However, many civil society groups take issue with this point of view.

“The AU’s position that Africa needs gas to develop is only intended to benefit developed countries and certain vested interests in Africa,” says Charity Migwi, a Kenya-based campaigner with grassroots environmental movement 350Africa. “It serves to delay and threaten the potential investments into clean, affordable, decentralised renewable energy for the people.

“Africa’s development relies on a rapid shift away from harmful fossil fuels and towards a sustainable energy future.”

Groundwork’s Jacklin agrees: “Investing $400bn in fossil fuel infrastructure means misdirecting limited resources that are needed to enable development of clean, affordable, easily deployable renewable energy systems to end Africa’s energy hunger.”
» Read article       

» More about fossil fuels

BIOMASS

weak compromise
EU votes to curb tree burning for fuel, but falls short of phasing it out
By Jim Regan, Renew Economy
September 15, 2022

The European Union is moving to limit the damage inflicted on the climate by its own biomass policies after voting for an exclusion of primary woody biomass subsidies and capping the amount that can count as renewable energy, drawing a mixed reaction from conservationists.

The vote by members of the European Parliament revises the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, which critics have claimed encourages member states to burn more trees in the name of climate action, despite this practice increasing harmful emissions.

While the EU Parliament’s environment committee previously agreed to end support for burning trees entirely, the latest vote is seen as a compromise that will still regard woody biomass as a source of renewable energy.

[…] In the EU, alone, scientists estimate that carbon emissions from burning woody biomass are now over 400 million metric tonnes per year – roughly equal to the combined CO2 emissions of Poland and Italy.

“EU bioenergy policies are a serious climate threat and for years have been a stain on EU climate leadership, but today marks a turning point for the first time an EU institution has recognised that burning trees might not be the best way of getting off fossil fuels and stopping runaway climate change.” said Alex Mason, head of EU climate and energy policy at WWF European Policy Office.

“But there’s still some way to go. A majority in the parliament is still in thrall to the biofuels lobby, and can’t seem to understand that growing crops to burn just increases emissions compared to fossil fuels,” Mason said.

Conservationists have also voiced concerns that the outcome of Wednesday’s vote will mean that the EU continues to promote the burning of forest wood as a source of renewable energy to member states.

“Burning trees and crops for energy destroys nature and exacerbates the climate crisis,” said Ariel Brunner, head of policy for Birdlife Europe. “It should not be supported as a renewable energy.”

He said  it was “disappointing” that the parliament “agreed to a weak compromise” that does little to protect tree populations.
» Read article      

» More about biomass

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Cancer Alley skyline
Judge Tosses Air Permits For $9.4 Billion Louisiana Plastics Plant
The sharply worded ruling dismantled the state Department of Environmental Quality’s rationale for permits that would have allowed Formosa Plastics to emit more than 800 tons of toxic pollution a year into predominantly Black St. James Parish. “People’s lives are worth more than plastic,” says one activist.
By James Bruggers, Inside Climate News
September 15, 2022

Citing a litany of failures by Louisiana environmental regulators, including their analyses of environmental justice and climate impacts, a state judge has thrown out the air permits for a giant plastics manufacturing complex to be located 55 miles west of New Orleans.

The decision is another major blow to the $9.4 billion Formosa Plastics complex, which in 2020 was forced, following a separate lawsuit, to revisit a Clean Water Act permit that had been issued, and then suspended, by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which had put the project on hold.

When the complex and its planned 10-year buildout was announced by Formosa in 2018, it was hailed by Gov. John Bel Edwards as an economic boon and source of 1,200 jobs. But the complex, to be built on 2,400 acres along the Mississippi River in St. James Parish, has also faced fierce opposition from local and national environmental groups fighting to curtail greenhouse gas emissions amid a climate crisis.

Point by point in a sharply worded 34-page ruling made public on Wednesday, 19th Judicial District Judge Trudy White dismantled the rationale for some 15 air permits that the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued for the massive complex. The permits would have allowed Formosa to emit more than 800 tons per year of toxic pollution into a predominantly Black, low-income community, and send as much as 13.6 million tons per year of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, an amount roughly equivalent to 3.5 coal-fired power plants.

“I think this is the beginning of a change,” said Sharon Lavigne, founder and president of RISE St. James, one of several local and national environmental groups that brought the lawsuit in 2019. “It’s a beginning. It’s a new way this industry is going to do business. It will make DEQ think twice” in future permit applications.

In the end, she said, the ruling “is about saving our lives.”

In Louisiana, the petrochemical industry “is used to getting what it wants,” said Corinne Van Dalen, senior attorney at Earthjustice, the nonprofit legal organization that represented plaintiff groups, and the lead attorney on the case. “This is how they do their work and this decision dismantles that.”
» Read article      
» Read the ruling

titans
The Titans of Plastic
Pennsylvania becomes the newest sacrifice zone for America’s plastic addiction.
By Kristina Marusic, Environmental Health News
September 15, 2022

During the summer of 2018, two of the largest cranes in the world towered over the Ohio River. The bright-red monoliths were brought in by the multi-national oil and gas company Shell to build an approximately 800-acre petrochemical complex in Potter Township, Pennsylvania—a community of about 500 people. In the months that followed, the construction project would require remediating a brownfield, rerouting a highway, and constructing an office building, a laboratory, a fracked-gas power plant, and a rail system for more than 3,000 freight cars.

The purpose of Shell’s massive complex wasn’t simply to refine gas. It was to make plastic.

Five years after construction began at the site, Shell’s complex, which is one of the biggest state-of-the-art ethane cracker plants in the world, is set to open. An important component of gas and a byproduct of oil refinery operations, ethane is an odorless hydrocarbon that, when heated to an extremely high temperature to “crack” its molecules apart, produces ethylene; three reactors combine ethylene with catalysts to create polyethylene; and a 2,204-ton, 285-foot-tall “quench tower” cools down the cracked gas and removes pollutants. That final product is then turned into virgin plastic pellets. Estimates suggest that a plant the size of the Potter Township petrochemical complex would use ethane from as many as 1,000 fracking wells.

Shell ranks in the top 10 among the 90 companies that are responsible for two-thirds of historic greenhouse gas emissions. Its Potter Township cracker plant is expected to emit up to 2.25 million tons of climate-warming gases annually, equivalent to approximately 430,000 extra cars on the road. It will also emit 159 tons of particulate matter pollution, 522 tons of volatile organic compounds, and more than 40 tons of other hazardous air pollutants. Exposure to these emissions is linked to brain, liver, and kidney issues; cardiovascular and respiratory disease; miscarriages and birth defects; and childhood leukemia and cancer. Some residents fear that the plant could turn the region into a sacrifice zone: a new “Cancer Alley” in Beaver County, Pennsylvania.

“I’m worried about what this means for our air, which is already very polluted, and for our drinking water,” said Terrie Baumgardner, a retired English professor and a member of the Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community, the main local advocacy group that fought the plant. Baumgardner, who is also an outreach coordinator at the Philadelphia-based nonprofit environmental advocacy group Clean Air Council, lives near the ethane cracker. In addition to sharing an airshed with the plant, she is one of the approximately 5 million people whose drinking water comes from the Ohio River watershed. When Shell initially proposed the petrochemical plant in 2012, she and other community advocates tried their best to stop it.

And the plant’s negative impact will go far beyond Pennsylvania. Shell’s ethane cracker relies on a dense network of fracking wells, pipelines, and storage hubs. It’s one of the first US ethane crackers to be built outside the Gulf of Mexico, and one of five such facilities proposed throughout Appalachia’s Ohio River Valley, which stretches through parts of Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. If the project is profitable, more like it will follow—dramatically expanding the global market for fossil fuels at a time when the planet is approaching the tipping point of the climate crisis.

For the residents who live nearby, Shell’s big bet on plastic represents a new chapter in the same story that’s plagued the region for decades: An extractive industry moves in, exports natural resources at a tremendous profit—most of which flow to outsiders—and leaves poverty, pollution, and illness in its wake. First came the loggers, oil barons, and coal tycoons. Then there were the steel magnates and the fracking moguls.

Now it’s the titans of plastic.
» Read article      

» More about plastics, health, and the environment     

PLASTICS RECYCLING

opposite of progress
A New Plant in Indiana Uses a Process Called ‘Pyrolysis’ to Recycle Plastic Waste. Critics Say It’s Really Just Incineration

After two years, Brightmark Energy has yet to get the factory up and running. Environmentalists say pyrolysis requires too much energy, emits greenhouse gases and pollutants, and turns plastic waste into new, dirty fossil fuels.
By James Bruggers, Inside Climate News
September 11, 2022

ASHLEY, Indiana—The bales, bundles and bins of plastic waste are stacked 10 feet high in a shiny new warehouse that rises from a grassy field near a town known for its bright yellow smiley-face water tower.

Jay Schabel exudes the same happy optimism. He’s president of the plastics division of Brightmark Energy, a San Francisco-based company vying to be on the leading edge of a yet-to-be-proven new industry—chemical recycling of plastic.

Walking in the warehouse among 900 tons of a mix of crushed plastic waste in late July, Schabel talked about how he has worked 14 years to get to this point: Bringing experimental technology to the precipice of what he anticipates will be a global, commercial success. He hopes it will also take a bite out of the plastic waste that’s choking the planet.

[…] But the company, which broke ground in Ashley in 2019, has struggled to get the plant operating on a commercial basis, where as many as 80 employees would process 100,000 tons of plastic waste each year in a round-the-clock operation.

Schabel said that was to change in August, with its first planned commercial shipment of fuel to its main customer, global energy giant BP. But a company spokesman said in mid-August that the date for the first commercial shipment had been pushed back to September, with “full-scale operation…extending through the end of the year and into 2023.”

[…] Its business model must contend with plastics that were never designed to be recycled. U.S. recycling policies are dysfunctional, and most plastics end up in landfills and incinerators, or on streets and waterways as litter.

Environmental organizations with their powerful allies in Congress are fighting against chemical recycling and the technology found in this plant, known as pyrolysis, in particular, because they see it as the perpetuation of climate-damaging fossil fuels.

“The problem with pyrolysis is we should not be producing more fossil fuels,” said Judith Enck, a former regional director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the founder and executive director of Beyond Plastics, an environmental group. “We need to be going in the opposite direction. Using plastic waste as a feedstock for fossil fuels is doubling the damage to the environment because there are very negative environmental impacts from the production, disposal and use of plastics.”
» Read article       

» More about plastics recycling     

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Weekly News Check-In 4/22/22

banner 02

Welcome back.

We’ll jump right in with climate reports, because it turns out that after several years of increasingly urgent, hair-on-fire warnings from the United Nations, scientists, and governments, we in Massachusetts appear to be less concerned than we were before. The pandemic, inflation, and the war in Ukraine to have distracted our attention, and those things have given us too many excuses to delay real action.

So what we have is a mixed bag. The fossil fuel industry has long bankrolled a sophisticated disinformation and denial campaign, and the richest countries in the world continue to finance new development projects. We even have a brand new gas peaker plant under construction in Peabody, MA! But there’s also pushback, like the Massachusetts legislature’s good work on a new, nuts & bolts bill designed to execute the broad goals expressed in the 2021 climate “roadmap” law.

The Biden administration finds itself on both sides of this fence. We reported last week on the discouraging (and transparently political) move to sell more oil and gas leases. On the flip side, Biden is increasing the build-out of renewable energy on public lands, and has restored part of an environmental law that was gutted by the Trump administration, “requiring that climate impacts be considered and local communities have input before federal agencies approve highways, pipelines, and other major projects”. Hopefully this constitutes clear guidance for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which recently made a quavering attempt to consider climate impacts of pipelines, but freaked out when the gas industry expressed displeasure.

Before we move on from the topic of natural gas, let’s consider two articles describing how gas utilities are doubling down on their campaign to preserve their pipeline distribution model at all costs – touting far-fetched, false solutions as a way to continue pushing volatile fuel into homes and businesses. Natural gas is primarily methane – a powerful greenhouse gas – and it leaks from every point along the line from production to end use – sometimes spectacularly.

A primary reason the gas distribution model has no future is that modern heat pumps can replace fossil fuel furnaces and boilers, even in frosty New England. As we electrify building heat, we expect some stubborn gas utility obstruction – and we’re getting plenty of that. Less obvious is resistance coming from HVAC installers, especially considering how much they have to gain as communities convert en masse to new equipment. But change is inevitable.

Even the mundane process of charging electric vehicles is evolving. Soon, the idea of plugging in your EV to do nothing but charge overnight will seem as antiquated as heating with gas. With bi-directional charging, the vehicle’s large battery and stored energy can be available for all sorts of uses, from utility demand management to emergency backup power – all while leaving plenty of juice for driving. This can generate income for the individual or fleet EV owner while adding resiliency and flexibility to the grid.

We’ll close with a look at liquefied natural gas, and how the industry is using the Russian invasion of Ukraine to continue its long fight against controlling toxic emissions at export terminals. Also, read about the biomass industry’s lobbying campaign to keep the fires burning under Europe’s dirtiest “renewable” energy.

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

PEAKING POWER PLANTS

stop Peabody peaker
What to know about a planned natural gas ‘peaker’ plant in Mass
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
April 08, 2022

This week’s new climate report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is very clear that the world needs to stop building new fossil fuel infrastructure immediately. In fact, to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, countries need to actively decommission a lot of the oil, gas and coal infrastructure that already exists.

Massachusetts also has strong climate laws and has committed to hitting “net zero” emissions by 2050. So why, in 2022, is the state allowing the construction of a new natural gas and diesel-fired power plant in Peabody?

Project opponents say plans for the so-called “peaker” plant are antithetical to the state’s goals, and that the utility group behind the project has not been transparent in their proceedings.

But work on the plant has continued despite the protests, and project managers say the facility will be up and running by 2023.

