Tag Archives: heat pump

Weekly News Check-In 8/5/22

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Welcome back.

Just like last week, there’s still a lot of drama around climate legislation. The Massachusetts Legislature incorporated some of Governor Charlie Baker’s proposed amendments and sent this major climate bill back to his desk just as the legislative session wound down. Notably, the Legislature didn’t capitulate to Baker’s suggested amendment on power generated by burning wood, and lawmakers also rejected proposed changes to their plan to permit 10 towns and cities to ban gas hookups in new buildings. If you’re a Massachusetts resident, please call or email the Governor and ask him to sign the bill into law.

While we wait for that, we’re seeing some really positive movement both practically and conceptually away from fossils and toward clean energy. In court, three public interest groups filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against Washington [D.C.] Gas Light Company over what they called the “greenwashing” of its use of highly polluting methane gas. The complaint claims that Washington Gas consistently refers to fossil gas in customer-facing materials as clean and sustainable compared to electrification. Sounds familiar!

And on the opposite coast, San Diego officials took action against natural gas to strengthen their city’s position on climate change. The City Council voted unanimously to ban natural gas in new houses and local businesses over the next 12 years, and included a measure to phase out 90 percent of natural gas from existing buildings.

While the gas industry continues to hammer hard on the “can’t cook without my gas range” message, chef Chris Galarza is busy helping restaurants and institutions shift from gas to induction stoves. The change is good for the climate — and for kitchen workers’ mental health and well-being.

On the innovation front, a $70 million initiative will deploy 30,000 window-mounted electric heat pumps to bring climate-friendly comfort to residents of New York City’s aging public housing units. Encouraging a market for this type of heat pump could go a long way toward decarbonizing older buildings that typically heat with oil or gas, where residents rely on window air conditioners for cooling.

Innovation is shaking up building materials, too. Making steel is carbon intensive. It’s responsible for up to 9% of worldwide CO2 emissions and almost a quarter of all industrial emissions. Until recently, substituting green hydrogen for fossil fuel seemed to be the pathway to sustainable steel. But Boston Metal claims it has “cracked the code to electrifying steel manufacturing”. Their process produces steel without releasing carbon dioxide, and without using hydrogen fuel. Of course, the model relies on a green grid to supply that power.

We’ve run a lot of stories about the need for the U.S. transmission grid to expand and modernize, and how it isn’t happening fast enough to support the enormous growth of clean energy that’s quickly coming online. Here, we look at how grid-enhancing technologies enable us to get more out of existing power lines.

Recognizing that the U.S. lags behind China in the capacity to build the batteries it will need to meet its growing demand for electric vehicles, the Department of Energy is planning to loan a U.S. battery manufacturing consortium $2.5 billion to ramp up domestic battery production.

All of that is great, but we’re still stuck with fossils for a while – and the industry is pulling all its levers to draw that out as long as possible. One ploy is to turn the divestment movement back on itself. A New York Times investigation revealed a coordinated effort by Republican state treasurers to use government muscle and public funds to punish companies trying to reduce greenhouse gases.

Another tactic involves claiming that existing fossil emitters like power plants can be cleaned up using in-stack carbon capture technology. We’ve expressed plenty of skepticism about this expensive scheme that consistently under-delivers. A new study bears that out. But the carbon capture and sequestration concept can be applied to removing CO2 directly from the ambient air – and a cutting edge direct air capture facility in Iceland is going big.

One last story about the fossil fuel industry:  The Associated Press recently did some great investigative work based on a 2021 aerial survey of the Permian Basin conducted by Carbon Mapper, a partnership of university researchers and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. That survey documented massive amounts of methane venting into the atmosphere from oil and gas operations along the Texas-New Mexico border, and the AP concluded that just 10 companies owned at least 164 of 533 “super-emitting” sites. The Environmental Protection Agency is taking another look now, with enforcement action in mind.

Our climate section shows why we can’t just ignore that kind of industry malfeasance anymore.    While there are encouraging signs that we may be starting to get some traction in the race against global warming, we’re still way behind and the stakes are high. Scientists say it’s time to consider worst-case scenarios as the planet approaches environmental tipping points that could exacerbate other global crises like pandemics and war. That’s the tried-and-true “hope for the best, but plan for the worst” approach.

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

LEGISLATION

MA state house stock shot
Legislature amends climate bill, leaving its fate in Governor Baker’s hands
By Dharna Noor, Boston Globe
August 1, 2022

The Massachusetts Legislature sent a major climate bill back to Governor Charlie Baker’s desk as the session wound down, incorporating some, but not all, of his proposed amendments. The fate of the legislation is now in Baker’s hands.

On the House floor Sunday, Representative Jeff Roy, who negotiated the bill in the Legislature along with Senator Michael Barrett, read a passage from Baker’s recent book about the importance of political compromise.

Roy said the bill gives Baker, who isn’t seeking reelection this fall, a chance to secure his climate legacy.

“He indeed has an incredible choice to make and we certainly hope that he embraces the compromises in this bill like all of us have already done,” he said on Monday. “Otherwise, he will be remembered as the one who pulled the plug on electrification and took the breeze out of offshore wind.”

The Legislature didn’t capitulate to Baker’s suggested amendment on power generated by burning wood.

In their original bill, lawmakers sought to remove wood-burning power plants from the state’s renewable portfolio standard, meaning they would no longer count toward renewable energy goals in Massachusetts or be eligible for state clean energy subsidies. The Legislature would have grandfathered in two long-standing small facilities that are currently in the program.

Baker filed an amendment that would have exempted all wood-burning power plants that began commercial operation before 2022.

Environmental advocates say that would have gutted the provision and praised the Legislature for standing its ground. Wood-burning plants produce harmful pollutants like carbon monoxide, and research shows they can emit even more carbon at the smokestack than coal-fired plants.

“In passing this bill, the Legislature is preventing our clean energy dollars from going up in smoke,” said Laura Haight, US policy director for the Partnership for Policy Integrity, in an e-mailed statement.

Lawmakers also rejected Baker’s proposed changes to their plan to permit 10 towns and cities to ban gas hookups in new buildings.

The policies have been contentious for state officials since Brookline first attempted to pass one in 2019.
» Read article   

take it
Baker in take-it-or-leave-it position on climate bill
Lawmakers accept his price cap amendment, reject most others
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
July 31, 2022

THE LEGISLATURE returned compromise climate legislation to Gov. Charlie Baker on Sunday and urged him to sign it into law even though he didn’t get all the changes he wanted.

Rep. Jeffrey Roy of Franklin, the House chair of the Legislature’s energy committee, gave a speech in which he appealed to Baker to follow his own advice on compromising and warned him of the consequences of not doing so.

Roy read a passage from Baker’s recent book that extolled compromise and suggested the governor should practice what he preaches. He also warned that a veto, which would kill the legislation, would hurt the state’s efforts to meet its climate goals and set the governor up as “the one who took the breeze out of offshore wind.”

Roy said he’s not thrilled with everything in the bill but is nevertheless supporting the compromise version. He said Baker should do the same. Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem of Newton offered a similar perspective. “The governor has now a chance to cement his legacy,” she said.

Not every senator was as enthusiastic. Sen. Marc Pacheco of Taunton urged Baker to sign the bill, but he said he thought the bill did not go far enough. “I hope with a new governor and a new Legislature in January we will go way beyond what we’re going to do today. We need to have bold action on climate,” he said. “What we’re doing today is nowhere near close to where we need to be.”

Baker sent the Legislature’s original climate change bill back on Friday with 19 pages of amendments, including a call for a $750 million appropriation of federal and state funds for clean energy development.
» Read article       

» More about legislation       

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

electrify DC
First-of-Its-Kind Greenwashing Lawsuit Targets Gas Giant for Methane Lies
Washington Gas’s customers, said the plaintiffs, “have a right to the facts about the environmental and health impacts of the products and services they use—including where they get their energy.”
By Julia Conley, Common Dreams
August 4, 2022

Warning that a Washington, D.C. utility has run afoul of the U.S. capital’s consumer protection law, three public interest groups on Thursday announced a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against Washington Gas Light Company over what they called the “greenwashing” of its use of highly pollutive methane gas.

U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Environment America Research and Policy Center, and ClientEarth filed their lawsuit in the District of Columbia Superior Court, saying Washington Gas is consistently misleading more than one million customers by advertising its use of natural gas as a “smart choice for the environment.”

“Washington Gas consistently refers to fossil gas in customer-facing materials as clean and sustainable… compared to electrification,” said ClientEarth in a statement.

The company has focused heavily on convincing customers that using natural gas, whose main ingredient is methane, is a sustainable way to power their homes and workplaces—despite the fact that methane has 80 times the climate-heating potency of carbon emissions in its first 20 years in the atmosphere.

With fracking driving a surge in global gas production over the past two decades, methane is now responsible for nearly half of planetary heating to date and for 23% of Washington, D.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Washington Gas’s customers would never know this from the company’s marketing materials, however, said the groups suing the utility.

“Washington Gas is greenwashing methane gas in its materials,” said Matt Casale, director of environmental campaigns for U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “The truth is that methane is a super-potent greenhouse gas that pollutes our air and worsens the climate crisis.”
» Read article       

» More about protests and actions

GAS BANS

Mayor Todd Gloria
San Diego City Councils votes unanimously for the ban of natural gas in new construction
According to officials, this action will reduce San Diego County’s carbon footprint and hit net-zero emissions by 2035
By Guillermo Mijares, Chulavista Today
August 4, 2022

San Diego officials have taken action against natural gas to strengthen their position on climate change.

City Council recently voted unanimously to ban natural gas in new houses and local businesses over the next 12 years.

According to officials, this action will reduce San Diego County’s carbon footprint and hit net-zero emissions by 2035. This vote against fossil fuels in the latest and future buildings also includes electrifying existing construction over the next decade.

Mayor of San Diego Todd Gloria says this move was necessary because the consequences of failed action on the matter would negatively affect the county.

“The window to reverse the dangerous trends of climate change is rapidly closing, and this moment demands aggressive action,” said Gloria at a public hearing this week. “Implementing this more ambitious plan won’t be easy, but the financial cost and human consequences of inaction are almost unimaginable.”

Several cities in the state of California have installed restrictions involving gas stoves and home heaters in newly-built construction buildings, including in areas like Encinitas.

Jordan More, fiscal and policy analyst at the city’s Office of the Independent Budget Analyst, emphasized what this action means on the state’s fight against one of the biggest issues in the world today.

“There’s one action within this … that outweighs every other strategy, and that is the measure to phase out 90 percent of natural gas from existing buildings,” Jordan More, on the importance of this unanimous vote regarding the fight on climate change.

Cristina Marquez, organizer of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569, said this move is essentially a green light to produce more jobs in the energy workforce, something the state sees as a big win.
» Read article      

» More about gas bans         

DIVESTMENT

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How Republicans Are ‘Weaponizing’ Public Office Against Climate Action
A Times investigation revealed a coordinated effort by state treasurers to use government muscle and public funds to punish companies trying to reduce greenhouse gases.
By David Gelles, New York Times
August 5, 2022

Nearly two dozen Republican state treasurers around the country are working to thwart climate action on state and federal levels, fighting regulations that would make clear the economic risks posed by a warming world, lobbying against climate-minded nominees to key federal posts and using the tax dollars they control to punish companies that want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the past year, treasurers in nearly half the United States have been coordinating tactics and talking points, meeting in private and cheering each other in public as part of a well-funded campaign to protect the fossil fuel companies that bolster their local economies.

Last week, Riley Moore, the treasurer of West Virginia, announced that several major banks — including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo — would be barred from government contracts with his state because they are reducing their investments in coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel.

Mr. Moore and the treasurers of Louisiana and Arkansas have pulled more than $700 million out of BlackRock, the world’s largest investment manager, over objections that the firm is too focused on environmental issues. At the same time, the treasurers of Utah and Idaho are pressuring the private sector to drop climate action and other causes they label as “woke.”

And treasurers from Pennsylvania, Arizona and Oklahoma joined a larger campaign to thwart the nominations of federal regulators who wanted to require that banks, funds and companies disclose the financial risks posed by a warming planet.

At the nexus of these efforts is the State Financial Officers Foundation, a little-known nonprofit organization based in Shawnee, Kan., that once focused on cybersecurity, borrowing costs and managing debt loads, among other routine issues.

Then President Biden took office, promising to speed the country’s transition away from oil, gas and coal, the burning of which is dangerously heating the planet.

The foundation began pushing Republican state treasurers, who are mostly elected officials and who are responsible for managing their state’s finances, to use their power to promote oil and gas interests and to stymie Mr. Biden’s climate agenda, records show.

[…] Many Democratic state treasurers support efforts to combat climate change and want banks and investment firms to be clear about risks posed to returns for retirees and others. Democratic lawmakers in California and New Jersey are working on legislation that would require their state pension systems to divest from fossil fuels. But Democrats have not mounted anything like the national campaign being orchestrated by the State Financial Officers Foundation.

The Republican treasurers skirt the fact that global warming is an economic menace that is damaging industries like agriculture and causing extreme weather that devastates communities and costs taxpayers billions in recovery and rebuilding. Instead, they frame efforts to reduce emissions as a threat to employment and revenue, and have turned climate science into another front in the culture wars.
» Read article       

» More about divestment

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Chef Chris Galarza
Meet a chef working to electrify commercial kitchens
Christopher Galarza helps restaurants and institutions shift to induction stoves. The change is good for the climate — and for kitchen workers’ mental health and well-being.
By Maria Virginia Olano, Canary Media
August 3, 2022

Working in a commercial kitchen can be intense, and not just because of the pressure to make great food. It entails hours of standing over the open flame of a gas-burning stove, enveloped in a cloud of extreme heat, humidity and steam.

“It’s almost suffocating,” Christopher Galarza says. He spent 10 years cooking in conventional commercial kitchens until, thanks to a job change, he had the chance to experience an entirely different environment — that of a fully electric, induction-powered kitchen.

For Galazara, there was no going back.

Now he wants to see induction stoves become the norm in restaurants and commercial kitchens across the country — for the mental and physical benefits they offer to people who work in those kitchens, and for the role they can play in moving away from fossil gas and addressing the climate crisis.

[…] From the backyard barbecue to the teppanyaki plates sizzling in restaurants, most people associate great cooking with hot open flames. But the fuel that often feeds those flames is not just heating up our kitchens — it’s also contributing to the climate crisis. Methane, the main component in the fossil gas that fuels more than a third of home stoves in the U.S., is a potent greenhouse gas. Fossil gas also negatively impacts human health, containing other toxic chemicals linked to cancer and greater risks of asthma, especially in kids. ​“Like many cooks, I used to think ​‘gas is king,’ but at a certain point, I started questioning why,” Galarza says.

In 2015, Galarza took a job as executive chef at Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, which is well known for its focus on sustainability. Galarza grew accustomed to cooking produce from local gardens and fish raised on nearby farms. The campus also had one of the country’s first fully electric commercial kitchens, and Galarza experienced for the first time what it was like to cook on induction stoves and in electric ovens, with no gas lines or open flames.

The technology behind induction stoves, which has been around since the 1970s, uses magnetic fields instead of combusting gas to generate heat, and it is orders of magnitude faster, more precise and, critically, cooler and more climate-friendly than any other cooking method.

“I fell in love with it,” Galarza says. It wasn’t just the lack of toxic fumes and hot, injury-inviting surfaces that Galarza appreciated. It was also the ease of cleaning up an induction stove; it needs only warm, soapy water as opposed to the grease-fighting chemicals required to clean up a gas stove, and it takes a fraction of the time.

Another lesser-known benefit of climate-friendly kitchens is how they impact the mental health of the people working in them. Galarza felt the difference immediately. The burnout that had plagued him eased, and he began to experience the joy of cooking again. Reinvigorated, he was eager to share with others what he’d learned at Chatham.
» Read article       

limited listing
The plan to turn blighted houses into a new source of green power for the grid

A California nonprofit is retrofitting homes to make a “virtual power plant” – and fighting gentrification at the same time.
By Emily Pontecorvo, Grist
August 3, 2022

Standing outside the sagging house on 2nd Street in North Richmond, California, it was hard to imagine it as the future site of a pioneering clean energy project. The building’s rotting white siding seemed to sink into the dirt yard with no real foundation. Chunks of it were crumbling to the ground. As we walked around to the back, Jim Becker, my tour guide, pointed to a plastic pipe sticking out of the wall.

“Here, the sewage was just flushing out onto the dirt,” he said. “It was just shooting all the poop into the garden.”

But Becker was excited. He was showing me this house as a sort of “before” picture. Soon, workers will take the building down to its studs and reconstruct the walls and roof. Then it will get a full menu of clean energy offerings: energy-efficient lighting, an electric vehicle charger, an electric stove, electric heat pumps for heating and air conditioning, an internet-connected “smart thermostat.” Solar panels will line the roof, and a backup battery will allow future residents to keep the lights on and the refrigerator running during a power outage.

When the retrofit is done, the house will not be listed publicly on the cutthroat Bay Area real estate market. Instead, it will be shown to a select group of Richmond locals, mostly from low and middle-income backgrounds, who are looking to buy their first home.
» Read article       

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

incinerated
Scientists Say It’s ‘Fatally Foolish’ To Not Study Catastrophic Climate Outcomes
A new paper discusses ‘climate end games’ as the planet approaches environmental tipping points that could exacerbate other global crises like pandemics and war.
By Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News
August 1, 2022

As global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, some climate scientists say it’s time to start paying more attention to the most extreme, worst-case outcomes, including the potential for widespread extinctions, mass climate migration and the disintegration of social and political systems.

“Facing a future of accelerating climate change while blind to worst-case scenarios is naive risk management at best and fatally foolish at worst,” an international team of researchers wrote this week in a Perspective piece in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More than half of all cumulative carbon dioxide emissions have occurred since international climate negotiations started in 1990. Global warming is accelerating and driving a steep increase of extremes like heat waves, wildfires and flooding. Most recent scientific estimates show that, under current policies, the world is headed for about 2.4 to 2.7 degrees Celsius warming by late this century.

As a result, the authors set 3 degrees Celsius warming by 2100 as a benchmark of extreme climate change. They chose that level of warming because it exceeds the current established targets of the Paris climate agreement, and because there are “substantially heightened risks of self-amplifying changes between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius warming that would make it impossible to limit warming to 3 degrees Celsius.”
» Read article   

plume
Tonga’s volcano sent tons of water into the stratosphere. That could warm the Earth
By Bill Chappell, NPR
August 3, 2022

The violent eruption of Tonga’s Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano injected an unprecedented amount of water directly into the stratosphere — and the vapor will stay there for years, likely affecting the Earth’s climate patterns, NASA scientists say.

The massive amount of water vapor is roughly 10% of the normal amount of vapor found in the stratosphere, equaling more than 58,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.

