Tag Archives: IPCC

Weekly News Check-In 4/29/22

banner 02

Welcome back.

It’s worth considering whether Russia would be pounding Ukraine if it weren’t flush with fossil fuel revenue and emboldened by Europe’s dependence on its gas. A global climate coalition consisting of over five hundred concerned organizations have signed a letter to President Biden, tying fossil fuel dependence to this and other emergencies facing the planet.  It argues for the rapid phaseout of fossils during an accelerated transition to zero-emitting renewable energy sources.

For other climate-relation action, check out the photos from last week’s protest against the Weymouth compressor station – a facility the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission admitted should never have been permitted. Susan Lees of Arlington gets a shout-out for her star turn as a methane molecule!

In a worrying development for the climate, a new report concludes that Covid-19 disruptions to energy markets breathed new life into coal, temporarily reversing the industry’s long decline. China in particular responded by initiating multiple new coal-fired power plants.

All of the above is happening because we’re way behind in building out clean energy. The DoubleGreen Solar Loan program seeks to speed the deployment of residential solar in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, serving lower income folks who have traditionally faced difficulties obtaining the favorable financing that makes these projects possible. Meanwhile, our partners at Massachusetts Climate Action Network are calling out municipal light plants for lagging on the clean energy transition, and the Conservation Law Foundation is challenging New England’s grid operator to modernize more quickly.

Others are stepping up. University of Massachusetts’ flagship Amherst campus just  announced an aggressive program to transition to 100% clean renewable energy within a decade. The plan involves decommissioning a gas-fired power plant, improving building envelopes and heating with district geothermal and heat pumps, and powering it all with solar and battery storage.  On the other side of the country, Washington became the first state to pass an all-electric mandate for new buildings.

Energy storage has advanced considerably in the past decade, and cutting edge research keeps uncovering more possibilities. Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have shown that energy from sunlight can be captured and stored for up to 18 years, and released as either heat or electricity as needed. It’s still a lab project that won’t be deployed broadly for a while, but for now you get to toss around terms like Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage Systems (MOST) and thermoelectric generators.

The U.S. Postal Service is replacing its fleet of mail delivery trucks, and Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council are suing to stop the current plan for 90% of those new trucks to run on gasoline. Electrifying that fleet is both possible and necessary. Potential carbon savings are massive.

Another warning light is flashing on the carbon capture and storage dashboard, with a trend developing whereby industry offers assurances that sequestering CO2 underground is safe and secure, but wants government to accept long-term liability. Familiar names are involved, like ExxonMobil and BP. We’ve seen this movie before.

Here in Massachusetts, we’re watching to see if the current round of climate legislation successfully addresses the Gas System Enhancement Plan (GSEP), under which gas utilities are spending billions to replace distribution pipelines in a system that largely needs to abandon gas. The utilities earn a guaranteed 10% return on these pipelines, which the utilities are hoping will someday carry other fuels including hydrogen. But counting on a switch to different fuel is considered a risky bet, and ratepayers are going to be left holding the bag if this zombie program is allowed to continue.

Since we opened with an observation about the war in Ukraine, it’s appropriate to end there too. We offer a story explaining why the fossil fuel industry hasn’t stepped in to provide Europe with a substitute near-term fuel source as they attempt to pull back from Russian supplies.

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

Marathon refinery Los Angeles
Global Climate Coalition Tells Biden Ukraine War Is Chance to ‘End the Fossil Fuel Era’
“The violence of fossil fuels must come to an end to save life on Earth,” said one campaigner.
By Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams
April 27, 2022

Over 520 organizations told President Joe Biden on Wednesday to urgently “end the fossil fuel era” and commit to a rapid renewable energy transition rooted in justice and a more peaceful world.

The demand was delivered in a letter that points to a “cascade of emergencies” currently facing humanity including the climate crisis and Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, which “share the same dangerous thread: dependence on fossil fuels.”

“Russia’s invasion into Ukraine is fueled by their fossil fuel extraction power, and the world’s reliance upon it,” the signatories, including global groups like Climate Action Network International and 350.org, wrote.

The letter declares that “war makes it more apparent that fossil fuel dependence puts people at risk and makes energy systems insecure” and points to fossil fuel extraction and combustion’s wide-ranging adverse impacts from driving the biodiversity crisis to causing deaths worldwide.

In order “to preserve a livable planet,” the letter outlines four broad steps to make an exit from fossil fuels. They include a stop to any new permits or financing for coal, oil, and gas extraction and related infrastructure. The letter puts a 2030 deadline for coal extraction and 2031 deadline for gas extraction by richer nations such as the U.S.

Nuclear must also be phased out, given it’s “an inherently dirty, dangerous, and costly energy source,” the letter asserts.

Economic policy must also advance a fossil fuel exit; that necessitates no further subsidies for the industry but instead a tax on “windfall profits.”

The letter additionally calls for the creation of “an international plan for an equitable phaseout of fossil fuel production and use in line with the 1.5ºC target” of the Paris climate agreement, one that recognizes “the historical responsibility of rich industrialized countries for the climate crisis and the necessity of their leadership, and the different capacity of countries to rapidly transition and diversify their economies.”
» Read article  
» Read the letter    

methane molecule
Photos: Protest targets Weymouth compressor station
Wicked Local
April 23, 2022

» View 18 photos  

» More about protests and actions

CLIMATE

stop nowToo many new coal-fired plants planned for 1.5C climate goal, report concludes
Number of new plants planned fell last year, but coal-generated electricity rose by 9% to record high
By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
April 26, 2022

The number of coal-fired power plants under development around the world fell last year, but far too much coal is still being burned and too many new coal-fired power plants are planned for the world to stay within safe temperature limits.

Coal use appeared to be in long-term decline before the Covid-19 pandemic, but lockdowns around the world and economic upheaval drove an increase in new coal projects in 2020, particularly in China.

Last year, the total coal power capacity in development fell sharply again, by about 13%, from 525GW to 457GW, a record low for new plants under development, according to a report from Global Energy Monitor published on Tuesday. The number of countries planning new plants also fell, from 41 at the beginning of 2021 to 34 countries.

But these encouraging signs were outweighed by a slowdown in older coal-fired power stations being taken out of service. About 25GW of capacity was taken out – roughly equal to the amount of new capacity commissioned in China – and the amount of electricity generated from coal rose by 9% in 2021 to a record high, more than rebounding from a 4% fall in 2020 when Covid first struck.

The authors of the report concluded that “coal’s last gasp is not yet in sight”, despite countries agreeing at the Cop26 UN climate summit last November to a “phase down” of coal. Last year, the International Energy Agency warned that no new exploration of fossil fuels of any kind could take place if the world was to limit global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The continuing use of coal comes despite ever starker warnings from scientists in the latest assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which concluded that the world would far exceed the 1.5C limit without rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
» Read article    

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

double green
Solar lending program offers option to marginalized New England households
Despite favorable incentives for lower-income residents in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the upfront cost of buying solar panels remains a financial barrier for many potential customers.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
April 28, 2022

A community development nonprofit has launched a new solar lending program in Massachusetts and Rhode Island aimed at making it possible for more homeowners to invest in solar panels.

The DoubleGreen Solar Loan is designed to serve households regularly marginalized by existing financing options by offering lower interest rates, longer loan lengths, transparent terms, and more flexible underwriting standards.

This year, the fund aims to close $10 million in solar loans, with 60% of the funds going to low-income households and homeowners of color. The program works with a network of trusted solar installers to ensure buyers are treated fairly and transparently and not charged hidden fees.

“The average income and the average [credit] score of solar adopters has started to come down, but it’s still predominantly upper-middle class and whiter,” said Andy Posner, founder and chief executive of the Capital Good Fund, the organization offering the new loan program.

Posner launched the Capital Good Fund in 2009, with the mission of providing financial services and education to underserved populations. Today, the fund offers three loan products in nine states. The immigration loan program offers borrowers up to $20,000 to help pay for asylum applications, legal assistance, green card fees, or other related expenses. The impact loan program provides small sums to help cover pressing needs like car repairs or utility bills, helping borrowers avoid turning to predatory payday lenders. The weatherization loan helps homeowners pay for energy-saving measures like insulation, storm windows, and high-efficiency heating equipment.

So far, the organization has loaned $20 million to 10,000 families, with a repayment rate of 95%.

The new DoubleGreen Solar Loan evolved out of the weatherization lending program when borrowers started expressing interest in adding renewable energy to their homes as an additional cost- and carbon-cutting measure.
» Read article    

Seabrook Station
Municipal electric companies slow to incorporate clean energy, often rely on nuclear power
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
April 27, 2022

As Massachusetts races to wean utilities off fossil fuels in order to hit its climate targets, the municipal light companies that provide electricity to some 50 communities collectively have far less clean energy in their portfolios than the major for-profit utilities.

That’s the upshot of a new report from the Massachusetts Climate Action Network, which found, for example, 33 of the municipal providers had less than 1 percent of clean energy sources such as wind and solar in 2020.

While some communities are far ahead of others, particularly Concord, Belmont, and Wellesley, overall just 2.43 percent of the total energy mix at the 40 municipal light companies assessed in the report are from clean energy.

Known as municipal light plants, the community utilities combined had about 420,000 customers as of 2019, and provide roughly 14 percent of the state’s energy supply, said Logan Malik, lead author of the report and clean energy director for MCAN, a climate advocacy organization.

“We are seeing leaders — when you look at Concord, when you look at Belmont, when you look at Wellesley, those are three great examples,” Malik said. “But at the same time, because of the lack of regulation and because of the lack of support, we’re seeing that it’s not translating in every instance. And that has real implications for the Commonwealth’s transition to a clean and just energy future.”

The report found that despite the slow progress on cleaning their energy mix, many municipal light plants are technically on track to reach emission goals set for them in the state’s most recent climate law passed in 2021, thanks to a special standard that allows them to include nuclear energy in their calculations, while investor-owned utilities like Eversource or National Grid cannot.

Taking that into account, the report found that 38 percent of the energy mix from municipal light plants is considered “non-emitting.” That sizable percentage comes largely from contracts that municipal light plants have held with the Seabrook Station nuclear power plant in New Hampshire and the Millstone Unit 3 power plant in Connecticut, both of which came online more than three decades ago.
» Read article    

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

flagship campus
On Earth Day, UMass Amherst unveils major renewable energy overhaul
By Dharna Noor, Boston Globe
April 22, 2022

The University of Massachusetts Amherst officials on Friday rolled out a big Earth Day pledge, unveiling a plan to reach 100 percent renewable power within about a decade.

“Change begins at home,” the university’s chancellor, Kumble Subbaswamy, said in an interview.

The university system’s 1,500-acre flagship campus — which is responsible for 20 percent of emissions from state government-owned buildings, according to Subbaswamy — has its own power plant, which runs mostly on gas and currently supplies most of the school’s heat and electricity.

UMass Amherst plans to retire that plant in the coming years and convert the campus’s heating infrastructure to geothermal power. The campus will also use heat pumps, as well as heat recovery chillers which provide both heating and cooling.

For electricity, the school will use a combination of renewable power purchased from the grid and battery-stored solar energy generated on campus. It will also upgrade and renovate buildings to ensure they are efficient.

The plan comes as universities across the Commonwealth are increasingly grappling with their contributions to the climate crisis. In 2018, Harvard committed to removing fossil fuels from its grid. In 2019, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Mount Holyoke both pledged to transition to all-renewable power, and last year, Boston University followed suit.

The road map for UMass Amherst’s transition has been in the works since late 2018. It’s based on the work of hundreds of staff and faculty, energy consultants, and students, university officials said.
» Read article    

Seattle condo
Washington State Passes All-Electric Heating Mandate for New Buildings
By Paige Bennett, EcoWatch
April 26, 2022

The first mandate in the U.S. to require all-electric heating has passed in Washington state, where newly constructed buildings will need to install electric heating and hot-water systems. The mandate will go into effect in July 2023.

The mandate passed 11 to 3 in a vote by the State Building Code Council to restrict the use of natural gas in multifamily housing complexes and commercial buildings by requiring installation of electric heat pumps. A similar mandate for smaller residential buildings will be considered within the next few months.

The revised energy code will see that new buildings have heat pumps rather than HVAC systems powered by natural gas. At least 50% of water will also need to be warmed via electric heat pumps, although the remaining amount can be heated through other methods.

Heat pumps are energy-efficient alternatives to furnaces. They work by taking in heat from one area and pumping it into another. For example, in the winter, heat pumps can pull heat from outside, even if the temperature is low, and move it indoors. In warmer months, the opposite happens — the heat pump moves the warm indoor air outside to cool the building’s interior.

[…] Washington’s mandate has exceptions for hospitals, research facilities, and select other buildings, including buildings in cooler parts of the state where winter temperatures can drop well below 0°F.

[…] Heat pumps are considered a sustainable alternative because they can generate three or four times the amount of energy they consume, according to The Conversation. Heat from fossil fuels actually wastes energy, because it needs to convert the energy from one form into another form rather than moving the heat from one place to another. To meet emissions goals by 2030, heat pump use will need to reach one-third of global heating systems.
» Read article    

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

MOST
Capturing Solar Energy and Converting It to Electricity When Needed – Up to 18 Years Later
By Chalmers University of Technology, in SciTech Daily
April 18, 2022

The researchers behind an energy system that makes it possible to capture solar energy, store it for up to eighteen years, and release it when and where it is needed have now taken the system a step further. After previously demonstrating how the energy can be extracted as heat, they have now succeeded in getting the system to produce electricity, by connecting it to a thermoelectric generator. Eventually, the research – developed at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden – could lead to self-charging electronic gadgets that use stored solar energy on demand.