Whether you’re familiar with this proposed power plant and have questions, or you’re hearing about it for the first time, here’s what you need to know:
» Read article or listen to broadcast    

» More about peakers

DIVESTMENT

advantage oil
Database Shows Rich Governments Funding Fossil Fuels Over Clean Energy
“G20 international public finance is currently blocking a just energy transition, bankrolling 2.5 times more fossil fuels than clean energy.”
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
April 20, 2022

A new online tool launched Wednesday by a U.S.-based advocacy group details how international public finance is continuing to fuel the climate emergency rather than sufficiently funding a just transition to clean energy.

Oil Change International (OCI) unveiled its Public Finance for Energy Database—accessible at energyfinance.org—along with a briefing that lays out key findings, why the group is monitoring public finance for energy, and how these institutions “are uniquely positioned to catalyze a just, transformative, and rapid transition.”

The open-access tool targets development finance institutions (DFIs), export finance agencies (ECAs), and multilateral development banks (MDBs), focusing on Group of 20 (G20) countries, the world’s biggest economies. The website features a data dashboard as well as a policy tracker.

“Public finance shapes our future energy systems,” the briefing states, explaining that these “institutions’ investments total $2.2 trillion a year: an estimated 10% of global financial flows. Worldwide, 693 government-owned or operated banks own assets worth about $38 trillion and if central banks, sovereign wealth funds, pensions, and multilateral banks are also included, this doubles to $73 trillion.”

“The impact of this finance reaches beyond its own scale because public finance has an outsized influence on the decisions private financiers make,” the document adds. “This is because public finance has government-backed credit ratings, is often provided at below-market rates, often has larger research and technical capacity, and signals broader government priorities. All of this helps make a project a less risky and more attractive investment.”

The briefing points out that “G20 international public finance is currently blocking a just energy transition, bankrolling 2.5 times more fossil fuels than clean energy.”
» Read article   
» Access the database

» More about divestment

LEGISLATION

MA Statehouse
Senate passes big climate bill focused on getting to net-zero
By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service, on WBUR
April 15, 2022

Senators took a major step Thursday toward achieving the net-zero emissions target they already set for Massachusetts by approving a policy-heavy bill aimed at expanding the clean energy industry and reining in emissions from the transportation and building sectors.

Nearly 12 hours after they kicked off debate, senators voted 37-3 on legislation (S 2819) that faces an unclear future as negotiators prepare to reconcile it with a smaller-scope bill that cleared the House (H 4515). All three of the chamber’s Republicans, who unsuccessfully pushed an alternative proposal, voted against the final measure.

Along the way, the Senate adopted 45 amendments — including one that calls for attempting to nearly double the amount of offshore wind energy generated for Massachusetts over the next decade-plus — leading to what Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee Chair Sen. Michael Barrett called “a product here that is much better than when we started.”

The legislation, which comes on the heels of a 2021 law committing to reaching net-zero emissions statewide by 2050, would pump $250 million into clean energy expansion, electric vehicle incentives, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. It would also overhaul the offshore wind procurement process, require greater scrutiny on the future of natural gas, and allow some cities and towns to restrict the use of fossil fuels in new construction.

“Last year’s climate bill was about laying out a plan for tackling this formidable challenge of climate change. This year, in this legislation, we propose to begin to execute on the plan. If you like metaphors, last year was about laying out a roadmap, today we start traveling down the road. That’s why this is all about implementation,” Barrett, a Lexington Democrat, said on the Senate floor. “I am happy beyond measure, I am so happy, that this Senate has the courage to move beyond roadmapping and beyond laying out a template and is in favor of getting to the question of implementation and execution.”
» Read article    

» More about legislation

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

providing certainty
FERC must stand strong against industry pressure to weaken climate and environmental justice policies
By Moneen Nasmith, Utility Dive | Opinion
April 20, 2022

[…] Federal law requires FERC to consider a broad range of factors when assessing how gas infrastructure projects, like pipelines and export terminals, impact the public. Gas projects often cause significant harm to the climate and communities. They release methane pollution — a potent greenhouse gas that is a major contributor to the climate crisis — and facilitate the burning of fossil fuels for decades to come. And they degrade air quality and threaten public health, often in low-income communities and communities of color already overburdened with pollution.

But FERC has long overlooked the environmental costs of gas projects while accepting unsubstantiated claims by industry about their alleged benefits. The agency has historically rubberstamped nearly all the gas projects that came before it, without seriously considering whether they are even needed. As a result, these projects have been vulnerable to litigation — and FERC and the pipeline industry keep losing in court.

Most recently, the D.C. Circuit Court ruled in March that FERC failed to adequately assess the greenhouse gas emissions from a compressor station and gas pipeline in Massachusetts. Food & Water Watch and Berkshire Environmental Action team, a community group, filed a lawsuit challenging FERC’s approval of the project without considering climate impacts. The court agreed and ordered FERC to redo its environmental analysis.

To improve its broken review process, FERC recently proposed two common-sense policies to consider adverse effects like greenhouse gas emissions and environmental injustice when it reviews gas projects. The first outlines four factors the agency will consider before approving pipeline projects, including environmental impacts and the interests of environmental justice communities. The second lays out how the agency will quantify and evaluate the impacts from greenhouse gas emissions from a gas project, including pipelines and export terminals. These policies better balance the pros and cons of building new gas projects — something the courts have effectively been directing FERC to do.

Predictably, the fossil fuel industry and their political allies came out in full force to attack the new policies and pressure FERC to weaken and delay implementation of its policies. Gas companies claimed the new policies create uncertainty and will reduce investment in new pipelines and export terminals. But the reality is that the policies will reduce uncertainty for all stakeholders by ensuring that new projects are legally sound.
» Read article   

» More about FERC   

GREENING THE ECONOMY

narrow lakeBiden restores parts of environmental protection law, reverses Trump policy
By Lisa Friedman New York Times, in Boston Globe
April 19, 2022

The Biden administration will announce Tuesday that it is restoring parts of a bedrock environmental law, once again requiring that climate impacts be considered and local communities have input before federal agencies approve highways, pipelines, and other major projects.

The administration plans to resurrect requirements of the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act that had been removed by President Donald Trump, who complained that they slowed down the development of mines, road expansions, and similar projects.

The final rule announced Tuesday would require federal agencies to conduct an analysis of the greenhouse gases that could be emitted over the lifetime of a proposed project, as well as how climate change might affect new highways, bridges, and other infrastructure, according to the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The rule would also ensure agencies give communities directly affected by projects a greater role in the approval process.

Brenda Mallory, chairwoman of the council, described the regulation as restoring “basic community safeguards” that the Trump administration had eliminated.

[…] Administration officials said the new rule would not have major immediate impacts since the Biden administration had already been weighing the climate change impacts of proposed projects. But it would force future administrations to abide by the process or undertake a lengthy regulatory process and possibly legal challenges to again undo it.

The National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970, after several environmental disasters including a crude oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, and a series of fires on the heavily polluted Cuyahoga River in Ohio that shocked the nation.

It mandates federal agencies to assess the potential environmental impacts of proposed major federal actions before allowing them to proceed. Agencies are not required to reject projects that might worsen climate change — only to examine and report the impacts.
» Read article    

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

unfocused
As Earth’s temperature rises, Massachusetts residents’ sense of urgency on climate change declines
By Sabrina Shankman and Dharna Noor, Boston Globe
April 19, 2022

Despite increasingly urgent international warnings and an onslaught of catastrophic wildfires and weather linked to global warming, fewer Massachusetts residents see the climate crisis as a very serious concern than they did three years ago, according to a new poll.

It’s not that respondents weren’t aware of the climate threat; a large majority acknowledged that symptoms of the crisis such as increased flooding, extreme heat waves, and more powerful storms are either already happening or very likely within five years, according to the poll, a collaboration of The Boston Globe and The MassINC Polling Group. And more than three quarters called climate change a “very serious” or “serious” concern.”

But with a pandemic and war in Ukraine as a backdrop, fewer than half, 48 percent, ranked climate in the highest category of concern, down from 53 percent in 2019, the last time the poll was taken. Less than half said they would vote along climate lines or take steps such as switching their home heat off fossil fuel.

“Climate change is the kind of issue where people still think they can put it off on the back burner of their minds, especially when they’re dealing with COVID, when they’re dealing with inflation, when they’re dealing with all kinds of other terrible things in the world,” said Richard Parr, research director with The MassINC Polling Group.
» Read article    

gap
G20 Falling Behind, Canada Dead Last in Widening Gap Between Climate Pledges, Climate Action
By Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix
April 22, 2022

G20 countries are falling behind on the all-important “say-do gap” between their 2030 emission reduction pledges and the climate action they’re actually taking, and Canada shows up dead last among the 10 wealthiest nations in the group, according to the first annual Earth Index released this week by Corporate Knights.

The analysis [pdf] points to some signs of progress, particularly in electricity generation in high-income countries. But it shows slower action in other sectors and warns that middle-income G20 countries are producing three times the emissions of the wealthiest—a trend that will continue without much wider, faster efforts to transfer proven technologies and techniques to the parts of the world that need them.

Corporate Knights CEO Toby Heaps said G20 countries’ climate commitments to date would hold average global warming to 1.8°C, citing an assessment released by the International Energy Agency during last year’s COP 26 climate summit. That outcome would “still be destructive, but it’s a scenario where we can still thrive, species can thrive, and our civilization can thrive,” Heaps told a webinar audience Wednesday.

The problem is the gap, he added, with the latest working group report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showing warming on a trajectory for 3.2°C.
» Read article   
» Read the Earth Index

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

Zion solar
Biden Admin Wants to Nearly Double Renewable Energy Capacity on Public Lands by 2023

By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
April 21, 2022

The Biden administration on Wednesday announced the steps it was taking to increase the amount of renewable energy projects on public lands.

The plans include increasing renewable energy capacity by almost 10,000 megawatts by 2023, which would nearly double existing capacity, The Hill reported.

“The Department of the Interior continues to make significant progress in our efforts to spur a clean energy revolution, strengthen and decarbonize the nation’s economy, and help communities transition to a clean energy future,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a press release. “The demand for renewable energy has never been greater. The technological advances, increased interest, cost effectiveness, and tremendous economic potential make these projects a promising path for diversifying our national energy portfolio, while at the same time combating climate change and investing in communities.”

The new steps announced by Biden’s Department of the Interior (DOI) Wednesday all advance towards the goal of permitting 25 gigawatts of renewable energy on public lands by 2025 and creating a carbon-free power grid by 2035.
» Read article    

CT green H2 path
CT plans a green hydrogen path, but it has potholes

By Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT Mirror
April 13, 2022

“Green hydrogen” seems to be the climate change solution of the moment — a not-widely-understood substance now talked up by the Biden administration, northeastern governors and Connecticut lawmakers, as well as the few people here who actually know what green hydrogen is.

Among other initiatives, the Biden administration has launched a competition for four hydrogen “hubs” that will share $8 billion in federal funds to develop, well, something. Connecticut is partnering with New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts to come up with a proposal for what one such something might be. Separately, the Connecticut legislature is considering a bill to establish a task force to study green hydrogen’s potential in the state and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is planning for a hydrogen component in its new Comprehensive Energy Strategy. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) includes hydrogen among the mitigation strategies in its final and alarming 6th assessment report released last week.

But the environmental community is, at best, wary of green hydrogen. Some are downright opposed to aspects of making and using it and even more worried about non-green hydrogen. Even green hydrogen’s biggest supporters admit it has limitations and is not a silver bullet for addressing climate change.

“A lot of really important questions come with this policy area,” said Katie Dykes, DEEP’s commissioner. “What is the hydrogen being produced with? What are the emissions associated with the production of the hydrogen? How is it being transported and stored? What are you using it for?

“Those are more questions than answers.”

So what is green hydrogen exactly and is its potential in mitigating climate change worth getting excited about? The answer is complicated.
» Read article    

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

heat pump rebates
Unlikely gatekeepers in the fight against climate change: HVAC contractors
Rebates encourage homeowners to embrace climate-friendly heating systems. Will contractors block or bolster the switch to heat pumps?
By Eve Zuckoff, CAI Public Radio
February 23, 2022

Homeowners looking to replace their heating systems can now receive up to $10,000 to switch from boilers and furnaces to air source heat pumps. The rebates are part of the state’s ambitious plan to lower carbon emissions and address climate change.

But for the state’s plan to work, it needs more than the support of homeowners and environmental activists. It needs your local heating and cooling contractor.

[…] Today, 27 percent of Massachusetts’ total carbon emissions come from heating and water heating in homes and other buildings, according to data from the state. To drastically cut those emissions, state officials want 1 million homes to rely on electric heat pumps, rather than boilers and furnaces, by 2030.

While powerful financial incentives from Mass Save, the state’s energy-efficiency program, are expected to attract homeowners, it’s up to contractors to heed the call. Some say they’re ready.

“I would say nine out of 10 – if not more– of our jobs are heat pump jobs and we’re doing several hundred jobs a year,” said Jared Grier, owner of an HVAC company in Marstons Mills that’s betting hard on the future. It’s called Cape Cod Heat Pumps.

Home heating systems are expensive for most homeowners, but rebates can create a competitive advantage for heat pumps.

Like many contractors, Grier said it’s nearly impossible to estimate the average cost of installing a heat pump system because it involves so many variables, including the size of the home, how insulated it is, and how many units are needed. But the overall cost to install – and operate – a heat pump can be a selling point when compared to other heating systems.

[…] Beyond cost comparisons, some installers say they are pivoting to heat pumps because they’re afraid of what could happen if they don’t.

“You have to embrace it or you get left behind. We can’t afford as a business to be left behind,” said Gary Thompson, sales and installation manager at Murphy’s Services of Yarmouth, which does air conditioning, heating and plumbing. “The boilers and the furnaces – the fossil fuel heating systems – are the dinosaurs. They’re going away.”

Advancing heat pump technology has transformed his sales over the last five years, he said, but many veteran installers remain resistant.