“We’ve never seen anything like it,” said atmospheric scientist Luis Millán, who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Millán led a study of the water the volcano sent into the sky; the team’s research was published in Geophysical Research Letters.

The Jan. 15 eruption came from a volcano that’s more than 12 miles wide, with a caldera sitting roughly 500 feet below sea level. One day earlier, Tongan officials reported the volcano was in a continuous eruption, sending a 3-mile-wide plume of steam and ash into the sky. Then the big blast came, sending ash, gases and vapor as high as 35 miles — a record in the satellite era — into the atmosphere.

Drone aircraft and other video from that day show the dramatic scale of the blast, as the volcano launched an incredibly wide plume into the sky. The intense eruption sent a pressure wave circling around the Earth and caused a sonic boom heard as far away as Alaska.

Earlier large volcanic eruptions have affected climate, but they usually cool temperatures, because they send light-scattering aerosols into the stratosphere. Those aerosols act as a sort of massive layer of sunscreen. But since water vapor traps heat, the Tongan eruption could temporarily raise temperatures a bit, the researchers said.

It normally takes around 2-3 years for sulfate aerosols from volcanoes to fall out of the stratosphere. But the water from the Jan. 15 eruption could take 5-10 years to fully dissipate.

Given that timeframe and the extraordinary amount of water involved, Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai “may be the first volcanic eruption observed to impact climate not through surface cooling caused by volcanic sulfate aerosols, but rather through surface warming,” the researchers said in their paper.
» Read article  

» More about climate

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

window heat pump
Window heat pumps will help electrify New York City’s apartments
A $70 million initiative will deploy 30,000 electric heat pumps to bring climate-friendly comfort to residents of NYC’s aging public housing units.
By Maria Gallucci, Canary Media
August 3, 2022

The sleek white machine straddles an apartment window in Queens, New York City, blowing cool air inside the narrow bedroom. Unlike the boxy air-conditioning units that drone loudly and drip water from buildings across the city, this device hums softly and spares passersby from overhead leaks. And when the sticky, sweltering August heat gives way to bone-chilling winter weather, the machine can warm the room instead.

The startup Gradient showcased its new heating and cooling unit — a type of device called a heat pump — this week as part of the Clean Heat for All Challenge. Late last year, city and state officials in New York invited manufacturers to develop new electrified technology that would both improve living conditions and begin to decarbonize public housing buildings, many of which still rely on outdated heating-oil systems and gas-fired boilers.

On Tuesday, New York leaders announced a $70 million initial investment to deploy 30,000 window-sized electric heat pumps in apartments citywide. Gradient and another company, the global appliance maker Midea America, each won seven-year contracts to develop and produce devices for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which provides affordable housing. Leaders in other cities, including Jersey City, Boston and Seattle, say they’re tracking the project’s progress closely.

“We’re going to spur innovation for brand-new technologies here in New York that the rest of the nation will be looking at,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) said at a ceremony from a sunbaked basketball court at Woodside Houses, a complex of 20 brick buildings in Queens.
» Read article   

heat pump image
Questions about heat pumps? Connecticut offers free experts to help

The state’s energy efficiency program has hired a Massachusetts firm to provide virtual consultations with heat pump experts, along with developing a local network of trained heat pump installers.
By Lisa Prevost, Energy News Network
August 2, 2022

Electric heat pumps are moving front and center in Connecticut’s energy efficiency program as the state seeks to speed adoption with a free consultation service and significant rebates.

EnergizeCT has contracted with Abode, an energy management company, to operate the consultation service and develop a statewide network of trained heat pump installers. Abode, based in Concord, Massachusetts, operates similar programs in that state that have so far resulted in the installation of close to 2,200 heat pumps in 13 communities, said Christopher Haringa, the company’s program manager.

Ratepayers can sign up for a virtual chat session with a heat pump expert on the EnergizeCT website. Since the service started in late May, Abode has conducted more than 100 consultations lasting an average of 45 minutes each, Haringa said.

“Homeowners are terrified of making the wrong decision, especially when they’re going to be spending $10,000 or more on their install,” he said.

Eversource and United Illuminating, which run EnergizeCT, are also in the process of overhauling the program’s website to better promote heat pump technology, said Ronald Araujo, director of energy efficiency for Eversource.

Air-source heat pumps are heating and cooling systems that run on electricity instead of fossil fuels. They move heat outside in the summer and inside in the winter. They are highly efficient and can significantly lower energy bills when paired with home weatherization.
» Read article   
» Live in MA or CT? Explore free services from Abode

» More about energy efficiency

BUILDING MATERIALS

Boston Metal
Boston Metal Electrifies Steel Manufacturing Using Electrolysis
No hydrogen required to make this CO2-free steel
By Lloyd Alter, Treehugger
July 21, 2022

The process of making steel is responsible for up to 9% of worldwide carbon emissions and almost a quarter of all industrial emissions. There’s chemistry involved: The blast furnace reduces the iron oxide content of the ore by blasting air and pulverizing coal into the melted ore. The carbon monoxide from the burning coal reacts with the iron oxide, producing iron and carbon dioxide, or: Fe2O3 + 3 CO → 2 Fe + 3 CO2.

Some companies, like Hybrit, are replacing coal with hydrogen, which combines with oxygen to make water. It has been called the first fossil-fuel-free steel because they were using hydrogen produced through the electrolysis of water with Sweden’s clean hydroelectric power.

But there is another way to separate oxygen from iron using electricity: Molten Oxide Electrolysis (MOE), where you melt the iron ore, add an electrolyte, and apply a serious amount of electricity. That’s the approach being taken by Boston Metal, which claims it has “cracked the code to electrifying steel manufacturing.”

I often run when I hear the phrase “cracked the code”—see just about every modular housing company we have shown—and the idea of molten oxide electrolysis has been around for a while to make very high-grade steel. One problem has been similar to that of aluminum: The anode was made of graphite, which was consumed in the process, releasing carbon dioxide.

The other problem is most electricity in the world is made by burning fossil fuels and electrolysis needs a lot of it; that’s why the greenest aluminum production is in Iceland and Quebec, Canada. But the world is changing as we try to electrify everything, and more renewable and clean electricity is coming on line every day.

Adam Rauwerdink, Boston Metal’s vice president of business development, tells Treehugger that “the cleaner grid makes this all possible.” He notes it takes a lot of electricity: 4 megawatt-hours per tonne of steel. For reference, the average house uses 11 megawatt-hours per year. Rauwerdink says this energy use is comparable to the HYBRIT process between the melting of the iron ore and the making of the hydrogen and less than the 5-6 megawatt-hours consumed in conventional integrated steelmaking. He also says a “core innovation was the development of the metallic chrome and iron anode that isn’t consumed in the process.”
» Read article   

» More about building materials

MODERNIZING THE GRID

LineVision
How to move more power with the transmission lines we already have
Grid-enhancing technologies enable us to get more out of existing power lines. Here’s an in-depth look at one such technology: dynamic line rating.
By Jeff St. John, Canary Media
July 29, 2022

Over the past few months, we’ve been covering how the U.S. transmission grid isn’t expanding and modernizing fast enough to support the enormous growth of clean energy needed to decarbonize our electricity. We’ve also been covering how regulators, utilities and energy industry players are trying to surmount the technical, legal and economic barriers to building out a 21st-century grid.

But in the meantime — and given how long it takes to build new transmission lines, that meantime could be a long time indeed — there are ways to expand the clean-energy capacity of the power grids we already have. One of the most effective methods for doing this could be using grid-enhancing technologies, or GETs for short.

The term GETs covers a variety of technologies, each with its own role to play. Dynamic line-rating systems can reveal that high-voltage power lines are able to safely carry more electricity than previously known. Topology optimization software can discover ways to configure transmission grid networks to ease power flow bottlenecks that are preventing power from reaching customers. Power flow routing devices can actively direct the flow of electrons from overloaded to underutilized power lines in real time.

Real-world deployments of these GETs over the past decade have shown that they can cost-effectively deliver benefits like redirecting power flows around congested grid lines and reducing the cost of interconnecting more solar and wind power resources. More recent studies have shown that using multiple types of GETs in tandem can unlock enormous amounts of latent capacity on U.S. transmission grids.

A study last year indicated that the use of GETs on the grids crisscrossing the wind-rich plains of Oklahoma and Kansas could double the capacity for new clean energy projects and reduce the amount of power lost to grid congestion, yielding paybacks twice the cost of deploying the technologies in the first year of operations alone.

And in February of this year, the U.S. Department of Energy released a study indicating GETs could pay back their costs through higher production and increased capacity for renewables in New York state within half a decade — far more quickly than traditional grid upgrades.

Achieving these hypothetical best-case scenarios from GETs deployments will take a lot of work, however. Despite their growing track record in delivering real-world value in deployments in Europe and Australia, GETs are just beginning to be put to use in active grid planning and operations in the U.S. Integrating multiple technologies across wide swaths of the grid is still in the realm of computer modeling rather than real-world grid operations.
» Read article       
» Read The Brattle Group report
» Read the DOE report

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

gigaboost
EV battery plants in US anticipate boost from $2.5B federal loan
A DOE loan to Ultium Cells, a joint venture of GM and LG Energy Solutions, is aimed at upping domestic production of EV batteries, a sector now dominated by China.
By Jeff St. John, Canary Media
July 26, 2022

The U.S. lags behind China in the capacity to build the batteries it will need to meet its growing demand for electric vehicles. The U.S. Department of Energy is planning to loan a U.S. battery manufacturing consortium $2.5 billion to help change that.

DOE’s Loan Programs Office announced Monday that it has made a conditional commitment to lend the money to Ultium Cells, a joint venture of U.S. automaker General Motors and South Korean battery giant LG Energy Solutions. If approved by the DOE, the loan could help Ultium finance the battery-pack gigafactories it’s building in Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

It would be the first loan for battery-pack manufacturing from the Loan Programs Office’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program, which loaned a total of about $8 billion to Ford, Nissan and Tesla between 2007 and 2010. Since then, EVs have grown from a niche product to a primary focus for many automakers in the U.S. and around the world, as governments have set mandates aimed at ensuring that fossil-fueled cars, vans and trucks can be replaced with zero-emissions vehicles quickly enough to forestall the worst harms of climate change.

President Biden has set a goal for half of all U.S. auto sales to be electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2030, a target that will require a massive scale-up of EVs and battery production. ​“Those vehicles should be, to the best of our ability, made here in the United States — and the batteries should be made here, and as many of the components as possible should be made here,” said Jigar Shah, head of DOE’s Loan Programs Office.
» Read article       

» More about clean transportation

CARBON CAPTURE AND SEQUESTRATION

methane and CCS
High Carbon Capture Rates at U.S. Coal Plant a ‘Myth’, IEEFA Analysis Shows
By The Energy Mix
August 2, 2022

A proposed carbon capture and storage (CCS) plant in the United States will capture far less than the 95% of carbon dioxide emissions its backers claim, concludes a new analysis released this week by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

A full life cycle assessment of the proposed CCS retrofit at New Mexico’s San Juan Generating Station “shows 90% or higher capture is a myth,” IEEFA writes in a release. It “estimates the overall carbon capture rate from both the power plant and the mine that provides its coal would be no more than 72%, and could be significantly lower,” even though “companies continually promise a capture rate of 95%.”

Moreover, project proponent Enchant Energy “acknowledges there is little investor interest in its carbon capture project and it will be asking for US$1 billion from the federal government” to get the job done, IEEFA says.

The San Juan project is a retrofit to be bolted on to an existing power plant, not a new installation, and it’s meant to capture emissions from a coal-fired power plant, not oil or gas—so the process is somewhat different from approaches now in development in the Canadian fossil industry.

But IEEFA says its findings are applicable to other types of carbon capture projects. That conclusion reinforces concerns that the Trudeau government has agreed to a generous subsidy for a technology that still isn’t ready for prime time after 30 years of development—even though more proven, less expensive alternatives are readily at hand.

The institute says this is one of the first studies to look at a carbon capture scheme across its full life cycle—in this case, from extraction to final electricity production. It concludes that:

  • Even if Enchant hits its 90% capture target for the power plant, methane emissions from the associated coal mine will bring CO2-equivalent emissions capture down to 68%. That will leave the Farmington, NM-based energy supplier touting a “low-carbon” project that still emits the equivalent of nearly three megatons of CO2 per year.
  • If the power plant hits a more realistic target of 65 to 75% carbon capture, the life cycle capture rate will fall to between 49 and 57%.
    » Read article       
    » Read IEEFA’s report: Carbon Capture’s Methane Problem

going giga
Going giga: The race to scale up the direct air capture industry
Construction has begun in Iceland on the world’s largest direct air capture facility to date, as the industry looks to scale at a pace rarely seen in the history of commercial markets. Net zero depends on it.
By Oliver Gordon, Energy Monitor
August 1, 2022

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that to limit global warming to 1.5°C, the world will need to remove billions of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere – and that’s on top of the vast quantities of emissions cuts also required.

However, last month, on a grassy, far-flung stretch of the Icelandic tundra, an important step was taken towards that aspiration: Swiss company Climeworks broke ground on its newest and largest direct air capture and storage (DAC+S) facility to date, Mammoth.

Climeworks opened the world’s first DAC facility, Orca, in September 2021 – also in Iceland. Now, following a $650m equity raise earlier this year, the company plans to rapidly scale up the market’s capacity by introducing large, modular DAC facilities and investing vast sums in developing the technology. Mammoth has been designed with a nominal CO2 capture capacity of 36,000 tonnes (t) per year – an order of magnitude larger than Orca’s 4,000t capacity – when fully operational in 18–24 months’ time.

However, to avoid climate catastrophe, DAC+S technologies need to reach gigatonne capacity at a pace that would make the solar and wind power industries blush. At the Direct Air Capture Summit in Zurich, Switzerland, in July 2022, the industry’s great and good gathered to discuss just how to scale up at such an unprecedented rate.

In Zurich, Climeworks founders Dr Christoph Gebald and Dr Jan Wurzbacher said going giga would require $30–50bn of investment per year from 2030 onwards. That would represent 10% of the annual investment made into renewable energy capacity today: an ambitious target that will require the private and public sectors to work closely together.

Large-scale deployment will also be heavily influenced by the green energy requirements of powering DAC facilities. Conservative projections estimate the industry will require up to 25GW of wind and solar capacity per year from 2030 onwards, accounting for roughly 10% of the installed wind and solar capacity in 2021 and 3% of the annual capacity projected as of 2030.

“The gigatonne target is ambitious, but the numbers are clear: it is doable,” said Gebald. “To make this happen, corporate action, investments, policy-shapers and regulatory guidelines need to come together.”
» Read article       

» More about CCS

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Lenorah colors
Hidden Menace: Massive methane leaks speed up climate change

By MICHAEL BIESECKER and HELEN WIEFFERING, Associated Press
July 28, 2022

LENORAH, Texas (AP) — To the naked eye, the Mako Compressor Station outside the dusty West Texas crossroads of Lenorah appears unremarkable, similar to tens of thousands of oil and gas operations scattered throughout the oil-rich Permian Basin.

What’s not visible through the chain-link fence is the plume of invisible gas, primarily methane, billowing from the gleaming white storage tanks up into the cloudless blue sky.

The Mako station, owned by a subsidiary of West Texas Gas Inc., was observed releasing an estimated 870 kilograms of methane – an extraordinarily potent greenhouse gas — into the atmosphere each hour. That’s the equivalent impact on the climate of burning seven tanker trucks full of gasoline every day.

But Mako’s outsized emissions aren’t illegal, or even regulated. And it was only one of 533 methane “super emitters” detected during a 2021 aerial survey of the Permian conducted by Carbon Mapper, a partnership of university researchers and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The group documented massive amounts of methane venting into the atmosphere from oil and gas operations across the Permian, a 250-mile-wide bone-dry expanse along the Texas-New Mexico border that a billion years ago was the bottom of a shallow sea. Hundreds of those sites were seen spewing the gas over and over again. Ongoing leaks, gushers, going unfixed.

“We see the same sites active from year to year. It’s not just month to month or season to season,” said Riley Duren, a research scientist at the University of Arizona who leads Carbon Mapper.

Carbon Mapper identified the spewing sites only by their GPS coordinates. The Associated Press took the coordinates of the 533 “super-emitting” sites and cross-referenced them with state drilling permits, air quality permits, pipeline maps, land records and other public documents to piece together the corporations most likely responsible.

Just 10 companies owned at least 164 of those sites, according to an AP analysis of Carbon Mapper’s data. West Texas Gas owned 11.
» Read article      
» Read update: EPA announces flights to look for methane in Permian Basin

» More about fossil fuels 

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Weekly News Check-In 7/29/22

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Welcome back.

The big news this week is the US Senate compromise that revived, in the eleventh hour, significant federal climate legislation. What this means, from our Director:


July Surprise: the Inflation Reduction Act is an unexpected opportunity

Though we’re still sorting through the finer details of the Inflation Reduction Act here in the climate and clean energy advocacy sector, the overall picture is clear. There are some strong giveaways to the fossil fuel industry that threaten to negate the climate positive provisions of this bill, including expanded drilling for gas and oil.

But on the other hand, these very bold measures have a chance to get on the books:

— Reducing emissions by 40% by 2030 across all sectors
— $60B for Environmental and Climate Justice Block Grants for pollution reduction, access to clean energy options, and transportation
— $60B to bring clean energy manufacturing to the US, including $30B for wind turbines, solar panels and battery storage
— 10-year (instead of two year) tax credits for home and car owners to switch to electric options like EVs, electric HVAC, and solar
— $20B for adoption of climate-positive agricultural practices
— almost $6B for a new Advanced Industrial Facilities Deployment Program to reduce emissions from the largest industrial emitters like chemical, steel and cement plants

» Senate Summary of Energy Security and Climate Change Investments (download)

We join many other organizations (350.org, Sierra Club, EarthJustice, Bill McKibben, Al Gore and others) in support of the Inflation Reduction Act. If it passes, it will allow many much needed climate-positive provisions to become law.

As for the fossil fuel provisions, these are forces we have been fighting for a long time, and we will continue to push for a just transition and end to the industry. This is coming as that groundswell is growing from all corners. There will still be the ability for the president to use executive actions like declaring a climate emergency, and having a commitment to strong climate action will give us more leverage in the push for global agreements.

In addition, the bill has many positive provisions for making healthcare available and affordable to more Americans, lowering prescription drug prices, assuring that corporations pay their fair share in taxes and more.

Please take action today by calling your Senators and urging them to pass the Inflation Reduction Act.

— Rosemary Wessel, Program Director, No Fracked Gas in Mass


As Rose says, we’re continuing to take the fight to fossil fuels, even as we celebrate this potential progress on the sustainability front. Examples include developments at the Weymouth compressor, the Longmeadow-Springfield gas pipeline, and policies related to fixing gas leaks by building more infrastructure.