“This is a radically new way of generating electricity from solar energy. It means that we can use solar energy to produce electricity regardless of weather, time of day, season, or geographical location. It is a closed system that can operate without causing carbon dioxide emissions,” says research leader Kasper Moth-Poulsen, Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers.

The new technology is based on the solar energy system MOST – Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage Systems, developed at Chalmers University of Technology. Very simply, the technology is based on a specially designed molecule that changes shape when it comes into contact with sunlight. The research has already attracted great interest worldwide when it has been presented at earlier stages.

The new study, published in Cell Reports Physical Science in March 2022 and carried out in collaboration with researchers in Shanghai, takes the solar energy system a step further, detailing how it can be combined with a compact thermoelectric generator to convert solar energy into electricity.

[…] The research has great potential for renewable and emissions-free energy production. But a lot of research and development remains before we will be able to charge our technical gadgets or heat our homes with the system’s stored solar energy.
» Read article    

» More about energy storage

MODERNIZING THE GRID

SQ not acceptable
Challenging the status quo on electricity, heating
Conservation Law Foundation officials call for change
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
April 25, 2022

TWO TOP OFFICIALS with the Conservation Law Foundation say the region’s power grid operator and the state’s utilities are in some ways part of the problem instead of the solution to dealing with climate change.

Greg Cunningham, the vice president and director of CLF’s clean energy and climate change program, and Caitlin Peale Sloan, the vice president for Massachusetts, said on The Codcast that they are concerned the institutions that should be leading the fight against climate change are not doing so.

Cunningham’s focus is on ISO-New England, the region’s power grid operator headed by Gordon van Welie. Van Welie was a guest on The Codcast two weeks ago and his focus was on the vulnerability of the power grid, the potential for rolling blackouts, and the continued need for natural gas as a backup fuel.

“It’s frustrating needless to say for us to sit here in 2022 and hear the litany of problems and concerns repeated over and over again from the entity that was designed to be central around fixing them,” Cunningham said. “Gordon van Welie has a substantial pedestal from which to speak and many people listen when he does. There’s an unfortunate tendency to use fear-mongering and the risk of rolling blackouts and all of the bad things that may happen if we don’t address these issues rather than identifying for us how we’re going to solve these problems.”

ISO-New England hasn’t yet found a way to incorporate the clean energy New England needs into the region’s wholesale electricity markets. Van Welie is trying to buy more time to find a solution by asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve an extension, with a few tweaks, of the existing, flawed regulatory system. He is facing pushback from Attorney General Maura Healey and others who feel the status quo is not acceptable.
» Read article   

FERC members
FERC unveils transmission plan seen as key for renewables
By Miranda Willson, E&E News
April 22, 2022

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released a proposal yesterday that could play a pivotal role in modernizing the nation’s power grid and advancing the transition to clean energy.

The commission plan offers some of the most significant federal changes in over a decade to the transmission planning process, which could help speed up the development of high-voltage power lines considered critical for adding more renewable energy to the grid.

Approved in a bipartisan 4-1 vote at the commission’s monthly meeting, the proposed rules seek to address key challenges in the process for planning new transmission projects and for determining how to fairly allocate their costs. Once the commission has reviewed comments on the proposal, it may issue final rules, most likely by the end of the year.

“Today’s proposed rules, if finalized, would facilitate much-needed transmission investment, improving the resilience of the grid, enhancing reliability and reducing power costs,” Chair Richard Glick, who voted in favor of the proposed rules, said during the meeting. “It’s also going to address our nation’s changing resource mix and the changing role of electricity in our society.”

The proposal came during the commission’s first in-person meeting since February of 2020. In addition to advancing reforms on transmission, FERC issued an order focused on reforming wholesale electricity markets in light of changes in the types of energy resources that provide power for the grid.

Staff at the independent agency also released an annual report on natural gas and electricity markets, highlighting last year’s record-high U.S. natural gas exports and the significant volumes of solar, wind and battery storage capacity that came online in 2021.

Under the changes proposed for the transmission planning process, electric utilities that deliver power would be required to identify transmission needs driven by the changing mix of energy resources, with consideration for potential extreme weather events that could affect infrastructure. Transmission developers would be compelled to assess the need for new regional power lines over a 20-year time frame at a minimum.

Transmission developers would also need to “fully consider” advanced tools that could make the flow of power more efficient and potentially reduce overall transmission costs, FERC staff said in a presentation on the proposal.
» Read article    

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

faulty analysis
Climate activists sue USPS to block purchase of gas-guzzling trucks
By Jacob Bogage, The Washington Post, in The Boston Globe
April 28, 2022

Two environmental groups are suing the U.S. Postal Service to block its purchase of 148,000 gas-guzzling delivery trucks over the next decade, alleging the agency has vastly underestimated the vehicles’ costs and adverse ecological impact.

The suits brought on by Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council contend the mail service relied on flawed assumptions and faulty calculations in selecting its “Next Generation Delivery Vehicles.” The contract reached with Oshkosh Defense in February 2021 is worth as much as $11.3 billion.

As a result, the complaints allege, the agency chose a purchase plan for 90 percent of the new fleet to be gasoline-powered, and the trucks’ 8.6 mpg is only incrementally more fuel efficient than the 30-year-old vehicles they’re designed to replace. That leaves 10 percent of the new fleet dedicated to battery power, well below benchmarks set by rivals FedEx, UPS and Amazon. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Postal officials hoped the truck procurement would go smoothly with policymakers and signal that the mail agency was evolving to meet new business opportunities and joust with its private-sector competitors.

Officials on both sides of the aisle agree that the mail service desperately needs to replace its delivery fleet, but almost immediately upon striking the deal with Oshkosh, environmental groups said the 10-percent pledge for EVs was insufficient and organized labor groups chafed at the company’s decision to move manufacturing away from unionized shops.

The Postal Service began studying the environmental impacts of the vehicles – which federal regulators estimate would emit roughly the same amount of Earth-warming carbon dioxide each year as 4.3 million passenger vehicles – after paying Oshkosh $482 million to begin production. The suits argue the Postal Service conducted its analysis to retroactively justify its procurement decision.
» Read article   

» More about clean transportation

CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE

Mountaineer
Proponents Say Storing Captured Carbon Underground Is Safe, But States Are Transferring Long-Term Liability for Such Projects to the Public
As companies propose storing carbon dioxide in depleted oil fields or saline aquifers, some states are putting themselves on the hook for future problems with the projects.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News
April 26, 2022

As states rush to enact rules and regulations for the underground storage of carbon dioxide, a key question is who will hold long-term responsibility for projects that could require monitoring for decades.

The question is increasingly important, as a host of companies have proposed dozens of projects over the last two years that would pull climate-warming emissions from the smokestacks of ethanol plants, fertilizer factories and fossil-fueled power plants. If the projects move forward, they’ll need to pump millions of tons of captured carbon dioxide deep underground into depleted oil fields or saline aquifers, where the gas would need to be stored permanently.

The energy industry and others insist the practice is safe, but nonetheless some companies, including ExxonMobil and BP, have been seeking protections from long-term liability. And increasingly, state lawmakers are responding by putting governments, rather than industry, on the hook.

At least four states have passed laws over the last year that allow companies to transfer responsibility for carbon storage projects to state governments after the operations are shut down. At least three other states have similar statutes on the books, enacted years earlier.

Now, with the federal government poised to spend billions of dollars to jump start a carbon capture and storage industry, some environmental advocates warn these states are setting a dangerous precedent.

“Statutes that relieve operators of liability without due regard to existing legal principles create an incentive for sloppy management, leaks and public opposition,” said Scott Anderson, senior director of energy transition at the Environmental Defense Fund.

Poorly managed projects could increase the risk of carbon dioxide leaking through natural fissures or old wells and contaminating groundwater or escaping into the atmosphere, Anderson said.
» Read article    

» More about CCS

GAS UTILITIES

morphing GSEP
Spending billions fixing gas system makes no sense

Lawmakers shouldn’t allow utilities to retool to carry new fuels
By Dorie Seavey, CommonWealth Magazine | Opinion
April 26, 2022

Dorie Seavey is a climate economist and author.

TO HAVE ANY CHANCE of averting climate catastrophe, the latest climate science is definitive that we must actively decommission much of our existing fossil fuel infrastructure. Flying in the face of this dire warning, Massachusetts is on course to spend roughly $40 billion recommissioning its gas distribution system. How is this possible?

In 2014, at a time of heightened concern about the threat of explosions from gas leaks and the need to reduce fugitive gas, the Legislature enacted the Gas System Enhancement Plan (GSEP) to encourage the Commonwealth’s six investor-owned gas companies to replace their aging pipes more quickly in exchange for speedier cost recovery paid for by ratepayers.

Since then, GSEP’s original purpose has quietly morphed. Gas companies are now using the plan as an accelerated investment vehicle for making their gas distribution systems biomethane- and hydrogen-ready. With the cooperation of the Department of Public Utilities, their regulator, they are reinvigorating over 90 percent of their asset base and tying it to a nearly 10 percent rate of return through the end of the century.

GSEP’s new purpose is unabashedly acknowledged in gas industry-supported research. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts recently funded a UMass-Lowell study supporting the development of hydrogen in the Commonwealth, including piping and burning it to heat buildings—a false solution for our climate, safety, and public health. The report suggests that “the GSEP timeline could be accelerated” to expedite the introduction of hydrogen since 4,000 miles of mains await GSEP replacement with hydrogen-compatible plastic pipe.

In sharp contrast, GSEP has been a stealth player in the Future of Gas Investigation, a DPU proceeding to examine how gas companies can reconfigure their businesses to help the Commonwealth achieve net-zero emissions. Consultant reports and gas company proposals were filed in March. None describe or assess GSEP’s role in the energy future even though GSEP could not be more foundational to the gas companies’ preferred energy pathways such as “efficient gas equipment” and “hybrid” or “low” electrification. Indeed, these pathways would be non-starters if GSEP disappeared since they require upgraded plastic pipelines ready to deliver fracked natural gas blended with biomethane, synthetic natural gas, or hydrogen.

[…] Legislators should take three crucial steps this session.

First, accurately measure the Commonwealth’s greenhouse gas emissions. Our methane measurements are woefully outdated, accounting for only a fraction of actual leaked gas, and we fail to use a lifecycle approach for measuring greenhouse gases. Accurate measurements will reveal whether gas company business proposals are in fact aligned with our 2050 goals. They will also provide a sound, scientific basis for holding gas companies accountable via targets established both in annual GSEP plans and in the emissions reduction program of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Second, prohibit the use of alternative gases, such as hydrogen and biomethane, for heating residences and businesses. The DPU should not be permitted to greenlight the gas companies’ ill-conceived plans for these gases as they do not meet reasonable standards for safety, health, emissions, and cost.

Third, provide incentives for utility companies to invest in networked ground source heat pumps. We need to shift the substantial financial benefits of GSEP (including asset depreciation past 2050 and cost recovery on an annual basis) from gas pipe replacement to the installation of renewable, non-emitting thermal infrastructure such as GeoGrid water pipes that can heat and cool our buildings.

By correcting the gas companies’ investment calculus, these three legislative actions will lead to a smart, strategic deceleration of investments in fossil fuel infrastructure while opening the door for gas companies to evolve their business models toward non-emitting, renewable thermal energy.

[…] The glaring disconnect between GSEP’s original purpose and its runaway reality must be addressed. To ensure that large investments of ratepayer money actually move us toward our climate goals, the Legislature should replace GSEP with a tailored “gas system transition program” focused on promoting safety, reducing emissions, and using resources wisely during the energy transition.
» Read article    

Zurich district heat
To fight climate change, and now Russia, too, Zurich turns off natural gas
By Dan Charles, NPR
April 20, 2022

European officials are debating whether they can stop buying natural gas imports from Russia. Many say it can’t be done. But the biggest city in Switzerland — Zurich — is already taking ambitious steps to wean itself off gas. It’s shutting down the flow of gas to whole parts of the city.

Zurich started down this path a decade ago to save money and fight climate change. The plan provoked controversy at first. Today, as the city’s residents install alternatives to gas heating, there appears to be broad support for the switch — in part, because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. About half of Switzerland’s natural gas supply comes from Russia.

“Attitudes have changed once again, dramatically,” says Rainer Schöne, a spokesman for Energie 360°, Zurich’s city-owned gas utility. “Today, it’s clear. People want to, and have to, move away from fossil gas.”

Zurich’s experience may offer lessons to other cities around the world that are encouraging residents to switch away from natural gas appliances but are not, so far, shutting down the infrastructure that delivers it.

[…] Some residents of Zurich, especially those in single-family homes, can’t easily connect to the district heating system and have to find alternatives. Ernst Danner is a member of Zurich’s City Parliament from the centrist Evangelical People’s Party. He lives in a single-family home, and he installed an electric heat pump that draws warmth from water circulating through pipes that go deep underground. It cost him just over $40,000 after tax breaks and city subsidies, but it also cut his heating bill in half. Over the lifetime of the system, he says, “I pay a bit more, but it’s not that much more, and it’s more ecological.”