“The contractors – be it time, economics, training – they haven’t embraced it,” he said. “You know, kind of the old adage in this industry: ‘I’ll try anything new as long as my father and grandfather used it first.’”
» Read article    
» See Mass Save heat pump rebates

» More about energy efficiency

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

V2X MOU
Department of Energy looks to integrate Vehicle-to-Everything bi-directional charging into US infrastructure
The US DOE released a Memorandum of Understanding that aims to bring together parties to advance bi-directional charging with cybersecurity as a core component.
By Anne Fischer, PV Magazine
April 21, 2022

The US Department of Energy (DOE) and partners announced the Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that aims to bring together resources from the DOE, national labs, state and local governments, utilities, and private entities to evaluate the technical and economic aspects of integrating bidirectional charging into the nation’s energy infrastructure.

As the number of electric vehicles (EVs) grows (including larger trucks and buses), their batteries can be used to add support [to] the grid.

A bidirectional EV fleet could serve as both a clean transportation as well as an energy storage asset that sends power back to everything from critical loads and homes to the grid. A bidirectional fleet could also create new revenue opportunities for EV owners or fleets.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) conservatively estimates that 130 million electric vehicles (EVs) will be on the road globally by 2030.  Bidirectional plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) offer an opportunity to support the grid, enhancing security, resilience, and economic vitality.

“The MOU signed today represents a collaborative approach to researching and developing novel technologies that will help unify the clean energy and transportation sectors while getting more American consumers into electric vehicles,” said Deputy Secretary of Energy Dave Turk. “Integrating charging technology that powers vehicles and simultaneously pushes energy back into the electrical grid is a win-win for the future of clean transportation and our energy resilience overall.”
» Read article    

» More about clean transportation

GAS UTILITIES

interchangeable
As N.H. lawmakers and utilities embrace renewable natural gas, environmental groups raise concerns

Environmentalists say renewable natural gas is costly and limited, and that it can be used to justify building and maintaining fossil fuel infrastructure.
By Amanda Gokee, New Hampshire Bulletin, in Energy News Network
April 20, 2022

Buried under a pile of trash in a landfill in northern New Hampshire, apple cores, eggshells, and other bits of discarded food are decomposing. That process generates a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide — a gas the state’s utilities want to capture and use as fuel.

This so-called renewable natural gas comes from other sources, too: livestock operations generating agricultural waste and wastewater treatment plants that handle human waste. Once purified, the gas is “fully interchangeable with conventional natural gas,” according to the U.S. Department of Energy. As of last September, that had resulted in 548 landfill gas projects across the country, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Gas utilities in New Hampshire are looking to use renewable natural gas as a fuel of the future. Lawmakers have broadly supported the efforts, in spite of environmental and cost concerns. Renewable natural gas could cost three times as much as conventional natural gas.

Senate Bill 424 was voted out of two Senate committees with unanimous support and passed the Senate floor on a voice vote in March. The bill left the House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee with five House lawmakers voting against it and 15 in its favor, and it is now up for a vote before the full House with the committee’s recommendation that it pass into law.

[…] Nick Krakoff, a staff attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation, said the guardrails in the bill are too weak to guarantee the promised environmental benefits.

“It gives utilities an opportunity to claim they’re doing something green and environmentally beneficial. But when you pull back the layer, it’s not going to be environmentally beneficial,” Krakoff said.

One specific problem, Krakoff said, is a lack of accounting when it comes to methane leakages, which can occur during processing or transportation and can quickly cancel out the climate benefits associated with renewable natural gas. And the greenhouse gas emissions from transporting the gas must be calculated as well, he said. The bill is currently silent on both. “When you weigh the greenhouse gas impacts, you need to look at the whole picture,” he said.

Krakoff’s larger critique of renewable natural gas is that it’s diverting attention and money from cleaner alternatives, like heat pumps.

The Conservation Law Foundation has written that the gas is both costly and limited; the organization argues that, for those reasons, it will do little to lower emissions but could be used to justify building and maintaining fossil fuel infrastructure.

“It’s just a way of avoiding what really needs to be done to transition to clean energy,” Krakoff said.
» Read article   
» Read CLF’s position on renewable natural gas

first rule of holes
A fossil-free National Grid? Critics call it a pipe dream.
By Bruce Gellerman, WBUR
April 19, 2022


National Grid today released a plan to go fossil-free in order to meet Massachusetts’ 2050 net-zero climate emission targets.

The company’s “clean energy vision” is designed to transform the way the gas utility provides heat throughout its New England territory, while continuing to rely on its vast gas infrastructure.

Currently, most homes and businesses in the region burn natural gas for heat, which National Grid distributes to customers through a network of pipelines. By mid-century, if the company fails to change its business model, the net-zero requirements of the state climate law will essentially put it out of business.

Methane, the main component of natural gas, has a shorter lifespan than carbon dioxide, but is far more effective at trapping heat. Thousands of miles of pipes in Massachusetts leak methane, and are being repaired and replaced at an estimated cost of $20 billion.

The key to National Grid’s plan is using their same pipeline distribution system, but providing a different mix of gas, said Stephen Woerner, regional president of the utility: “We eliminate fossil fuels and we replace them with renewable natural gas and green hydrogen.”

Renewable natural gas — or RNG — is methane produced by decomposing organic matter. The utility plans to capture methane produced on farms, landfills and waste treatment plants and pipe it through its network.  “Green” hydrogen would be produced by offshore wind farms that split water into oxygen and hydrogen, with no carbon emissions. The company envisions a new gas mix including 30% RNG and 20% green hydrogen by 2040, and 80% RNG and 20% green hydrogen by 2050.

One of the environmental groups calling for electrification of the region’s heating system is the Massachusetts-based Conservation Law Foundation. The group also advocates for the use of electric heat pumps and neighborhood geothermal heating, which uses the Earth as a battery to provide heat in winter and cooling in summer.

Caitlin Peale Sloan, vice president of CLF for Massachusetts, called National Grid’s plan “a false solution, just a way for the company to stay in business using their existing network of pipelines to distribute climate-disrupting gas.”

“Any plan that still counts on burning methane is not a decarbonization plan,” Sloan said. She notes that methane, regardless of the source, is still a climate threat.
» Read article    

» More about gas utilities

GAS LEAKS

big cowboy line break
Unregulated gas pipeline causes a huge methane leak in Texas
By Aaron Clark and Naureen Malik, Bloomberg, in The Boston Globe
April 18, 2022

A natural gas pipeline in Texas leaked so much of the super-potent greenhouse gas methane in little more than an hour that by one estimate its climate impact was equivalent to the annual emissions from about 16,000 US cars.

The leak came from a 16-inch (41-centimeter) pipe that’s a tiny part of a vast web of unregulated lines across the US, linking production fields and other sites to bigger transmission lines. Although new federal reporting requirements start next month for so-called gathering lines, the incident highlights the massive climate damage even minor parts of the network can inflict.

Energy Transfer, which operates the line where the leak occurred through its ETC Texas Pipeline unit, said an investigation into the cause of the event last month is ongoing and all appropriate regulatory notifications were made. It called the pipe an “unregulated gathering line.”

The timing of the release and its location appeared to match a plume of methane observed by a European Space Agency satellite that geoanalytics firm Kayrros called the most severe in the US in a year. Bloomberg investigations into methane observed by satellite near energy facilities show the invisible plumes often coincide with routine work and deliberate releases.

Methane is the primary component of natural gas and traps 84 times more heat than carbon dioxide during its first 20 years in the atmosphere. Severely curbing or eliminating releases of the gas from fossil fuel operations is crucial to avoiding the worst of climate change. The International Energy Agency has said oil and gas operators should move beyond emissions intensity goals and adopt a zero-tolerance approach to methane releases.
» Read article    

» More about gas leaks

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Frontline series
‘Frontline’ Review: Why the Climate Changed but We Didn’t
“The Power of Big Oil” examines a dispiriting, well-financed history of denialism and inaction.
By Mike Hale, New York Times
April 18, 2022

PBS’s investigative public-affairs program “Frontline” specializes in reminding us of things we would rather forget. On Tuesday, it begins a three-part dive into climate change, that potential species-killer that has taken a back seat recently to more traditional scourges like disease and war.

Titled “The Power of Big Oil,” the weekly mini-series is focused on climate change denialism as it was practiced and paid for by the fossil fuel industry — particularly Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries — along with its allies in business and, increasingly, politics. By extension, it’s a history, more depressing than revelatory, of why nothing much has been done about an existential crisis we’ve been aware of for at least four decades.

The signposts of our dawning comprehension and alarm are well known, among them the climatologist James Hansen’s 1988 testimony to Congress, the Kyoto and Paris agreements, the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and increasingly dire United Nations reports. The response that “Frontline” meticulously charts — a disciplined, coordinated campaign of disinformation and obfuscation that began in industry and was embraced by conservative political groups — is less familiar but was always in plain sight.

Part of the campaign is public, a barrage of talking heads on television and op-eds and advertorials in prominent publications (including The New York Times) that do not absolutely deny global warming but portray it as the night terrors of attention-mongering eggheads. Behind the scenes, the thinly disguised lobbying groups paid for by Big Oil apply pressure on key politicians at key moments — whenever it looks as if the United States might pass legislation affecting their profits.

One lesson the show offers, almost in passing, is the way in which the refusal to accept the reality of climate change prefigured the wider attacks on science — and on knowledge in general — that were to characterize the Trump years and the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The successful but lonely battle fought by the oil and gas industries is joined wholeheartedly by Republican politicians when they see how climate denialism, and the specter of unemployed miners and drillers, dovetails with their efforts to demonize President Barack Obama and radicalize conservative voters. At that point, the fig leaf of scientific debate is dropped and pure emotion takes over.
» Read article    

KY mountain top
The Decline of Kentucky’s Coal Industry Has Produced Hundreds of Safety and Environmental Violations at Strip Mines
Internal records and emails show that state regulators struggle to keep up with the violations as coal bankruptcies and “zombie” mines proliferate.
By James Bruggers, Inside Climate News
April 18, 2022

As the coal industry has collapsed in Kentucky, companies have racked up a rising number of violations at surface mines, and state regulators have failed to bring a record number of them into compliance, internal documents show.

Enforcement data from 2013 through February, along with recent internal emails, both provided to Inside Climate News by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet in response to a state open records law request, paint a picture of an industry and its regulators in a state of crisis.

The documents reveal an agency struggling to enforce regulations designed to protect the public and the environment from some of the industry’s most destructive practices amid mining company bankruptcies and an overall industry decline that has also seen the shedding of thousands of coal mining jobs in the state.

Environmental advocates fear lax enforcement could also be happening in other coal mining states, such as West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania, due to similar pressures on the industry and regulators, despite a recent uptick in coal mining. And they are calling on federal regulators to make sure slowed, idled or bankrupt mines are not left to deteriorate.

“This data shows there are a lot of zombie mines out there,” said Mary Varson Cromer, an attorney and deputy director of the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center Inc., in Whitesburg, Kentucky, using a term that refers to mines that have been idled, sometimes for years, without the required reclamation work on their sites.

[…] “This is completely out of control,” warned Courtney Skaggs, a senior environmental scientist in the Kentucky Department for Natural Resources, in a separate Dec. 15 email to the department’s commissioner, Gordon Slone. “This is going to blow up in someone’s face,” wrote Skaggs, a former acting director of the agency’s Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement.
» Read article    

» More about fossil fuel

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

Cheniere
Should EPA Back-Off Pollution Controls to Help LNG Exports Replace Russian Gas in Germany?
Cheniere Energy says the agency’s decision to start enforcing pollution controls on gas turbines is “counterproductive” in light of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Environmentalists strongly disagree.
By James Bruggers, Inside Climate News
April 20, 2022

The nation’s top exporter of liquified natural gas, Cheniere Energy, is using Russia’s war on Ukraine to pressure the Biden administration for a break on regulations aimed at reducing toxic air emissions at its LNG export terminals in Louisiana and Texas.

Environmental advocates are hoping the Biden administration stands firm on its March decision to finally, after nearly two decades, enforce limits on toxic air emissions from certain kinds of gas-powered turbines used in a variety of industrial operations, including the chilling and liquefaction of natural gas at Cheniere’s export terminals on the Gulf Coast for shipment overseas in large tanker vessels.

But Russia’s war in Ukraine has placed enormous counterpressure on the president from the oil and gas industry and its supporters in Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, who want U.S. LNG exports to replace Russian gas.Before the war, Russia was supplying about 40 percent of the EU’s gas.

Jane Williams, executive director of California Communities Against Toxics, said now is precisely the moment in which Biden should show resolve in the face of Cheniere’s request to relax pollution controls.

“If EPA says, ‘No, you don’t have to comply now, we will give you a waiver for two more years,’ then as soon as they do, every other operator of a stationary turbine will ask for the same thing,” said Williams, who is closely following the issue. In addition to the chillers making LNG, gas powered turbines are commonly used in electricity generation. “We have been trying to get (EPA) to reduce emissions from turbines for 30 years.”

Attorneys at Bracewell, the Houston-based law firm that asked EPA in March for the break on Cheniere’s behalf, say the federal agency has not responded. An EPA spokeswoman said the agency was considering Cheniere’s request.

The next move is Biden’s, and It’s not at all clear how the administration is going to react with the war in Ukraine raging, natural gas prices soaring, gasoline prices at the pump near record highs and the 2022 midterm elections approaching.
» Read article    

» More about LNG

BIOMASS

Drax lobby
Biomass Industry Pushes Back Against Europe’s Plans To Protect Woodlands
Leaked documents show UK power plant Drax is at the heart of lobbying efforts to dilute EU biodiversity rules that could limit its supply of wood.
By Phoebe Cooke, DeSmog Blog
April 12, 2022

A powerful US biomass lobby group is pushing for a raft of changes that would weaken European renewable energy rules geared to better protect biodiversity and tackle climate change, DeSmog can reveal.

Leaked documents shared with DeSmog show that Yorkshire wood-burning power plant Drax is at the heart of the effort to water down EU sustainability criteria.

Campaigners say that the proposed amendments pose an “existential threat” to the company, which in 2021 produced nearly 13 percent of the UK’s renewable electricity through burning wood pellets.

The lobbying by US Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA) comes at a time of intense debate over the future of energy. The European Commission pledged to cut its reliance on Russian gas by two-thirds after President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The International Energy Agency has also recommended “maximising” bioenergy – which derives from burning organic material for fuel.