There’s also a lot of progress already underway from ongoing state and federal efforts. For instance, there’s an excellent climate bill awaiting Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s signature right now. The Biden administration is figuring out how to make “community solar” power available to lower-income households. Fans at the Newport Folk Festival not only had the pleasure of watching Joni Mitchell return to the stage after a long absence, but some of them added pedal power to help run the show. New data out of Maine is showing that air source heat pumps are capable of heating homes without fossil-fueled backup, even through that state’s notoriously frigid winters.

We’re seeing that offshore wind power has the potential side benefit of creating an anchor for reef habitat at the base of turbine towers – a boon to biodiversity during challenging times. And a new study finds that a rapid switch to electric vehicles has the global potential to avoid one-tenth of anticipated cropland expansion by reducing the need for crop-based biofuels like ethanol.

In energy storage, Sweden’s Northvolt has created an innovative battery that uses lignin, sustainably sourced from harvested trees, as anode material – avoiding the use of metals with greater environmental impact.

Even with all this good news, it’s best to remember we’re still in a race and still not moving fast enough. Already, heat waves are buckling and melting infrastructure that was built to withstand the previous century’s weather. Poor countries, tired of wealthy nations’ empty and inadequate promises to help mitigate damage caused by their disproportional emissions, are threatening to throw their doors open to fossil fuel development. And proponents of potentially catastrophic deep-seabed mining are gathered right now with delegates of the International Seabed Authority to decide the fate of our oceans.

There’s so much to celebrate, and so much to do.

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

LEGISLATION

good and bad
Senate Democrats Produce a Far-Reaching Climate Bill, But the Price of Compromise with Joe Manchin is Years More Drilling for Oil and Gas
The legislation includes unprecedented tax incentives for renewable energy and electric vehicles but requires additional oil and gas leasing on millions of acres of federal land for a decade.
By Marianne Lavelle and Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News
July 28, 2022

To seal their surprise climate deal with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Senate Democrats conceded that their only hope for advancing a plan for a clean energy future in Congress was to bind it up in a lifeline for fossil fuels.

The legislation they propose to bring to the Senate next week still contains the heart of President Joe Biden’s climate plan—an historic $370 billion investment in transforming the U.S. power and transportation sectors and more than $60 billion in grants to help pollution-burdened disadvantaged communities achieve environmental justice.

But the package—now called the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022″—also would invest in ensuring a future for U.S. fossil energy in a carbon-constrained world. The legislation hikes tax incentives for expensive carbon capture technology 70 percent. It also requires that, for the next decade, the federal government offer tens of millions of acres offshore for oil and gas drilling as a prerequisite to the expansion of offshore wind energy development.

And Manchin said that he has obtained a commitment from Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that they will advance separate legislation this fall that streamlines the permitting process for energy infrastructure, including pipelines and export facilities.

“It is truly all of the above, which means this bill does not arbitrarily shut off our abundant fossil fuels,” Manchin said in a statement.

Climate action advocates were poring over the 725-page draft text, coming to varying conclusions as they tried to weigh the bad against the good.

“This is the ultimate clean energy comeback—the strongest climate action yet at the moment we need it most,” said Manish Bapna, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement. “This is not the bill we would have written. It’s time to break, not deepen, our dependence on fossil fuels and all the damage and danger they bring. But this is a package we can’t afford to reject.”

He urged the Senate to pass it without delay, while the climate movement continues to work on other steps “to ensure a just and climate-safe future.”

Meanwhile, other environmental groups were drafting a letter urging the Senate to reject the compromises for fossil fuel development as incompatible with goals to eliminate greenhouse gases.

“This is a climate suicide pact,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Here are the key elements that make the deal a boon to both clean energy and the fossil fuel industry:
» Read article       

author-david-wallace-wells-blogSmallThumb
Climate activists mixed hardball with a long game. Now they’re vindicated
By David Wallace-Wells, New York Times | Opinion
July 29, 2022

[…] In less than five years, a new generation of activists and aligned technocrats has taken climate action from the don’t-go-there zone of American politics and helped place it at the very center of the Democratic agenda, persuading an old-guard centrist septuagenarian, Biden, to make a New Deal-scale green investment the focus of his presidential campaign platform and his top policy priority once in office. This, despite a generation of conventional wisdom that the issue was electorally fraught and legislatively doomed. Now they find themselves pushing a recognizable iteration of that agenda — retooled and whittled down, yes, but still unthinkably large by the standards of previous administrations — plausibly forward into law.

It has been less than four years since the most outspoken of the new activist groups, the Sunrise Movement, even announced itself, protesting with Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the office of Nancy Pelosi, who later seemed to diminish the protesters’ ambitions as “the Green Dream or whatever.”

If you believe that climate change is a boutique issue prioritized only by out-of-touch liberal elites, as one poll found, then this bill, should it pass, represents a political achievement of astonishing magnitude: the triumph of a moral crusade against long odds. If you don’t — if you believe there is quite a lot of public support for climate action, as other polls suggest — then this bill marks the success of outsider activists in holding establishment forces to account, both to their own rhetoric and to the demands of their voters.

The choose-your-own-adventure aspect can be frustrating; if you’re trying to piece together a coherent model of exactly where the country is on green-energy policy, good luck. But whatever your read of public sentiment, what is most striking about the news this week is not just that there is now some climate action on the table but also how fast the landscape for climate policy has changed, shifting all of our standards for success and failure along with it. The bill may well prove inadequate, even if it passes. It also represents a generational achievement — achieved, from the point of view of activists, in a lot less time than a full generation.
» Read article    

sign it
Activists clamor for Baker to sign climate bill
By SAM DORAN, State House News Service, Gazettenet.com
July 26, 2022

With five days remaining for Gov. Charlie Baker to act on a major climate and energy bill that hit his desk late last week, advocates lobbied for the governor’s signature on the front steps of the State House on Tuesday morning, and some speakers tied their pitch to the heatwave that hit the Bay State in recent days.

“We know that our weather is getting hotter, we know we are facing devastating heatwaves with greater frequency and greater severity,” Environment Massachusetts State Director Ben Hellerstein said. “Now is the time for us to act on climate. And right now, the ball is in Gov. Baker’s court.”

Sen. Becca Rausch and Rep. Tommy Vitolo joined the group on the steps, and Rausch said state-level climate action was necessary “as we are seeing the Supreme Court roll back the federal government’s powers to regulate in this space.”

The advocates lauded aspects of the bill (H 5060), like provisions that would require reporting of energy usage by buildings larger than 20,000 square feet and require that all new vehicles sold in Massachusetts be zero-emissions models by 2035.

The governor can act on the bill up until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, the final day of the Legislature’s formal sessions for this term.

If Baker sends it back with an amendment or veto toward the end of that window, it would leave lawmakers with a razor-thin timeline to respond to his action.

MASSPIRG Executive Director Janet Domenitz pointed to Baker’s five or so months remaining in the corner office and suggested his limited time left as governor could factor into his decision.

“And he must be thinking — at the risk of sounding like I can see into his mind — he must be thinking about the legacy he’s going to leave behind,” Domenitz said. “And signing this bill would be hugely important and powerful for the future of Massachusetts.”
» Read article       

Boston breeze
What to know about the climate bill on Gov. Baker’s desk
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
July 22, 2022

It came down to the wire and required suspending some parliamentary rules, but the Massachusetts Legislature got a robust climate bill to Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday night.

The bill represents a compromise between the House’s offshore wind-focused legislation and the Senate’s wider reaching clean energy and climate bill.

Baker now has 10 days — or until July 31 — to sign or veto the bill. July 31 is also the final day of the legislative session, meaning if there’s a veto, lawmakers might only have a few hours to override it.

Putting that drama aside for a moment, there’s a lot in this bill. And if it’s passed, it will have a big impact on climate and clean energy policy in the state. So here, in plain English, is what you should know about it:
» Blog editor’s note: It’s worth scanning Mariam Wasser’s excellent list of clearly described features of this legislation.
» Read article      
» Read the climate bill

» More about legislation

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

drawing board
It’s back to the drawing board for Weymouth Compressor’s waterways permit
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
July 18, 2022

A new chapter has opened in the ongoing saga of the Weymouth Natural Gas Compressor Station. Late Friday afternoon, an adjudicator with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s appeals division recommended that the department re-evaluate a critical environmental permit that the compressor needs in order to operate.

Though the compressor station is still allowed to operate at this time, the decision represents “a major victory” for those who have been fighting the facility for over seven years, said Alice Arena, president of the group Fore River Residents Against the Compressor.

“It’s probably the first time that I feel as though there was some genuine, really genuine hope that they may have to close this facility,” she said. “In all of the years that we’ve been doing this, we have been through appeal and appeal and remand and appeal again, and every time it’s all for [the facility’s owner] Enbridge.”

A spokesperson for Enbridge said in a statement that the company is “reviewing the Presiding Officer’s recommended decision regarding the Weymouth Compressor Station’s Waterways License and will evaluate our next steps.”

Like all energy projects, the Weymouth Compressor needed several environmental permits and licenses in order for Enbridge to start construction. One of those permits was a “Chapter 91 Waterways License.”

Chapter 91 of the Massachusetts General Laws is all about protecting the public’s interest in waterways, and ensuring only things that are “water dependent” get built in tidelands or under bodies of water.

Enbridge never claimed the facility, which compresses gas to give it a boost and help it move through a pipeline into Canada, meets that definition. Instead, the company declared that the compressor was “ancillary” to an existing pipeline that runs underwater from Weymouth to Salem. That pipeline, known as the I-10 or HubLine, has a valid waterways license, and so, by declaring the then-proposed compressor was “ancillary” to it, the latter would not require its own review and license.

To be considered ancillary in this context, a project needs to meet two criteria: It must be operationally related to the original project. And second, it must require an adjacent location.
» Read article      

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

PIPELINES

no expansion
Springfield City Council urges rejection of Eversource pipeline project
Utility seeks state approval for a new natural gas pipeline from Longmeadow to Springfield
By Paul Tuthill, WAMC Northeast Public Radio
July 27, 2022

The Springfield City Council has recorded an official protest to a controversial natural gas pipeline project in western Massachusetts.

Citing the need to rapidly transition from fossil fuels, the danger of explosion and fire, and the cost to ratepayers, the City Council passed a resolution stating its opposition to a plan by Eversource to build a high-pressure natural gas pipeline from Longmeadow to Springfield.

All nine Councilors present remotely when the vote was recorded Monday night supported the resolution. It was authored by City Council President Jesse Lederman and had 9 co-sponsors.

Councilor Zaida Govan said Springfield, and the state, need to stay on a course to greatly decrease dependency on fossil fuels.

“We need to start doing things to reach that goal and not putting in new pipelines,” Govan said.

Eversource has said the new pipeline is needed as a backup for infrastructure that is 70-years-old. If the existing pipeline is damaged, or needs to be shutoff for maintenance, 58,000 Springfield customers could be without natural gas service potentially for months, the utility has stated. The cost for the project is currently put at $65 million.

With the passage of the resolution, the Council joins a growing list of opponents to the pipeline project including the Longmeadow Selectboard and half-dozen members of the local state legislative delegation who recently sent a letter of opposition to state utility regulators.

Several rallies to protest the project have been put on by the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition.

“I think we are joining some good groups to make sure that we align our goal for the future and for our children and grandchildren,” Govan said.

Routes that have been proposed for the five-mile underground pipeline would take it through the densely populated Forest Park and South End neighborhoods.
» Read article      

» More about pipelines

GAS LEAKS

reconsidering GSEP
Could gas leak fixes thwart climate goals?
By Miranda Willson, E&E News
July 25, 2022

Boston University ecologist Nathan Phillips used to push for the rapid replacement of aging pipelines, convinced that the practice was a win-win: It snuffed out natural gas leaks and protected nearby trees from those leaks.

But today, Phillips — who has spent years researching leaks in the Boston area — is skeptical of such replacement, worried that it will thwart his state’s goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“I was telling people that the way to fix the problem is to replace the pipelines,” Phillips said. “Now, I completely feel opposite to that.”

Phillips is among a growing number of climate advocates, researchers and state officials who worry that accelerated pipe replacement programs aimed at preventing gas leaks and explosions could complicate efforts to switch to electric heating and renewable energy.

Massachusetts is among 42 states with policies that encourage gas utilities to proactively replace aging or leaking pipes, according to the American Gas Association, a trade association for gas utilities and companies. It also is among a growing number of states that aim to transition away from fossil fuels.

The tension surrounding pipeline replacements and clean energy is part of a broader debate on the future of the natural gas system that heats many homes and businesses across the United States. About a dozen states have set goals to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in less than 30 years — and analysts say meeting those targets will likely mean using less natural gas.

[…] For climate advocates, that raises questions about whether it’s prudent to encourage the replacement of large networks of pipe and make ratepayers foot the bill.

[…] Climate advocates have begun analyzing state-level pipeline replacement initiatives, raising concerns about their cost and usefulness in the context of climate goals. Massachusetts’ Gas System Enhancement Program (GSEP) is one of several initiatives currently under the microscope.

Established in 2014, GSEP permits gas utilities to file annual plans to replace pipes that are leaking or could cause leaks in the future. Under a law enacted that year, participating utilities can recover money from consumers to pay for GSEP investments so long as the costs don’t exceed 1.5 percent of their annual revenue.

GSEP and similar state programs arose in the wake of deadly explosions linked to gas leaks from old steel and cast iron pipes. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration also released guidance in 2012 requesting state agencies to “consider enhancements to cast iron replacement plans and programs.”

[…] “The concern is that, normally, the life span of the gas infrastructure would extend, if we put it in this week, beyond 2050,” said Aladdine Joroff, a lecturer at Harvard Law School focused on environmental law and a member of Gas Leaks Allies. “We’re potentially replacing gas pipelines that are going to be some of the ones we’re going to want to stop using, at least significantly, by 2050 if we’re going to meet our climate mandate.”

Under the 2014 GSEP law, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities is required to consider whether investments made through the program would help prevent leaks of natural gas, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve public safety, among other factors, according to DPU spokesperson Troy Wall.

But Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy has suggested that the program should be changed to incorporate climate considerations, in line with the Bay State’s goal of slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Changes to the program would require action from the Massachusetts Legislature.

“The Commonwealth’s climate goals and market competition from new electric end-use heating technologies raise serious questions about the continued prudence of accelerated GSEP investment,” wrote Healy, who is also the presumptive Democratic nominee for this year’s gubernatorial election in Massachusetts.

Last week, the state Legislature passed a sweeping new clean energy bill that, among other things, calls on the DPU to develop a working group focused on GSEP. The group would study the program and recommend potential changes to fully align it with the state’s climate goals. But so far, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has not committed to signing the bill into law.
» Read article      

» More about gas leaks

GREENING THE ECONOMY

community solar
Joe Biden’s new plan: solar power for everyone, not just the rich
Solar energy is still out of reach for most Americans
By Justine Calma, The Verge
July 27, 2022

The Biden administration has new plans to get lower-income households hooked up to solar energy. The White House announced two new programs today aimed at expanding access to “community solar” projects among subsidized housing residents and households that receive federal assistance to pay their utility bills. It also launched a new rewards program for existing community solar projects.

“Community solar” essentially lets many different households share the benefits of one shared solar array. The most common way this takes shape is through a subscription program. A solar company or nonprofit organization will build out a solar farm, and then households that subscribe to the program get credit back on their electricity bills for the energy generated by the shared solar farm.

That’s supposed to reduce electricity bills while also promoting clean energy. And compared to traditional home solar setups, community programs are meant to reach way more people — particularly renters and anyone who can’t shell out some $25,000 to install PV panels on their home.

Homeowners face fewer barriers to install solar panels. But even among homeowners, just 6 percent have actually installed solar, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey. A much larger percentage — 46 percent — said they wanted solar panels at their home. Unsurprisingly, cost appears to be a big factor in whether or not people are taking the leap into solar power. Just 14 percent of households with residential solar in the US had annual incomes less than $50,000, according to recent research from the Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Today, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced new guidance that enables residents in subsidized housing to sign up for community solar. Crucially, the credits they receive from subscribing won’t count toward their household income, which might otherwise have affected their eligibility for rent assistance. The White House thinks the changes can help get 4.5 million families into community solar programs and shave an average of 10 percent off their electricity bills each year.
» Read article       

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

DRC for sale
‘Climate Catastrophe’ Feared as Congo Moves to Sell Critical Ecosystem for Oil Drilling
“It’s madness,” said Greenpeace Africa. “These plans must be scrapped immediately.”
By Kenny Stancil, Common Dreams
July 25, 2022

The Democratic Republic of Congo is set to begin selling huge tracts of land to oil and gas giants later this week—a move that is being decried by environmental justice campaigners and local communities because it would enable new fossil fuel extraction in the second-largest old-growth rainforest on Earth, further endangering the world’s chances of staving off the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

Twenty-seven oil and three gas blocks are scheduled to be auctioned off to the highest bidding corporations on July 28 and 29. The roughly 11 million hectares of land up for grabs in the Congo Basin—whose rainforest trails only the Amazon in size and is more intact—include parts of Virunga National Park, home to a key gorilla sanctuary, as well as tropical peatlands that prevent massive amounts of planet-heating carbon from reaching the atmosphere.

“If oil exploitation takes place in these areas, we must expect a global climate catastrophe, and we will all just have to watch helplessly,” Irene Wabiwa, international project leader for Greenpeace Africa’s Congo Basin forest campaign in Kinshasa, told the New York Times on Monday.

Greenpeace Africa on Monday submitted a petition with more than 100,000 signatures urging DRC President Félix Tshisekedi to halt the sale of land—”home to thousands of local and indigenous communities and countless animal and plant species”—to Big Oil.

“Sacrificing peatlands and protected areas in the Congo Basin forest,” the group tweeted, would be “a death blow to the Paris agreement,” which seeks to limit global warming to 1.5ºC over preindustrial levels. “It’s madness. These plans must be scrapped immediately.”

The DRC’s approval of new oil and gas drilling in the region comes eight months after Tshisekedi endorsed a 10-year agreement to protect the country’s rainforest—a major repository of biodiversity and the world’s largest terrestrial carbon sink—at the United Nations’ COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last December.
» Read article       

James Lovelock
James Lovelock, whose Gaia theory saw the Earth as alive, dies at 103
By Keith Schneider, New York Times, in Boston Globe
July 27, 2022

James Lovelock, the maverick British ecologist whose work was essential to today’s understanding of human-made pollutants and their effect on climate and who captured the scientific world’s imagination with his Gaia theory, portraying the Earth as a living creature, died on Tuesday, his 103rd birthday, at his home in Dorset, in southwest England.