Many of his neighbors, Danner says, have installed less-costly “air-source” heat pumps that draw heat from the air outside. “Those I know are very happy with their heat pumps. It’s very good!” he says.
» Read article or listen to broadcast    

» More about gas utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

holding back
Why U.S. Oil Companies Aren’t Riding to Europe’s Rescue
American energy production has only inched up because executives fear that oil and gas prices won’t stay high.
By Clifford Krauss, New York Times
April 26, 2022

HOUSTON — Oil and gasoline prices are climbing. Energy company profits are surging. President Biden, who came into office promising to reduce the use of fossil fuels, has effectively joined the “drill, baby, drill” chorus. Europe would love to end its dependence on Russia.

Yet most U.S. oil businesses are not eager to capitalize on this moment by pumping more oil.

Production of oil by U.S. energy companies is essentially flat and unlikely to increase substantially for at least another year or two. If Europe stops buying Russian oil and natural gas as some of its leaders have promised, they won’t be able to replace that energy with fuels from the United States anytime soon.

U.S. oil production is up less than 2 percent, to 11.8 million barrels a day, since December and remains well below the record 13.1 million barrels a day set in March 2020 just before the pandemic paralyzed the global economy. Government forecasters predict that American oil production will average just 12 million barrels a day in 2022, and increase by roughly another million in 2023. That would be well short of the nearly four million barrels of oil that Europe imports from Russia every day.

“You had this bombastic, chest-pounding industry touting itself as the reincarnation of the American innovative spirit,” said Jim Krane, an energy expert at Rice University. “And now that they could be leaping into action to pitch in to bring much-needed oil to the world, they are being uncharacteristically cautious.”

The biggest reason oil production isn’t increasing is that U.S. energy companies and Wall Street investors are not sure that prices will stay high long enough for them to make a profit from drilling lots of new wells. Many remember how abruptly and sharply oil prices crashed two years ago, forcing companies to lay off thousands of employees, shut down wells and even seek bankruptcy protection.
» Read article     

» More about fossil fuels

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


» Learn more about Pipeline projects
» Learn more about other proposed energy infrastructure
» Sign up for the NFGiM Newsletter for events, news and actions you can take
» DONATE to help keep our efforts going!

Weekly News Check-In 4/15/22

banner 19

Welcome back.

“We will not continue as generations have before and allow our actions today to have devastating consequences on those tomorrow. It is time to break that cycle and stand up for what is right.” –  Miranda Whelehan, student and campaigner with the Just Stop Oil coalition

Just Stop Oil is a group of mostly young people currently taking numerous direct actions aimed a pressuring the British government to cease permitting new oil exploration and development in the North Sea. Their demand is no more radical than that of a passenger in a speeding car imploring the driver to hit the brakes as they approach a red light. While their actions are causing discomfort and some angry push back, I wonder if that unease more accurately reflects the shame people feel when they see their kids out cleaning up a mess they should have dealt with themselves long ago.

Of course, climate, energy, and environmental battles have always been fought by young and old together, and our local pipeline battles are a good example. What’s different now is the number of young people who feel that quitting fossil fuel has become such an urgent and existential matter, that they’re putting their education and career on hold while they storm the establishment’s ramparts in a mission to rescue their own future. Irrational youth? No… clear eyed and grounded in science. Continuing business-as-usual is madness.

The Canadian province of Quebec has become the first jurisdiction in the world to officially take that critical step of banning new fossil fuel development. Closer to home, the Massachusetts legislature is working hard to strengthen its climate law – plugging some fossil loopholes, putting biomass in its place, and accelerating the clean energy transition. We’ll be watching as this bill moves from Senate to House.

Banning new fossil fuel development goes hand-in-hand with stopping the buildout of fossil infrastructure like gas pipelines and Liquefied Natural Gas terminals. While our friends in Springfield make a solid case that utility Eversource’s proposed pipeline expansion is an unnecessary boondoggle, a new study from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis shows there’s no need for any new LNG export terminals in North America, even as we ramp up shipments to displace Russian gas in Europe. That’s good news as we grapple with a potent new cybersecurity threat to these facilities in particular.

All of the above underscores the need to quickly ramp up clean energy generation and storage. So far, most battery storage has involve lithium and other metals like nickel and cobalt that pose environmental and supply chain challenges. This has led to the threat of deep-seabed mining as a way to supply those materials but with truly frightening associated risks. Work is underway to develop a method to extract lithium from geothermal brine, which could considerably reduce its environmental impact while providing a huge domestic supply. And while there’s no doubt about the benefits of electrifying transportation – and the fact that we need to speed that up – there’s a chance that some long-haul trucking will rely on hydrogen fuel cell technology rather than batteries… reducing some lithium demand.

In parallel, long-duration battery storage is looking increasingly likely to use alternative, and much more abundant, metals like iron or zinc.

Winding down, let’s take a look at carbon capture. Not the “pull carbon out of smoke stacks” false solution proposed by fossil fuel interests as a way to pretend it’s OK to keep burning stuff. Rather, just the sheer volume of CO2 we need to pull directly out of the atmosphere at this point to keep global warming in check (assuming we also rapidly ramp down our use of fuels). This story has great graphics that explain the scope of the challenge.

We’ll close with some encouraging innovations that could lead to greener fashions. A new industry is rapidly developing plant-based materials that replace fur, wool, silk, and skins. Beyond the obvious ethical benefits to this, the new products take considerable pressure off the deforestation effects of all those leather-producing cattle and wool-producing sheep.

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

keeping it light
I went on TV to explain Just Stop Oil – and it became a parody of Don’t Look Up
I wanted to sound the alarm about oil exploration and the climate crisis, but Good Morning Britain just didn’t want to hear
By Miranda Whelehan, The Guardian | Opinion
April 13, 2022
Miranda Whelehan is a student and campaigner with the Just Stop Oil coalition

I hadn’t seen the 2021 satirical film Don’t Look Up when I went on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday. I was there on behalf of Just Stop Oil – a group that has been engaging in direct action by blockading oil terminals. We’re demanding that the UK government ends all new oil licenses, exploration and consent in the North Sea. It’s a simple message that’s in line with science.

But the simplicity of our demands seemed to annoy my interviewer, Richard Madeley. “But you’d accept, wouldn’t you, that it’s a very complicated discussion to be had, it’s a very complicated thing,” he said. “And this ‘Just Stop Oil’ slogan is very playground-ish isn’t it? It’s very Vicky Pollard, quite childish.” I then proceeded to talk about the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which confirmed that it is “now or never” to avoid climate catastrophe. But they didn’t seem to care.

People were quick to point out the parallels with a key scene in Don’t Look Up, when Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence’s characters, both astronomers, go on a morning talkshow to inform the public about a comet that’s heading to Earth, potentially leading to an extinction-level event. The newsreaders don’t care about what they have to say: they prefer to “keep the bad news light”.

Now that I’ve watched the film, I understand the references people have been making. The worst part is that these presenters and journalists think they know better than chief scientists or academics who have been studying the climate crisis for decades, and they refuse to hear otherwise. It is wilful blindness and it is going to kill us.

[…] Well, to that we say no. We will not continue as generations have before and allow our actions today to have devastating consequences on those tomorrow. It is time to break that cycle and stand up for what is right. “If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now – from this year.” That is a direct quote from Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency. He said that last year. Time has quite literally run out. It only takes one quick search on the internet to see what is happening. Somalia. Madagascar. Yemen. Australia. Canada. The climate crisis is destroying lives already and will continue to unless we make a commitment to stop oil now.
» Read article           

drumming for Lloyds
Just Stop Oil protesters vow to continue until ‘all are jailed’
Extinction Rebellion close Lloyd’s of London as activist groups continue their direct action
By Damien Gayle, The Guardian
April 12, 2022

Anti-fossil fuel activists have vowed to continue blockading oil terminals until they are jailed, as they approached 1,000 arrests for their actions so far.

“Ministers have a choice: they can arrest and imprison Just Stop Oil supporters or agree to no new oil and gas,” Just Stop Oil said on Tuesday morning. “While Just Stop Oil supporters have their liberty the disruption will continue.”

Fuel-blockade activists were taking their first day off in 12 days on Tuesday, after beginning their campaign on 1 April. “We decided to give them a break,” a campaign spokesperson said. About 400 people have been arrested a total of 900 times for taking action so far, according to the campaign.

On Monday, about 40 were arrested at Inter Terminals in Grays, Essex, some after spending more than 38 hours locked on to pipework above the loading bay. Between 15 and 20 who had helped dig tunnels under access roads to the Kingsbury oil terminal were arrested on Sunday and Monday, Just Stop Oil said.

[…] Meanwhile, more than 80 scientists, signed a letter to Greg Hands, the energy minister, saying they support the call made by a hunger striker for a climate change briefing for all MPs from Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientist.

As Angus Rose began his 30th day without food, the scientists, including Sir David King, the former chief scientific adviser, Prof Julia Steinberger, an author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Prof Susan Michie, a member of the government’s Sage advisory body, said they “unanimously support” the idea of the briefing – even if they did not all agreed with Rose’s methods.

“The crisis is evolving at a rapid pace, and it is increasingly difficult for politicians to understand the significance of the latest science that they do not have time to read and digest,” the letter states.
» Read article           

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

answer is no
$40 million natural gas pipeline roasted by area groups
By Dave Canton, MassLive, in The Business Journal
April 9, 2022

Nearly 200 people from nearly 60 different organizations gathered in front of the federal courthouse on State Street Saturday to protest a proposed natural gas pipeline from Longmeadow to Springfield, a gas pipeline that owner Eversource said is redundant, probably won’t be needed and could cost as much as $44 million.

The company website calls the pipeline a “reliability project,” to ensure the flow of natural gas in the event the company’s primary pipeline is disabled. But some of the protestors said the only reliability coming from the project is profit for Eversource stockholders.

“Eversource, the answer is ‘No’,” Tanisha Arena said. “Just like biomass the answer was ‘No.’ And, this time we are not going to say ‘No’ for 12 or 13 years, the answer is ‘No’.

The Executive Director of Arise for Social Justice, Arena said that the people should not be forced to pay for a project that helps to destroy the environment without providing benefits to the people.

“We have shouldered the burden of all the mistakes they have made, all the engineering disasters, you people blowing stuff up. The people have paid for that in the past and this time they should not have to,” she said.

The short pipeline running from Longmeadow to downtown Springfield is designed as a backup source of natural gas if the primary line is out of service.
» Read article          

» More about pipelines

LEGISLATION

first ban
Quebec Becomes World’s First Jurisdiction to Ban Oil and Gas Exploration
By Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix
April 13, 2022

In what campaigners are calling a world first, Quebec’s National Assembly voted Tuesday afternoon to ban new oil and gas exploration and shut down existing drill sites within three years, even as the promoters behind the failed Énergie Saguenay liquefied natural gas (LNG) project try to revive it as a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“By becoming the first state to ban oil and gas development on its territory, Quebec is paving the way for other states around the world and encouraging them to do the same,” Montreal-based Équiterre said in a release.

“However, it is important that the political will that made this law possible be translated into greenhouse gas reductions in the province, since Quebec and Canada have done too little to reduce their GHGs over the past 30 years.”

“The search for oil and gas is over, but we still have to deal with the legacy of these companies,” added Environnement Vert Plus spokesperson Pascal Bergeron. “Although the oil and gas industry did not flourish in Quebec, it left behind nearly 1,000 wells that will have to be repaired, plugged, decontaminated, and monitored in perpetuity. We now expect as much enthusiasm in the completion of these operations as in the adoption of Bill 21.”

Bill 21—whose numbering on Quebec’s legislative calendar leaves it open to confusion with an older, deeply controversial law on religious freedoms—will require fossil operators to shut down existing exploration wells within three years, or 12 months if the sites are at risk of leaking, Le Devoir reports. The bill follows Quebec’s announcement during last year’s COP 26 climate summit that it would join the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA), part of a list of a dozen jurisdictions that did not include Canada, the United States, or the United Kingdom.
» Read article          

walking with solar
What to know about the Mass. Senate’s new climate bill
Miriam Wasser, WBUR
April 8, 2022

Several Massachusetts Democrats in the Senate unveiled a sweeping $250 million climate bill this week. The so-called Act Driving Climate Policy Forward builds off last year’s landmark Climate Act with new policies about green transportation and buildings, clean energy, the future of natural gas in the state and much more.

There are a lot of wonky policies and acronyms in the clean energy world, but here, in plain English, is what’s in this new bill:
» Read article           

» More about legislation

GREENING THE ECONOMY

sustainable fashionSustainable fashion: Biomaterial revolution replacing fur and skins
By Jenny Gonzales, Mongabay
April 8, 2022

In a globally interconnected world, textiles such as leather sourced from cattle, and wool sheared from sheep, have become a serious source of deforestation, other adverse land-use impacts, biodiversity loss and climate change, while fur farms (harvesting pelts from slaughtered mink, foxes, raccoon dogs and other cage-kept wild animals) have become a major biohazard to human health — a threat underlined by the risk fur farms pose to the current and future spread of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19.

But in a not-so-distant future, fashion biomaterials made from plant leaves, fruit waste, and lab-grown microorganisms may replace animal-derived textiles — including leather, fur, wool and silk — with implementation at first on a small but quickly expanding scale, but eventually on a global scale.

In fact, that trend is well underway. In less than a decade, dozens of startups have emerged, developing a range of biomaterials that, in addition to eliminating the use of animal products, incorporate sustainable practices into their production chains.