USIPA, whose members include Drax and top pellet producers Granuul and Enviva, sent the document to select MEPs in early March.

In it, the industry group appears to push back strongly against rules that might limit its supply of wood – including opposing the European Commission’s proposal for a no-go area for sourcing biomass from virgin and highly biodiverse  forests.

USIPA also attempts to establish in law that old, or misshapen trees should be used to make pellets, and suggests that companies should still be allowed to harvest wood from countries with national plans for timber and forest management deemed inadequate by the EU.
» Read article    

» More about biomass

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Weekly News Check-In 1/21/22

banner 04

Welcome back.

Yesterday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) met to consider the fate of Canadian energy giant Enbridge’s Weymouth compressor station. Their conclusion boiled down to this: “Gosh, folks, you’re right! We never should have approved such a dangerous, polluting facility right there in your neighborhood…. But we did. Sorry. Nothing to be done. Next!” It was a variation on Governor Charlie Baker’s earlier claim that even if he opposed construction of the compressor, there was nothing he could do about it. Given that level of spinelessness from our Governor and Federal regulators, we’re doubly fortunate to have Alice Arena’s Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS) and their many allies including U.S. Senator Edward Markey and other state and local leaders, continuing to press for closing this climate-busting “mistake”. If you can support FRRACS, please do.

A little farther west, Massachusetts’ largest utility, Eversource, is running its own play to foist unwanted and unnecessary gas infrastructure on Longmeadow and Springfield communities through its proposed pipeline expansion, but the Longmeadow Select Board is unsatisfied with the utility’s answers to some basic questions like, “Who’s going to pay for this?” Meanwhile, cities and towns all over the state would love to cut the use of gas but can’t initiate bans because the Baker administration is months late delivering an updated building code that reflects emissions reduction requirements already on the books. Of course, those same regulations classify electricity produced through waste incineration as renewable….

To round things out, the MA Department of Environmental Protection is providing Boston with twelve new propane-powered school buses, even though the state’s climate legislation calls for a move away from fossil-fueled transportation and electric models are available. Did someone recently change the state motto to Coming up short!?

Now that we’ve aired a load of Massachusetts’ dirty laundy, let’s talk about Georgia, and how the Feds are stepping in because state regulators are on the cusp of accepting utility Georgia Power’s argument that they don’t really need to clean up unlined toxic coal ash storage pits that are in contact with ground water. While in North Dakota, a deal is being done to sell the state’s largest coal plant to investors chasing a scheme to use U.S. government subsidies for carbon capture and storage equipment, and thereby avoid shutting the plant down. So far, CCS has proved far better at wasting money than at removing CO2 from smokestacks.

This has been a bit of a rant, and we’re almost to the positive news. But first have a look at how the Permian Basin frack-fest has turned west Texas into an earthquake zone, and treat yourself to a romp through some of the lawless corners of the cryptocurrency world, where unpermitted gas plants in Alberta power bitcoin mining, and a rogue region of Kosovo compounds an energy crisis while refusing to pay electric bills.

While all of the above was going on, oceans absorbed record amounts of heat, and the divestment movement is expanding its scope beyond banking, insurance, and investments – calling for funds to be pulled from fossil-focused advertising and public relations campaigns.

Hydrogen continues to be a hot topic in the clean energy sector, but we’re seeing some encouraging debate about how it’s sourced and what it should be used for. At the same time, money from the recently-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill is about to be applied to modernizing the grid – making it more resilient and able to bring renewable generation and storage onboard more quickly.

We’ll close with some intriguing news: Chinese battery maker CATL has developed a flexible, modular, battery-swapping scheme for electric vehicles with the potential to lower the cost of EV ownership while dropping road trip recharge times to just a few minutes. It’s disruptive, scalable, and very cool.

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

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

FRACCS and friendsFeds: Regulators ‘should never have approved’ Weymouth compressor, too late to shut it down
“What (FERC) did was morally, ethically and legally wrong on every level, and they just recommitted to that.”
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
January 20, 2022

WEYMOUTH – While several members said regulators shouldn’t have approved the project to begin with, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission says it won’t revoke authorization for the natural gas compressor station in Weymouth.

After reexamining operations and safety at the station following several accidental releases of natural gas, Richard Glick, the commission’s chairman, said regulators “should never have approved” the compressor on the banks of the Fore River, a “heavily populated area with two environmental justice communities and a higher-than-normal level of cancer and asthma due to heavy industrial activity.”

But Glick said the review and findings don’t justify revoking approval for the station, which the commission initially granted in January 2017. The compressor station is owned by Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy, which was later acquired by Enbridge.

“Going forward, the commission needs to pay attention to the impacts of its (decision) and I will push for the those changes,” he said. “I recognize that is cold comfort to the folks who live near the Weymouth compressor station.”

“This is their job. They get to set precedent. They get to say, ‘We went back and looked at this, and we looked into whether (Enbridge) ever needed the compressor in the first place, and the answer is no,’” Arena said. “(The commissioners) can say whatever they want that helps them get through the night, but what (FERC) did was morally, ethically and legally wrong on every level, and they just recommitted to that.”

State regulators also issued several permits for the project despite vehement and organized opposition from local officials and residents. Arena likened the commission’s response on Thursday to that of state regulators and Gov. Charlie Baker.

“They’ve done exactly what Charlie Baker did and said, ‘Our hands our tied. There’s nothing we can do,’ ” she said.

Arena sad the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station will push forward with its opposition to the project in court. Several rehearing requests are pending in federal court, and the group’s appeal of the waterways permit will soon be heard in Superior Court.
» Blog editor’s note: You can follow and support Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS) through their website or Facebook.
» Read article       
» Watch WBZ-TV news coverage of the reaction to FERC’s decision

» More about the Weymouth compressor

PIPELINES

no expansion
Longmeadow Select Board unsatisfied with Eversource’s pipeline answers
By Sarah Heinonen, The Reminder
January 12, 2022

Longmeadow Select Board Chair Marc Strange read answers provided by Eversource after a December 2021 public hearing on the proposed natural gas pipeline and metering station. The board had requested responses to five questions that the utility company’s representatives were unable to answer during the meeting.

The first question was regarding a 10 percent return on investment that Eversource had stated it would receive from the pipeline project. The board had asked if the return the company would receive was 10 percent of the total capital investment or if it would receive a return annually. After reading Eversource’s response, which cited a Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities docket and stated shareholders would not see a return from the project unless “deemed prudent,” it went on to talk about the relationship between rate base and capital investments and year-long “rate case” proceedings involving the attorney general.

After reading the response, Strange asked, “Does anybody understand what it says?” causing members of the board to chuckle at the legal jargon and industry terminology used.

Select Board Vice Chair Steve Marantz pointed out that Eversource insisted the project will not involve an increase in the amount of gas it moves to customers and questioned how the company can receive a return on its investment without selling more gas.

Select Board member Mark Gold responded that the $40 million investment will be written off in taxes. Fellow Select Board member Thomas Lachiusa agreed, saying, “Eversource will pay less in taxes while increasing their footprint.”

Marantz opined that the cost of the investment will be passed on to ratepayers.
» Read article       

» More about pipelines

DIVESTMENT

climate lies uncovered
450+ Climate Scientists Demand PR Industry Drop Fossil Fuel Clients
“To put it simply, advertising and public relations campaigns for fossil fuels must stop,” states an open letter to ad agencies and major firms.
By Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams
January 19, 2022

In a new letter stressing the need for an “immediate and rapid transition” away from planet-heating fuels, a group of over 450 scientists on Wednesday called on public relations and advertising agencies to no longer work with fossil fuel clients.

“As scientists who study and communicate the realities of climate change,” they wrote, “we are consistently faced with a major and needless challenge: overcoming advertising and PR efforts by fossil fuel companies that seek to obfuscate or downplay our data and the risks posed by the climate crisis.”

“In fact,” the scientists continued, “these misinformation campaigns represent one of the biggest barriers to the government action science shows is necessary to mitigate the ongoing climate emergency. ”

Organized by scientists including Drs. Astrid Caldas, Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, and Michael Mann, along with the Clean Creatives campaign and the Union of Concerned Scientists, the letter is being sent to a number of public relations and advertising agencies including Edelman—the world’s biggest PR firm—and major clients of those companies including Amazon, Microsoft, and North Face.

“If PR and advertising agencies want to be part of climate solutions instead of continuing to exacerbate the climate emergency,” the scientists wrote that those companies “should drop all fossil fuel clients that plan to expand their production of oil and gas, end work with all fossil fuel companies and trade groups that perpetuate climate deception, cease all work that hinders climate legislation, and instead focus on uplifting the true climate solutions that are already available and must be rapidly implemented at scale.”

“To put it simply,” the letter adds, “advertising and public relations campaigns for fossil fuels must stop.”
» Read article       

» More about divestment

CLIMATE

bleached corals
Oceans Absorb Record Heat in 2021
By The Energy Mix
January 16, 2022


The Earth’s oceans yet again absorbed record high levels of heat in 2021 as part of a steady and dangerous 63-year warming trend fueled by human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, concludes a recent study authored by researchers from China, Italy, and the United States.

Published last week in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, the analysis confirms that the rate at which oceans have been absorbing heat, especially over the last 40 years, would be impossible in the absence of carbon emissions produced by human activity, reports the Washington Post.

The “long-term upward trend” has shown dramatic increases in recent years, with the oceans warming eight times faster since the late 1980s than in the three previous decades, said study co-author John Abraham, a professor of thermal engineering at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

“We’ve built up so much greenhouse gas that the oceans have begun to take in an increasing amount of heat, compared to what they previously were,” he told the Post.
» Read article       

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

BayoTech hydrogen generator
New Mexico front and center in nationwide debate over hydrogen
By Kevin Robinson-Avila, Albuquerque Journal
January 17th, 2022

[The] potential wholesale embrace of everything hydrogen is facing a wall of opposition from environmental organizations, which say the governor and local hydrogen supporters are rushing forward to build a new industry that could actually slow New Mexico’s transition to a clean energy economy, and possibly even worsen carbon emissions here. Rather than produce a new, “clean fuel” to help decarbonize things like transportation and residential and commercial heating, environmentalists say full-scale hydrogen production could instead perpetuate mining and consumption of natural gas for 20 years or more at a time when New Mexico and the nation are aggressively working to replace fossil fuels with renewables like solar, wind and backup-battery technology.

That’s because nearly all of today’s hydrogen production uses natural gas in a process that extracts hydrogen molecules from methane, a potent greenhouse gas, with substantial amounts of carbon emitted during operations. Industry and hydrogen supporters say carbon capture and sequestration technology can mitigate nearly all the carbon emissions, but that only intensifies the controversy, because carbon capture must still be proven environmentally and economically effective in commercial projects.

As a result, environmentalists want to halt the hydrogen-promotion bills in this year’s session and instead launch a broad public process to fully evaluate the pros and cons of hydrogen before moving forward. Thirty environmental, clean energy and local community organizations sent a joint statement to New Mexico’s state and federal officials last fall outlining “guiding principles” to better determine whether and how hydrogen development could potentially be used as a supporting tool to combat climate change.

The local controversy reflects growing debate at the national and international levels over the role hydrogen can play as the world works to achieve carbon neutrality by midcentury.
» Read article       

blue is out
Germany’s Massive Boost for Hydrogen Leaves Out Fossil-Derived ‘Blue’ Variety
By The Energy Mix
January 19, 2022

Germany’s new coalition government has unveiled plans to massively accelerate the country’s national hydrogen strategy, while excluding fossil-derived “blue” hydrogen from eligibility for federal subsidies.

“Clean hydrogen is seen as a potential silver bullet to decarbonize industries like steel and chemicals, which cannot fully electrify and need energy-dense fuels to generate high-temperature heat for their industrial processes,” Euractiv reports.

“However, Germany will make no subsidies available for so-called ‘blue hydrogen’, which is created by using fossil gas and sequestering the resulting CO2 emission using carbon and capture (CCS) technology,” the publication adds, citing Patrick Graichen, state secretary to Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck.

At an event earlier this morning, Clean Energy Wire reports, energy and climate state secretary Patrick Graichen said the country may obtain the “blue” product from Norway for a transitional period. “We will go for green hydrogen in the long term, and whenever we put money on the table, it will be for green hydrogen,” he told a panel discussion on energy cooperation between the two countries, hosted by the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry and German Chambers of Commerce Abroad.

That’s despite concerns from Germany’s oil and gas lobby, the European Commission, and non-profits like the U.S. Clean Air Task Force that “green” hydrogen produced from renewable electricity can’t scale up in time to do its part to reduce emissions.
» Read article       

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Beverly HS solar array
All around Massachusetts, cities and towns want to go fossil fuel free. Here’s why they can’t.
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
January 18, 2022

Across Massachusetts, dozens of cities and towns have said they want to outlaw the use of fossil fuels in newly constructed buildings — considered an easy and effective step toward a carbon-free future.

The state’s new climate legislation aimed to do just that, and required the state to come up with a new building code that would allow cities and towns to move ahead.

The Baker administration promised a draft by fall 2021 but failed to deliver. And now some climate-concerned legislators want the administration to answer for it.

“Each additional day of delay means one day less of public discussion,” said Senator Mike Barrett, who cochairs the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, which is scheduled to discuss the delays — and what to do about them — at a hearing Wednesday. “The clock is ticking down, and Baker’s people know it.”

In light of the delay, Wednesday’s hearing will consider legislative action that would allow cities and towns to require new residential and commercial buildings to be “all-electric.”

The exact details of the building code won’t be known until the Baker administration releases it and it goes through a public comment period and a series of five public hearings. It is required to be finalized by December of next year. But the intent, as laid out by the climate law passed last year, is that cities and towns could require new buildings and gut rehabilitations would have net-zero emissions. This likely means a future of heat pumps to deliver heat, solar panels to generate energy, and onsite batteries to store what is produced to get to net zero.

But net zero is not zero, and the climate legislation allows for some wiggle room.