[…His] global renown rested on three main contributions that he developed during a particularly abundant decade of scientific exploration and curiosity stretching from the late 1950s through the last half of the ’60s.

One was his invention of the Electron Capture Detector, an inexpensive, portable, exquisitely sensitive device used to help measure the spread of toxic man-made compounds in the environment. The device provided the scientific foundations of Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, “Silent Spring,” a catalyst of the environmental movement.

The detector also helped provide the basis for regulations in the United States and in other nations that banned harmful chemicals including DDT and PCBs and that sharply reduced the use of hundreds of other compounds as well as the public’s exposure to them.

Later, his finding that chlorofluorocarbons — the compounds that powered aerosol cans and were used to cool refrigerators and air conditioners — were present in measurable concentrations in the atmosphere led to the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer. (Chlorofluorocarbons are now banned in most countries under a 1987 international agreement.)

But Dr. Lovelock may be most widely known for his Gaia theory — that Earth functioned, as he put it, as a “living organism” that is able to “regulate its temperature and chemistry at a comfortable steady state.”

[…] As an expert on the chemical composition of the atmospheres of Earth and Mars, Dr. Lovelock wondered why Earth’s atmosphere was so stable. He theorized that something must be regulating heat, oxygen, nitrogen, and other components.

“Life at the surface must be doing the regulation,” he later wrote.

[…] A few scientists greeted the hypothesis as a thoughtful way to explain how living systems influenced the planet. Many others, however, called it New Age pablum.

The hypothesis might never have gained credibility and moved to the scientific mainstream without the contributions of Lynn Margulis, an eminent American microbiologist. In the early 1970s and in the decades afterward, she collaborated with Dr. Lovelock on specific research to support the notion.

Since then a number of scientific meetings about the Gaia theory have been held, including one at George Mason University in 2006, and hundreds of papers on aspects of it have been published. Dr. Lovelock’s theory of a self-regulating Earth has been viewed as central to understanding the causes and consequences of global warming.
» Read article       

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

bike for tunes
Newport Folk Festival includes stage powered by bicycles
By Pat Eaton-Robb, Associated Press, in WBUR
July 23, 2022

The Newport Folk Festival, known for creating electrifying musical moments — the most famous being Bob Dylan’s decision to plug in his guitar in 1965 — this weekend has a small outer stage that is being powered in part by festival-goers on stationary bicycles.

The Bike Stage is the brainchild of the band Illiterate Light, an environmentally conscious indie rock duo from Virginia, who has partnered with a company called Rock the Bike to create a pedal-powered sound system, which they have already been using at small club shows.

Frontman Jeff Gorman said the “Bike Stage” at the event in Rhode Island is the first time the system has been tried at a festival. About a dozen artists are scheduled to perform mostly acoustic sets on the stage.

About 1,300 of the festival’s 10,000 fans rode bicycles to Newport on Friday. Gorman said when he saw that sea of bikes during the band’s appearance in Newport in 2019, he and partner Jake Cochran approached festival director Jay Sweet about setting up the stage.

“It’s a way for them to just do something different and for us to start the conversation around energy use and just thinking differently and trying out new ways of creating electricity,” Gorman said.

The stage is equipped with solar panels that will provide most of the power to the equipment, with the bikes providing the rest.

When the show begins, fans jump onto five bicycles adjacent to the tent. The pedaling generates electricity, which is fed through wires to an electrical box on the stage. With temperatures in the upper 80s, fans take turns pedaling for about five minutes during the 20-minute sets. In exchange, they get a few spritzes of water from a spray bottle, a free can of iced tea and a front-row view of the performance.

Sarah Gaines, 44 of Wakefield, Rhode Island, pedaled for one song during a Friday set by singer Madi Diaz and came off the bicycle with a huge smile on her face.
» Read article      

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

standalone
In Maine, heat pumps are proving themselves even against extreme cold
The state is well on its way to a goal of installing 100,000 heat pumps by 2025. New research by Efficiency Maine is showing that standalone systems can deliver comfort and cost savings even in subzero temperatures.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
July 27, 2022

Recent research by Efficiency Maine makes the case that replacing homes’ entire heating systems with heat pumps can be cost-effective and comfortable, even in Maine’s notoriously cold winters.

“Here, it got 21 below last winter,” said George Hardy, who participated in a pilot program as part of the research. “I was a little worried about the heat pumps, but they held out. They kept us warm.”

As Maine attempts to reach its ambitious goal of going carbon neutral by 2045, home heating is going to be a major problem to solve. More than 60% of the state’s home heating systems burn oil — one of the most carbon-intensive heating fuels — more than any other state.

Maine has made air-source heat pumps a centerpiece of its strategy. Heat pumps pull heat out of the surrounding air, even at cold temperatures, and transfer it into the home. The only fuel they use is the electricity needed to run the pump. Maine has set a goal of installing 100,000 heat pumps by 2025, a target it is well on its way to reaching: In 2021 alone, more than 27,000 new heat pumps came online in the state.

Often, however, homeowners install just one heat pump, but continue to use fossil fuel sources as a backup, an arrangement that can undercut the ability of heat pumps to save money and reduce emissions. Efficiency Maine, therefore, has been undertaking research to bolster the argument for jettisoning the oil and propane altogether and moving toward whole-home heat pump systems.

“We’re reaffirming our expectation that they work in cold climates and will keep you comfortable through the entire winter,” said Michael Stoddard, executive director of Efficiency Maine. “We want to see the heat pumps being used to their full capacity.”
» Read article      

phased out
Vermont moves to become first state to phase out linear fluorescent lights
The new law prohibits the long, tube-shaped bulbs beginning in 2024 and was praised by energy efficiency advocates, who encourage LEDs as a safer, cheaper, longer-lasting, and widely available alternative.
By Lisa Prevost, Energy News Network
July 20, 2022

Aiming to reduce mercury hazards and boost energy efficiency, Vermont will prohibit the sale of the long, tube-shaped fluorescent lamps that light up supermarkets, office buildings and classrooms as of Jan. 1, 2024.

It is the first state to adopt a law phasing out linear fluorescents, but California and Rhode Island have similar legislation pending. Energy efficiency advocates say fluorescents can now easily be swapped out for LED lights, which, unlike fluorescents, do not contain mercury. LEDs also consume far less electricity and last at least twice as long.

“The LEDs have advanced so far and become so commonplace that the reaction now to this idea is, ‘Why wouldn’t we want to switch over?’” said Brian Fadie, a state policy associate for the Appliance Standards Awareness Project at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. “If states choose to act, they can achieve great energy and mercury savings by transforming the market faster than it will transform on its own.”

Vermont’s law specifically applies to the 4-foot linear fluorescents, which are by far the most common type on the market, Fadie said.

“LED sales have been increasing, but in 2021, 70% of linear lamp sales were fluorescent, with LEDs at 30%,” he said.

The “precursor” to this law was a law passed in 2011 that requires lighting manufacturers to arrange for the collection of expired fluorescent lamps at sites such as hardware stores and dispose of them safely, said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, known as VPIRG.
» Read article       

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

lignin anode
Northvolt looks to develop wood-based batteries to keep supply chain local
By Joshua S Hill, Renew Economy
July 25, 2022

Swedish battery developer Northvolt has entered into a partnership with Finnish company Stora Enso to develop sustainable batteries using wood based products from Nordic forests in an effort to keep the supply chain local.

The two companies will work together to develop what they say will be the world’s first industrialised battery to use an anode sourced entirely from European raw materials, an innovation which is expected to help lower both the carbon footprint of the battery as well as its cost.

“The joint battery development with Northvolt marks a step on our journey to serve the fast-growing battery market with renewable anode materials made from trees,” said Johanna Hagelberg, executive vice president for biomaterials at Stora Enso.

“Our lignin-based hard carbon, Lignode by Stora Enso, will secure the strategic European supply of anode raw material, serving the sustainable battery needs for applications from mobility to stationary energy storage.”

Lignin is a plant-derived polymer found in the cell walls of dry-land plants such as trees, which are composed of between 20% to 30% of lignin where it acts as a natural and strong binder.

According to Stora Enso, lignin is one of the biggest renewable sources of carbon in the world.

Stora Enso already boasts   a pilot plant for bio-based carbon materials, located at its Sunila production site in Filand and where lignin has been industrially produced since 2015 at an annual production capacity of 50,000 tonnes.

“With this partnership, we are exploring a new source of sustainable raw material and expanding the European battery value chain, while also developing a less expensive battery chemistry,” said Emma Nehrenheim, chief environmental officer at Northvolt.
» Read article       

» More about energy storage

BUILDING MATERIALS

lumpy Luton
From Burst Pipes in Texas to Melted Roads in France, the Climate Crisis Is Too Much for Existing Infrastructure
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
July 25, 2022

As deadly heat waves continue around the world, the climate crisis is making itself evident on the very roads we drive on.

When the weather gets hotter, building materials including asphalt and concrete expand and crack, CNN explained. And this has led to incidents from London to China as aging infrastructure meets record high temperatures.

“Most of our physical infrastructure was built using the temperature records of the mid-20th century,” Costa Samaras, principal assistant director for energy with the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, told The Washington Post. “That is not the climate we have now.”

In China, high temperatures in mid-July melted tiles on the roof of a museum in Chongqing, as EcoWatch reported at the time. During the same heat wave, a road in a town in Jiangxi province buckled up six inches.

The high heat that brought the UK its first temperature reading higher than 40 degrees Celsius also melted a runway at Luton Airport, disrupting flights.

The high temperatures also inspired some interesting methods of protecting infrastructure in the usually mild island nation. Foil was wrapped around London’s Hammersmith Bridge in order to reflect sunlight and keep the structure itself cool, as CNN reported. Further, Network Rail began painting London railways white in order to prevent them from overheating.

“The rail temperature here is over 48 degrees Celsius so we’re painting the rails white to prevent them from getting hotter,” Network Rail tweeted.

Roads across the Channel in the EU have not been spared. Journalist Sasha Abramsky had a direct encounter with what high heat does to roads when his car overheated in the Pyrenees in France.

‘My personal experience of this week’s ‘heat apocalypse’ in Europe involved discovering large globs of hot, sticky tar stuck to my leg after I trod in melted asphalt on a mountain road in France on Sunday afternoon: The road that I was walking on had literally begun to melt,” he wrote for Truthout.

[…] Roads especially are so vulnerable to high heat because asphalt gets soft when it’s hot, while concrete can expand and buckle, according to The Washington Post. As the climate crisis makes heat waves more frequent and extreme, infrastructure will need to be updated to accommodate higher normal temperatures. However, simply redoing roads is not enough.

“The bottom line is: we are not going to only build our way out of this,” Samaras told The Washington Post. “We must decarbonize our energy uses and learn how to remove carbon we’ve already added to the atmosphere.”
» Read article       

» More about building materials

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY RESOURCES

turbine anchor
Offshore Wind Farms Could Be Boon for Marine Biodiversity
By The Energy Mix
July 24, 2022

Offshore wind proponents are exploring “turbine reefs”—coral habitats planted on wind turbine bases—as a solution to the intersecting crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.

“As we build out offshore wind energy, there is great potential to enhance and create new habitats,” said Carl LoBue, The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) New York oceans program director. “Offshore wind farms could support entire communities of marine life.”

Human activity—overfishing and unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions—is driving ocean heating and acidification that have left marine habitats in dire straits. Over the last 50 years, populations of species such as sharks and rays have withered by more than 70%, reports Energy Monitor. At a recent UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Secretary-General António Guterres lamented that humans have “taken the ocean for granted” and declared that humanity faces an ocean emergency. “We must turn the tide,” he warned.

Biologists are looking for solutions in a burgeoning offshore wind energy sector—expected to increase capacity from 40 gigawatts in 2020 to 630 gigawatts by 2050. Armed with the knowledge that coral reefs provide habitats for around 32% of marine species, they hope the bases of turbines can foster habitats as a bulwark against ocean biodiversity loss.

The science is still in its early stages, but several groups are already working on strategies to recreate marine ecosystems. In one prominent trial, Danish energy giant Ørsted’s ReCoral program is collecting indigenous coral spawn that washes up onshore and incubating the spawn in laboratories. After it grows to a viable larval stage, the spawn is then transported to wind turbine foundations where it can, theoretically, form a new coral reef.

[…] If it works, establishing habitats on wind turbines could also help stabilize turbine foundations, which are threatened by erosion at their base. A recent TNC report studied nature-based designs for offshore wind structures and identified ways to stabilize turbines alongside a “massive opportunity to create, enhance, and expand marine habitat for native fish, shellfish, and other species.”
» Read article       

» More about siting impacts of renewables

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

land sparing
Electric cars sales in the US ‘could prevent one-tenth of global cropland expansion’
A faster shift to electric vehicles (EVs) in the US would avoid around 10% of the global cropland expansion expected over the next 30 years, according to a new study.
By
Josh Gabbatiss, Carbon Brief
July 18, 2022

Instead of growing maize (corn) to make biofuel for US cars, modelling in the Ecological Economics paper suggests large swathes of land could be left to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2).

This land sparing would bring “substantial” emissions savings, in addition to the direct benefits of electrifying US road transport, the researchers say.

The findings come as campaigners and some governments have been pushing to end the use of crops for biofuels in the face of soaring food prices and fears of global hunger.

One scientist not involved with the study tells Carbon Brief it highlights an “understudied” benefit of vehicle electrification, which “could have important indirect effects on agricultural production and greenhouse gas emissions globally”.

Shifting to 100% electric vehicle sales is a long way from reality in the US. However, the study suggests that, by choosing cleaner transport, Americans could significantly slash global demand for maize, cutting both emissions from agriculture and food prices.
» Read article      
» Obtain the study

» More about clean transportation     

DEEP-SEABED MINING

deep fish
Concerns over transparency and access abound at deep-sea mining negotiations
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts, Mongabay
July 26, 2022

Delegates of the International Seabed Authority are currently meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, to negotiate a set of rules that would pave the way for a controversial activity: mining the seabed for coveted minerals like manganese, nickel, copper, cobalt and zinc. But scientists and conservationists say there are considerable transparency issues at the meetings that are restricting access to key information and hampering interactions between member states and civil society.

The ISA is the U.N.-mandated body responsible for overseeing the development of deep-sea mining in international waters, but also tasked with protecting the marine environment. Very little is actually known about the deep ocean, yet countries and corporations have set their sights on exploiting three deep-sea environments — abyssal plains, seamounts, and hydrothermal vents. They argue that doing so is necessary to produce batteries for electric cars and other green technologies, which would, in turn, help combat climate change. Yet scientists and conservationists say that mining the seabed would cause the planet far more harm than good, disrupting and destroying the very ecosystems that support life on Earth, and that green technologies do not require minerals from the ocean.

The ISA usually holds its meetings at the Jamaica Conference Centre, a complex with five large conference rooms, each of which can hold hundreds of people. But this year, due to renovations at the usual venue, the meetings were moved to a local hotel that’s unable to accommodate all delegates and observers in the same room, and has generally limited the number of attendees. For instance, the ISA only permits one observer per civil society group in the building at a time, which was the same restriction enforced at the ISA meetings that took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, there were no restrictions on observers.

“We’re seeing huge restrictions on access,” Diva Amon, a marine biologist and deep-sea expert who is attending the ISA meetings as a representative of the Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI), told Mongabay. “We are literally in this basement room, where we have a screen in front of us — a TV screen — and we’re only able to see the person who’s speaking. Usually we’re all in a room together, and as observers, we can read the room, we can interact with delegates really easily, and it’s just a lot more interactive. This time, it feels very siloed, which is unfortunate.”

Arlo Hemphill, a senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace who is also attending the current meetings, said that the new venue was unacceptable due to the limitations it created.

“They’re basically negotiating rules that are going to govern the surface area of almost half the planet and the people with the most at stake are being denied a seat at the table,” Hemphill told Mongabay.
» Read article      

» More about deep-seabed mining    

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

making rent
Revealed: oil sector’s ‘staggering’ $3bn-a-day profits for last 50 years
Vast sums provide power to ‘buy every politician’ and delay action on climate crisis, says expert
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
July 21, 2022

The oil and gas industry has delivered $2.8bn (£2.3bn) a day in pure profit for the last 50 years, a new analysis has revealed.

The vast total captured by petrostates and fossil fuel companies since 1970 is $52tn, providing the power to “buy every politician, every system” and delay action on the climate crisis, says Prof Aviel Verbruggen, the author of the analysis. The huge profits were inflated by cartels of countries artificially restricting supply.

The analysis, based on World Bank data, assesses the “rent” secured by global oil and gas sales, which is the economic term for the unearned profit produced after the total cost of production has been deducted.

The study has yet to be published in an academic journal but three experts at University College London, the London School of Economics and the thinktank Carbon Tracker confirmed the analysis as accurate, with one calling the total a “staggering number”. It appears to be the first long-term assessment of the sector’s total profits, with oil rents providing 86% of the total.

Emissions from the burning of fossil fuels have driven the climate crisis and contributed to worsening extreme weather, including the current heatwaves hitting the UK and many other Northern hemisphere countries. Oil companies have known for decades that carbon emissions were dangerously heating the planet.
» Read article       

» More about fossil fuels

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Weekly News Check-In 7/15/22

banner 15

Welcome back.

There’s plenty of news this week. We’re covering important direct actions involving    our own Berkshire Environmental Action Team, in conjunction with the Berkshire Branch of the NAACP, 350MA Berkshire Node, and statewide environmental coalition Mass Power Forward. These organizations are pushing for the state Legislature to adopt a series of strong climate bills, saying we are in the “11th hour” for such initiatives.

Here’s where things get tough. At the federal level, more than 200 congressional staffers urged the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate to finalize a reconciliation package that includes robust measures to tackle the fossil fuel-driven climate emergency before the August recess. But West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin scuttled that legislation at the last moment – dramatically sinking President Biden’s climate agenda and arguably cementing his legacy (in the words of John Podesta, a former senior counselor to President Barack Obama and founder of the Center for American Progress), as “… the one man who single-handedly doomed humanity.”

Manchin’s to blame, for sure, but let’s not forget that things would be different if even a single Republican senator had been willing to support this critical legislation. This all means that the feds are only bringing modest action to the game, like the US Department of Energy’s competition supporting innovations in extracting lithium for energy storage, or the Environmental Protection Agency  telling the Tennessee Valley Authority to reconsider an initial decision to replace its largest coal plant with a natural gas one. For the foreseeable future, meaningful climate progress in the US is locked down at the state level. The rest of the world, having suffered extraordinary losses from the effects of America’s historic emissions, is not impressed.

Even before this happened, John Kerry, President Biden’s top climate-focused diplomat, expressed concern in an interview with The Boston Globe that time to transition to clean energy is running out. Still, the war in Ukraine, supply chain problems, and inflation have all lined up to favor the fossil fuel industry – at least in the near term.