Not all these textile companies, mostly based in Europe and the United States, have fully achieved their goals, but they continue to experiment and work toward a new fashion paradigm. Among promising discoveries: vegan bioleather made with mycelium (the vegetative, threadlike part of fungi), and bioexotic skins made from cactus and pineapple leaves, grape skins and seeds, apple juice, banana stalks and coconut water. There are also new textiles based on algae that can act as carbon sinks, and vegan silk made from orange peel.

[…] The evolution of sustainable biomaterials is largely a response to the need to reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry, one of the worst planetary polluters. “The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined [and responsible for] around 20% of worldwide wastewater [that] comes from fabric dyeing and treatment,” according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
» Read article           

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

CAN
Despite Big Oil Roadblocks, Poll Shows Majority in US Support Climate Action
Amid congressional inaction, solid majorities of U.S. adults favor policies to slash greenhouse gas pollution, a new Gallup survey found.
By Kenny Stancil, Common Dreams
April 11, 2022

A survey published Monday shows that most adults in the U.S. support six proposals to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that lead to rising temperatures and increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather, a finding that comes as congressional lawmakers who own tens of millions of dollars worth of fossil fuel industry stocks continue to undermine climate action.

Gallup’s annual environment poll, conducted by telephone from March 1 to 18, measured public support for a half-dozen policies designed to mitigate the fossil fuel-driven climate emergency.

It found that support for specific measures “ranges from 59% in favor of spending federal money for building more electric vehicle charging stations in the U.S. up to 89% for providing tax credits to Americans who install clean energy systems in their homes.”

“Americans are most supportive of tax credits or tax incentives designed to promote the use of clean energy,” Gallup noted. “They are less supportive of stricter government standards or limits on emissions and policies that promote the use of electric vehicles.”

While President Joe Biden signed a fossil-fuel friendly bipartisan infrastructure bill into law last November, a reconciliation package that includes many of the green investments backed by solid majorities of U.S. adults has yet to reach his desk due to the opposition of all 50 Senate Republicans plus right-wing Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), who was the target of protests over the weekend.
» Read article           

Bolsonaro line
Brazil sets ‘worrying’ new Amazon deforestation record
Brazilian Amazon sees 64 percent jump in deforestation in first three months of 2022 compared with a year earlier.
By Al Jazeera
April 8, 2022

Brazil has set a new grim record for Amazon deforestation during the first three months of 2022 compared with a year earlier, government data shows, spurring concern and warnings from environmentalists.

From January to March, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rose 64 percent from a year ago to 941sq km (363sq miles), data from national space research agency Inpe showed.

That area, larger than New York City, is the most forest cover lost in the period since the data series began in 2015.

Destruction of the world’s largest rainforest has surged since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019 and weakened environmental protections, arguing that they hinder economic development that could reduce poverty in the Amazon region.

Al Jazeera’s Monica Yanakiew, reporting from Rio de Janeiro, said the new data was especially worrying because Brazil is in the midst of its rainy season – a time when loggers typically do not cut down trees and farmers do not burn them to clear the land.

“So there should be less activity, there should be less deforestation,” said Yanakiew.

She added that the figures came as representatives of 100 Indigenous tribes are in the capital, Brasilia, to demand more protection for their lands and denounce proposed laws that would allow the government to further exploit the rainforest.

“They’re protesting to make sure that Congress will not approve bills that have been pushed by the government to make it easier to exploit the Amazon [rain]forest commercially. President Jair Bolsonaro is trying to get this done before he runs for re-election in October.”
» Read article           

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

takeoff is now
Natural gas-fired generation peaked in 2020 amid growing renewable energy production: IEEFA
By Ethan Howland, Utility Dive
April 13, 2022

Natural gas-fired power production likely peaked in 2020 and will gradually be driven lower by higher gas prices and competition from growing amounts of wind and solar capacity, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Finance, a nonprofit group that supports moving away from fossil fuels.

[…] IEEFA expects wind, solar and hydroelectric generation will make up a third of U.S. power production by 2027, up from about 19% in December, according to its report. “The transition has just started,” Wamsted said. “We do believe that the takeoff is right now.”

The recent increase in gas prices and concerns about methane emissions from gas production and distribution are adding to the challenges facing gas-fired generation, which hit a record high in 2020 of 1.47 billion MWh, according to IEEFA.

“The soaring cost of fossil fuels and unexpected disruptions in energy security are now supercharging what was already a torrid pace of growth in solar, wind and battery storage projects,” IEEFA said in the report.

The utility sector is speeding up its exit from coal-fired generation, Wamsted said, pointing to recently announced plans by Georgia Power, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Duke Energy to retire their coal fleets by 2035.

Since the U.S. coal fleet peaked in 2012 at 317 GW, about 100 GW has retired and another 100 GW is set to shutter by the end of this decade, partly driven by federal coal ash and water discharge regulations, according to Wamsted.

About three-quarters of the generation expected to come online in the next three years is wind, solar and batteries, IEEFA estimated, based on Energy Information Administration data.
» Read article          

» More about clean energy

LONG-DURATION ENERGY STORAGE

zinc blob
e-Zinc raises US$25m to begin commercial pilot production of long-duration storage
By Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
April 7, 2022

E-Zinc, a Canadian company which claims its zinc metal-based battery technology could provide low-cost, long-duration energy storage has raised US$25 million.

Founded in 2012, the company’s Series A funding round closing announced today comes two years after it raised seed funding and began demonstrating how the battery could be paired with solar PV and grid generation, developing its own balance of system (BoS) solutions along the way.

The technology is being touted as a means to replace diesel generator sets in providing backup power for periods of between half a day to five days, with remote grid or off-grid sites a particular focus.

In other words, the battery has storage and discharge durations far beyond what is typically achieved with the main incumbent grid storage battery technology lithium-ion, which currently has an upper limit of about four to eight hours before becoming prohibitively expensive.

That ability to discharge at full rated power for several days potentially would take it past the capabilities of other non-lithium alternatives like flow batteries and most mechanical and thermal storage plants, with the likes of Form Energy’s multi-day iron-air battery and green hydrogen perhaps the closest comparison.
» Read article          

» More about long-duration energy storage

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY RESOURCES

Elmore geo plant
New geothermal plants could solve America’s lithium supply crunch
By Bryant Jones & Michael McKibben, GreenBiz
April 14, 2022

Geothermal energy has long been the forgotten member of the clean energy family, overshadowed by relatively cheap solar and wind power, despite its proven potential. But that may soon change — for an unexpected reason.

Geothermal technologies are on the verge of unlocking vast quantities of lithium from naturally occurring hot brines beneath places such as California’s Salton Sea, a two-hour drive from San Diego.

Lithium is essential for lithium-ion batteries, which power electric vehicles and energy storage. Demand for these batteries is quickly rising, but the U.S. is heavily reliant on lithium imports from other countries — most of the nation’s lithium supply comes from Argentina, Chile, Russia and China. The ability to recover critical minerals from geothermal brines in the U.S. could have important implications for energy and mineral security, as well as global supply chains, workforce transitions and geopolitics.

As [geologists who work] with geothermal brines and an energy policy scholar, we believe this technology can bolster the nation’s critical minerals supply chain at a time when concerns about the supply chain’s security are rising.

Geothermal power plants use heat from the Earth to generate a constant supply of steam to run turbines that produce electricity. The plants operate by bringing up a complex saline solution from far underground, where it absorbs heat and is enriched with minerals such as lithium, manganese, zinc, potassium and boron.

Geothermal brines are the concentrated liquid left over after heat and steam are extracted at a geothermal plant. In the Salton Sea plants, these brines contain high concentrations — about 30 percent — of dissolved solids.

If test projects underway prove that battery-grade lithium can be extracted from these brines cost-effectively, 11 existing geothermal plants along the Salton Sea alone could have the potential to produce enough lithium metal to provide about 10 times the current U.S. demand.
» Read article          

» More about siting impacts of renewables

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

free parking
Massachusetts needs at least 750,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030. We are nowhere close.
By Sabrina Shankman and Taylor Dolven, Boston Globe
April 9, 2022

Back in 2014, state officials calculated the number of gas-burning cars they would need to get off the roads and replace with cleaner, greener options to meet climate goals.

By 2020, they said, electric cars in the state needed to total more than 169,000. By 2025, that number had to rise to 300,000.

But reality has fallen wildly short of the dream.

As of last month, just 51,431 electric passenger vehicles were registered in Massachusetts, less than a quarter of the target. Only about 31,000 of those were fully electric. The remainder, plug-in hybrids, burn gas once they deplete their batteries.

It’s a critical failure on the path to a clean future, climate advocates and legislators say. The promising policies put in place — a rebate program to encourage consumers to go electric and a plan to install plentiful charging ports across the state — were insufficient, underfunded, and allowed to languish. The result is that the road from here to where we need to be will be longer and steeper than ever intended.

“The state is not trying hard enough,” said Senator Mike Barrett, lead author of the state’s landmark climate law. “Nobody has chosen to own this.”

Converting large numbers of the state’s 4.3 million gas cars to electric is one of Massachusetts’ most urgent climate tasks as it stares at the 2030 deadline for slashing emissions by half from 1990 levels, which was set by the Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy law. Cars account for about a fifth of all carbon emissions in the state, and advocates, legislators, and other experts say that if Massachusetts doesn’t quickly address its problems, including by improving mass transit and discouraging driving altogether, it may not reach the targets set for the end of the decade.
» Read article     

time to choose
Truck makers face a tech dilemma: batteries or hydrogen?
By Jack Ewing New York Times, in Boston Globe
April 11, 2022

Even before war in Ukraine sent fuel prices through the roof, the trucking industry was under intense pressure to kick its addiction to diesel, a major contributor to climate change and urban air pollution. But it still has to figure out which technology will best do the job.

Truck makers are divided into two camps. One faction, which includes Traton, Volkswagen’s truck unit, is betting on batteries because they are widely regarded as the most efficient option. The other camp, which includes Daimler Truck and Volvo, the two largest truck manufacturers, argues that fuel cells that convert hydrogen into electricity — emitting only water vapor — make more sense because they would allow long-haul trucks to be refueled quickly.

The choice companies make could be hugely consequential, helping to determine who dominates trucking in the electric vehicle age and who ends up wasting billions of dollars on the Betamax equivalent of electric truck technology, committing a potentially fatal error. It takes years to design and produce new trucks, so companies will be locked into the decisions they make now for a decade or more.

[…] The stakes for the environment and for public health are also high. If many truck makers wager incorrectly, it could take much longer to clean up trucking than scientists say we have to limit the worst effects of climate change. In the United States, medium- and heavy-duty trucks account for 7 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Trucks tend to spend much more time on the road than passenger cars. The war in Ukraine has added urgency to the debate, underlining the financial and geopolitical risks of fossil fuel dependence.
» Read article     

» More about clean transportation

CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE

visualize ccs
Visualizing the scale of the carbon removal problem
Deploying direct air capture technologies at scale will take a massive lift
By Justine Calma, The Verge
April 7, 2022

To get climate change under control, experts say, we’re going to have to start sucking a whole lot more planet-heating carbon dioxide out of the air. And we need to start doing it fast.

Over the past decade, climate pollution has continued to grow, heating up the planet. It’s gotten to the point that not one but two major climate reports released over the past week say we’ll have to resort to a still-controversial new technology called Direct Air Capture (DAC) to keep our planet livable. Finding ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is “unavoidable,” a report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says.

We already have some direct air capture facilities that filter carbon dioxide out of the air. The captured CO2 can then be stored underground for safekeeping or used to make products like soda pop, concrete, or even aviation fuel.

But this kind of carbon removal is still being done at a very small scale. There are just 18 direct air capture facilities spread across Canada, Europe, and the United States. Altogether, they can capture just 0.01 million metric tons of CO2. To avoid the worst effects of climate change, we need a lot more facilities with much larger capacity, according to a recent report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). By 2030, direct air capture plants need to be able to draw down 85 million metric tons of the greenhouse gas. By 2050, the goal is a whopping 980 million metric tons of captured CO2.
» Read article           

» More about CCS

DEEP-SEABED MINING

unknown
‘A huge mistake’: Concerns rise as deep-sea mining negotiations progress
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts, Mongabay
April 8, 2022

With a four-page letter, the Pacific island nation of Nauru pushed the world closer to a reality in which large-scale mining doesn’t just take place on land, but also in the open ocean. In July 2021, President Lionel Aingimea wrote to the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the U.N.-affiliated organization tasked with managing deep-sea mining activities, to say it intended to make use of a rule embedded in the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that could jump-start seabed mining in two years.

Since then, the ISA, which is responsible for protecting the ocean while encouraging deep-sea mining development, has been scrambling to come up with regulations that would determine how mining can proceed in the deep sea. At meetings that took place in December 2021, delegates debated how to push forward with these regulations, currently in draft form, and agreed to schedule a series of additional meetings to accelerate negotiations. At the latest meetings, which concluded last week in Kingston, Jamaica, delegates continued to discuss mining regulations, eyeing the goal of finalizing regulations by July 2023 so that seabed mining can proceed.

Observers at the recent meetings reported that while many states seemed eager to push ahead, there was also a growing chorus of concerns. For instance, many states and delegates noted that there wasn’t enough science to determine the full impacts of deep-sea mining, and there isn’t currently a financial plan in place to compensate for environmental loss. The observers said there were also increasing worries about the lack of transparency within the ISA as it steers blindfolded toward mining in a part of the ocean we know very little about.