Advocates fear the draft from the Baker administration could ultimately allow for buildings to have fossil fuel hook-ups as long as emissions are offset in another way, like the installation of solar panels. While the offsetting is important for the climate, the continued use of fossil fuels in new buildings would ensure that the required infrastructure remains in place into the future, potentially putting the state’s climate targets at risk.

“The thing we’re really waiting for is to make sure that the code is what it needs to be” said Cameron Peterson, director of clean energy for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. “The definition I would like to see would have a building that has no combustion in it, but depending on how they write the performance standards, it’s possible that fossil fuel hook-ups could be allowed.”
» Read article       

» More about energy efficiency

MODERNIZING THE GRID

Deepwater Wind
Biden administration announces major new initiatives to clean up the electric grid
Federal agencies announced plans to open up public lands and waters and lay new transmission lines
By Justine Calma, The Verge
January 12, 2022

On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced a slew of new moves to transition the US to renewable energy, with a focus on upgrading the power grid and using public lands and waters to harness solar, wind, and geothermal energy. It’s the administration’s latest effort to clean up the nation’s electricity grid, as Democrats struggle to make headway on key legislation needed to tackle the climate crisis.

The Department of Energy is rolling out a “Building a Better Grid” initiative, which will put federal dollars to work after the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure law allocated $65 billion for grid improvements. Notably, there’s $2.5 billion earmarked for new and improved transmission lines that will be crucial for zipping renewable energy from far-flung solar and wind farms to communities. Another $3 billion will go towards smart grid technologies that aim to make homes more energy efficient and reduce pressure on the grid while balancing the flow of intermittent sources of renewable energy like wind and solar.

There’s also more than $10 billion in grants to states, tribes, and utilities for efforts to harden the grid and help prevent power outages. As the grid ages and extreme weather events are worsened by climate change, blackouts have grown longer in the US, with the average American going more than eight hours without power in 2020 — twice as long as was typical when the federal government started keeping track in 2013. Things could get worse without efforts to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.
» Read article       

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Evogo swap
CATL rolls out one-minute EV battery swapping solution, entire business around it

By Bengt Halvorson, Green Car Reports
January 18, 2022

Battery swapping, once considered a solution that had been outmoded by the capability for faster road-trip charging, is back—with the world’s largest battery supplier CATL onboard and launching an entire business around it.

That business, called Evogo, makes a lot of sense right now that the longtime reduction in battery cell cost has reversed course, largely due to supply constraints. Most EV owners tend to buy the vehicle with the bigger battery so as to eliminate range anxiety, when only 10-20% of the total capacity of the battery is needed for daily use. “They have paid a high sunk cost for a power capacity that is rarely needed,” the company sums.

In terms that customers, automakers, and regulators will all like, it’s a scheme that will allow lower-priced EVs, and more of them.

Evogo, will revolve around “an innovative modular battery swap solution” that uses standardized battery blocks and has “high compatibility with vehicle models.”

That takes the form of a new bar-like battery—nicknamed Choco-SEB and designed around the idea of battery sharing, supporting cell-to-pack technology and an energy density of more than 160 watt-hours per kg, with a volumetric energy density of 325 Wh/L.

CATL says each 26.5-kwh block can enable a driving range of about 200 km (124 miles). And the idea is that you may only need one of these blocks for daily commuting, while three of these will comprise a long-range battery, with customers at battery swaps potentially swapping just one block or all three as needed.Likewise, customers could potentially lease one block with the vehicle but rent additional blocks as needed for a long trip.
» Read article       

detour at best
Boston is getting more propane school buses to combat pollution. They aren’t the cleanest option.
By Taylor Dolven, Boston Globe
January 13, 2022

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection will spend $350,000 on 12 propane-powered school buses for Boston at a time when the state’s climate plan calls for a rapid shift away from fossil fuels in transportation.

The school buses are part of a $2 million round of Massachusetts grant funding provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency announced this week. The funding aims to cut pollution by getting rid of diesel-powered vehicles. The state said it will spend $740,324 on five electric school buses for Springfield contractor First Student Inc., and the 12 buses bound for Boston will use propane, a fossil fuel.

Governor Charlie Baker praised the funding announcements Tuesday.

“Our administration continues to identify and advance projects that better position the state in combating against the impact of climate change with an equitable approach,” he said in a statement. “The shift to cleaner vehicles will reduce the exposure of our citizens to diesel emissions, improve air quality, and assist us as we work to meet the Commonwealth’s ambitious climate goals.”

Those goals, part of climate legislation signed by Baker last year, are reducing the state’s carbon emissions at least 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, 75 percent below those levels by 2040, and getting to “net zero” emissions by 2050. Key to achieving those goals is electrifying most of the transportation sector, according to the state’s own road map.

The majority of Boston’s school bus fleet already runs on propane, but advocates bemoaned the city adding more vehicles powered by fossil fuels rather than moving to electric school buses as some other Massachusetts cities are doing.

“It’s time for the city to step up and be a leader on electric buses,” said Staci Rubin, vice president of environmental justice at the Conservation Law Foundation. “Ideally this would have been the time to get electric buses and figure it out.”

Data from the US Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory’s transportation fuel calculator tool show that electric school buses far outperform propane school buses in reducing air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts. Compared to diesel school buses, propane school buses emit less nitrogen oxides, which contribute to harmful air pollution. Depending on the age and fuel efficiency of the diesel engine, propane buses can provide a slight reduction or a slight increase in greenhouse gases compared to diesel buses.

“It’s a detour at best, a dead end at worst,” said Daniel Sperling, founding director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at University of California Davis.
» Read article       
» Check out the Argonne National Lab’s fuel calculator tool

» More about clean transportation

CRYPTOCURRENCY

questionable value
Bitcoin Creates ‘Regulatory Hornet’s Nest’ as Alberta Orders Third Gas Plant Shutdown
By Jody MacPherson, The Energy Mix
January 18, 2022

A company facing more than C$7 million in penalties for operating two gas-fired power plants in Alberta without approvals has been ordered to shut down a third facility, after the plant in Westlock County was also found to be operating without approvals.

The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) has also reopened its investigation into the previous two operations, combining it with the new Westlock investigation. At issue is whether the company was generating power for its own use and if the original penalty amount should change with the new information provided by the company.

Energy consumption and environmental concerns with bitcoin mining have surfaced around the world with a number of countries—including China—banning it outright.

China cited environmental concerns and cracked down on bitcoin mining this past summer. In August, an American company announced plans to power up to a million bitcoin “rigs” relocated from China to Alberta.

“It’s a question of what is the highest-value end use of an electron,” said clean energy policy consultant Ed Whittingham, former executive director of the Pembina Institute, in an exclusive interview with The Energy Mix. “Is it to mine a bitcoin? Or is it to help to get to these long-term goals that really balance environmental and social benefit?”

Whittingham said he would like to understand the environmental and social benefits produced by cryptocurrencies like bitcoin “because right now, it seems pretty opaque to me.”
» Read article       

Bitcoin accepted
Panic as Kosovo pulls the plug on its energy-guzzling bitcoin miners
Speculators rush to sell off their kit as Balkan state announces a crypto clampdown to ease electricity crisis
By Daniel Boffey, The Guardian
January 16, 2022

For bitcoin enthusiasts in Kosovo with a breezy attitude to risk, it has been a good week to strike a deal on computer equipment that can create, or “mine”, the cryptocurrency.

From Facebook to Telegram, new posts in the region’s online crypto groups became dominated by dismayed Kosovans attempting to sell off their mining equipment – often at knockdown prices.

“There’s a lot of panic and they’re selling it or trying to move it to neighbouring countries,” said cryptoKapo, a crypto investor and administrator of some of the region’s largest online crypto communities.

The frenetic social media action follows an end-of-year announcement by Kosovo’s government of an immediate, albeit temporary, ban on all crypto mining activity as part of emergency measures to ease a crippling energy crisis.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are created or “mined” by high-powered computers that compete to solve complex mathematical puzzles in what is a highly energy-intensive process that rewards people based on the amount of computing power they provide.

The incentive to get into the mining game in Kosovo, one of Europe’s poorest countries, is obvious. The cryptocurrency currently trades at more than £31,500 a bitcoin, while Kosovo has the cheapest energy prices in Europe due in part to more than 90% of the domestic energy production coming from burning the country’s rich reserves of lignite, a low-grade coal, and fuel bills being subsidised by the government.

The largest-scale crypto mining is thought to be taking place in the north of the country, where the Serb-majority population refuse to recognise Kosovo as an independent state and have consequently not paid for electricity for more than two decades.
» Read article       

» More about cryptocurrency

CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE

Coal Creek power plant
Sale of North Dakota’s Largest Coal Plant Is Almost Complete. Then Will Come the Hard Part
Minnesota co-op utilities must vote on approval of the plant’s sale. The new owner is betting on carbon capture to extend its life.
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
January 15, 2022

A plan to sell, rather than close, the largest coal-fired power plant in North Dakota is nearly final. The completion of the sale would allow the buyer to move on to the much greater challenge of making the plant financially viable and installing a carbon capture system.

Great River Energy of Minnesota originally planned to close the plant, Coal Creek Station, after years of financial losses, but the company changed course and decided to sell the plant after intense pressure from elected officials in North Dakota. State officials have been zealous in trying to preserve coal jobs, to the point that they helped to arrange the sale and hope to use government subsidies to help retrofit the plant with a carbon capture system.

The efforts by officials to keep the plant open is part of a larger pattern of state and local governments, from Montana to West Virginia, downplaying concerns about the high costs and emissions from burning coal and working to secure a future for coal mines and coal-fired power plants. In some of those places, the coal industry and government leaders are embracing carbon capture, despite warnings from energy analysts that this is a costly investment that is unlikely to be successful at substantially cutting emissions.

Minnesota environmental advocates have opposed the sale every step of the way.

“We need somebody to be held accountable,” said Veda Kanitz, an environmental advocate who also is a customer of one of the co-ops, Dakota Electric Association, that receives power from the plant. “We’re not seeing a true risk-benefit analysis. And I don’t think they’re properly factoring in the climate impacts.”
» Read article       

» More about CCS

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

Plant Scherer
How a Powerful Company Convinced Georgia to Let It Bury Toxic Waste in Groundwater
Documents reveal Georgia Power went to great lengths to advocate for risky waste storage. After a ProPublica investigation exposed this practice, the EPA is trying to block the move.
By Max Blau, ProPublica
January 18, 2020

For the past several years, Georgia Power has gone to great lengths to skirt the federal rule requiring coal-fired power plants to safely dispose of massive amounts of toxic waste they produced.

But previously unreported documents obtained by ProPublica show that the company’s efforts were more extensive than publicly known. Thousands of pages of internal government correspondence and corporate filings show how Georgia Power made an elaborate argument as to why it should be allowed to store waste produced before 2020 in a way that wouldn’t fully protect surrounding communities’ water supplies from contamination — and that would save the company potentially billions of dollars in cleanup costs.

In a series of closed-door meetings with state environmental regulators, the powerful utility even went so far as to challenge the definition of the word “infiltration” in relation to how groundwater can seep into disposal sites holding underground coal ash, according to documents obtained through multiple open records requests.

Earlier this month, Georgia Power was on its way to getting final approval from the state to leave 48 million tons of coal ash buried in unlined ponds — despite evidence that contaminants were leaking out. Georgia is one of three states that regulate how power companies safely dispose of decades worth of coal ash, rather than leaving such oversight to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency itself.

But last week, the EPA made clear that arguments like the ones Georgia Power has been making violate the intent of the coal ash rule, setting up a potential showdown among the federal agency, state regulators and the deep-pocketed power company. In a statement last week, the EPA said that waste disposal sites “cannot be closed with coal ash in contact with groundwater,” in order to ensure that “communities near these facilities have access to safe water for drinking and recreation.”

The EPA’s action follows a joint investigation by Georgia Health News and ProPublica that found Georgia Power has known for decades that the way it disposed of coal ash could be dangerous to neighboring communities.
» Read article       

» More about electric utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Permian Basin gas plant
Texas went big on oil. Earthquakes followed.
Thousands of earthquakes are shaking Texas. What the frack is going on?
By Neel Dhanesha, Vox
January 20, 2022

It’s been a big winter for earthquakes in West Texas. A string of small tremors rocked Midland County on December 15 and 16, followed a week later by a magnitude-4.5 quake, the second-strongest to hit the region in the last decade. Then a magnitude-4.2 quake shook the town of Stanton and another series of small earthquakes hit nearby Reeves County.

That’s an unsettling pattern for a state that, until recently, wasn’t an earthquake state at all. Before 2008, Texans experienced just one or two perceptible earthquakes a year. But Texas now sees hundreds of yearly earthquakes of at least magnitude 2.5, the minimum humans can feel, and thousands of smaller ones.

The reason why is disconcerting: Seismologists say that one of the state’s biggest industries is upsetting a delicate balance deep underground. They blame the oil and gas business — and particularly a technique called wastewater injection — for waking up ancient fault lines, turning a historically stable region into a shaky one, and opening the door to larger earthquakes that Texas might not be ready for.

Early signs of trouble came in 2008, when Dallas-area residents felt a series of small earthquakes that originated in the nearby Fort Worth basin. More earthquakes followed, and a magnitude-4 quake hit a town southwest of Dallas in 2015. No damage was reported, but according to the US Geological Survey, the impact of a magnitude-4 earthquake can include: “Dishes, windows, doors disturbed; walls make cracking sound. Sensation like heavy truck striking building. Standing motor cars rocked noticeably.”

Earthquakes in West Texas increased from a grand total of 19 in 2009 to more than 1,600 in 2017, according to a 2019 study, coinciding neatly with the rise of wastewater injection in the area. Nearly 2,000 earthquakes hit West Texas in 2021, a record high. According to the TexNet, the University of Texas’ earthquake catalog, 17 of those were magnitude 4 or higher.
» Read article       

» More about fossil fuels

WASTE INCINERATION

garbage crane
Trash is a burning question with mixed answers in some Mass. towns
By Hannah Chanatry, WBUR
January 20, 2022

Massachusetts categorizes trash incineration as renewable energy. In fact, it’s almost always one of the leading sources of renewable energy in the region, according to ISO New England’s real-time analysis of energy use, usually beating out solar and wind.