Plans are advancing for an extension of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline as a partial alternative to Russian gas for Europe, and the Biden administration may approve the huge ConocoPhillips ‘Willow’ carbon bomb in Alaska. Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency is recognizing energy efficiency (not liquefied natural gas) as the real workhorse that can pull Europe through its energy crisis. Along those same lines, a recent report out of Oregon shows that a speedy transition to electric heat pumps in homes and businesses could translate into lower utility bills and faster reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Those findings bolster calls from environmental groups asking state regulators to end consumer subsidies that allow utilities to expand gas infrastructure.

Maine is making up for one missing federal program by launching a climate corps service program aimed at mitigating and preparing for climate change. Its goal is to both make a difference on climate issues and create career pathways for young people interested in conservation, renewable energy, or other related work.

Clean transportation is coming to the farm, and the way to get farmers to adopt a new tool is to prove that it can do the work. Beginning last year, Robert Wallace, an expert on rural energy projects, fitted electric tractors with data-gathering sensors and offered them for free tests on farms and gardens in rural Oregon. It may be the first program of its kind in the U.S.

Some large carbon capture and storage projects will be funded with $2.1B from the bipartisan infrastructure bill, but they will start life in the shadow of the industry’s greatest failure so far: a billion dollar boondoggle called Petra Nova. Another sketchy operation, deep-seabed mining, is nearing approval, but scientists are raising new alarm about noise caused by those operations, and the likely harm it will cause to marine mammals and other animals from surface to sea floor.

We’ll close with an item that clarifies the connection between the fossil fuel and plastics industries. A new U.S.-Saudi joint venture on the Texas coast represents a shift by the fossil fuel industry toward supporting and promoting the production and use of plastics as demand for oil and gas declines.

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

creatures too
Activists Demand Climate Legislation ‘In the 11th Hour’
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires
July 11, 2022

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Local activists are pushing for the state Legislature to adopt a series of strong climate bills, saying we are in the “11th hour” for such initiatives.

These include an act to improve outdoor and indoor air quality for communities burdened by transportation pollution; an act relative to energy facilities siting reform to address environmental justice, climate, and public health; an act for building justice with jobs; and an act transiting the state to clean electricity, heating, and transportation.

Berkshire Environmental Action Team, in conjunction with the Berkshire Branch of the NAACP, 350MA Berkshire Node, and statewide environmental coalition Mass Power Forward had a standout on Monday at Park Square to advocate for climate justice legislation.

“We’re here today to push the Mass Legislature to pass a comprehensive, equitable energy bill,” said Rosemary Wessel, program director for BEAT’s No Fracked Gas in Mass.

“On Friday afternoon, we learned that there’s a possibility that State House politics could result in no climate bill at all in this session, so they need to have a deliverable bill worked out by [July]15 at the latest and the word is from several sources that talks have completely broken down. So we need to ramp up the pressure and make sure that the legislature hears loudly and clearly that no bill is not an option.”

This was a part of 11 simultaneous actions across the state held at 11 a.m. on July 11 to signify its proximity to the end of the legislative session on July 15. They’re using the hashtag #MA11thhour

“BEAT’s mission is to protect the environment for wildlife in support of the natural world that sustains us all,” Executive Director Jane Winn said.

“So we’re here keeping in mind that this work is not just all about us humans.  We are causing the sixth extinction, a massive loss of biodiversity. We need our legislators to take action now.
» Read article     

Chuck and Nancy
200+ Hill Staffers Urge Pelosi and Schumer to End ‘Dangerous Inaction’ on Climate
“We refuse to remain silent until bold investments are made,” said a Green New Deal organizer from Rep. Cori Bush’s office.
By Kenny Stancil, Common Dreams
July 13, 2022

More than 200 congressional staffers have urged the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate to finalize a reconciliation package that includes robust measures to tackle the fossil fuel-driven climate emergency before the August recess.

“We’ve crafted the legislation necessary to avert climate catastrophe,” the staffers wrote in a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday night. “It’s time for you to pass it.” The letter, signed anonymously with initials, was first shared with CNN.

“Our country is nearing the end of a two-year window that represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to pass transformative climate policy,” the letter continues. “The silence on expansive climate justice policy on Capitol Hill this year has been deafening. We write to distance ourselves from your dangerous inaction.”

The rare staff-authored letter criticizing party leadership and calling for specific legislation comes as Schumer conducts last-ditch negotiations with right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) on a scaled-back economic package that can be passed without Republican votes through the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process.

Manchin rewarded his corporate donors last year by siding with the GOP to tank the more wide-ranging Build Back Better Act, but he has recently endorsed the idea of a narrow bill aimed at reducing the surging cost of living, specifically backing a proposal that would enable Medicare to negotiate lower prices for certain prescription drugs.

When it comes to climate action, however, Manchin remains an obstacle. The long-time coal profiteer continues to insist—erroneously, according to experts—that easing pain at the pump requires further expanding domestic fossil fuel production.
» Read article     

» More about protests and actions

LEGISLATION

rejected
How One Senator Doomed the Democrats’ Climate Plan
Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia led his party and his president through months of tortured talks, with nothing to show for it as the planet dangerously heats up.
By Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman, New York Times
July 15, 2022

First, he killed a plan that would have forced power plants to clean up their climate-warming pollution. Then, he shattered an effort to help consumers pay for electric vehicles. And, finally, he said he could not support government incentives for solar and wind companies or any of the other provisions that the rest of his party and his president say are vital to ensure a livable planet.

Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who took more campaign cash from the oil and gas industry than any other senator, and who became a millionaire from his family coal business, independently blew up the Democratic Party’s legislative plans to fight climate change. The swing Democratic vote in an evenly divided Senate, Mr. Manchin led his party through months of tortured negotiations that collapsed on Thursday night, a yearlong wild goose chase that produced nothing as the Earth warms to dangerous levels.

“It seems odd that Manchin would choose as his legacy to be the one man who single-handedly doomed humanity,” said John Podesta, a former senior counselor to President Barack Obama and founder of the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank.

Privately, Senate Democratic staff members seethed and sobbed on Thursday night, after more than a year of working nights and weekends to scale back, water down, trim and tailor the climate legislation to Mr. Manchin’s exact specifications, only to have it rejected inches from the finish line.

“Rage keeps me from tears,” Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts and a longtime advocate for climate legislation, wrote on Twitter late Thursday.

Mr. Manchin’s refusal to support the climate legislation, along with steadfast Republican opposition, effectively dooms the chances that Congress will pass any new law to tackle global warming for the foreseeable future — at a moment when scientists say the planet is nearly out of time to prevent average global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.
» Read article     
» Read related NBC News coverage 

walk of shame

Manchin Pulls Plug on Climate and Tax Talks, Shrinking Domestic Plan
The West Virginia Democrat’s decision dealt a crushing blow to President Biden’s domestic agenda, effectively ruling out action on anything beyond prescription drug pricing and health care subsidies.
By Emily Cochrane and Lisa Friedman, New York Times
July 14, 2022

WASHINGTON — Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, pulled the plug on Thursday on negotiations to salvage key pieces of President Biden’s agenda, informing his party’s leaders that he would not support funding for climate or energy programs or raising taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations.

The decision by Mr. Manchin, a conservative-leaning Democrat whose opposition has effectively stalled Mr. Biden’s economic package in the evenly divided Senate, dealt a devastating blow to his party’s efforts to enact a broad social safety net, climate and tax package.

In recent months, Democrats had slashed their ambitions for such a plan to win over Mr. Manchin, hoping that he would agree to support even a fraction of the sweeping initiative they once envisioned. His abrupt shift appeared to dash those aspirations.

In a meeting on Thursday with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, Mr. Manchin said he would support a package that would include a negotiated plan aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs and an extension of expanded Affordable Care Act subsidies set to lapse at the end of the year.

The shift capped off weeks of painstaking negotiations to cobble together a package that could win Mr. Manchin’s support. It came seven months after the West Virginian abruptly walked away from talks and rejected a far larger plan.

[…] In rejecting any climate and energy provisions, Mr. Manchin appeared to have single-handedly shattered Mr. Biden’s ambitious climate agenda and what would have been the largest single federal investment in American history toward addressing the toll of climate change.

His decision came just days after a report showed that prices surged to 9.1 percent in June, exacerbating existing fears about inflation and rising costs for every day Americans. But while Mr. Manchin has long sounded alarms about inflation and the national debt, he had also maintained openness to overhauling the tax code, a position he appeared to have reversed.

It stunned Democratic officials who had labored to win Mr. Manchin’s vote. As recently as Friday, Democrats said they had coalesced around a plan to use the funds from raising taxes on some high-earning Americans to extend the solvency of a key Medicare fund.

But it was particularly devastating for those who had championed the climate and energy provisions. In calls to various climate activists on Thursday night, Mr. Schumer and his staff sounded shellshocked and said they believed until just a few hours before that a deal was still possible, said one person who spoke with Mr. Schumer.

Without action by Congress, it will be impossible to meet Mr. Biden’s goal of cutting U.S. emissions roughly in half by the end of this decade. That target was aimed at keeping the planet to stabilize the climate at about 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming compared to preindustrial levels.

The Earth has already warmed by about 1.1 degrees Celsius, or about 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Lawmakers and activists who have led the charge for action to combat climate change expressed outrage on Thursday night.
» Read article

» More about legislation

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

TVA office
Gas instead of coal? EPA tells TVA to look again
By Kristi E. Swartz, E&E News
July 7, 2022

EPA said the Tennessee Valley Authority should reconsider an initial decision to replace its largest coal plant with a natural gas one, arguing that there are cheaper and cleaner options to combat climate change.

The nation’s largest public power utility is weighing new generation choices as it prepares to close the massive Cumberland Fossil Plant, which is near the Tennessee-Kentucky border. TVA must follow the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the federal government to analyze environmental impacts of major decisions, particularly with infrastructure.

EPA’s statements, filed last week, are the latest in a tug of war between the federal government and TVA over carbon-reduction efforts. They also follow comments by leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which pressed TVA in January to realign its trajectory to match the Biden administration’s goal of a decarbonized U.S. power sector by 2035.

[…] In sharply worded comments filed June 30, EPA said TVA overlooked options to help the United States meet carbon-reduction goals, as backed by science and to be implemented through the Paris Agreement.

Picking natural gas exposes TVA to price volatility and likely the cost of a stranded asset if it decided to close the plant in a couple of decades, EPA officials wrote.

Long-lived “fossil assets may become uneconomic faster than expected if alternatives and mitigation are not fully considered,” EPA wrote.

The agency wants TVA to modify its decision and consider federal greenhouse gas reduction policies, climate resilience, air quality, environmental justice and water resource issues.

“Such an alternative, or other alternatives, would better align with decarbonization pathways necessary to meet science-based targets for GHG reductions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” wrote Mark Fite, EPA’s strategic programs office director, in the letter to TVA.

CEO Jeff Lyash has said TVA can achieve more aggressive carbon dioxide reduction goals but also said more aid from the federal government is needed in the form of money and bringing emerging clean energy technologies to scale quickly.
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GREENING THE ECONOMY

Copper River Dela
As Biden’s climate corps languishes, states move ahead with civilian service model
Maine is the latest state to launch a civilian service program focused on climate change, though at a much smaller scale than what has been proposed by the president and his allies in stalled federal legislation.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
July 13, 2022

Maine is set to join a growing number of states in launching a service program aimed at mitigating and preparing for climate change.

The goal of the climate corps initiative is to both make a difference on climate issues and create career pathways for young people interested in conservation, renewable energy, or other related work. The effort will take on projects in areas including community resilience planning, energy education and outreach, home energy management and conservation, regenerative agriculture, and community solar.

“We designed it as ambitious because addressing the climate crisis is an ambitious task,” said state Rep. Morgan Rielly, who campaigned on the idea of a climate corps and supported the bill that created it. “You’ve got to address it in a systemic way.”

Despite the corps’ lofty goals, it will launch with modest backing. The legislature allocated $200,000 for the program, well short of the $1 million proposed in the original bill. Some $80,000 will fund staffing and administration and $120,000 will pay those who choose to serve.

“The requested amount was larger, but we will forge ahead with what we did receive,” said Kirsten Brewer, coordinator of the Maine Climate Corps.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed the bill establishing the corps in May. The initiative is still in its early stages. Brewer was hired to coordinate the program under the umbrella of Volunteer Maine, the state’s service commission. She is now working on a request for proposals that will ask potential partner organizations to suggest projects that could be up and running by winter or spring.
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CLIMATE

freeway
Nearly $2tn of damage inflicted on other countries by US emissions
Research puts US ahead of China, Russia, India and Brazil in terms of global damage as climate expert says numbers ‘very stark’
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
July 12, 2022

The US has inflicted more than $1.9tn in damage to other countries from the effects of its greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new analysis that has provided the first measurement of nations’ liability in stoking the climate crisis.

The huge volume of planet-heating gases pumped out by the US, the largest historical emitter, has caused such harm to other, mostly poor, countries through heatwaves, crop failures and other consequences that the US is responsible for $1.91tn in lost global income since 1990, the study found.

This puts the US ahead of China, currently the world’s leading emitter, Russian, India and Brazil as the next largest contributors to global economic damage through their emissions. Combined, these five leading culprits have caused a total of $6tn in losses worldwide, or about 11% of annual global GDP, since 1990 by fueling climate breakdown.

“It’s a huge number,” said Chris Callahan, a researcher at Dartmouth College and lead author of the study, of the overall economic loss. “It’s not surprising that the US and China are at the top of that list but the numbers really are very stark. For the first time, we can show that a country’s emissions can be traced to specific harm.”

The Dartmouth researchers combined a number of different models, showing factors such as emissions, local climate conditions and economic changes, to ascertain the precise impact of an individual country’s contribution to the climate crisis. They looked for these links over a period spanning 1990 to 2014, with the research published in the journal Climatic Change.
» Read article     

emerald tutu
Northeastern researchers have a plan to protect Boston from rising sea levels: floating vegetation mats they call the ‘Emerald Tutu’
By Travis Andersen, Boston Globe
July 8, 2022

Researchers at Northeastern University have developed a system of interconnected circular mats of floating vegetation dubbed the “Emerald Tutu,” which they believe could help protect Boston Harbor from the perils of rising sea levels.

In a statement, Northeastern said the Emerald Tutu project, a play on Boston’s famed Emerald Necklace of parkways and waterways stretching from Boston to Brookline, currently has one mat in the water in Salem, with a second set slated for launch in Boston Harbor. A date for the harbor launch hasn’t been set.

[Julia Hopkins, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northeastern and lead scientist for the Emerald Tutu project…] deployed an initial Emerald Tutu test mat off an East Boston pier during the spring of 2021, and she said in the statement that researchers were pleased when they pulled it out of the water last summer and discovered a significant amount of vegetation growing on it.

“We didn’t expect as much grass or seaweed to grow,” Hopkins said. “We didn’t realize it would colonize that easily and that much.”

The mats are composed of biodegradable material, such as coconut fiber, wood chip byproduct, burlap canvas, and marine-grade rope, and they won’t pollute the environment if they break loose and get lost at sea, according to the statement.

The university said the mats absorb wave energy and help mitigate the flooding that increasingly threatens to inundate Boston and other coastal cities. The more vegetation that grows on the mats when they’re in the water, the more wave energy they can absorb, thereby limiting flooding, the statement said.

“It functions as a marsh without being a marsh,” Hopkins said in the statement, adding that the “basic idea takes some of the theory we have about how nature is supposed to be protecting shore and applying that to something we can use in urban environments.”

Plans are in place for “a massive” Emerald Tutu pilot project next summer, with an exact location for the vegetation mats yet to be determined, the statement said
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CLEAN ENERGY

taking measure
Climate envoy John Kerry sees peril and opportunity as fuel prices bog down green energy push
By Jess Bidgood, Boston Globe
July 9, 2022

A sweeping climate bill that collapsed in the Senate. An invasion that sent energy prices even higher, sparking calls for even more drilling. And, just weeks ago, a Supreme Court ruling curbing the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate pollution.

It has been a punishing six months for the effort to decarbonize the economy and stave off the most disastrous effects of climate change. And John Kerry, President Biden’s top climate-focused diplomat, expressed concern in an interview with The Boston Globe that time is running out.

“I have absolutely zero doubt whatsoever that we are going to get to a zero carbon, low carbon economy. … My question is, are we going to get there fast enough to avoid the worst consequences of the crisis? And that I’m not convinced of right now,” Kerry said. “This can work if we make the right decisions, if we move fast enough. But if we don’t, it’s clear what’s coming at us.”

[…] “Last year, coal emissions went up 9 percent. And emissions generally went up 6 percent. So … it’s delayed, the cutting in of the momentum that we brought out of Glasgow,” he said, but added the momentum had not been extinguished entirely.

The backsliding comes at a pivotal moment for the planet, since climate scientists say there is less than a decade left to cut emissions and hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius — the threshold beyond which lethal flooding, superstorms, and heat waves could become even more common. The globe has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius since 1880, and Biden set a goal of cutting fossil fuel emissions in half by 2030 to slow that progression, while encouraging other countries to make their own big cuts.

“It’s urgent today, and it was urgent last week, and it was urgent last year,” Kerry said. “If we don’t do enough between 2020 and 2030, it’s physically not possible, barring some miracle discovery … to get to net zero [emissions] by 2050. You can’t do it.”

But higher oil and gas prices worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have made an immediate transition to green energy politically trickier, both in the United States and abroad, threatening the global goals Kerry and Biden helped set just last year. Biden has called for a gas tax holiday and proposed opening up some federal areas for drilling in response to rising prices at the pump; meanwhile, Kerry continues to publicly call for the US not to invest more in extracting fossil fuels at a moment that lays bare the many issues with being dependent on them.
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ENERGY EFFICIENCY

A-plus
High energy prices, climate, Ukraine conflict and rising demand response potential spur energy efficiency efforts
Innovative uses of efficiency as demand response to meet power system needs can end natural gas and coal dependence, according to a new International Energy Agency initiative.
By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
July 11, 2022

Energy efficiency, the cleanest, lowest cost, most overlooked resource in the climate fight, is now part of the world’s pushback against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the International Energy Agency.

Energy efficiency, or EE, is fundamental to the clean energy transition, analysts have long agreed. But the Ukraine war-driven urgency for the European Union to end reliance on Russian natural gas and arbitrary Russian threats like the July 11 shutdown of the Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline to Germany, and avoid stopgap coal burning now makes EE vital, a June 10 statement co-signed by the U.S. and 25 IEA parties in the Americas, Africa, Asia and the EU recognized.