[…] “Unfortunately, much less than 1% of the deep-sea floor has ever been seen by human eyes or with the camera,” Diva J. Amon, director of Trinidad-and-Tobago-based SpeSeas, a marine conservation nonprofit, told Mongabay. “That means that for huge portions of our planet, we cannot answer that extremely basic question of what lives there, much less questions about how it functions and the role that it plays related to us and the planet’s habitability and also about how it might be impacted.”
» Read article          

» More about deep-seabed mining     

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

sun sets
‘Tricks of the Trade’ Analysis Shows Why Big Oil ‘Cannot Be Part of the Solution’
“Oil companies use deceptive language and false promises to pretend they’re solving the climate crisis, when in reality they’re only making it worse,” said Fossil Free Media director Jamie Henn.
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
April 12, 2022

The nonprofit Earthworks on Tuesday revealed how eight fossil fuel giants use “confusing jargon, false solutions, and misleading metrics” to distort “the severity of ongoing harm to health and climate from the oil and gas sector by helping companies lower reported emissions and claim climate action without actually reducing emissions.”

The group’s report—entitled Tricks of the Trade: Deceptive Practices, Climate Delay, and Greenwashing in the Oil and Gas Industry—focuses on BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Occidental, Shell, and TotalEnergies, which are all top fossil fuel producers in the United States.

The analysis comes on the heels of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that Earthworks policy director Lauren Pagel said last week proves “we are headed in the wrong direction, fast,” and “solutions to solve this crisis exist but political courage and policy creativity are lacking.”

Pagel, in response to Tuesday’s report, reiterated that solving the global crisis “will require strong government intervention on multiple fronts” and specifically called on the Biden administration “to quickly correct the problems the oil and gas industry has created by declaring a climate emergency and beginning a managed decline of fossil fuels.”

Earthworks’ document details the corporations’ spurious accounting strategies that “creatively reclassify, bury, and entirely exclude their total emissions” rather than cutting planet-heating pollution in line with the 2015 Paris climate agreement goals of keeping global temperature rise by 2100 below 2°C and limiting it to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels.

The report highlights that “every company’s climate ambitions fall far short of the IPCC target of reducing emissions 50% by the end of the decade because they omit scope 3 emissions.” While scope 1 refers to direct emissions from owned operations and scope 2 refers to indirect emissions from the generation of electricity purchased by a company, scope 3 refers to all other indirect emissions in a firm’s supply chain.

“Scope 3 emissions make up between 75-90% of emissions associated with oil and gas production,” the paper says, noting that for these firms, the category includes emissions from the fossil fuel products they sell. “Excluding scope 3 emissions allows oil and gas companies to make goals that sound like real progress while pushing off responsibility for most of their emissions onto consumers and allowing them to continue to grow their operations.”
» Read article     
» Read the report

» More about fossil fuel

CYBERSECURITY

pipedream
U.S. warns newly discovered malware could sabotage energy plants
Private security experts said they suspect liquefied natural gas facilities were the malware’s most likely target
By Joseph Menn, Washington Post
April 13, 2022

U.S. officials announced Wednesday the discovery of an alarmingly sophisticated and effective system for attacking industrial facilities that includes the ability to cause explosions in the energy industry.

The officials did not say which country they believed had developed the system, which was found before it was used, and they kept mum about who found the software and how.

But private security experts who worked in parallel with government agencies to analyze the system said it was likely to be Russian, that its top target was probably liquefied natural gas production facilities, and that it would take months or years to develop strong defenses against it.

That combination makes the discovery of the system, dubbed Pipedream by industrial control security experts Dragos, the realization of the worst fears of longtime cybersecurity experts. Some compared it to Stuxnet, which the United States and Israel used more than a dozen years ago to damage equipment used in Iran’s nuclear program.

The program manipulates equipment found in virtually all complex industrial plants rather than capitalizing on unknown flaws that can be easily fixed, so almost any plant could fall victim, investigators said.

“This is going to take years to recover from,” said Sergio Caltagirone, vice president of threat intelligence at Dragos and a former global technical lead at the National Security Agency.

[…] The attack kit “contains capabilities related to disruption, sabotage, and potentially physical destruction. While we are unable to definitively attribute the malware, we note that the activity is consistent with Russia’s historical interest,” said Mandiant Director of Intelligence Analysis Nathan Brubaker.

Liquefied natural gas, including from the United States, is playing a growing role as an alternative to Russian oil and gas imports that the European Union has pledged to reduce because of the invasion.
» Read article          

» More about cybersecurity

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

not required
No Need for New Export Terminals to Move U.S. Gas to Europe, New Analysis Shows
By The Energy Mix
April 10, 2022

There’s no need for new export terminals in the United States to help Europe end its dependence on natural gas from Russia—the U.S. fossil industry’s spin notwithstanding, according to a new analysis by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

“The White House and European leaders announced plans in late March to boost U.S gas shipments to Europe by at least 15 billion cubic metres this year,” IEEFA says in a release. But while the fossil lobby is leaning in to the European fossil energy crisis as reason to build more liquefied natural gas (LNG) export capacity, the analysis found the U.S. LNG industry is on track to exceed the target, without the construction of any new LNG plants.”

Already this year, “a combination of increased output from U.S. plants and flexible contracts has allowed much more U.S. LNG to flow to Europe,” said report author and IEEFA energy finance analyst Clark Williams-Derry. The report, based on data from IHS Markit, shows U.S. LNG producers with far more gas available to be sold or redirected than the continent is actually looking for.

“Counting contracted LNG with flexible destinations, spot sale volumes, and pre-existing commitments with European buyers, almost 55 MMt of U.S. LNG (75 bcm of gas) could be available to Europe this year,” states the report. “Destination flexibility in current contracts would allow for a significant increase in U.S. LNG shipments to Europe from their 2021 level of 22.2 MMt (30.4 bcm of gas), without any new long-term sales contracts,” and “European buyers also can negotiate with Asian contract holders to secure additional imports of U.S. LNG.”

“If shipment patterns during the first quarter of 2022 continue, the U.S. LNG industry will far exceed the short-term target, set by officials from the EU and the White House, of boosting U.S. LNG shipments to the EU by 15 billion cubic meters this year,” the report adds. “However, Europe’s increasing appetite for U.S. LNG comes at a cost—for Europe, for the U.S., and for the world.” That’s because “LNG imports are inherently more expensive for the EU than the Russian gas they replace. At the same time, U.S. consumers are now paying much more for their natural gas, because rising LNG exports have contributed to supply shortfalls and tight gas markets in the U.S.”

All of which means that “building new LNG infrastructure in the U.S. could be a long-term financial mistake,” Williams-Derry said in the release. “The U.S. is on track to meet European LNG supply goals using the plants it has, and new plants could face long-term challenges from fickle Asian demand and Europe’s climate commitments.
» Read article          
» Read the IEEFA analysis

» More about LNG

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


» Learn more about Pipeline projects
» Learn more about other proposed energy infrastructure
» Sign up for the NFGiM Newsletter for events, news and actions you can take
» DONATE to help keep our efforts going!

Weekly News Check-In 4/8/22

banner 18

Welcome back.

The big news this week involved release of the United Nations’ third recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report – this one focused on steps necessary to get through this OK. The imperatives are clear and non-negotiable: immediately stop developing new fossil fuel resources and infrastructure; rapidly decrease emissions; rapidly transition power generation, transportation, building heat, and as much of industry as possible to zero-emissions.

It’s a comprehensive piece of work that assesses our current situation and clearly describes the very narrow pathway remaining after our decades of procrastination. Limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels is not a randomly-selected number. It represents science’s best understanding of a boundary beyond which the warming world will trigger multiple tipping points. Once there, we’ll all be strapped in for a wild one-way ride into a decidedly less hospitable new reality.

How did the fossil fuel industry and their government enablers react? By approving or funding two massive new offshore oil developments and doubling down on an accelerated buildout of liquefied natural gas capacity. All this has alarmed scientists to the point of taking to the streets – even getting themselves arrested in non-violent actions. These are people who traditionally prefer to avoid the fray – reasoning that their work should speak for itself, providing a solid foundation for the programs of rational policymakers.

But our unevenly-regulated economic system has proven much better at generating corporate profits than at steering society toward sustainability. A perfect example is the vast area of Midwest farmland devoted to producing corn for ethanol biofuel while the world faces a looming food shortage. Another puzzle is why the New England grid operator believes it’s still too early to accelerate the integration of renewable energy and storage – exactly what the IPCC report identified as critical, urgent priorities.

Progress for now remains concentrated at the state level. The Massachusetts Senate just released an ambitious new bill aimed, in part, to clarify for gas utilities that their current business model of piping fuel to flames has no future.

We have a couple bits of good news from the housing sector, where property managers are finding ways to achieve deep energy retrofits in existing multifamily residential units. This is a maddeningly complex problem, especially in already-occupied buildings – so the lessons being learned now will make future efforts easier. More Federal funds are also coming online for low-income residential energy efficiency projects.  Clean transportation also took a step in the right direction, with a number of major automakers backing the EPA’s tough new emissions standards and opposing a lawsuit brought by Texas and fifteen other states.

Wrapping up, we’ll leave you with one last scary thing. Microplastics are now so ubiquitous in the environment that almost all of us are hosting little bits of them deep in our lungs, in other organs, and even in our bloodstreams. We’re imposing this same body burden on every other creature, just as we’re dragging them all with us through a changing climate. Stay engaged – that’s how we’ll make things better.

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

really happening
Climate scientists are desperate: we’re crying, begging and getting arrested
On Wednesday, I was arrested for locking myself onto an entrance to the JP Morgan Chase building in downtown LA. I can’t stand by – and nor should you
By Peter Kalmus, The Guardian | Opinion
April 6, 2022

“Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals, but the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.” – United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres

I’m a climate scientist and a desperate father. How can I plead any harder? What will it take? What can my colleagues and I do to stop this catastrophe unfolding now all around us with such excruciating clarity?

On Wednesday, I was arrested for locking myself to an entrance to the JP Morgan Chase building in downtown Los Angeles with colleagues and supporters. Our action in LA is part of an international campaign organized by a loosely knit group of concerned scientists called Scientist Rebellion, involving more than 1,200 scientists in 26 countries and supported by local climate groups. Our day of action follows the IPCC Working Group 3 report released Monday, which details the harrowing gap between where society is heading and where we need to go. Our movement is growing fast.

We chose JP Morgan Chase because out of all the investment banks in the world, JP Morgan Chase funds the most new fossil fuel projects. As the new IPCC report explains, emissions from current and planned fossil energy infrastructure are already more than twice the amount that would push the planet over 1.5°C of global heating, a level of heating that will bring much more intense heat, fire, storms, flooding, and drought than the present 1.2°C.

Even limiting heating to below 2°C, a level of heating that in my opinion could threaten civilization as we know it, would require emissions to peak before 2025. As UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in the press conference on Monday: “Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness.” And yet, this is precisely what President Biden, most other world leaders, and major banks are doing. It’s no exaggeration to say that Chase and other banks are contributing to murder and neocide through their fossil fuel finance.

Earth breakdown is much worse than most people realize. The science indicates that as fossil fuels continue to heat our planet, everything we love is at risk. For me, one of the most horrific aspects of all this is the juxtaposition of present-day and near-future climate disasters with the “business as usual” occurring all around me. It’s so surreal that I often find myself reviewing the science to make sure it’s really happening, a sort of scientific nightmare arm-pinch. Yes, it’s really happening.
» Read article       

climate revolution
‘Climate Revolution’: Scientists Launch Global Civil Disobedience Campaign
“Scientist Rebellion will be on the streets between April 4th and 9th, acting like our house is on fire,” said organizers. “Because it is.”
By Julia Conley, Common Dreams
April 4, 2022

Scientists from around the world on Monday mobilized to demand a “Climate Revolution,” holding rallies and staging acts of civil disobedience with the goal of making the planetary emergency “impossible to ignore.”

With a kick-off timed to coincide with Monday’s release of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), researchers across the globe this week will participate in the Scientist Rebellion, staging strikes and occupations at universities, research institutes, and scientific journals to demand that the community speak out forcefully against continued fossil fuel emissions to highlight “the urgency and injustice of the climate and ecological crisis.”

“We have not made the changes necessary to limit warming to 1.5°C, rendering this goal effectively impossible,” said Dr. Rose Abramoff, an American climate scientist, referring to the goal set by the Paris climate agreement in 2015. “We need to both understand the consequences of our inaction as well as limit fossil fuel emissions as much and as quickly as possible.”

For scientists, Abramoff added, “it is no longer sufficient to do our research and expect others to read our publications and understand the severity and urgency of the climate crisis.”

One neuroscientist named Jonathan posted a video on social media explaining why he is taking part in the Scientist Rebellion.

“With our civilization poised to crumble under the weight of climate disaster in a matter of decades, the incremental advance of understanding is pointless,” he said. “In short, there’s no worthy reason for me to be doing this work if I’m not also pushing for climate action.”

The Scientist Rebellion is poised to be the largest-ever civil disobedience campaign led by scientists, with experts risking arrest in at least 25 countries on every continent in the world.
» Read article       

» More about protests and actions

LEGISLATION

prescriptive
Senate unveils sweeping climate bill
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
April 7, 2022

The state Senate on Thursday unveiled a sweeping climate bill that would pour money into development of clean energy, set mandates for government agencies, and allow some cities and towns to ban gas in new construction.

Unlike the broad strokes of past climate legislation that focused on setting strict targets for slashing emissions, Thursday’s proposal delves into granular details of state programs and agencies perceived as acting too slow on the climate.

[…] Lawmakers said the bill must take urgent priority.