The designation as renewable is a critical problem for the Conservation Law Foundation.

“It’s really just a greenwashing campaign,” said Kirstie Pecci, and environmental attorney with the organization.

Pecci has worked opposing incinerators for a decade. While the idea of energy production sounds good, she said the pollution coming from the facilities is too dangerous for public health and the environment.

“The ash has got dioxin, furans, heavy metals,” she said, “all kinds of [other] nasty chemicals in it as well.” Dioxins are a class of organic pollutants, some of which are highly toxic and are known to cause cancer and reproductive problems.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection also identifies nitrogen oxides, which can cause breathing problems and are the primary ingredient in smog, as among the possible emissions from incinerators. Incinerators are required to take  measures to limit emissions below federal and state caps, and conduct continuous and annual monitoring for specific pollutants. Each incinerator is permitted by both MassDEP and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for air quality, water quality, stormwater and spills on site.

The Conservation Law Foundation and other environmental organizations want the state to move to close the incinerators.
» Read article       

» More about waste incineration

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Weekly News Check-In 11/19/21

banner 16

Welcome back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

button - BEAT News  For even more environmental news, info, and events, check out the latest newsletter from our colleagues at Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT)!

— The NFGiM Team

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about protests and actions                     

 

PEAKING POWER PLANTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about peaker plants             

 

PIPELINES

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

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

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

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

» More about pipelines                

 

DIVESTMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about divestment                

 

GREENING THE ECONOMY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about greening the economy                   

 

CLIMATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about climate                  

 

CLEAN ENERGY

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

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

But big keeps getting bigger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about clean energy                  

 

ENERGY STORAGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about energy storage            

 

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about siting impacts of renewables                 

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about clean transportation          

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about fossil fuel               

 

BIOMASS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about biomass               

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Weekly News Check-In 6/11/21

banner 10

Welcome back.

A public forum on the proposed peaking power plant in Peabody, MA is scheduled for June 22 at the Peter A. Torigian Senior Center at 6:30 p.m. This is an opportunity for clean energy advocates to show up and demand a healthy, emissions-free alternative to the project – one that’s compatible with public health and climate goals.

We welcome the news that Keystone XL pipeline is officially dead. Meanwhile, Enbridge is pushing hard on Line 3 construction across northern Minnesota in the face of surging resistance. This tug-of-war between citizens and fossil interests plays out as climate disruptors like carbon dioxide and methane reach new highs, and as wealthy nations continue to finance natural gas development in the developing world.

With a nod to the reality that climate imperatives don’t automatically prevail over Big Gas & Oil, regulators and legislators in Massachusetts are watching closely as we approach the implementation date for recently passed landmark climate legislation. Of particular concern is the Baker administration’s failure so far to embrace the net-zero language in the state’s future energy efficiency stretch code. Even so, an innovative new program to finance rooftop solar power on affordable housing units should help green up that often-underserved sector.

More broadly in New England, we have a report on proposed governance changes intended to help grid operator ISO-NE modernize to accommodate more rapid growth in renewable energy generation.

We’re heading back to the future, looking at clean transportation from a comfortable seat with amazing views. There’s not much a short-hop jet can do that a blimp can’t do better – bring it on! And for those of us traveling to the blimp port by electric vehicle, scientists have shown (in lab tests) how to extract lithium directly from seawater. If the technique is scalable, it could substantially reduce the environmental impact of obtaining this essential green economy component.

We have a few stories from the fossil fuel industry, including signs that ExxonMobil is exaggerating the performance of Permian Basin fracking operations to appear more favorable to investors. Liquefied natural gas developer Pieridae Energy is also presenting a brave face as it approaches the June 30th deadline to announce its final investment decision (FID) for the Goldboro LNG terminal in Nova Scotia. But we learned that their financial advisor recently stepped away from the project because it’s incompatible with the firm’s desired green image. A year ago, Pieridae lost its engineering firm, KBR, for similar reasons.

A recent International Energy Agency roadmap relies too heavily on biofuels, including forest biomass, according to analysis. Bottom line: we have to stop burning stuff. And in closing, we’re not going to solve the climate crisis without tackling the plastics problem.

button - BEAT News button - BZWI  For even more environmental news, info, and events, check out the latest newsletters from our colleagues at Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) and Berkshire Zero Waste Initiative (BZWI)!

— The NFGiM Team

PEAKING POWER PLANTS

public forum scheduled
Proposed Peabody Power Plant Public Forum Set
The wholesale electric company behind the surge capacity plant project currently on pause will share information and solicit feedback.
By Scott Souza, Patch
June 10, 2021

PEABODY, MA —The wholesale electric company behind a proposed gas-powered surge capacity power plant in Peabody will hold a public meeting on June 22 to share information on the project and address resident concerns.

The project, which has been in the planning stages since 2015, was put on hold on May 11 amid growing opposition from climate advocacy groups and elected officials concerned about quality-of-life issues they say the plant will bring to an already overburdened environmental justice community.

But the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company has said the plant is necessary to satisfy mandatory surge capacity requirements in a way that renewable energy sources like solar, wind and hydro cannot reliably accomplish.

The MMWEC said it will solicit feedback during the meeting set for the Peter A. Torigian Center at 6:30 p.m.

“As a capacity resource, Project 2015A — MMWEC’s proposed peaking plant in Peabody — is expected to run just 239 hours per year, producing fewer emissions than 94 percent of similar peaking resources in the region, and will help its participating municipal light plants maintain stable rates for their customers,” the MMWEC said in scheduling the forum.

But advocacy groups Breathe Clean North Shore, the Massachusetts Climate Action Network and Community Action Works plan to deliver a petition to the utility’s Ludlow offices Friday morning demanding that the project be abandoned or altered to only use “clean” energy sources.

They say in the petition that the plant — which would be built at the Waters Street substation near the Peabody/Danvers line — will add to pollution, hamper efforts to combat the climate crisis and potentially create a “stranded asset” whose cost will fall on ratepayers.

The groups had also called for more public input on the project, which until recently moved through the planning process in relative obscurity.
» Read article             

30-day minimum pause
Peabody Power Plant Battle Heats Up As ‘Pause’ Nears 30 Days
Climate advocacy groups will request plans for the oil and gas plant to be altered or abandoned ahead of a decision on the project’s future.
By Scott Souza, Patch
June 8, 2021

PEABODY, MA — As a pause in the plans to build a 60-megawatt gas and oil power plant in Peabody nears 30 days, climate advocacy groups are planning to deliver a petition to the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company behind the project demanding that the utility abandon it or replace it only using clean energy sources.

Breathe Clean North Shore, the Massachusetts Climate Action Network and Community Action Works plan to deliver the petition to the utility’s Ludlow offices Friday morning — one month after the project was delayed amid a sudden swell of community outcry about its potential safety, climate and quality of life impact on Peabody residents and those in surrounding communities.
» Read article             

» More about peaking power plants

PIPELINES

rest in pieces
The Keystone XL Pipeline Is Officially Dead
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
June 10, 2021

The Keystone XL pipeline is officially canceled.

TC Energy, the Canadian company behind the pipeline that would have moved oil from Alberta’s tar sands to Nebraska, confirmed Wednesday that it was giving up on the controversial project.

“The Company will continue to coordinate with regulators, stakeholders and Indigenous groups to meet its environmental and regulatory commitments and ensure a safe termination of and exit from the Project,” the company wrote.

The news was met with jubilation from environmental and Indigenous groups who had spent years battling the project over concerns it would worsen the climate crisis and harm the ecosystems and communities along its route.

“After more than 10 years — we have finally defeated an oil and gas giant! Keystone XL is DEAD!” the Indigenous Environmental Network tweeted in response to the news. “We are dancing in our hearts for this victory!”

The defeated pipeline would have extended 1,179 miles and transported 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, The New York Times explained. It would have ended in Nebraska, but connected to other pipelines that would help the oil complete its journey, as The AP reported.

However, environmental activists have long argued that now was the wrong time to lock in more fossil fuel infrastructure. For them, Wednesday’s victory was a long time coming. Protests against the pipeline first persuaded President Barack Obama to cancel a key permit for the project in 2015. Obama’s decision was then reversed two years later, when President Donald Trump restored the permit early into his term.
» Read article             

» More about pipelines

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

hundreds arrested
Hundreds Arrested at Line 3 ‘Treaty People Gathering.’ Water Protectors Vow To Continue Until the Pipeline is Canceled

Indigenous activists in Northern Minnesota occupied sites of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline, seeking to disrupt construction. The action puts national attention on an issue that President Biden has tried to ignore.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
June 8, 2021

Nearly 200 people were arrested on Monday while protesting the Line 3 pipeline, a long-distance tar sands pipeline that runs across Indigenous land and threatens food and water resources, including the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Indigenous and environmental groups, and even some elected officials, condemned the aggressive use of a helicopter to disperse protesters.

More than 2,000 people began gathering at an undisclosed location in Northern Minnesota over the weekend, answering a call from Indigenous Anishinaabe people and a coalition of environmental groups to disrupt the construction of the pipeline.

The “Treaty People Gathering” kicked off on June 7, when hundreds of water protectors arrived at construction sites where Enbridge, a Canadian pipeline company, is ramping up construction of the Line 3 pipeline, which began in June after a several-month hiatus due to weather.

The direct action aims not just to delay and disrupt construction, but also to ratchet up the pressure on the Biden administration to intervene. Biden has avoided a public position on the issue, but growing national attention on the protests could make ignoring the water protectors increasingly difficult for the administration. The silence is all the more glaring as Biden has positioned himself as a champion of both climate action and Indigenous rights.

The Line 3 pipeline has been described as a replacement for an aging line, but much of it traverses new land, and the “replacement” will nearly double the current volume of oil traveling through the system, increasing it to 760,000 barrels per day. The emissions associated with the project would be equivalent to 50 coal-fired power plants.

The threat of oil spills is also not theoretical. In 2010, Enbridge’s Line 6B spilled nearly a million gallons of heavy oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.

Those opposing the pipeline’s construction are seeking to deliberately highlight how the project violates Indigenous people’s treaty rights.

“We called this mobilization the Treaty People Gathering because we are all treaty people. Our non-native allies have a responsibility to stand with us against projects like the Line 3 pipeline that put our Anishinaabe lifeways at risk. Today, we’re taking a stand for our right to hunt, fish, and gather, and for the future of the climate,” said Nancy Beaulieau, Northern Minnesota Organizer with MN350 and co-founder of the Resilient Indigenous Sisters Engaging (RISE) coalition.

The gathering aims to rekindle the spirit and energy of the 2016 Dakota Access pipeline protests, led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and a broad swathe of Native and non-Native allies, where thousands of people gathered in North Dakota for several months in the latter half of 2016.
» Read article             

opening day
‘Which Side Are You On?’: #StopLine3 Protesters Appeal to Biden on Historic Day of Action
“We still have time to save our sacred waters and land—our life sources,” said Indigenous organizer Dawn Goodwin.
By Brett Wilkins, Common Dreams
June 7, 2021

In what organizers are calling the largest-ever demonstration of its kind in Minnesota history, more than 2,000 Indigenous-led water protectors on Monday continued nonviolent, direct action protests against the planned replacement and expansion of Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

Stop Line 3 campaigners said over 1,000 water protectors marched with Indigenous leaders to the headwaters of the Mississippi River on the third day of the Treaty People Gathering—which organizers billed as “the beginning of a summer of resistance”—to participate in a treaty ceremony at a proposed Line 3 crossing site.

The $9 billion pipeline project—which if completed will carry up to 750,000 barrels of crude tar sands oil, the world’s dirtiest fuel, from Alberta to the port of Superior, Wisconsin—is slated to traverse Anishinaabe treaty land without tribal consent. The proposed pipeline route crosses more than 200 bodies of water and 800 wetlands, raising serious concerns not only about the project’s impact on the climate emergency, but also about leaks and other accidents opponents say are all but inevitable.

South of the Mississippi headwaters gathering, over 500 activists in coordination and solidarity with the Indigenous women and two-spirit-led Giniw Collective shut down a Line 3 pumping station at Two Inlets, northwest of Park Rapids, with some demonstrators locking themselves to construction equipment.

A low-flying helicopter protesters said belongs to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security kicked up a large dust cloud in an apparent effort to intimidate and disperse activists from the pump station protest site. Water protectors continued their resistance even as police clad in riot gear arrived at the station and reportedly began arresting demonstrators later in the afternoon.
» Read article             

» More about protests and actions

GREENING THE ECONOMY

seawater mining
Scientists Find Cheap And Easy Way To Extract Lithium From Seawater
By MINING.com, in Oil Price
June 7, 2021

Researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology developed what they believe is an economically viable system to extract high-purity lithium from seawater.

Previous efforts to tease lithium from the mixture the metal makes together with sodium, magnesium and potassium in seawater yielded very little. Although the liquid contains 5,000 times more lithium than what can be found on land, it is present at extremely low concentrations of about 0.2 parts per million (ppm).

To address this issue, the team led by Zhiping Lai tried a method that had never been used before to extract lithium ions. They employed an electrochemical cell containing a ceramic membrane made from lithium lanthanum titanium oxide (LLTO).

In a paper published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, the researchers explain that the membrane’s crystal structure contains holes just wide enough to let lithium ions pass through while blocking larger metal ions.

The cell itself, on the other hand, contains three compartments. Seawater flows into a central feed chamber, where positive lithium ions pass through the LLTO membrane into a side compartment that contains a buffer solution and a copper cathode coated with platinum and ruthenium. At the same time, negative ions exit the feed chamber through a standard anion exchange membrane, passing into a third compartment containing a sodium chloride solution and a platinum-ruthenium anode.

Lai and his group tested the system using seawater from the Red Sea. At a voltage of 3.25V, the cell generates hydrogen gas at the cathode and chlorine gas at the anode. This drives the transport of lithium through the LLTO membrane, where it accumulates in the side-chamber. This lithium-enriched water then becomes the feedstock for four more cycles of processing, eventually reaching a concentration of more than 9,000 ppm.