EE is “critical” to keeping world energy “affordable, secure, and clean,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol told the annual IEA Global Conference on Energy Efficiency June 8. And world leaders must make the conference “a meeting of hope” where “the world hits the accelerator on efficiency” or they may “pay the price for years to come.”

This “could be the peace project of our time,” U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman added at the conference. “Russia’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine has challenged us to think differently about how we generate, distribute, and use energy, and the case for energy efficiency has never been more urgent.”

In the U.S., EE has enormous potential but must demonstrate its value across different regulatory and market circumstances, Speakes-Backman and other U.S. EE advocates said during and after the IEA conference. With more innovative and comprehensive policies, EE can have great value as demand response, or DR, and be used when and where the power system needs kWh reductions the most, they said.

[…] The most important policies are those that can make EE cost effective, like rebates and financing mechanisms that reduce upfront deployment costs, Nadel said. Some utilities, green banks and institutional lenders support on-bill financing and property-assessed clean energy, or PACE, programs that allow customers to pay for EE installations with their bill savings, he said.

Those policies, along with time-of-use, or TOU, rates that shift usage, and performance standards and codes for buildings and appliances have helped make California, followed by Massachusetts, the top two EE states, according to ACEEE’s December 2020 state analysis.
» Read article     

customer entrance
Rapid Electric Heat Transition Will Save Oregon $1.7 Billion, Report Finds
Advocates say that’s all the more reason to end customer-funded gas line expansion.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
July 11, 2022

A speedy transition to electric heat pumps in homes and businesses in Oregon could translate into lower utility bills and faster reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report.

Those findings bolster calls from environmental groups, who are asking state regulators to end consumer subsidies that allow utilities to expand gas infrastructure.

A June report from Synapse Energy Economics, commissioned by the Sierra Club, found that a rapid transition to electric heat pumps in Oregon would cut household energy bills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and provide savings for the electricity system as a whole. Heat pumps, despite their name, offer both heating and air conditioning, and are widely seen as key to replacing oil and gas furnaces and helping decarbonize residential and commercial buildings.

Pollution from residential and commercial buildings in Oregon currently makes up roughly 35 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions – largely the result of burning gas for heating and cooking. The report compared two hypothetical scenarios in which 100 percent of appliances sold to Oregon homes and businesses were electric, perhaps due to a ban on new gas connections, for example, or a mandate for all-electric construction. The first scenario analyzed zero-emissions appliance sales beginning in 2030, and the other beginning in 2025. Both scenarios would be ambitious, but the study found that the faster route not only provided more climate benefits, but also saved more money. Switching to all-electric appliances by 2025 would result in $1.7 billion in system-wide savings by 2050, compared to $1.1 billion in the 2030 scenario.

For individual households, the story is similar. The average fully electric Portland household would save about $161 more per year on utility bills than a household that uses a mixture of electricity and gas. A household in Bend, Oregon would save an average of $192 in the all-electric scenario compared to a household that still uses some gas.

“We know that the transition away from fossil fuel appliances for heating has to happen to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change – but even if you look at this issue purely from an economic perspective, transitioning our homes off of polluting fuels like methane gas is still the right decision for Oregonians,” said Dylan Plummer, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club.
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ENERGY STORAGE

road trip
DOE announces finalists of Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize
By Green Car Congress
July 14, 2022

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced the finalists in the $4-million American-Made Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize, a competition supporting innovations that help lower the costs and reduce the environmental impacts of extracting lithium from geothermal brines.

Demand for lithium—a critical material used in batteries for electric vehicles, grid-scale electricity storage, phones, and laptops—has grown rapidly in recent years, with global demand expected to increase 500% by 2050. The United States depends on other countries for nearly all its lithium supply and mining the mineral strains water resources and can harm the environment. Using brines already produced by geothermal energy presents a solution because it is an environmentally friendly process that yields lithium.

Through this prize, DOE is advancing the development of domestic, cost-competitive, sustainable sources of lithium, particularly around Southern California’s Salton Sea.

This area has the potential to produce more than 600,000 tons of lithium per year and support a robust supply chain that turns the United States into a leading lithium exporter.

The five finalists in the Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize have identified solutions that may safely and cost-effectively extract lithium from geothermal brines. Each team will receive $280,000 and will compete in the third and final phase of the competition.
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CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Robert Wallace
A New Project in Rural Oregon Is Letting Farmers Test Drive Electric Tractors in the Name of Science
With tractors being used in vineyards, berry fields and hobby farms, the EV industry hopes to prove out the promise of electrifying the $38 billion US agricultural vehicle industry.
By Grant Stringer, Inside Climate News
July 13, 2022

Robert Wallace was puzzled when the first electric tractor was delivered to his home in rural Dufur, Oregon, about 75 miles east of Portland.

Wallace, an expert on rural energy projects, knows his way around a tractor. But the electric machine, distributed by the California-based startup Solectrac, didn’t idle when he turned it on, unlike the loud diesel-powered tractors he was used to. It hummed.

“It was the first electric tractor I’d ever seen,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if it was running or not.”

Wallace has since become a guru of electric tractors, climate tech that’s just starting to show up on U.S. fields and farms. Beginning last year, he fitted several Solectracs with data-gathering sensors and offered them for free tests on farms and gardens in rural Oregon. It’s part of a citizen science program testing first-generation electric farm equipment on the ground, likely the first program of its kind in the U.S.

Thanks to quick production and marketing of electric automobiles, American drivers already have plenty of options to choose from when replacing a gas-powered car with an all-electric one. But agricultural equipment manufacturing, a $38 billion industry in the U.S., is only beginning to go green. Some small electric models are just becoming available to farmers, and Wallace and his program partners are putting them under the microscope.

Solectrac and Monarch, another California-based startup co-founded by a former Tesla supply chain chief, are rolling out models of small tractors intended for use in vineyards, berry and hobby farms. They aim to lure customers with promises of long battery lives, low carbon footprints and even autonomous technology, in Monarch’s case. But many farmers harbor deep loyalties to big-name brands—think the trademark John Deere green—and widespread unfamiliarity with electric-powered engines. Outright skepticism of green tech is also pervasive among the dryland wheat and orchard farmers in the rolling hills around Dufur, Wallace said.

If farmers are going to replace polluting diesel-run equipment like tractors, side-by-sides, backhoes and, eventually, huge machines like combine harvesters, they’ll first need to know whether they work, Wallace says.

“I want to figure out what parts of this technology will work for me, for rural Oregon, for rural America,” Wallace said.
» Read article     
» Read about the program

more and faster
For more drivers to go electric, EV chargers must level up
By Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe
July 12, 2022

It’s getting easier to find places to recharge an electric car. Unless you want to recharge it fast. Then you’ve got a problem.

According to the US Department of Energy, there are about 49,000 vehicle charging locations in the US, with a total of 122,000 charging ports — the cables that plug into individual cars. But the great majority of these are slow “Level 2″ chargers that take hours to deliver a significant battery boost.

Only about 6,400 locations feature “Level 3″ fast chargers, capable of adding dozens of miles of driving range to a car’s battery in 15 or 20 minutes. These locations have just 25,000 charging ports to serve the entire US. Massachusetts has just 129 fast charging stations with just under 500 plug-in ports.

In addition, more than half of all US fast chargers serve only one make of electric vehicle — Tesla — making them useless to drivers of other battery-powered cars. Tesla has begun to allow customers in Europe to recharge non-Tesla vehicles at their chargers, but this program has yet to launch in the US.

The scarcity of fast chargers isn’t a critical problem for now, since today’s EV owners are mostly affluent homeowners who can recharge every night in their driveways. But “as the market for EVs expands and goes beyond the early adopters, you’re going to see an increasing portion of the customer base who do not have access to off-street parking,” said Sam Abuelsamid, an electric vehicle analyst at Guidehouse Insights in Detroit. Such drivers can’t or won’t spend hours in a public parking lot waiting for a battery boost, he said.

So it’ll take a lot more fast charging stations to persuade many drivers to even consider going electric. But they aren’t being installed fast enough.

A new study from the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a trade association of electric utilities, estimates that there’ll be about 26 million electric vehicles in the US by 2030, about 10 percent of the nation’s vehicle fleet. The report said that utilities, corporations, and governments have committed to build about 45,000 high-speed charging ports nationwide by 2030, but the nation will actually need about 140,000 to meet expected demand.
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CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE

aerial view ccs
Carbon capture projects, regional CO2 pipeline design to get $2.6B in DOE funding proposal
By Ethan Howland, Utility Dive
July 14, 2022

So far, CCS hasn’t taken off in the power sector. NRG Energy, for example, mothballed its Petra Nova carbon capture project at a Texas power plant in 2020 after experiencing operating problems and financial losses. It was the only carbon capture facility at a U.S. power plant.

DOE aims to spur carbon capture and storage development using funding authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The department intends to begin taking applications for funding in August or September.

The department said it expects to accept 12 applications for the initial design of CCS projects, which would receive a total of $160 million in DOE funding.

It then plans to offer $2.1 billion for the detailed design and construction of six CCS projects, two at coal-fired power plants, two at gas-fired plants and two at industrial facilities. The funding requires applicants to pay for at least half of their project’s costs.

Proposed projects must capture at least 95% of the carbon emissions from the facilities.

DOE sees wide potential benefits from CCS technology.

“CCS deployment can and should reduce emissions of other kinds of pollution in addition to CO2 pollution, protect communities from increases in cumulative pollution, and maintain and create good, high-wage jobs across the country,” the department said.

DOE said it will require funding applicants to show how their proposals will benefit communities and meet diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and environmental justice requirements.
» Read article         

billion dollar scrap
Biggest CCS failure clouds Supreme Court ruling
By Corbin Hiar, Carlos Anchondo, E&E News
July 11, 2022

The future for carbon capture and storage has perhaps never been brighter.

Congress has appropriated billions of dollars of funding to the CCS technology through last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law. And the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the West Virginia v. EPA case left the door open for EPA to require carbon capture as a way to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel-fired power plants.

But there’s a cloud hanging over the potential CCS-building boom: Petra Nova.

The $1 billion project was once the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture system. Backed by the Department of Energy, it began operating in December 2016 — and shut down less than four years later. Petra Nova’s operator, NRG Energy Inc., cited the challenging economic conditions at the time, prompted by the pandemic-induced economic slowdown.

The world economy has bounced back since then, but Petra Nova remains shuttered. Meanwhile, the conventional coal and natural gas units of NRG’s W.A. Parish Electric Generating Station — home to the shuttered Petra Nova installation — continue to dump planet-warming carbon emissions into the atmosphere. There are now just 27 operational CCS projects around the world, according to data from the Global CCS Institute, an environmental think tank.

But NRG has no immediate plans to return Petra Nova into service.

[…] “Petra Nova continues to be the project that people look to as an example,” said David Greeson, a former vice president at NRG who is now a carbon capture project consultant.

“This technology can be built on time and on budget, which kind of distinguishes it from other technologies around fossil fuels that are trying to reduce [the] carbon footprint of those fuels,” he said.

A DOE spokesperson told E&E News last week that Petra Nova “successfully met the technical milestones” established for its carbon capture grant from the agency.

“While the project later ceased operations due to challenging market conditions, Congress has subsequently made available additional policy support for future carbon management demonstration projects that has been critical to the successful development, deployment, and commercialization of other low and zero-carbon technologies, like wind and solar,” the DOE spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Yet the 2020 DOE report found that the Petra Nova project was plagued by long stretches of downtime, which limited its overall effectiveness. During the three-year period covered by the report, Petra Nova was offline for 367 days — or more than one-third of the time. As a result, the project initially failed to meet its cumulative carbon capture target goals.
» Read article    

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DEEP-SEABED MINING

slideshow
Mining the deep sea for battery materials will be dangerously noisy, study finds
There’s a looming deadline to address the risk
By Justine Calma, The Verge
July 7, 2022

The race is on to figure out how to protect the ocean abyss as deep-sea mining operations look to extract minerals like nickel, cobalt, and copper from the sea floor. But there’s one potential risk to the deep-sea environment that tends to fall under the radar. Not only will mining dredge up the seafloor, but it’ll also create a lot of noise that poses its own problems for marine life, according to a newly published paper in the journal Science.

People have talked about mining the deep sea for minerals for decades, and that future is almost here. Driven by a need for more of the minerals used in everyday gadgets and batteries, the first efforts to raid polymetallic nodules at the bottom of the ocean for these resources could begin in earnest as soon as next year. The noise from those operations could affect marine life even hundreds of kilometers away, the authors of the new paper found.

Within about 6 kilometers (3.73 miles) of a mine, the noise could be equivalent to or even louder than a rock concert. That exceeds the threshold, 120 dB, that the US National Marine Fisheries Service says could negatively impact marine mammals’ behavior. The noise travels up to 500 kilometers (310 miles) away, where it would weaken but still be louder than ambient noise levels during fair weather.

“The biggest surprise for me was how far ambient noise levels are likely to be exceeded,” says Craig Smith, one of the authors of the paper and a professor of oceanography at the University of Hawai‘i. To make things worse, the noise from mining could be nonstop. “This noise is expected to be produced 24/7 for years or maybe even decades,” Smith tells The Verge.

And unlike the noise at busy ports that’s mostly at the surface of the water, mining creates a racket all the way down to the bottom of the seafloor. There’s noise from vessels above, dredges below, and pumps that bring nodules and sediments up to the surface.

As a result, whales passing through might have a harder time communicating. Or whales and other animals might decide to avoid these areas altogether, which could even affect their migration.

Still, researchers don’t know exactly how that will affect marine life — and a big part of the problem is that there’s still so much that we don’t yet know about life in the ocean’s abyss. The vast majority of animals researchers bring up from expeditions to these depths — 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) or deeper — are completely new to science, according to Smith.
» Read article     

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FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

TAP
Energy Security Trumps Climate As EU Agrees To Pipeline Expansion
By Irina Slav, Oil Price
July 14, 2022

The European Commission and the Azeri government have sealed a preliminary deal for expanding the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline that brings Azeri gas into Europe as part of the EU’s efforts to reduce its dependence on Russian gas.

“The Sides aspire to support bilateral trade of natural gas, including through exports to the European Union, via the Southern Gas Corridor, of at least 20 billion cubic metres of gas annually by 2027, in accordance with commercial viability and market demand,” the draft memorandum of understanding said, as quoted by Reuters.

The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, or TAP, is the final section of the 3,500-km Southern Gas Corridor from the Caspian Sea to Italy, which is projected to have an annual capacity of 20 billion cubic meters at some point in the future. Last year, Italy and other European countries received 8 billion cubic meters from Azerbaijan via the TAP.

The draft mentioned “long-term, predictable and stable contracts” that would provide gas suppliers with security for future demand. This is a marked departure from the European Union’s favor for gas spot markets that have prevailed in the past decade as the EU tries to prevent any fossil fuel commitments that would interfere with its climate goals.

The draft document made a note of the EU’s emissions-cutting ambitions, saying that gas deliveries along the Southern Gas Corridor would need to be aligned with Paris Agreement targets.

For context, the EU received 158 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia last year, per Germany’s deputy finance minister Joerg Kukies. Of this, 30 billion cubic meters could potentially be replaced with liquefied natural gas from the United States and Qatar.
» Read article     

CP test well
Biden Administration Signals Support for Controversial Alaska Oil Project
The administration issued an environmental review that represents a key step toward starting the Willow project. Opponents say drilling would violate Biden’s pledge to rein in fossil fuels.
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
July 8, 2022

The Biden administration took a key step toward approving a huge oil drilling project in the North Slope of Alaska, angering environmental activists who said allowing it to go forward would make a mockery of President Biden’s climate-change promise to end new oil leases.

The ConocoPhillips project, known as Willow and located in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, was initially approved under the Trump administration and was later supported by the Biden administration but was then was blocked by a judge who said the environmental review had not sufficiently considered its effects on climate change and wildlife.

On Friday, the Biden administration issued a new environmental analysis.

In that analysis, the Department of the Interior said the multibillion-dollar plan would at its peak produce more than 180,000 barrels of crude oil a day and would emit at least 278 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over its lifetime from the burning of the oil produced, as well as from construction and drilling activity at the site.

The oil company’s plan calls for five drill sites, a processing facility, hundreds of miles of pipelines, nearly 40 miles of new gravel roads, seven bridges, an airstrip and a gravel mine in a region that is home to polar bears, caribou and migratory birds. Project opponents have argued that the development would harm wildlife and produce dangerous new levels of greenhouse gases.

In a statement, the Interior Department said that the new analysis included several options, including a reduction in the number of drilling sites as well as an option for “no action” — or no drilling at all — and did not represent a final decision on the Willow project. The agency will take comments from the public for 45 days and is likely to make a final decision later this year.
» Read article     

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LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

old news
The global LNG boom US exporters are chasing won’t materialise
Europe is doing everything it can to reduce gas use, while Asian governments are having to choose between sky-high prices and rolling blackouts. The smart money is on clean energy.
By Justin Guay, Energy Monitor | Opinion
July 6, 2022

The US liquified natural gas (LNG) export industry is in the middle of a charm offensive meant to greenwash its product to entice wary investors back into its loving embrace. Investors shouldn’t be fooled.

The uncomfortable truth is that LNG is not cleaner than coal, with life cycle emissions of LNG at best a marginal improvement. However, the real problem for investors is that the promise of overseas growth, and returns, is not likely to pan out. Instead, the smart money in these volatile times is on the real growth market – clean energy.

First, and most importantly, investors should be clear-eyed that while the US LNG industry’s expansion plans may be wrapped in a European energy security bow the industry is not seriously eyeing Europe for long-term growth. Instead, the European market is vanishing before our eyes.

Long before the invasion of Ukraine, Europe was the only major region on Earth where gas demand was projected to fall, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Now that fall is accelerating with the European Commission’s ‘Fit for 55’ proposals and new REPowerEU plan. If fully implemented, the former would already reduce total gas consumption by 30% – 100 billion cubic metres (bcm) – by 2030. The latter foresees the removal of at least 155bcm of fossil gas use – equivalent to the volume imported from Russia in 2021 – with nearly two-thirds of that reduction to be achieved by the end of the year.

That is anything but a growth market and it certainly cannot backstop the 20-year offtake agreements the industry needs to finance new export terminals.

Instead, Europe is planning a surge of clean energy that according to some estimates requires up to $800bn (€780bn) to get off all Russian fossil fuels. For those eyeing long-term structural growth in Europe, there is only one place to put your money – clean energy.

The real reason the industry wants to fast-track a wave of new infrastructure is to feed the real global growth market it is chasing – Asia. According to the IEA, the single largest source of gas demand through 2050 comes from industrial and power consumers in Asia. That is the market US exporters want access to; the European energy crisis is just the cover.