[…] The bill focuses on three aspects of the state’s response to climate change: the transition to clean energy on the electrical grid, the massive work of weaning homes from fossil fuel heat, and dramatically reducing emissions from the state’s 4.3 million cars.

It now faces steep challenges as it goes to debate in the Senate and a potentially difficult reconciliation with the House version of the bill — with a tight deadline of July 31 for having a bill on the governor’s desk.

[…] A spokesperson for the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs said only that the Baker administration will carefully review anything that reaches the governor’s desk.

The Senate bill is in some ways a rebuke of the Baker administration on critical parts of the state’s effort on climate, said Senator Cynthia Creem. She cited problems with programs aimed at urging homeowners to switch to clean heat and that pay gas companies to continue to lay new pipe.

“We’re seeing that unless we move quickly, we’re not going to meet the emissions required, and the agencies aren’t taking the quick approach that they need to take,” she said.

That led to the creation of a bill that is in many ways prescriptive — calling for specific policy and programmatic steps.

In addition to providing $100 million to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to support investment in the clean energy industry and innovation, the bill would allow for the growth of so-called agro-solar, in which solar panels are placed at agricultural farms.
» Read article      

» More about legislation

GREENING THE ECONOMY

aerial view
As Russia’s War In Ukraine Disrupts Food Production, Experts Question the Expanding Use of Cropland for Biofuels
With the planet facing the related crises of climate change and hunger, should land be used to grow food, like corn for ethanol?
By Georgina Gustin, Inside Climate News
April 5, 2022

In the six weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, the conflict has not only sent energy prices soaring, but has disrupted food production, pushing costs upward and stoking fears of global food shortages.

The United Nations has warned of surging food insecurity in countries that depend on wheat from Ukraine, a critical and major breadbasket. Many of them were already teetering on the edge of hunger before the crisis.

As these effects of the conflict ripple across the globe, the world is seeing how energy and food markets are crucially linked. Just a couple of examples:

Farmers everywhere are scrambling to buy fertilizer, which has become exorbitantly expensive and scarce as prices for natural gas to make it have shot up. And vegetable growers in the U.K. say that energy prices are so high they can’t afford to heat their greenhouses, meaning less fresh produce in coming months.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is considering expanding the use of ethanol, made from corn, in an attempt to lower fuel prices—but at the risk of raising food prices.

“Food and energy markets are going through the roof at the moment,” said Tim Benton, director of the Environment and Society Programme at Chatham House, the U.K.-based think tank, in a recent call with reporters. “The key question for those of us who are interested in sustainability is whether nature will be sacrificed in order to boost food production or whether climate will be sacrificed in order to boost energy production.”
» Read article      

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

elephant
IPCC: We can tackle climate change if big oil gets out of the way
Experts say criticism of oil and gas’s ‘climate-blocking activities’ cut from final draft, reflective of industry’s power and influence
By Amy Westervelt, The Guardian
April 5, 2022

The fossil fuel industry and its influence over policy was the major elephant in the room looming over the release of the third and final report, out this week, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading climate authority. The major source of contention: how do you talk about mitigating climate change without confronting the fossil fuel industry? “It’s like Star Wars without Darth Vader,” says environmental sociologist Robert Brulle, of Brown University.

The first two reports, both released over the last year, highlighted the physical science on climate effects and countries’ vulnerability to further warming. But this third report deals more with the potential solutions, which have been a focal point of controversy in recent years for both the fossil fuel industry and the governments of oil-rich nations.

Social scientists were successful in pushing for more of their research to be included in the IPCC’s reports, with chapters that touch on everything from debunking claims that less developed countries need fossil fuels to help tackle poverty to a rundown of efforts to block climate policy. The report made one thing abundantly clear: the technologies and policies necessary to adequately address climate change exist, and the only real obstacles are politics and fossil fuel interests.

The role of the fossil fuel industry is highlighted throughout the report’s nearly 3,000 pages, but researchers note it was mysteriously absent from the “Summary for Policymakers” – traditionally the first part of the report that’s released and often attracts the most media attention. An earlier draft of the summary leaked to the Guardian, however, described the fossil fuel industry and others invested in a high-carbon economy as “vested interests” that have actively worked against climate policy, noting: “Factors limiting ambitious transformation include structural barriers, an incremental rather than systemic approach, lack of coordination, inertia, lock-in to infrastructure and assets, and lock-in as a consequence of vested interests, regulatory inertia, and lack of technological capabilities and human resources.”

Brulle, whose research is cited multiple times in the report, was dismayed to see the cut. “The scientists clearly did their job and provided ample material on climate obstruction activities in the report,” he says. “The political process of creating the Summary for Policymakers ended up editing all of this information out.”
» Read article       

Sycamore Canyon flames
‘A file of shame’: Major UN climate report shows world is on track for catastrophic levels of warming
By Dharna Noor, Boston Globe
April 4, 2022

The world is on track to usher in a devastating level of global warming, warns a major report from the world’s leading climate scientists.

“It is a file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world,” UN Secretary General António Guterres said of the study in a statement.

To avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis, the analysis from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says, leaders must make radical, immediate changes. That includes rapidly phasing out the use of fossil fuels.

The world has already warmed by roughly 1.1 degrees Celsius since the industrial revolution, chiefly due to the burning of coal, oil, or gas. The more ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement aim to limit warming to 1.5 degrees; crossing that threshold would exacerbate hunger, conflict, and drought globally, destroy at least 70 percent of coral reefs, and put millions at risk of being swallowed by rising seas.

The world has only a 38 percent chance of achieving that goal, the new report says.

The report is the third of three crucial documents from the UN body released over the past eight months. While the first two studies examined the causes and effects of the climate crisis, Monday’s report focuses on what the world can do to fight it.

UN scientists have long warned that expanding fossil fuel infrastructure will make the 1.5-degree target unattainable. But the new report, released Monday, goes even further, showing that even continuing to operate existing infrastructure until the end of their lifespans would put that target out of reach.

“We cannot keep warming below catastrophic levels without first and foremost accelerating the shift away from all fossil fuels, beginning immediately,” said Nikki Reisch, climate and energy Program Director at the Center for International Environmental Law, in a statement.
» Read article       

wrong way
Methane emissions surged by a record amount in 2021, NOAA says
By Emma Newburger, CNBC
April 7, 2022

Global emissions of methane, the second-biggest contributor to human-caused climate change after carbon dioxide, surged by a record amount in 2021, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Thursday.

Methane, a key component of natural gas, is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide but doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere before it breaks down. Major contributors to methane emissions include oil and gas extraction, landfills and wastewater, and farming of livestock.

“Our data show that global emissions continue to move in the wrong direction at a rapid pace,” Rick Spinrad, the NOAA administrator, said in a statement. “The evidence is consistent, alarming and undeniable.”

The report comes after more than 100 countries joined a coalition to cut 30% of methane gas emissions by 2030 from 2020 levels. The Global Methane Pledge of 2021 includes six of the world’s 10 biggest methane emitters — the U.S., Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Mexico. China, Russia, India and Iran did not join the pledge.

Last year, a landmark United Nations report declared that drastically slashing methane is necessary to avoid the worst outcomes of global warming. The report said if the world could cut methane emissions by up to 45% through 2030, it would prevent 255,000 premature deaths and 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits on an annual basis.

Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, said reducing methane is a relatively cheap and easy way to achieve significant climate benefits.
» Read article      

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

now or never
Now or never: IPCC says wind and solar key to halving emissions by 2030
By Michael Mazengarb, Renew Economy
April 5, 2022

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has backed the continued expansion of the use of wind and solar energy to do the heavy lifting in achieving rapid and necessary reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions – while also delivering some of the cheapest new supplies of energy.

The central role that renewable energy technologies will play in keeping global warming within safe limits has been detailed in the latest working group report of the IPCC, published on Tuesday.

The IPCC has warned “immediate and deep emissions reductions” are necessary across all sectors of the global economy to stem rising greenhouse gas levels, and keep a global warming limit of 1.5 degrees within reach.

According to the IPCC, wind and solar technologies can deliver the most extensive potential cuts to greenhouse gas emissions by replacing fossil fuels in the global energy system, dwarfing the potential contribution of more costly technologies like carbon capture and storage.

“Large contributions with costs less than US$20 per tonne CO2 come from solar and wind energy, energy efficiency improvements, reduced conversion of natural ecosystems and methane emissions reductions,” the report says.

The IPCC said the dramatic reductions in the cost of wind, solar and battery storage technologies over the last decade meant they were already commercially viable and would be the key to decarbonising most of the world’s energy systems.
» Read article       

Ocean Rebellion theatrical act
IPCC Report Release Delayed as Rich Nations Sought to Weaken Fossil Fuel Phaseout
“I hope Working Group III has the courage to actually call for the elimination of fossil fuels production and use within a Paris agreement compliant timeline,” said one scientist.
By Kenny Stancil, Common Dreams
April 4, 2022

The publication of the third and final part of the United Nations’ latest comprehensive climate assessment, originally scheduled for early Monday morning, was postponed by several hours after a contentious weekend of negotiations in which wealthy governments attempted to weaken statements about green financing for low-income nations and fossil fuel-producing countries objected to unequivocal language about the need to quickly ditch coal, oil, and gas.

The landmark report by Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—written by dozens of climate scientists from around the world who synthesized the past eight years of relevant research—is expected to call for a rapid global phaseout of fossil fuels to avoid the planetary emergency’s most dire consequences.

However, a roughly 40-page “summary for policymakers”—a key reference point for governments—was edited with input from U.N. member states. Although it was expected to be finalized on Friday and published early Monday morning, diplomats continued to debate the contents of the document for hours after their Sunday deadline, pushing its release back by several hours.

“One issue is the fundamental, underlying declaration that the world has to get off fossil fuels as quickly as possible,” an unnamed source told CNN on Monday, declining to identify specific nations. “[These objections are] coming from countries with economic interests, from countries that are prioritizing that above what is clearly a global imperative.”

“Scientists want to send the extra-clear message that what needs to happen next is to get off fossil fuels to cut emissions as quickly as possible in this decade,” the source added.
» Read article    

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

for rent
Massachusetts apartment retrofit offers model for multifamily energy savings

The owners of a Fall River apartment complex spent two years tightening building envelopes, replacing heating and cooling systems, and installing rooftop solar panels. Now, they hope to replicate the success elsewhere.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
April 5, 2022

A Massachusetts apartment complex has nearly completed an extensive and challenging clean energy overhaul, a process that planners say helped create a playbook for tackling difficult multifamily retrofits.

The owners of the South Winds Apartment Community in Fall River, a small city on the Rhode Island border, spent two years developing and executing a plan to tighten the envelopes of the complex’s 39 buildings, replace climate control systems with heat pumps, and install solar panels on every available rooftop. The changes are expected to avoid more than 3,800 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year — equivalent to taking 750 cars off the road — and cut energy costs by 80%.

And the project is just the beginning for Taurus Investment Holdings, the real estate firm that owns the development.

“It all started with South Winds — it’s our flagship project where we really learned how to implement our process,” said Chris Gray, chief technology officer for RENU Communities, a subsidiary of Taurus that executes energy retrofits at the firm’s properties. “We have since undertaken numerous other properties and we have about 3,000 apartment units in our pipeline.”

[…] BlueWave Solar of Boston was brought in to install solar panels on every available roof, a process that presented so many obstacles that it wasn’t clear it could even be done at first.

[…] It was a major investment of time, [Alan Robertson, managing director of solar development at BlueWave] said, but the effort has set a precedent that he hopes will pave the way for more ambitious apartment projects in the future.

“There are a ton of multifamily complexes that were set up similar to this that I think a lot of developers just shy away from,” Robertson said. “Now we have an approved project with the [Department of Energy Resources] that can be a playbook for others.”

Figuring it all out despite the challenges was important to Taurus for reasons both ethical and financial, Gray said. Two of the company founders are from Germany and brought a European-style energy-conscious ethos to the business from the beginning. That mindset has continued to this day.

At the same time, Gray said, it is clear that reducing energy use now will save money in the long run. Already RENU has started work on two more apartment complex retrofits, one in Phoenix, Arizona, and another in Orlando, Florida. More such projects are expected to follow.

“We think this is going to be a requirement of real estate owners going forward,” Gray said, “so we’re trying to get ahead of the curve.”
» Read article    

insulation installer
Biden administration lines up $3 billion so low-income families can retrofit their homes
The move will affect nearly a half million households and lower greenhouse gas emissions
By Julia Kane, Grist
April 1, 2022

Low-income families will be able to lower their utility bills with $3.16 billion in funding for home retrofits made available by the Biden administration on Wednesday. The move will also help the U.S. reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The funding, approved as part of the infrastructure bill that Congress passed last year, will flow to states, tribes, and territories through the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, or WAP.

The surge in federal dollars means that the program will be able to retrofit about 450,000 homes by installing insulation, sealing leaks, upgrading appliances to more energy-efficient models, and replacing fossil fuel-powered heating systems with cleaner, electric options. That’s a significant increase; in recent years, the program has retrofitted about 38,000 homes annually.