According to the researchers, the cell will probably need $5 of electricity to extract 1 kilogram of lithium from seawater. This means that the value of hydrogen and chlorine produced by the cell would end up offsetting the cost of power, and residual seawater could also be used in desalination plants to provide fresh water.
» Read article            
» Read the research paper

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

plumeGlobal carbon dioxide levels continued to rise despite pandemic
Emissions rose to 419 parts per million in May, the highest such measurement in the 63 years that the data has been recorded
By Katharine Gammon, The Guardian
June 8, 2021

The data is in: carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere hit 419 parts per million in May. The levels have now reached the dangerous milestone of being 50% higher than when the industrial age began – and the average rate of increase is faster than ever.

The figure is the highest measurement of the crucial greenhouse gas in the 63 years that data has been recorded at the Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory in Hawaii – despite slowdowns in air travel and industry during a global pandemic in the past year.

The 10-year average rate of increase also set a record, now up to 2.4 parts per million per year.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the reason is complex. Global emissions fell by 6.4% in 2020, but given the seasonal and natural variability, modest decreases wouldn’t make a big impact on the global tally of carbon emissions. And even as emissions dropped, wildfires burning through trees released carbon dioxide – maybe even at a similar rate as the modest lowering of emissions from the pandemic’s slowing impact on the global economy.

“The ultimate control knob on atmospheric CO2 is fossil-fuel emissions,” geochemist Ralph Keeling, whose father started gathering data at the Mauna Loa site, told Noaa. “But we still have a long way to go to halt the rise, as each year more CO2 piles up in the atmosphere. We ultimately need cuts that are much larger and sustained longer than the Covid-related shutdowns of 2020.”

In order to meet the goals of the Paris climate accords – to keep temperature rise to 1.5C – the United Nations Environment Programme report finds countries need to cut their global emissions by 7.6% every year for the next decade.

“Reaching 50% higher carbon dioxide than pre-industrial is really setting a new benchmark and not in a good way,” said the Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald, who wasn’t part of the research.

“If we want to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, we need to work much harder to cut carbon dioxide emissions and right away.”
» Read article             

Akaraolu flare
Wealthy Nations Continue to Finance Natural Gas for Developing Countries, Putting Climate Goals at Risk
Advocates are calling for an end to natural gas development, but some poor nations say doing so would unfairly penalize them and stifle economic growth.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News
June 7, 2021

As the world’s governments try to raise their collective climate ambitions, one of the biggest questions is whether developing countries can expand their access to energy and reduce poverty without driving a sharp rise in greenhouse gas emissions.

A new report warns that wealthy nations are still pushing in the wrong direction, by continuing to finance new natural gas infrastructure across the global south. While natural gas once held the promise of serving as a “bridge fuel” to a cleaner future, a growing body of scientific research suggests the fossil fuel will need to be phased out rapidly in coming decades in order to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The analysis, published Monday by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a climate think tank, looked at spending by multilateral finance groups like the World Bank and government lenders like the United States Export-Import Bank. It found that the groups provided an average of $15.9 billion annually to gas projects in low- and middle-income countries from 2017 through 2019, more than to any other energy source and four times as much as to wind or solar energy.

“What we’re seeing is increasing pressure on developing countries from the global gas industry and from international institutions to expand their production and consumption of natural gas,” said Greg Muttitt, senior policy adviser at the sustainable development institute and the report’s lead author. “We’re concerned about this because it’s quite clear that with how late we are in the climate crisis, we really need to be winding down fossil fuels as quickly as possible.”

Muttitt said preliminary data from last year, which covers multilateral lenders only, shows an encouraging trend: For the first time, clean energy received more financing than fossil fuels—four times as much. Still, gas continued to draw billions of dollars in support, even as funding for oil and coal fell.

The report comes as leaders of the wealthy G7 nations prepare to meet this week in the United Kingdom. Last month, the climate and environment ministers from G7 countries issued a joint message committing to “take concrete steps towards an absolute end” this year to international financing of coal-fired power plants that aren’t fitted with technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions. They also said they would phase out support for fossil fuel energy more broadly, but did not set a timeline and allowed exceptions “in limited circumstances.”
» Read article             

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

STAR program MA
Massachusetts group tests new model for solar on affordable housing projects

The Solar Technical Assistance Retrofits will offer financial and technical assistance to community development agencies interested in rooftop solar, with private investors providing the upfront capital
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
June 11, 2021

A Massachusetts program announced Thursday that it has secured $10 million to invest in up to 3 megawatts of solar projects on affordable housing buildings.

The Solar Technical Assistance Retrofits program, or STAR, will offer financial and technical assistance to community development agencies interested in installing rooftop solar as a way to lower energy costs.

“We believe that affordable housing should have full access to clean energy just like everyone else — it’s an equity issue,” said Emily Jones, senior program officer at the Local Initiatives Support Corp. in Boston, one of the agencies developing the program.

Solar panels offer environmental and financial benefits to housing agencies, including freeing up money to invest elsewhere or pass savings on to residents. Community development groups also generally serve neighborhoods that stand to feel a disproportionate impact from climate change.

However, over the past decade or so, the tight budgets of these nonprofits have meant few new affordable developments have included solar panels. Many, perhaps most, have instead opted for solar-ready construction, with roofs and electrical systems designed to support a hypothetical future solar system.

But once a development is built, new challenges to going solar appear. The buildings are generally operated with very small margins, leaving the agencies with little money to invest in solar installations.

Furthermore, affordable housing agencies generally own multiple buildings, each with its own advantages and obstacles for solar panels. Researching the often complex and technical options and seeking out financing partners can be too much for agency staff that is already stretched thin. Even the seemingly minor detail of freeing up staff to gather the information and complete the paperwork a solar developer needs can become a major stumbling block.

The STAR program, which launched in January, is designed to address this complex set of obstacles in a way other programs have not. Participating organizations receive grants to help them launch the process, in-depth analyses of their solar options from a local solar developer, and access to financing to help them install solar panels, often with no upfront cost.
» Read article             

proceed with cautionThe Department of Energy is trying to make clean hydrogen this generation’s ‘moonshot’
New “Energy Earthshots” initiative aims to make clean hydrogen cheap.
By Emily Pontecorvo, Grist
June 8, 2021

The U.S. Department of Energy announced a new “Energy Earthshots” initiative on Monday, evoking the spirit of ambition that put astronauts on the moon in the 1960s. This time, the goal is to accelerate the development of clean energy solutions that will help tackle climate change.

The initiative will focus on bringing down the cost of technologies that will enable the U.S. to achieve a net-zero emissions energy system by 2050, a crucial benchmark for preventing runaway global warming. First up is the “Hydrogen Shot” —  a goal to get the cost of clean hydrogen from $5 per kilogram down to $1 by 2030, or an 80 percent drop.

“Clean hydrogen is a game changer,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement. “It will help decarbonize high-polluting heavy-duty and industrial sectors, while delivering good-paying clean energy jobs and realizing a net-zero economy by 2050.”

Hydrogen is a flexible fuel that can be used in a range of applications and doesn’t release any greenhouse gases when it’s burned. Today the United States produces about a seventh of the world’s hydrogen, which is primarily used in oil refineries and to produce ammonia for fertilizer. But hydrogen could be key to cutting emissions from some of the hardest-to-decarbonize activities, such as industrial processes, steelmaking, storing clean energy for the power grid, and powering heavy-duty vehicles.

The problem is that today, about 95 percent of all hydrogen is made by reacting steam with natural gas in a process that releases carbon dioxide emissions. The Department of Energy’s Hydrogen Shot initiative aims to scale up methods of producing the fuel cleanly, using renewable electricity, nuclear power, or natural gas or biomass with  carbon capture technology to prevent emissions from entering the atmosphere.

Clean hydrogen production does exist today at a small scale, and is mainly inhibited by cost. But larger projects are underway. A utility in Florida is building a pilot plant to produce hydrogen from excess solar power, and New York-based company Plug Power has announced plans for three new hydrogen production facilities in New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas that will produce the fuel using hydropower and wind energy.
» Blog editor’s note: Green hydrogen does have a place in our energy future, but producing it from natural gas or biomass (even with carbon capture) would be environmentally problematic. So would overuse of this resource – for instance, using it for any applications that could be handled by wind/solar/storage assets. We’ll be watching this topic closely.
» Read article             

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

watch time
Watchdogs on alert ahead of climate law implementation
By Colin A. Young, WWLP, Chanel 22 News
June 9, 2021

BOSTON (SHNS) – Seventy-five days ago Wednesday, senators, representatives and administration officials gathered in the State Library to watch Gov. Charlie Baker sign a wide-reaching climate policy law. That means there are just 15 days left before it takes effect, and the lead Senate architect of the law made clear Wednesday he will be watching its implementation closely.

Sen. Michael Barrett spoke as part of the Northeast Clean Energy Council and Alliance for Business Leadership’s annual Massachusetts Clean Energy Day, an event that also featured his House counterpart Rep. Jeff Roy and Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Patrick Woodcock […].

“I want to emphasize the Senate’s interest in following through with implementation of the 2021 climate act. The Senate as a body has a lot invested here,” Barrett said, adding that even though the law was a result of legislative and executive branch collaboration, “small gaps” remain between how the Senate would like to see the law implemented and the Baker administration’s perspective.

The law Baker signed in March after months of stops and starts commits Massachusetts to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, establishes interim emissions goals between now and the middle of the century, adopts energy efficiency standards for appliances, authorizes another 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind power and addresses needs in environmental justice communities.

Barrett has taken a watchdog role in the law’s implementation since the governor’s signature was still wet. Minutes after the bill signing, he told the News Service he was concerned that the Baker administration had tried to “evade legislative intent” of the new law. On Wednesday, he pointed specifically to the law’s provision calling for a municipal opt-in net-zero stretch energy code — which was a major point of contention between the Legislature and governor during debate on the bill — as an area of concern.

“The framing, verbally, of the administration’s responsibility here by others in the administration has tended to drop the words ‘net-zero’ out of the conversation, which is really strange because we not only require in statute that there be a definition of net zero building, we also require that there be, and I’m quoting from the statute, ‘net-zero building performance standards’ promulgated by the end of 2022,” he said. The senator added, “So there’s still a difference between legislative intention, which is pretty clear, and what the administration says it intends to do with drafting the net-zero stretch energy code.”

Barrett said the Senate would be “dead serious” about making sure “that the politics within the executive branch, which may include builders and developers, don’t somehow throw us off path.”

“I don’t think it’s going to happen, but I haven’t seen a significant indication really that there’s unambivalent buy-in by the executive at the current time, current company exempted,” he said.

Barrett excluded Woodcock from his criticisms throughout his remarks Wednesday. During his own remarks, Woodcock mentioned that DOER is “moving forward with building code updates, not only with our stretch code but looking at a municipal opt-in that includes a definition of net-zero.”
» Read article             

» More about energy efficiency

MODERNIZING THE GRID

MOPR reform
New England states push for governance changes in ISO-NE, ahead of anticipated MOPR reform
To quell state frustrations, regulators say conversations will have to move beyond reforming the controversial minimum price rule.
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
June 7, 2021

State regulators in the Northeast are cautiously optimistic that the new administration and improved relations with their grid operator will finally place their states — and their region — on a path toward dramatically reducing emissions in the next decade. But much of that progress depends on whether structures within the New England ISO change beyond the reversal of controversial orders in the region, they say.

Almost every state in the ISO New England footprint has an ambitious mandate or goal for clean electricity in the coming decades, requiring large amounts of renewable energy to come onto the power system. But efforts by the grid operator to prevent price suppression in the region, as a result of increasing levels of subsidized resources, led to tensions between the regional operator and state officials in recent years — specifically, rules set under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2018 to reform its capacity auction by splitting it in two. Under the first auction, the minimum offer price rule (MOPR) would apply, effectively raising the bidding price of all state-subsidized resources. The second auction is an attempt to somewhat rectify this by allowing cleared resources to substitute themselves out for newer, state sponsored resources, and get paid for doing so.

Ultimately, this rule, approved in 2018 and known as Competitive Auctions with Sponsored Policy Resources (CASPR), heightened the conflict between states and their regulators, and for a time cemented the MOPR as an appropriate response to concerns over state-subsidized resources. States felt the rules would interfere with the laws binding them to bring on more clean energy, and regulators became increasingly frustrated when faced with regional policies they believed would not allow them to fulfill their statutory duties to implement those laws.

But now, under a new FERC and faced with a wave of political backlash — including some states in the also MOPRed PJM Interconnection threatening to exit the markets altogether, and a letter sent to the ISO in October from five Northeast states demanding changes to the market’s design, planning process and governance — FERC and the grid operators are working to rectify those policies, and give states a more central voice in the discussion.

“The MOPR regimes and Eastern capacity markets have pretty much forced us to get to a situation where we’re at battle, in many cases, with the states — and needlessly so, in my opinion,” said FERC Chair Richard Glick, who consistently opposed the orders when he was a commissioner, during FERC’s second technical conference in May on re-evaluating resource adequacy in the markets.
» Read article             

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Airlander 10
Inside of world’s largest airship revealed in stunning images
By Edd Gent, Live Science
June 8, 2021

New details about one of the world’s largest aircraft, Airlander 10, reveal a spacious cabin with floor-to-ceiling windows (and plenty of legroom) inside the blimp-like exterior. And the futuristic aircraft will be loads better for the environment.

British company Hybrid Air Vehicles recently released concept images of its forthcoming airship, which is 299 feet (91 meters) long and 112 feet (34 m) wide, with the capacity to hold about 100 people. But rather than being crammed in like sardines, passengers will be treated to floor-to-ceiling windows and the kind of space and legroom commercial airlines currently reserve for business-class customers.

The firm thinks the vehicle, which is expected to enter service by 2025, will soon challenge conventional jets on a number of popular short-haul routes, thanks to its improved comfort and 90% lower emissions.

“The number-one benefit is reducing your carbon footprint on a journey by a factor of 10,” Mike Durham, Hybrid Air Vehicles’ chief technical officer, told Live Science. “But also, while you’re going to be in the air a little bit longer than you would if you were on an airplane, the quality of the journey will be so much better.”