However, as cynically clever as the marketing is, savvy investors should be even more wary of the notion that demand for gas in Asia will materialise. It is true that many Asian countries have planned a wave of LNG import infrastructure to serve as the region’s comfort blanket in the transition beyond coal, but just as the infamous Asian coal super-cycle of a decade ago was meant to fuel US coal exports, only to fizzle out, the gap between Asia’s LNG plans and political and financial reality looms large.
» Read article     

» More about LNG

PLASTICS, HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

joint venture
As alarm over plastic grows, Saudis ramp up production in the US
President Biden is in the kingdom this week to strengthen ties. Meanwhile, a U.S.-Saudi joint venture on the Texas coast is pumping out toxic chemicals and greenhouse gases.
By Mark Schapiro, Grist
July 14, 2022

The flares started last December, an event Errol Summerlin, a former legal-aid lawyer, and his neighbors had been bracing for since 2017. After the flames, nipping at the night sky like lashes from a heavenly monster, came the odor, a gnarled concoction of steamed laundry, and burned tires.

Thus did the Saudi royal family mark the expansion of its far-flung petrochemical empire to San Patricio County, Texas, a once-rural stretch of flatlands across Nueces Bay from Corpus Christi. It arrived in the form of Gulf Coast Growth Ventures, or GCGV, a plant that sprawls over 16 acres between the towns of Portland and Gregory. The complex contains a circuit board of pipes and steel tanks that cough out steam, flames, and toxic substances as it creates the building blocks for plastic from natural gas liquids.

The plant is the first joint venture in the Americas between Saudi Basic Industries Corp., or SABIC, a chemical manufacturing giant tied to one of the world’s richest royal families, and Exxon Mobil, America’s biggest energy company. Exxon Mobil built its wealth on drilling for and refining oil, SABIC by making petrochemicals. As climate concerns lead to a slow but steady decline in the demand for oil, the companies’ collaboration represents a shift by the fossil fuel industry. Rather than transforming the fossilized remains of organisms into gasoline and other motor fuels, the Texas plant breaks apart the molecular structure of oil, through a process called cracking, which turns it into the primary ingredient for car seats, single-use plastic bags, plastic coffee cups, and much more.
» Read article    

» More about plastics and the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 6/24/22

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Welcome back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— The NFGiM Team

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about protests and actions

DIVESTMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about divestment

GREENING THE ECONOMY

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

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

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

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

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

And now, local governments are taking action as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

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

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

But it’s only a start.

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

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

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

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

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

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

Its only other byproduct? Water.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

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

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

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

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

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

» More about energy storage

BUILDING MATERIALS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about building materials

MODERNIZING THE GRID

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about clean transportation

GAS UTILITIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about gas utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about fossil fuels   

PLASTICS BANS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about plastics bans

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

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

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

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

Here’s what you need to know about sachets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about plastics in the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 5/13/22

banner 03

Welcome back.

Long-time opponents of the Weymouth Compressor Station celebrated a victory last week when Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Joseph Leighton vacated the facility’s Chapter 91 Waterways permit. The decision sends the permit back to the state Department of Environmental Protection for further review. The compressor is now operating without a full set of permits. Recall that only a few weeks ago, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission admitted that the air quality permit should never have been granted…. Can we just shut it down already?

As momentum builds for natural gas hookup bans, a new gas industry “astroturf” group called ‘Fuelling Canada’ is coordinating a stealth ad campaign targeting first-time home buyers, priming them to think of natural gas as a clean, safe, and desirable fuel for heating and cooking. It’s one arm of the gas industry’s push to build out infrastructure and lock in future use. This relates to another report describing the economic risks associated with continued expansion of fossil fuel development, distribution, and dependence.

Here in Massachusetts, a diverse coalition is proposing to address two big problems at once by doubling the state’s very low deeds excise tax (a real estate transaction tax), bringing us in line with neighboring states. Half of the new revenue would go to affordable housing programs, and the other half would protect neighborhoods, homes, and businesses from the impacts of climate change while also investing in mitigation solutions like energy efficiency.

Climate change is pushing increasingly brutal heat waves, and parts of the world are bumping up against the limits of human survival. Northern India and Pakistan have been so hot already this spring that the health and productivity of workers are significantly impacted. At the same time, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide exceeded 420 parts per million (ppm) in April for the first time in human history.

Addressing all of the above involves quickly deploying massive clean energy resources. So a Department of Commerce investigation that could lead to retroactive tariffs on certain solar panels imported from Southeast Asia is putting a brake on the U.S. solar industry at a time when business should be booming. We’re also looking at hydropower, and a study showing high methane emissions from some reservoirs.

Producing energy – even green energy – gets messy, but we can always count on good news in the energy efficiency department. This week we’re offering a report describing cold weather heat pumps – widely available today but largely unknown or misunderstood in the U.S.

Energy storage, especially as it relates to electric vehicle batteries, is going to rely on a whole lot of lithium.   We’ve run a number of reports about how environmentally and culturally destructive lithium mining can be, and advocated for doubling down on extraction alternatives such as from geothermal brine at locations like California’s Salton Sea. Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington have produced magnets that can separate lithium and other metals from this sort of brine – a promising step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration announced a $3.16 billion plan to stimulate the production of batteries for electric vehicles in the U.S., an essential step in reducing carbon emissions from transportation.

Two years ago, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey prompted the state to begin mapping a natural gas phaseout. The Department of Public Utilities turned the process over to the gas distribution companies, who (to no one’s surprise) produced recommendations that looked a lot like business as usual and did very little to comply with emissions reduction mandates. AG Healey is calling for the state to toss out those recommendations – time to get serious.

It’s also time to start developing regulations pertaining to pipelines that carry carbon dioxide, in light of ambitious plans for extensive networks serving the future carbon capture and storage industry.

We’ll close with the fossil fuel industry, which is having a moment due to the war in Ukraine and the policy drive to replace Russian oil and gas with hydrocarbons pumped from friendlier regions. Sticking with the longer view that any near-term bump in production must not be allowed to lock in for the future, we’re alarmed by what’s happening. Already, planned increases in fracked oil and gas represent carbon and methane emissions well beyond our global warming budget. And a lot of the Big Oil & Gas decarbonization program appears to be more of an accounting gimmick than anything real. The majors are simply taking highly-polluting production sites off their books by selling to smaller operators who lack their own emissions limits. Related to all this, Canada sees new opportunity for Liquefied Natural Gas sales to Europe, and is reconsidering allowing construction of two Nova Scotia export terminals that seemed doomed just a year ago.

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

unnecessary and unwanted
Superior Court judge tosses out waterways permit for Weymouth compressor station
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
May 5, 2022

WEYMOUTH – A Superior Court judge has tossed out one of the state permits granted for the controversial natural gas compressor station in the Fore River Basin.

Judge Joseph Leighton this week vacated the Chapter 91 Waterways permit for the compressor station, sending the permit back to the state Department of Environmental Protection for further review.

The decision boils down to an interpretation of the word “required,” and whether the compressor station is considered an ancillary facility of existing natural gas infrastructure in the basin.

Leighton ruled that regulators incorrectly accepted “required” to mean “suitable,” rather than “necessary,” therefore allowing the siting of the compressor.

“The department’s interpretation was therefore inconsistent with the plain terms of the regulation and an error of law,” he wrote in the decision.

Alice Arena, of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station, said the residents are “ecstatic” over the decision.

“It’s very satisfying. The fact the judge concurred is a huge victory in all of this stupidity,” she said.

The compressor station is part of Enbridge’s Atlantic Bridge project, which expands the company’s natural gas pipelines from New Jersey into Canada. Since the station was proposed in 2015, residents have argued it presents serious health and safety problems.

State regulators issued several permits for the project despite vehement and organized opposition from local officials and residents.

Local, state and federal officials have called for a halt of compressor operations since the station opened in the fall of 2020. Several emergency shutdowns since then caused hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of natural gas to be released into the air.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reexamined operations and safety at the station following the shutdowns. The commission didn’t revoke authorization for the station, but several members said regulators shouldn’t have approved the project to begin with.

Arena said she planned to notify the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of the Superior Court decision and hopes it will halt operations until Enbridge seeks a new waterways permit.
» Read article   

» More about the Weymouth compressor

NATURAL GAS BANS

astro-Canada
New Gas Industry Astroturf Group ‘Fuelling Canada’ Targets First-Time Homebuyers
‘Fuelling Canada’ is linked to major gas companies that are battling climate regulations.
By Geoff Dembicki, DeSmog Blog
May 10, 2022

In April, the Globe & Mail published an article on its website extolling the virtues of natural gas appliances in people’s houses.

The story, headlined “Why natural gas is the smart choice for your new home,” has the look and feel of actual journalism. It includes statistics about Canada’s “reliable” gas industry, a photo of a young couple cooking on their gas range and quotes from Canadian homebuilders and makers of consumer products—such as grills and fireplaces—that use gas.

It looks explicitly designed to appeal to first-time homebuyers.

But even though natural gas is a major growing source of emissions in the country (Canada is the world’s fourth largest producer of the fossil fuel), the article didn’t once mention climate change, nor the potentially severe health impacts from breathing in gas fumes.

That’s because the article isn’t real journalism, but rather an advertisement paid for by an organization called Fuelling Canada that is linked to some of North America’s top gas companies. It has a small label at the top describing it as “sponsor content.” But otherwise it looks practically identical to news stories from real reporters on the Globe & Mail website.

“That’s what makes these sponsored ads so slimy. For the vast majority of readers who look at stuff very quickly, that nuance is lost on them,” Seth Klein, team lead and director of strategy for an advocacy group called the Climate Emergency Unit, told DeSmog. “The goal of this advertising is to lock us into more decades of using natural gas.”

[…] Fuelling Canada describes itself on its website as “a resource hub for Canadians to learn more about natural gas and its essential role in the Canadian economy.” But it is hardly neutral when it comes to discussing one of the world’s major contributors to global warming.

The organization was created by the Canadian Gas Association, an industry group whose members include gas companies like Enbridge and FortisBC, as well as TC Energy, builder of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a project that has faced fierce opposition led by hereditary chiefs from the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.

Fuelling Canada wants to create the impression of a national grassroots campaign.

[…] Klein argues it’s not a coincidence that some of the same companies behind Fuelling Canada also belong to an industry alliance that is fighting against municipal rules designed to phase out climate-warming natural gas in homes and buildings and replace them with electric ranges and other cleaner energy sources.

Internal documents describe this “Consortium to Combat Electrification” as a campaign whose mission is to “create effective, customizable marketing materials to fight the electrification/anti-natural gas movement.” The gas industry, one slide explains, is “in for [the] fight of it’s [sic] life.”

The consortium’s members include Enbridge and FortisBC, two of the companies also involved with Fuelling Canada. The major industry players paying for cleverly framed sponsored content promoting natural gas are the very same ones working behind the scenes to stop a shift away from fossil fuels.

“They want to continue to lock in customers in new fossil fuel infrastructure,” Klein said. “And they’re pulling out all the stops.”
» Blog editor’s note: Enbridge operates the Weymouth compressor station as part of its Atlantic Bridge Pipeline.
» Read article  

» More about gas bans

DIVESTMENT

stranded tick-boom
Why our continued use of fossil fuels is creating a financial time bomb
We’re investing in things that will have little value if we move off fossil fuels.
By John Timmer, Ars Technica
May 9, 2022

The numbers are startling.

We know roughly how much more carbon dioxide we can put into the atmosphere before we exceed our climate goals—limiting warming to 1.5° to 2° C above preindustrial temperatures. From that, we can figure out how much more fossil fuel we can burn before we emit that much carbon dioxide. But when you compare those numbers with our known fossil fuel reserves, things get jaw-dropping.

To reach our climate goals, we’ll need to leave a third of the oil, half of the natural gas, and nearly all the coal we’re aware of sitting in the ground, unused.

Yet we have—and are still building—infrastructure that is predicated on burning far more than that: mines, oil and gas wells, refineries, and the distribution networks that get all those products to market; power plants, cars, trains, boats, and airplanes that use the fuels. If we’re to reach our climate goals, some of those things will have to be intentionally shut down and left to sit idle before they can deliver a return on the money they cost to produce.

But it’s not just physical capital that will cause problems if we decide to get serious about addressing climate change. We have workers who are trained to use all of the idled hardware, companies that treat the fuel reserves and hardware as an asset on their balance sheets, and various contracts that dictate that the reserves can be exploited.

Collectively, you can think of all of these things as assets—assets that, if we were to get serious about climate change, would see their value drop to zero. At that point, they’d be termed “stranded assets,” and their stranding has the potential to unleash economic chaos on the world.

[…] The big question is whether these pressures build slowly or suddenly. If assets lose their value slowly, without major strandings, everyone can adjust. Investors can shift to other markets, companies can change their focus, infrastructure can be allowed to deprecate until much of its value is gone. There will undoubtedly be some economic pain, especially if you’re in the fossil fuel business, but there won’t be wholesale economic disruption.

Unfortunately, our climate goals and our continuing emissions are making the probability of this sort of soft landing increasingly remote. “We dragged our feet, and we kind of have to double down,” Rezai told Ars. “If we have to have quicker adjustments, that creates the possibility of more disruptive adjustments, less smooth adjustments.” My conversation with him and Van der Ploeg was filled with talk of the potential for a Minsky moment, in which the value of some assets drops dramatically. For the climate, this could come in response to technology changes or government policy changes.

This sort of sudden collapse will have sweeping effects. People who have livelihoods based on fossil fuel extraction will see their jobs vanish. Governments that rely on taxes and fees from fossil fuel extraction and use may struggle to replace the lost revenue. Companies throughout the economy will take a huge hit. Obviously, this will include lost revenue for fossil fuel companies. But it can also mean that things they treat as assets—from equipment to extraction licenses—will have to be written off as stranded.
» Read article   

» More about divestment

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Putnam Gardens
A strategy for tackling housing, climate crises simultaneously
HERO proposal would double state’s deeds excise tax
By Kimberly Lyle and Joseph Kriesberg, CommonWealth Magazine | Opinion
May 7, 2022

TWO CRISES are bearing down on our state. There’s the critical shortage of affordable housing, which leaves ever more of our neighbors unable to keep a roof over their heads. And there is the climate crisis, which promises more powerful storms, flooding, and deadly heat waves.

These crises demand urgent action. Now, a diverse coalition of housing, environmental, and faith-based organizations has come up with a plan to tackle both at once. The HERO Coalition urges the Massachusetts Legislature to raise the deeds excise tax — paid when real estate changes hands — to a level comparable with other Northeastern states. This could generate as much as $600 million annually for investments in climate and affordable housing.

[…] The HERO Coalition urges the Massachusetts  Legislature to double the deeds excise tax from $4.56 to $9.12 per $1,000 in sales price. This would bring us in line with neighboring states: New Hampshire’s tax is a whopping $15 per $1,000; in New York and Vermont it is $12.50. HERO would generate as much as $600 million in new revenue each year.

Half of the new revenue would go to affordable housing programs — the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and the Housing Stabilization and Preservation Trust Fund — serving both renters and low- and moderate-income homebuyers. The other half would go to the Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund, which would protect neighborhoods, homes, and businesses from the impacts of climate change while also investing in mitigation solutions, like energy efficiency, that will enable us to meet our state’s ambitious climate goals.

Raising the deeds excise tax is an equitable way to generate revenue. It is progressive because the tax is linked to real estate prices, buyers and sellers of high-end homes pay more. And it is affordable for lower-income homebuyers as well. Most families only pay the tax once or twice in their lifetime and it is amortized over the life of their mortgage.
» Read article   

» More about greening the economy  

CLIMATE

too hot
India tries to adapt to extreme heat but is paying a heavy price
Summer hasn’t arrived yet, but early heat waves have brought the country to a standstill
By Gerry Shih and Kasha Patel, Washington Post
May 9, 2022

[…] Typically, heat waves in India affect only part of the country, occur in the summer and only last for a week or so. But a string of early heat waves this spring has been longer and more widespread than any observed before. India experienced its hottest March on record. Northwest and central India followed with their hottest April.

“This probably would be the most severe heat wave in March and April in the entire [recorded] history” of India, said Vimal Mishra, a climate scientist at Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar.

Despite the unprecedented heat, fewer people appear to be dying. Heat waves in 2015 and 1998 took thousands of lives, but the India Meteorological Department has reported only a handful of deaths so far.

Across India, extreme heat has forced farmers, construction workers and students to rearrange their lives, showing how daily routines are changing — and work productivity is declining — in countries that are already among the poorest and hottest in the world.

In recent weeks, education officials in nine northern states have cut the length of classes in half so that students can be dismissed by 11 a.m. Some have ended the school year early. Administrators of large government-run rural employment programs mandated that workers digging canals and ditches stop before noon.

These shifts may be small on their own, but taken together they have far-reaching impacts. India loses more than 100 billion hours of labor per year because of extreme heat, the most of any country in the world, according to research published in Nature Communications.

“We’re reaching some of these critical thresholds in Southwest and South Asia, where people can no longer efficiently cool themselves and it’s almost deadly just to be outside, much less work,” said Luke Parsons, one of the paper’s co-authors. “It’s a really major issue in terms of who bears the cost of climate change first.”
» Read article  

new high
Atmospheric CO2 Hits Another All-Time High
By The Energy Mix
May 8, 2022

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels measured at Hawai’i’s Mauna Loa Observatory breached 420 parts per million (ppm) in April for the first time in human history.

Considered the gold standard for accurate measurements of atmospheric CO2, the new measurements were released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), reports the Independent.

The NOAA data release shows CO2 levels hitting 420.23 ppm in April, eight years after they breached 400 ppm (400.2 ppm) in May, 2013.

Last May, atmospheric CO2 concentrations at Mauna Loa stood at 419.13 ppm. In May 2002, they were 375.93 ppm, and in 1958, the first year scientists began to measure atmospheric CO2 at Mauna Loa, levels stood at 317.51 ppm.

May typically records the highest levels of atmospheric CO2, just before the northern hemisphere’s summer kicks in with an explosion of plant growth that pulls carbon out the atmosphere, causing levels to drop.

Emissions from fossil fuel burning, plus the loss of natural carbon sinks through the destruction of forest, wetlands, and mangroves, now mean that even the lowest seasonal CO2 levels—typically measured in September before the leaves fall—are far too high for climate health.

Last year, September readings at Mauna Loa stood at 413.30, well above the safe limit of 350 ppm long urged by climate scientists.

And CO2 is not the only thing to worry about, the Independent notes.

Atmospheric concentrations of the two other major greenhouse gases, methane and nitrous oxide, are also rising sharply. Methane is about 85 times more potent an atmospheric warming agent than CO2 over a 20-year span; nitrous oxide is 300 times more powerful.