The boost to WAP comes amidst an embargo on Russian oil, soaring energy prices, and rising inflation — circumstances strikingly similar to those when WAP was created in the 1970s. Congress authorized WAP in 1976, just a few years after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries imposed an oil embargo against the U.S., causing energy prices to spike and inflation to climb. Lawmakers reasoned that one way to achieve energy independence was to reduce energy demand by making buildings more efficient.
» Read article       

CCHPs
Three More Manufacturers Added to Cold Climate Heat Pump Technology Challenge
DOE created the challenge to accelerate deployment of cold climate heat pump (CCHP) technologies.
By Logan Caswell, HPAC
February 18, 2022

After successfully launching the Cold Climate Heat Pump Technology Challenge this past May, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has added three new manufacturers to the initiative, launched in partnership with Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

[…] The nine HVAC manufacturers, in partnering with DOE, NRCan, and the EPA, along with States and other efficiency program and utility stakeholders, will demonstrate the performance of prototypical products and launch field demonstrations and pilot programs to accelerate adoption. Commercialization of products could come as early as 2024.

The next generation of cold climate heat pumps developed under this challenge will have:

  • Increased performance at cold temperatures
  • Increased heating capacity at lower ambient temperatures
  • More efficiency across broader range of operating conditions
  • Demand flexibility (advanced controls to adjust usage on demand)

The DOE initially launched the Cold Climate Heat Pump Challenge as part of its Initiative for Better Energy, Emissions, and Equity (E3 Initiative). The E3 Initiative advances the research, development, and national deployment of clean heating and cooling systems that include heat pumps, advanced water heaters, low-to-no global warming potential refrigerants, and smarter HVAC diagnostic tools in residential and commercial buildings.
» Read article     
» Read about the DOE’s Residential Cold-Climate Heat Pump Technology Challenge

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

storage graphic
Lithium-ion roadblocks drive development of US-based alternatives for grid battery storage
By Elizabeth McCarthy, Utility Dive
April 5, 2022

There is a growing focus on emerging battery technologies that use domestic minerals and elements because supply chain constraints are impeding lithium-ion battery storage. According to university, government and industry officials, alternate battery chemistries must and can become cost-competitive.

To help meet growing decarbonization goals, preferred alternatives to lithium-ion need to be long-duration, with at least 10 hours of output, and have minimal or low toxicity, experts agreed at an April 1 session of MIT’s 2022 Energy Conference.

Emerging grid storage technologies in the running include sodium and iron-air batteries, ones using stacks of retired electric vehicle car batteries with considerable life remaining, and those reusing metals from recycled EV batteries.
» Read article       

» More about energy storage

MODERNIZING THE GRID

outdated
Grid operator urges slower transition on renewables
Seeks approval from FERC for 2-year extension of pricing rule
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
April 5, 2022

THE NEW ENGLAND power grid operator filed a proposal with federal regulators on Monday seeking more time to come up with a system for incorporating clean energy into the region’s electricity markets.

The grid operator, known as ISO-New England, asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permission to put off until 2025 plans to do away with a 2013 pricing rule intended to prevent subsidized clean energy projects from unfairly squeezing other power generators (most of whom burn fossil fuels) out of the market. ISO-New England had previously planned to do away with the pricing rule next year.

In a statement accompanying the filing, ISO-New England said a longer transition period is warranted because it “will create less risk to the region than an immediate market change could evoke.”

Environmental advocates are opposing the move. “This decision throws an unnecessary lifeline to gas generators that could otherwise be priced out of the market by cost-effective clean energy,” said Melissa Birchard, senior regulatory attorney at Acadia Center.

The arcane issue is attracting attention because it is another example of the tension between those eager to abandon fossil fuels in a bid to deal with climate change and those wary of doing so too quickly out of fear of market disruptions.

ISO-New England oversees the region’s wholesale markets for electricity. In one of those markets, the forward capacity market, ISO-New England forecasts how much electricity the region will need three years in the future and then encourages power generators to bid to supply it. Power plant operators use the promise of this future revenue to build, maintain, and operate their plants.

The forward capacity market is under stress because states like Massachusetts, operating outside the market, have ordered utilities to purchase offshore wind and hydroelectricity, with their ratepayers picking up the cost of the projects.

The challenge for ISO-New England is how to incorporate these ratepayer-subsidized renewable energy projects into the forward capacity market without undermining it. Letting the renewable energy projects into the market could squeeze out other generators needed for the system’s future reliability. Keeping the renewable energy projects out of the market could mean the market may be procuring more power than it actually needs.

[…] Officials at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have been pressuring ISO New England to do away with its minimum offer price rule. Their chief complaint is that the rule is too broad, applying to all new resources and not just those resources capable of manipulating market prices.

“The minimum offer price rule appears to act as a barrier to competition, insulating incumbent generators from having to compete with certain new resources that may be able to provide capacity at lower cost,” said FERC commissioners Richard Glick and Allison Clements in a filing in January.

Now FERC will have to decide whether to grant more time to ISO-New England to do away with the minimum price rule or demand swifter action.
» Read article    

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

commutersMajor automakers back tough U.S. vehicle emissions rules in court battle
By David Shepardson, Reuters
March 30, 2022

Major U.S. and foreign automakers on Wednesday backed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new tougher vehicle emissions regulations in a court challenge brought by some states and ethanol groups.

Texas and 15 other states have challenged the EPA’s vehicle emissions rules that reverse a rollback of tailpipe rules issued under former President Donald Trump.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, representing nearly all major automakers, said in a court filing the EPA rule “will challenge the industry” but provides automakers with “critically important flexibilities.”

Automakers, the group added, want to ensure “critical regulatory provisions supporting electric vehicle technology are maintained.”

The states are joined by some corn and soybean growers associations, the American Fuel And Petrochemical Manufacturers and others. Corn growers, a Valero Energy subsidiary and other ethanol producers said the new EPA rules revising emission requirements through 2026 “effectively mandate the production and sale of electric cars rather than cars powered by internal combustion engines.”
» Read article       

» More about clean transportation

GAS UTILITIES

LNG FSRU
Natural gas investments fuel climate concerns
By Colin A. Young State House News Service
April 4, 2022

BOSTON, Mass. (SHNS)–The tensions between what some key lawmakers would like to see Massachusetts do enroute to achieving net-zero carbon emissions and the proposals in a utility-driven report on the role natural gas could play in decarbonization were on full display Monday at the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change.

Unhappy with the process and the strategies described in the recently-filed Future of Gas report, chairwoman Sen. Cynthia Creem said the Legislature “may have to intervene” in the Baker administration’s study of the future of natural gas as Massachusetts strives to get to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. “In my view, reaching net-zero emission requires that the future of gas is largely a future without gas,” Creem, the Senate’s majority leader and chairwoman of the committee, said.

Monday’s hearing revolved around the Future of Gas report, which utility companies put together with consultants as part of a Department of Public Utilities exploration of how natural gas fits into Massachusetts’ energy future and whether the resource might help or hinder the state’s emissions reduction efforts.

State law requires that Massachusetts reduce its emissions by 25 percent by 2020 (preliminary estimates show a 28.6 percent reduction), by 50 percent by 2030, by 75 percent by 2040 and by at least 85 percent by 2050, with tag-along policies to get the state to net-zero emissions by the middle of the century. All reductions are calculated against the baseline of 1990 emissions levels. “However, Massachusetts is currently doubling down on natural gas through the Gas System Enhancement Plan program, known as the GSEP program,” Creem said. “Under GSEP, ratepayers will pay $20 billion over the next few decades to replace gas pipelines that are inconsistent with our climate mandates.”

A number of people invited to testify Monday echoed Creem’s argument, that ratepayers are going to be on the hook for new gas infrastructure that could become obsolete in the coming decades and that gas utilities are using the GSEP program meant to remedy gas leaks to instead prepare their systems to handle newer fuels like renewable hydrogen or biogas in an attempt to stay in business through a transition away from natural gas. “There’s a stark binary facing us right now,” Caitlin Peale Sloan, vice president at the Conservation Law Foundation, said during Monday’s hearing. “Are we going to start to ramp down gas utility infrastructure and invest the billions left to be spent under GSEP into sustainable solutions with low ongoing costs and operating costs? Or are we going to plow ahead and put billions more into the gas system?”
» Read article       

» More about gas utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Equinor graphic
Ottawa Issues ‘Slap in the Face’ to Climate Science, Approves Bay du Nord Offshore Oil Megaproject
By Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix
April 6, 2022

[…] In the weeks leading up to Wednesday’s announcement, voices in Newfoundland and Labrador stressed the economic gains that Equinor has promised if the project goes ahead, in a province facing dire hardship. Without Bay du Nord, “Newfoundland and Labrador is going to suffer for a long, long time,” Brigus, Newfoundland Mayor Shears Mercer told CP. “We’re broke. The province is broke.”

But mid-way through a week that had already seen the IPCC report and the Bay du Nord decision, the reaction through the day Wednesday ranged from rage to tears.

“For the first time in my life I had to choke down tears talking to a journalist about the Canadian government approving the Bay du Nord project. Doubling down on new fossil production while it could not be clearer this is the wrong thing to do is nothing else than heartbreaking,” tweeted Caroline Brouillette, national climate policy manager at Climate Action Network-Canada.

“It hurts to see the work of so many people inside and outside of government undermined by expanding fossil fuel infrastructure, yet again,” Brouillette added. “Moments like these show how inadequate our governments’ (even the most ‘progressive’ ones) response to the crisis are. How unwilling @JustinTrudeau is to be honest with Canadians about the need to plan for a future climate and economy that is safe and sustainable.”

Trudeau “is doubling down on the myth that Canada can be a climate leader while continuing to produce and export vast amounts of climate-destroying fossil fuels,” she added in a release. “The longer our leaders postpone being honest with Canadians about the incompatibility of increased oil production and a climate- and jobs-safe future, the rougher the awakening will be. Today’s decision is a failure of courage.”

“The Government of Canada’s decision to approve a new billion-barrel mega-oil project is a slap in the face to climate scientists, communities across Canada, and the world impacted by the climate crisis,” said Julia Levin, senior climate and energy program manager at Environmental Defence Canada. “The planet is on fire and the science is crystal clear. Approving Bay du Nord is another leap towards an unlivable future. The decision is tantamount to denying that climate change is real and threatens our very existence.”
» Read article       

Baytown refinery
ExxonMobil Announces $10 Billion Oil Investment the Same Day IPCC Signals End for Fossil Fuels
The oil giant’s massive plan to drill in Guyana’s waters comes as the UN Secretary General warns of fossil fuels as a “blight on investment portfolios.”
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
April 5, 2022

“Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released part of its latest report on Monday. This scientific summary, focused on how the world can cut greenhouse gas emissions, warns of the extraordinary harm to all of humanity caused by fossil fuels and the need for a rapid energy transition away from oil, gas, and coal, calling for meaningful changes over the next three years. “Such investments will soon be stranded assets, a blot on the landscape, and a blight on investment portfolios.”

That same day, oil giant ExxonMobil made an announcement of its own: a $10 billion final investment decision for an oil and gas development project in the South American nation of Guyana that the company said would allow it to add a quarter of a million barrels of oil a day to its production in 2025.

The IPCC’s call to action was urgent. “We are on a fast track to climate disaster,” Guterres said, reciting a list of consequences that have become all too familiar over the past few years — and warning of worse to come. “Major cities under water. Unprecedented heatwaves. Terrifying storms. Widespread water shortages. The extinction of a million species of plants and animals. This is not fiction or exaggeration. It is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies.”

The IPCC’s report marked the end of an era for fossil fuel producers, some observers said, establishing that, as The Guardian put it, the world has seen “a century of rising emissions [that] must end before 2025 to keep global heating under 1.5C, beyond which severe impacts will increase further, hurting billions of people.”

The disconnect between the two announcements, suggesting two markedly different trajectories for 2025, seems all the more glaring given that ExxonMobil itself has been an active participant in the IPCC “since its inception in 1988,” as the company wrote in a 2021 report. Exxon’s announcement that it plans to continue to pour billions of dollars into nonetheless expanding fossil fuel production — not just in Guyana but around the world — sends a strong message about the direction the company plans to steer, despite the warnings flowing from the IPCC, with consequences for us all.
» Read article     

» More about fossil fuels

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

recoil
How the Recoil From Russian Gas Is Scrambling World Markets
Europe wants 50 billion cubic meters of additional natural gas, but supplies are tight. Prices will rise and other regions might have to do with less.
By Stanley Reed, New York Times
April 4, 2022

Just months ago, Germany’s plans to build a terminal for receiving shiploads of liquefied natural gas were in disarray. Would-be developers were not convinced customers would make enough use of a facility that can cost billions of dollars. And concerns about climate change undermined the future of a fossil fuel like natural gas.

Perceptions have changed. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Kremlin’s threats to sever fuel supplies, the government in Berlin has decided it needs these massive facilities — as many as four of them — to wean the country off Russian gas and act as a lifeline in case Moscow turns off the taps. The cost to the taxpayer now seems to be a secondary consideration.

Most of the gas that Europe buys from Russia to power its electrical utilities is delivered through pipelines, over land or under the sea. Liquefied natural gas provides another way to move gas great distances when pipelines are not an option. Natural gas is chilled to a liquid and loaded on special tankers. It can then be transported to any port with equipment to turn it back into a gas and pump it into the power grid.

“We are aiming to build L.N.G. terminals in Germany,” Robert Habeck, the country’s economy minister, recently said before talks with potential gas suppliers. Mr. Habeck is a politician from the environmentalist Greens but is finding, somewhat to his dismay, that Germany needs the fossil fuel.

[…] Europe’s scramble raises the prospect of a global battle over supplies in a market that analysts say has little slack. Asia, not Europe, is usually the prime destination for liquefied natural gas. China, Japan and South Korea were the leading buyers last year.