The Airlander is so much greener than a passenger plane, Durham said, primarily because it relies on a giant balloon of helium to get it into the air. In contrast, airplanes need to generate considerable forward thrust with their engines before their wings can provide the lift to get them airborne.

Once it’s in the air, the airship relies on four propellers on each corner of the aircraft to push it along. In the first generation, two of these propellers will be powered by kerosene-burning engines, but the other two will be driven by electric motors, further reducing the vehicle’s carbon emissions. By 2030, the company expects to provide a fully electric version of the Airlander.
» Read article             

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

just another frackerExxon is Telling Investors its Permian Fracking Projects are ‘World Class’. The Data Says Otherwise.
A new report finds that the productivity of ExxonMobil’s wells in the Permian basin declined in 2019, raising “troubling questions about the quality” of its assets.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
June 10, 2021

ExxonMobil’s production numbers in the Permian basin in West Texas and New Mexico appear to have deteriorated in 2019, according to new analysis, calling into question the company’s claims that it is an industry leader and that its operations are steadily becoming more efficient over time.

Chastened by years of poor returns and rising angst among its own shareholders, ExxonMobil narrowed its priorities in 2020 to just a few overarching areas of interest, focusing on its massive offshore oil discoveries in Guyana and its Permian basin assets, two areas positioned as the very core of the company’s growth strategy.

Exxon has long described its Permian holdings as “world class,” and the company prides itself on being an industry leader in both size and profitability.

“For our largest resource, which is in the Delaware Basin, we’re only just about to unleash the hounds,” Neil Chapman, the head of Exxon’s oil and gas division, said at its March 2020 Investor Day conference. The Delaware basin is a subset of the Permian basin, stretching across West Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

But while the pandemic and the oil market downturn forced cuts in spending, the company’s belief in the Permian and its assurances about its quality remain unshaken.

This is despite ExxonMobil’s wells in the Permian producing less oil on average in 2019 than they did in 2018, according to a new report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). The decline raises “troubling questions about the quality” of those assets, the report states, and the company’s “ability to sustain the industry-leading production that the company has been touting to investors.”

IEEFA used data from IHS Markit, an industry analysis firm, the same data that Exxon itself uses in its presentation to investors. The data show that Exxon’s average first-year production per well in the Delaware portion of the Permian basin fell from 635 barrels per day in 2018 to 521 barrels per day in 2019. The slip in performance came as the company drilled twice as many wells over that timeframe.

“[A]s ExxonMobil drilled more Delaware Basin wells, the performance of its wells deteriorated year-over-year, both absolutely and in comparison with peers,” IEEFA analysts Clark Williams-Derry and Tom Sanzillo wrote in their report. Data for 2020 is not complete, but so far, the numbers suggest a further deterioration.
» Read article            
» Read the IEEFA report

Permian Basin flare
Cleaning Up Methane Pollution From Permian Super Emitters is ‘Low Hanging Fruit’ for the Climate, Study Finds
Experts shine a spotlight on the worst offenders in the Permian basin. The technological fixes are obvious, they say, but state regulators are so far unwilling to act.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
June 4, 2021

Only a handful of super emitters are responsible for an enormous amount of the methane pollution in the Permian basin, according to a new study. And ratcheting down these emissions can lead to quick and significant wins for the climate.

According to the study published on June 2 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, a relatively small number of sites — 11 percent — account for nearly a third of methane emissions in the region. Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas — more than 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time-frame.

Between September and November 2019, a team of scientists from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of Arizona, and Arizona State University, conducted aerial flights over the Permian basin, using sensors to detect methane plumes, tracing them back to specific emitters. The researchers found that roughly half of all the methane was escaping from drilling sites, and the other half from pipelines and processing facilities, indicating a slightly larger pollution footprint for pipelines compared to other regions.

The findings come at the same time as a separate study from Ceres and Clean Air Task Force, published on June 1, which found that some smaller oil drillers in the Permian basin have worse methane pollution rates than the largest oil and gas companies’ operations there, including ExxonMobil and Chevron.

Slashing methane emissions represents prime targets for climate action. But while the solutions are well-known, researchers and legal experts told DeSmog that state regulators have done very little to compel the industry to clean up.
» Read article            
» Read the study

» More about fossil fuels

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

Societe GeneraleCanada’s Pieridae Energy hires MUFG as SocGen exits over emissions worries
By Sabrina Valle and Simon Jessop, Reuters
May 28, 2021

RIO DE JANEIRO/LONDON (Reuters) – Canada’s Pieridae Energy Ltd has hired Japanese lender MUFG Bank to help raise $10 billion for its proposed Goldboro liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant in Nova Scotia, it told Reuters on Thursday.

The decision to hire a new banker came after Societe Generale SA, its previous financial advisor, committed to phasing out of new shale financing on environmental grounds.

Societe Generale confirmed it had stopped providing support to both Goldboro and a separate project, Quebec LNG, to limit exposure to shale oil and gas production in North America by 2023.

Historically a backer of LNG projects, SocGen’s departure further reduces investment options for a dozen North American LNG projects still requiring financing. Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC also have tightened restrictions on lending for high-carbon energy projects.
» Blog editor’s note: Pieridae plans to develop the Goldboro LNG export facility in Nova Scotia – a potential destination for fracked gas traveling through the controversial Weymouth compressor station. A year ago, their engineering contractor KBR quit the project to clean up its environmental portfolio. Their financial advisor just did the same thing.
» Read article        

» More about LNG

BIOMASS

biomass facts for VicBiomass is false solution to climate change
Recent state decisions are a step in right direction
By Philip Duffy and Alexander Rabin, CommonWealth Magazine | Opinion
May 14, 2021
Dr. Philip Duffy is president and executive director of Woodwell Climate Research Center in Woods Hole and Dr. Alexander Rabin is assistant professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine specializing in pulmonary and critical care medicine.

FOR TOO LONG, burning wood has been wrongly considered “clean” energy, when in fact it is bad for both the climate and human health. With two recent decisions, Massachusetts seems poised to reverse direction on this false solution and prioritize healthier communities and a safer climate. While these are steps in the right direction, they are only the first of what is needed, and the Commonwealth has an opportunity to lead.

Springfield is the nation’s “asthma capital,” where residents face some of the highest rates of respiratory illness in the country as a result of decades of environmental hazards and heightened levels of air pollution. Springfield is also an environmental justice community, whose residents have spent 12 years fighting construction of a biomass plant proposed in their backyard. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection recently revoked the developer’s Air Plan Approval, citing “the heightened focus on environmental and health impacts on environmental justice populations from sources of pollution” in the nine years since the permit was first approved.

This decision and a new proposal from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to strengthen the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard are welcome recognition that the health and well-being of the community and the environment are inextricably linked.

While these are huge steps in the right direction for Springfield, as well as for other environmental justice communities, in Massachusetts and many other states burning wood to generate electricity is currently considered “renewable” and eligible for incentives under the states’ Renewable Portfolio Standard, a policy that is intended to drive adoption of “clean” energy. But biomass is a false solution that serves neither our climate nor our communities.

For humanity to have a viable future, climate and public health policies must be based on science, not industry messaging. And the science is clear: to have a chance of an acceptable future, we need to immediately and drastically reduce carbon emissions to the atmosphere, and also remove a massive amount of CO2 from the atmosphere. Burning our forests is incompatible with both of those goals and harmful to our health.
» Read article            

IEA roadmap on bioenergy
The IEA’s New Net Zero ‘Roadmap’ is Dangerously Reliant on Destructive Bioenergy
The influential agency is also wildly overestimating the amount of bioenergy currently in production, argues Biofuelwatch’s Almuth Ernsting.
By Almuth Ernsting, DeSmog Blog | Opinion
June 1, 2021
Almuth Ernsting is Co-director of Biofuelwatch and Regional Focal Point for the Global Forest Coalition in Europe and North America.

The International Energy Agency’s new “Net Zero by 2050” report has won plaudits for its bold recommendations on how the world can limit warming to 1.5°C, in line with the Paris Agreement:  no investment in new fossil fuel projects, and an end to petrol and diesel cars by 2035.

But the vision it presents governments is fantastic in another sense of the word, too.

From 2030 onwards, the IEA sees technologies that don’t yet work at scale doing much of the heavy lifting. In reality, annual carbon dioxide emissions reliably mirror the state of countries’ economies, dipping only during recessions.

As for the not-yet-proven technologies, I can think of no better reply than Greta Thunberg’s tweet slamming US Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry for his recent remark that half of emissions cuts would need to come from technologies we don’t currently possess: “Great news! I spoke to Harry Potter and he said he will team up with Gandalf, Sherlock Holmes & The Avengers and get started right away!”

The IEA is made up of thirty member states and eight associated countries, comprising most of the world’s economic power. Its reports both reflect and shape the prevailing paradigm for how governments respond to the climate crisis.

In this light, one of the most pernicious elements of the IEA’s net-zero scenario is the future role it foresees for bioenergy.

This bioenergy “vision” has been rightly criticised as a “false solution” by environmental NGOs. Converting land to biofuel production can have a disastrous impact on both the climate and biodiversity. Palm oil biofuels are linked to three times the carbon emissions of the fossil fuels they replace, and soy biofuels have twice the emissions footprint. Meanwhile, industrial crop and tree plantations are associated with widespread land-grabbing, human rights abuses, and loss of access to food.

So there are numerous drawbacks to the IEA’s supposedly modest bioenergy scenario, which by our estimates would involve a more than four-fold increase in land used for crop and tree plantations, as well as a growing reliance on forest wood. This would worsen climate change and biodiversity loss and lead to a new wave of land-grabbing likely accompanied by human rights abuses and loss of food sovereignty in the Global South.
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PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND ENVIRONMENT

ocean bound plastic
Ocean Plastic: What You Need to Know
By Audrey Nakagawa, EcoWatch
June 8, 2021

Ocean bound plastic is plastic waste that is headed toward our oceans. The term “ocean bound plastic” was popularized by Jenna Jambeck, Ph.D., a professor from the University of Georgia. In 2015, she and a team of researchers estimated the amount of plastic waste entering the ocean from land.

Addressing ocean bound plastic is a key element to ocean conservation. Around 80% of plastic in the ocean can be sourced back to ocean bound plastic. Plastics that end up near bodies of water such as rivers are at risk of ending up in the ocean. Other plastic can reach the sea through sewage systems or storms. For example, in 2011, after the 2011 Tōhoku tsunami and earthquake hit Japan, around 5 million tons of debris ended up in the ocean. Some of the debris sank while some ended up on the U.S. west coast. Additionally, trash and plastic can come from ships or offshore platforms. However, decades ago, countries dumped their waste directly into the sea. In the U.S. this was outlawed in 1988 in the Ocean Dumping Ban Act of 1988.

Plastic waste is a huge threat to our Earth, and diverting ocean bound plastic is one way we can do better to help the environment.

Each year, despite conservation efforts, 8 million tons of plastic reaches our oceans to meet the 150 million metric tons of plastic that already exists in marine environments. According to the Smithsonian, as of 2016, we produce around 335 million metric tons of plastic each year. Half of this plastic is single-use. Of the plastic we use globally, only around 9% of it gets properly recycled.

To create a mental picture of just how much plastic ends up in our oceans, imagine a garbage truck the size of New York City depositing its garbage into the ocean every minute of every day for a whole year. If this doesn’t frighten you enough, the amount of plastic that will be produced and consumed is supposed to double over the course of the next ten years. If nothing is done to address plastic consumption, and the aftermath, there could be over 250 million metric tons of plastic in our oceans in ten years.

Even if you don’t live on a coast, the plastic you throw away can still end up in the ocean. According to the World Wildlife Fund, plastic ends up in the ocean when it’s thrown away instead of recycled, when it’s littered on land, and when products we use are flushed down the drain or toilet. Additionally, cosmetic or cleaning products that contain parabens or microplastic beads can be washed into the ocean.
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plastic debris
Who’s Making — and Funding — the World’s Plastic Trash?
ExxonMobil, Dow, Barclays, and more top lists in a new report ranking the companies behind the single-use plastic crisis.
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
May 18, 2021

ExxonMobil is the world’s single largest producer of single-use plastics, according to a new report published today by the Australia-based Minderoo Foundation, one of Asia’s biggest philanthropies.

The Dow Chemical Company ranks second, the report finds, with the Chinese state-owned company Sinopec coming in third. Indorama Ventures — a Thai company that entered the plastics market in 1995 — and Saudi Aramco, owned by the Saudi Arabian government, round out the top five.

Funding for single-use plastic production comes from major banks and from institutional asset managers. The UK-based Barclays and HSBC, and Bank of America are the top three lenders to single-use plastic projects, the new report finds. All three of the most heavily invested asset managers named by the report — Vanguard Group, BlackRock, and Capital Group — are U.S.-based.

“This is the first-time the financial and material flows of single-use plastic production have been mapped globally and traced back to their source,” said Toby Gardner, a Stockholm Environment Institute senior research fellow, who contributed to the report, titled The Plastic Waste Makers Index.

The report is also the first to rank companies by their contributions to the single-use plastic crisis, listing the corporations and other financiers it says are most responsible for plastic pollution — with major implications for climate change.

“The trajectories of the climate crisis and the plastic waste crisis are strikingly similar and increasingly intertwined,” Al Gore, the former U.S. vice president, wrote in the report’s foreword. “Tracing the root causes of the plastic waste crisis empowers us to help solve it.”

The world of plastic production is concentrated in fewer hands than the world of plastic packaging, the report’s authors found. The top twenty brands in the plastic packaging world — think Coca Cola or Pepsi, for example — handle about 10 percent of global plastic waste, report author Dominic Charles told DeSmog. In contrast, the top 20 producers of plastic polymers — the building blocks of plastics — handle over half of the waste generated.

“Which I think was really quite staggering,” Charles, director of Finance & Transparency at Minderoo Foundation’s Sea The Future program, told DeSmog. “It means that just a handful of companies really do have the fate of the world’s single-use plastic waste in their hands.”
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