Atmospheric methane levels now stand at 1980.9 parts per billion (ppb), up 340 ppb from the early 1980s, while nitrous oxide just reached 335.2 ppb, up from 316 ppb just 20 years ago.
» Read article   

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

not ideal
Navigating the U.S. Solar Industry’s Spring of Discontent
Solar business owners feel worn down by a federal tariff investigation and the Biden administration’s failure to deliver on policy.
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
May 5, 2022

Troy Van Beek is an optimist by nature, but he sounded dour this week.

His solar business, Ideal Energy in Fairfield, Iowa, is dealing with the blowback from a Department of Commerce investigation that could lead to retroactive tariffs on certain solar panels imported from Southeast Asia.

“We keep getting the rug pulled out from under us,” he said.

[…] The investigation has led to a spike in panel prices in anticipation of potential penalties, which is on top of existing supply chain problems that have made it difficult for solar installers to get the equipment they need.

Van Beek spends much of his time trying to chase down equipment and deciding how much he can pay at a time of volatile prices.

[…] The Commerce Department opened its investigation in response to a February legal filing by Auxin Solar, a small manufacturer in California, that said Chinese companies were circumventing the tariffs imposed in 2018 by the Trump administration. Auxin alleges that Chinese manufacturers avoided tariffs by sending equipment to nearby countries for minor assembly work before delivery to the United States. Since the 2018 tariffs, U.S. panel imports from China plummeted, largely replaced by imports from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Some panel manufacturers have opened plants in the United States, like Jinko Solar of China, which opened in Florida, but the new plants’ output remains small compared to what’s in Asia.

Investigators have a few months to determine if the conduct meets the legal definition of a circumvention of tariffs.

Solar industry groups reacted to the investigation with alarm. The Solar Energy Industries Association said that 24 gigawatts of projects that were projected for 2022 or 2023 would not happen in those years, a decrease of 46 percent compared to the prior forecasts, if the government orders retroactive tariffs. The trade group provided examples of projects that were on hold because of uncertainty about costs that may result from the investigation, and also warned that 100,000 jobs could be lost.

“It’s pretty bad,” said Jenny Chase, lead solar analyst for BloombergNEF, in an email.
» Read article   

hidden emissions
New Research Shows Higher Methane Emissions from Hydropower
By Tara Lohan, The Revelator, in The Energy Mix
May 1, 2022

This month regulators greenlighted a transmission line that would bring power generated from Canadian hydroelectric dams to New York City. New York’s plan to achieve a zero-emissions grid by 2040 depends on hydropower, and it’s not alone.

Globally hydropower is the largest source of renewable energy. In the United States it makes up 7% of electricity generation, and 37 states allow some form of hydropower in their renewable portfolio standards, which establish requirements for the amount renewable energy that must be used for electricity generation.

As U.S. states and countries across the world work to reduce fossil fuels and boost renewables, hydropower is poised to play an even bigger role.

There’s just one problem: A growing body of research published over the past two decades has found that most reservoirs, including those used for hydropower, aren’t emissions-free.

“Hydroelectric reservoirs are a source of biogenic greenhouse gases and in individual cases can reach the same emission rates as thermal power plants,” Swiss researchers found in a 2016 study published in the journal PLoS ONE.

Despite the green reputation of hydropower among policy-makers, some reservoirs emit significant amounts of methane, along with much smaller amounts of nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.

That’s bad news because we already have a methane problem. This short-lived but potent gas packs 85 times the global warming punch of carbon dioxide over 20 years. If we hope to stave off catastrophic warming, scientists say we need to quickly cut methane. But new data show that despite this warning it’s still increasing at record levels — even with a global pledge signed by 100 countries to slash methane emissions 30% by 2030.

Methane can rise from wetlands and other natural sources, but most emissions come from human-caused sources like oil and gas, landfills, and livestock. We’ve known about the threat from those sources for years, but emissions from reservoirs have largely been either uncounted or undercounted.

In part that’s because tracking emissions from reservoirs is complicated and highly variable. Emissions can change at different times of the year or even day. They’re influenced by how the dam is managed, including fluctuations in the water level, as well as a host of environmental factors like water quality, depth, sediment, surface wind speed, and temperature.

But recent scientific research provides a better framework to undertake this critical accounting. And environmental groups say it’s time for regulators to get busy putting it to work.
» Read article   
» Read the 2016 study

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

snow cap
Heat pumps do work in the cold — Americans just don’t know it yet

These heating/cooling systems have been called the “most overlooked climate solution.” Now they can work in temperatures far below freezing.
By Shannon Osaka, Grist
May 9, 2022

Heat pumps – heating and cooling systems that run entirely on electricity – have been getting a lot of attention recently. They’ve been called the “most overlooked climate solution” and “an answer to heat waves.” And the technology is finally experiencing a global boom in popularity. Last year, 117 million units were installed worldwide, up from 90 million in 2010. As temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions rise, heat pumps, which can be easily powered by renewable energy, promise to provide a pathway to carbon-free home heating. Environmental activist Bill McKibben even suggested sending heat pumps to Europe to help wean the continent off Russian natural gas.

But despite this global surge in popularity, heat pumps in the U.S. are laboring under a misconception that has plagued them for decades: That if the temperature falls to below 30 or even 40 degrees Fahrenheit, their technology simply doesn’t work. “Do heat pumps work in cold weather” is even a trending question on Google.

It’s a narrative that Andy Meyer, a senior program manager for the independent state agency Efficiency Maine, has spent the past decade debunking for residents in one of the U.S.’s coldest states.

“There were two types of people in Maine in 2012,” he said. “Those who didn’t know what heat pumps were — and those who knew they didn’t work in the cold.” But while that concern may have been true years ago, he said, today “it’s not at all true for high-performance heat pumps.”

[…] One of the benefits of installing heat pumps is cost-savings. In Maine, many homes are heated with fuel oil or propane. At current prices, Meyer says, running a heat pump costs half as much as oil and one-third as much as propane. According to Efficiency Maine’s analysis, that can save homeowners up to thousands of dollars in annual energy costs. A 2017 study by CEE similarly found that installing heat pumps in Minnesota could save residents between $349 and $764 per year, compared to heating with a standard electric or propane furnace.

There are some caveats. Lacey Tan, a manager for the carbon-free buildings program at the energy think tank RMI, says there is still a price premium for heat pumps: Some installers aren’t yet comfortable with how they work and try to reduce their risk by increasing up-front costs. In cold climates, some homes may want to have a back-up heating system for extremely frigid days or in the event of a power outage. (In Maine, Meyer says many homeowners use wood stoves as back-up for their heat pumps.)

But many experts believe more and more cold-weather heat pumps will be sold as homeowners learn about the new advances in the technology. Meyer says that Mainers who install heat pumps naturally begin to share their experience with friends and family. “We have over 100,000 salespeople who have already gotten heat pumps,” he said jokingly. “Not bad for a state where they ‘don’t work in the cold.’”
» Read article   

non-condensing
DOE updates water heater rule for first time in two decades
By Miranda Willson, E&E News
May 6, 2022

The Biden administration has unveiled the first new energy efficiency standards in over 20 years for water heaters in commercial buildings, a move it says could slash greenhouse gas emissions and reduce energy costs.

Proposed yesterday by the Department of Energy, the updated standards would save businesses $140 million per year in operating costs and eliminate certain inefficient natural gas-consuming water heaters from the market, according to DOE.

The new standards would reduce carbon emissions by 38 million metric tons between 2026 and 2055, DOE said — an amount equivalent to the annual emissions of about 37 coal-fired power plants, according to an EPA calculator. Natural gas-powered water heaters typically use about 18 percent of the gas consumed in commercial buildings, the department said, citing data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“Water heating accounts for a considerable share of energy costs and domestic carbon emissions,” Kelly Speakes-Backman, principal deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy at DOE, said in a press release. “Modernizing commercial water heater technology will slash energy costs for schools, hospitals, and small businesses while removing carbon and methane from our atmosphere.”

If finalized, the proposed rule would go into effect in 2026, resulting in less-efficient water heaters known as “non-condensing” models being effectively eliminated from the market.
» Blog editor’s note: this weak ruling (which still allows businesses to install new, “efficient” natural gas water heaters that will lock in emissions for decades) is opposed by groups representing natural gas utilities. It’s progress, but we need a bigger, faster shift.
» Read article   

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

nano magnet
In a World Starved for Lithium, Researchers Develop a Method to Get It from Water
National lab uses magnets to extract lithium, potentially helping with shortage of key battery material.
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
May 12, 2022

The world needs vast quantities of lithium to meet demand for lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage. And the United States is way behind China in securing a supply of this rare metal.

Catching up in this global race may take some magic, or at least a process that looks like magic.

Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington have produced magnets that can separate lithium and other metals from water. This approach has the potential to allow companies to affordably gather lithium from sources like the brine used in geothermal power systems and the waste water left over from use by industry.

“We believe that this thing can be big,” said Jian Liu, a senior research engineer at the lab.

The lab has developed a magnetic “nanoparticle” that binds to the materials the user is trying to extract from a liquid. Then, as the liquid passes over a magnetic field, the nanoparticle, which is now latched onto the desired material—usually lithium—gets pulled out.

Liu and his team have been developing this system for eight years. The version in the lab looks like a collection of water containers connected by clear plastic tubes and electronic pumps.

[…] The main caveat is that the process has a cost that means it only makes economic sense for use in liquids with higher concentrations of lithium. The lab’s research is working to reduce the costs.
» Read article   

» More about energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

POTUS at Zero
Biden Announces $3 Billion in Grants for Domestic Electric Vehicle Battery Production
By Cristen Hemingway Jaynes, EcoWatch
May 3, 2022

The Biden administration has announced a $3.16 billion plan to stimulate the production of batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) in the U.S., an essential step in reducing the carbon emissions that are causing global warming.

The money will be made available in the form of grants to encourage the manufacturing of more high-capacity batteries and the sourcing of the raw materials needed to make them. Funded by last year’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the grants will help U.S. companies build new factories and modify old ones so that they can manufacture EV batteries and parts, CNBC reported. There will be an additional $60 million for a battery reuse and recycling program, the Department of Energy said.

“With the demand for electric vehicles (EVs) and stationary storage alone projected to increase the size of the lithium battery market five- to ten-fold by the end of the decade, it is essential that the United States invests in the capacity to accelerate the development of a resilient supply chain for high capacity batteries,” said a grant availability announcement from the U.S. Department of Energy, as the Detroit Free Press reported.

President Joe Biden wants half of all new vehicle sales in the country to be electric by the end of the decade, and has also issued guidelines for all new cars and trucks bought by the federal government to be emissions-free by 2035, reported The New York Times.
» Read article   

» More about clean transportation

GAS UTILITIES

start over
Two years after asking for future of gas investigation, Healey asks state to reject results
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
May 12, 2022

Attorney General Maura Healey, who two years ago prompted the state to begin mapping the phaseout of natural gas in Massachusetts, is now asking it to scrap the blueprint emerging from the process, saying it favors gas company profits over a healthy climate.

”We should be setting the path for an energy system that is equitable, reliable, and affordable — not one that pumps more money into gas pipelines and props up utility shareholders,” said Healey, who is running for governor.

In a 106-page document filed with the state Department of Public Utilities late last week, Healey also said the agency’s decision-making process should be overhauled to prioritize climate goals over the health of utilities, currently one of its functions.

The filing is the latest salvo in a battle that has raged largely out of sight over the future of the gas industry in Massachusetts. Many climate advocates and the state’s own roadmap to net-zero greenhouse emissions call for radically reducing fossil fuels such as natural gas in favor of electricity supplied by a clean power grid. But when the public utilities department launched what it called an investigation into the future of natural gas in 2020, it gave responsibility for developing the blueprint to the gas utilities themselves.

The proposals now emerging from that process, while they would allow for ramping up electrification, lean heavily on large-scale use of so-called decarbonized gas or renewable natural gas. These include tapping the gas generated by landfills or wastewater treatment plants, for example, or using renewable electricity sources to process hydrogen as a fuel. Utilities have also argued for a “hybrid electrification” system, where homes would have electric heat pumps, but also keep gas as a backup.

But advocates say the industry’s suggestions are problematic since they would allow gas companies to continue using fuels that contribute to global warming simply by replacing what flows through their pipes.

In eight hours of public testimony last week and hundreds of pages of comments submitted in the public utilities department proceeding, advocates, activists, and public officials raised concerns that the gas companies’ proposals overlook certain realities about decarbonized fuels — including high cost, limited supply, and that they may not be as climate-friendly as the utilities are claiming.

”Gas utilities have asked the DPU to approve the spending of ratepayer money on untested and costly technologies to maintain their century-old business plan,” Healey said in response to questions from the Globe.
» Read article  
» For the back story on why the utility-produced plan is so bad, MA Senator Cynthia Creem’s April 4, 2022
“Future of Gas” hearing is a must-watch!

» More about gas utilities

CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE

CO2 pipeline regs
Safety advocate warns of a lack of oversight for new CO2 pipelines needed for carbon capture
By Kara Holsopple, The Allegheny Front
April 29, 2022

The federal infrastructure bill has spurred new interest in carbon capture and storage as a way to reduce climate polluting emissions from the air and send them underground.

Bill Caram, the executive director of Pipeline Safety Trust, says there was also an expansion of existing tax credits for carbon capture to decarbonize parts of the economy. But his group has concerns about the current regulation of pipelines that carry carbon dioxide, and the many more CO2 pipelines that would be needed to fulfill some of these visions of the future.

Pipeline Safety Trust recently commissioned a report to assess the state of CO2 pipeline safety regulation, and The Allegheny Front’s Kara Holsopple recently spoke with Caram about it.
» Listen to the conversation, or read the transcript        
» Read the report on CO2 pipeline safety regulations

» More about CCS

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Dacono
US fracking boom could tip world to edge of climate disaster
140bn metric tons of planet-heating gases could be unleashed if fossil fuel extraction plans get green light, analysis shows
By Nina Lakhani and Oliver Milman, The Guardian
May 11, 2022

The fate of the vast quantities of oil and gas lodged under the shale, mud and sandstone of American drilling fields will in large part determine whether the world retains a liveable climate. And the US, the world’s largest extractor of oil, is poised to unleash these fossil fuels in spectacular volumes.

Planned drilling projects across US land and waters will release 140bn metric tons of planet-heating gases if fully realised, an analysis shared with the Guardian has found.

The study, to be published in the Energy Policy journal this month, found emissions from these oil and gas “carbon bomb” projects were four times larger than all of the planet-heating gases expelled globally each year, placing the world on track for disastrous climate change.

The plans include conventional drilling and fracking spanning the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the foothills of the Front Range in Colorado and the mountainous Appalachian region. But the heart is the Permian basin, a geological formation 250 miles wide that sits under the mostly flat terrain of west Texas and New Mexico.

One lobe of this formation, known as the Delaware basin, is predicted to emit 27.8bn metric tons of carbon during the lifetime of planned drilling, while another, known as the Midland basin, will potentially unleash 16.6bn tons of emissions.

It means the US, the centre of the world’s addiction to oil and gas, will play an outsized role in the heatwaves, droughts and floods that will impact people around the planet.

Compared with traditional drilling, fracking is linked to higher levels of exposure to toxic air pollutants and poor water quality, as well as unhealthy noise and light pollution. Numerous studies have suggested elevated rates of congenital heart defects, childhood leukaemia, asthma, and premature births in neigbourhoods close to fracking sites, while elderly people living near or downwind are more likely to die prematurely.
» Read article   

Niger Delta flares
Oil Giants Sell Dirty Wells to Buyers With Looser Climate Goals, Study Finds
The transactions can help major oil and gas companies clean up their own production by transferring polluting assets to a different firm, the analysis said.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
May 10, 2022

When Royal Dutch Shell sold off its stake in the Umuechem oil field in Nigeria last year, it was, on paper, a step forward for the company’s climate ambitions: Shell could clean up its holdings, raise money to invest in cleaner technologies, and move toward its goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

As soon as Shell left, however, the oil field underwent a change so significant it was detected from space: a surge in flaring, or the wasteful burning of excess gas in towering columns of smoke and fire. Flaring emits planet-warming greenhouse gases, as well as soot, into the atmosphere.

Around the world, many of the largest energy companies are expected to sell off more than $100 billion of oil fields and other polluting assets in an effort to cut their emissions and make progress toward their corporate climate goals. However, they frequently sell to buyers that disclose little about their operations, have made few or no pledges to combat climate change, and are committed to ramping up fossil fuel production.

New research to be released Tuesday showed that, of 3,000 oil and gas deals made between 2017 and 2021, more than twice as many involved assets moving from operators with net-zero commitments to those that didn’t, than the reverse. That is raising concerns that the assets will continue to pollute, perhaps even at a greater rate, but away from the public eye.

“You can move your assets to another company, and move the emissions off your own books, but that doesn’t equal any positive impact on the planet if it’s done without any safeguards in place,” said Andrew Baxter, who heads the energy transition team at the Environmental Defense Fund, which performed the analysis.

Transactions like these expose the messy underside of the global energy transition away from fossil fuels, a shift that is imperative to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.
» Read article   
» Read the EDF report on transferred emissions

» More about fossil fuel

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

Goldboro undead
2 stalled LNG projects in Nova Scotia may be on the brink of revival
Renewed signs of interest in Goldboro and Bear Head projects
Frances Willick, CBC News
May 11, 2022

Two proposed liquefied natural gas projects in Nova Scotia that previously stalled are now showing signs of advancing.

Pieridae Energy, the company behind the Goldboro LNG project, is in discussions with the federal government about how to move the project forward.

The proposed LNG terminal in Goldboro, N.S., was previously pitched as a $13-billion land-based facility that would bring in gas from Western Canada and then ship it to Europe. Pieridae shelved the project last summer due to cost pressures and time constraints.

But after Russia — a key supplier of oil and gas to Europe — invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the federal government approached Pieridae to see if the company could assist with efforts to ramp up energy exports to help wean Europe off Russian resources.

It’s a far cry from the situation a year ago, when Pieridae requested $1 billion from Ottawa to help make the project a reality — funding that did not materialize.

“The world has changed a lot since then,” Pieridae CEO Alfred Sorensen told CBC News Tuesday. “We have to take advantage of all the work we’ve done already and try and see if we can move the project forward very quickly.”

Earlier this year, Pieridae Energy was considering a smaller project with a floating LNG barge where gas would be super-chilled and then transferred onto tankers.

The company is now shifting its attention back to a land-based project because it would be able to produce more gas than a barge-based facility, and the federal government is interested in maximizing output, Sorensen said.

[…] Even with many approvals and permits already in place, Sorensen said gas would not likely flow from a Goldboro facility until January 2027.

[…] Any oil and gas project in Nova Scotia will face opposition from people concerned about its impact on climate change and greenhouse gas reduction targets.
» Read article   

» More about LNG

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