The additional gas that Europe is targeting would add around 10 percent to global demand, creating a tug of war with other countries for fuel. That prospect could mean that gas prices that have touched record levels in recent months will remain high, prolonging misery for consumers and squeezing industry.
» Read article       

» More about LNG

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

microplastic body burden
Microplastics found deep in lungs of living people for first time
Particles discovered in tissue of 11 out of 13 patients undergoing surgery, with polypropylene and PET most common
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
April 6, 2022

Microplastic pollution has been discovered lodged deep in the lungs of living people for the first time. The particles were found in almost all the samples analysed.

The scientists said microplastic pollution was now ubiquitous across the planet, making human exposure unavoidable and meaning “there is an increasing concern regarding the hazards” to health.

Samples were taken from tissue removed from 13 patients undergoing surgery and microplastics were found in 11 cases. The most common particles were polypropylene, used in plastic packaging and pipes, and PET, used in bottles. Two previous studies had found microplastics at similarly high rates in lung tissue taken during autopsies.

People were already known to breathe in the tiny particles, as well as consuming them via food and water. Workers exposed to high levels of microplastics are also known to have developed disease.

Microplastics were detected in human blood for the first time in March, showing the particles can travel around the body and may lodge in organs. The impact on health is as yet unknown. But researchers are concerned as microplastics cause damage to human cells in the laboratory and air pollution particles are already known to enter the body and cause millions of early deaths a year.

“We did not expect to find the highest number of particles in the lower regions of the lungs, or particles of the sizes we found,” said Laura Sadofsky at Hull York medical school in the UK,a senior author of the study. “It is surprising as the airways are smaller in the lower parts of the lungs and we would have expected particles of these sizes to be filtered out or trapped before getting this deep.”
» Blog editor’s note: This article is human-centered, but keep in mind that the negative health effects of microplastics in lungs, other organs, and blood apply equally to every other creature. Aside from the fact that one species has no right to poison every other species, we’re messing with a complex web of life that ultimately sustains us.
» Read article       

» More about plastics, health, and the environment

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


» Learn more about Pipeline projects
» Learn more about other proposed energy infrastructure
» Sign up for the NFGiM Newsletter for events, news and actions you can take
» DONATE to help keep our efforts going!

Weekly News Check-In 3/4/22

banner 13

Welcome back.

The courts have become ground zero for actions that either attack or defend the fossil fuel industry and the polluting economy it supports. We found important stories describing skirmishes from both sides of the fight. On one hand, Honolulu can proceed with a lawsuit that seeks compensation for climate-related damage from the oil majors who lied and concealed the dangers for decades. Sadly, a case before the strongly conservative US Supreme Court could shield the fossil and utility industries from regulation and stymie government efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Cities and towns fighting hard to implement gas hookup bans are meeting stiff resistance from entrenched utilities and a sluggish regulatory apparatus. In Massachusetts, the green economic boost promised by offshore wind development can’t be taken for granted – and the state is looking at adjusting some incentives.

This week, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) dropped a devastating climate assessment, stating clearly that humanity has already crossed into unsafe territory, and laying out the scale of suffering we’re sleepwalking into through lack of effective action. Our second article in this section is a case in point. According to a study by Johns Hopkins University, only 6% of pandemic recovery funds have been spent on “green” projects. At the same time, half that amount went to propping up fossil fuels. In light of the IPCC report, that represents a colossal failure of leadership and political will during a time when “build back better” became a ubiquitous slogan. Looking at you, G20 nations, and cutting you no slack here.

As horrible as it is, Russia’s unprovoked assault on Ukraine and its attempt to use oil and gas to dampen European resistance, seems to have finally afforded some of those leaders a near-term threat that could result in a real, concerted move toward clean energy. Closer to home, we’re waiting to see if this urgency starts affecting decisions and policies that were already underway as the invasion unfolded. That includes a lackluster attempt by Massachusetts’ Baker administration to improve its “stretch” building energy code even as new affordable housing units are showing the way with Passive House performance. And witness the US Post Office’s clueless insistence on committing much of its huge fleet of new delivery vehicles to burning gasoline for decades to come.

Checking in on the power sector, we have a report showing that electric utilities are underestimating the cost of carbon and climate change, which makes renewables and batteries less attractive investments. Similarly, gas utilities are using pretzel logic to rationalize any moves that disrupt their traditional model of pushing fuel through pipelines to flames. It’s no secret that utilities spend lots of money on lobbying efforts to protect their perceived interests. Now fourteen states are asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency to prevent them recouping those costs from ratepayers.

We’ve been watching developments in cryptocurrency because of the astonishing amount of energy “mining” it consumes. While some miners use surplus, or “stranded” renewable energy whenever possible, a new study examining the effect of China’s recent action to expel bitcoin mining concludes the net result is a heavier dependence on fossil-generated power.

We’ll wrap up with the very positive news that delegates to the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) drafted an international agreement on plastics that includes a broad definition of the problem. It would control pollution across the plastics life-cycle, from production to design to disposal. There’s much to be done before this agreement is enforceable, but it’s a big step in the right direction. Underscoring the urgency to reduce plastics usage and waste is a warning that burning plastics in waste-to-energy facilities could be creating new and powerful greenhouse gases.

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

Honolulu flooded street
‘Historic First’ as Hawaii Court OKs Lawsuit Against Big Oil
“This development should send a message to communities across the country that the legal case for making polluters pay for lying about fossil-fueled damages is strong and defensible.”
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
March 3, 2022

Climate campaigners and local officials this week are celebrating a major series of victories in Hawaii state court rejecting Big Oil’s attempts to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the the City and County of Honolulu.

“This is a big and important win,” said Honolulu City Council Chair Tommy Waters in a statement. “Not only in the sense of legal justice, but also for our local residents.”

“We are facing incredible costs to move critical infrastructure away from our coasts and out of flood zones,” he continued, “and the oil companies that deceived the public for decades should be the ones helping pick up the tab for those costs—not our taxpayers.”

Waters declared that “the reason these companies are fighting so hard to block this case is they don’t want even more evidence to come out. This is just like Big Tobacco, when they tried to take advantage of the public.”

Honolulu’s lawsuit—filed in 2020 against oil giants including BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell—claims that despite knowing for decades that their products heat the planet, which “could be catastrophic,” and there was limited time to act, the companies “engaged in a coordinated, multi-front effort” to deny the threats, discredit the science, and deceive the public “about the reality and consequences of the impacts of their fossil fuel pollution.”
» Read article          

Harrison power station
US supreme court signals it may restrict EPA’s ability to fight climate crisis
Roberts suggests states could claim harm from laws not yet enacted
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
February 28, 2022

Several conservative justices on the US supreme court signaled on Monday that they may be willing to restrict the federal government’s ability to address the climate crisis.

In a case that could have profound implications for those affected by the crisis, the supreme court considered an argument brought by West Virginia, a major coal mining state, that the US Environmental Protection Agency be limited in how it regulates planet-heating gases from the energy sector.

The Biden administration wants the court to throw out the case as baseless because it doesn’t relate to any existing regulation.

But John Roberts, the chief justice, said West Virginia and other states could still claim some “harm” from rules not yet enacted.

[…]The case has deeply worried environmental groups, stoking fear it could hobble any effort to set strict limits on carbon pollution from coal-fired plants.

“It was grotesque to hear big coal’s lawyers argue for tying EPA’s hands on cutting climate-heating pollution, even as the world’s scientists warn of a bigger, worsening swath of human suffering,” said Jason Rylander, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, referring to a report released on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“We’re out of time and the president must act boldly now,” Rylander said.

The Biden administration is already dealing with congressional refusal to enact the climate change proposals in its Build Better Back domestic spending plan. Now the justices are taking up an appeal from 19 mostly Republican-led states and coal companies over whether the EPA has the authority to limit carbon dioxide emissions.
» Read article         

» More about protests and actions

GAS BANS

not yet Brookline
Brookline wants a fossil fuel-free future. With latest ruling, the AG says: Not yet (again).
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
February 25, 2022

In a move widely seen as a setback for cities and towns hoping to accelerate their climate efforts, Attorney General Maura Healey on Friday ruled that the Town of Brookline’s efforts to use zoning bylaws to stop fossil fuels in new buildings violated state law.

This is the second time that Healey’s office has ruled against Brookline’s attempts to stop fossil fuels, and the latest stumbling block has climate advocates wondering: If this can’t happen here, in progressive Massachusetts, where a strong climate law is on the books, will it be able to happen at a fast enough pace anywhere to stave off the worst of climate change?

“When you say that local governments aren’t allowed to try these novel but fully lawful approaches to reducing greenhouse gases, you’re not only preventing the local government from responding to the direct needs of their residents but also from perhaps developing a new model for their neighbors to start adopting as well,” said Amy Turner, a senior fellow for the Cities Climate Law Initiative at Columbia University’s Sabin Center.

This years-long effort by Brookline has been watched all over the country, and particularly in Massachusetts, as cities and towns try to step up the pace of climate action on a local level, even as states lag behind.

In Brookline, the decision felt devastating to the town meeting members behind the effort, which had been approved at a Town Meeting in July by a margin of 206 to 6.

“It feels like I’m a child whose parents have gone out of their way not to give me permission to clean my own room,” said Jesse Gray, one of the petitioners behind Brookline’s efforts. “We need to do this to meet the state’s own climate goals, but what they have made abundantly clear is that they are not going to allow any municipality to do this, even though it’s a basic and necessary and urgent climate step.”

The decision from Healey’s office in many ways echoed what the residents of Brookline — and the many other cities and towns hoping to follow in its footsteps — have heard before: that while the office agrees with the principal of what Brookline wants to do, state law won’t allow it.

Noting that her office has “prioritized the state’s transition away from polluting fossil fuels and towards a clean energy future,” Healey said in a statement her hands were tied by state law.

[…]There are now 30 Massachusetts towns that—like Brookline—have said they want to ban fossil fuels. While Friday’s decision represents a setback for them, a few other avenues remain. Currently, Brookline and four other communities (Acton, Arlington, Concord, and Lexington) have home rule petitions being considered by the legislature, which—if passed—would allow the towns to pass fossil fuel bans for new construction.

“When you’re in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging,” said state Representative Tommy Vitolo of Brookline. “We must find other policy mechanisms to prevent us from digging ourselves a climate change hole from which we can’t escape.”
» Read article          

» More about gas bans

GREENING THE ECONOMY

gravity shift
In race for offshore wind jobs, Mass. is falling behind. So now what?
Lawmakers pitch changes to how the state awards wind farm leases in bid to compete with neighbors to the south.
By Jon Chesto, Boston Globe
March 2, 2022

If anyone should be trying to build wind farms off the coast of Massachusetts, it’s Ørsted.

The Danish energy company happens to be the world’s biggest developer of offshore wind farms. Its largest US office is here in Boston. And it controls a big stretch of the sea near Martha’s Vineyard, with high winds and relatively shallow waters that make it an ideal place to put up turbine towers.

But Ørsted and its local development partner Eversource steered clear of competing in the state’s third round of bidding for wind energy contracts last year. So did Equinor, another European energy company with a big lease area south of the Vineyard. Their big reason? A price cap baked into state law that requires each bid to be lower than the winning bids in the previous rounds. It’s a rule designed to keep prices under control for consumers. But it threatens Massachusetts’ early lead in a nascent but quickly growing sector, and the on-shore jobs and factories it could bring.

The stakes seem to get higher almost by the month. The race is on for the wind industry thanks to generous federal tax credits, a pro-wind president in the White House, and states along the East Coast putting contracts out to bid to finance these multibillion-dollar projects. Just last week, wind-farm development teams ponied up more than $4 billion, just for the rights to build in federal waters southeast of New York City. The industry’s center of gravity sure seems to be shifting — away from us.

Many lawmakers on Beacon Hill want to make sure Massachusetts doesn’t fall any further behind.

Toward that end, House Speaker Ron Mariano and Representative Jeff Roy, co-chairman of the Legislature’s energy committee, teed up a pro-wind bill for a floor debate on Thursday. The bill would establish new offshore-wind tax incentives, and rework who gets to pick the winners in these contract competitions. It gives economic development such as factories that create long-term jobs a greater weight in future bids, and allows more input from commercial fishermen concerned about the potential navigation hazards posed by these giant towers.

And, perhaps most notably, the bill would remove that controversial price cap.
» Read article           

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

hot already
IPCC Risk Analysis Shows Safe Limits Have Already Been Passed
By Tim Radford, The Energy Mix
March 2, 2022

Humankind is not just heading for a more dangerous future: for some people, the safe limits have already been passed, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows in its climate impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability report this week.

Global supplies of food became more precarious a few years ago when the planet’s average temperature increased by 1°C: the risk of possible famine however is classed as moderate, the report states. But if the thermometer rises by 2.5°C, the risk to communities, regions, and whole nations becomes high, as harvests fail and flocks perish.

Food is inseparable from water supply. Right now, 800 million people experience chronic water scarcity. But if the temperature notches up to 2°C this figure reaches three billion, at 4°C, around four billion people will be in trouble. And that’s a calculation that factors in only the present population of the globe, and only the effects of climate change.

But of course that calculation does not and cannot incorporate the other hazards that come with a soaring mercury: the advance of tropical diseases; the chance of displaced, impoverished and malnourished people on the move; the arrival of new crop pests; and the risk of conflict fuelled by drought or heat. Not to mention the damage to natural ecosystems on which all human health and wealth ultimately depend as the insects that pollinate human crops, or dispose of waste, are winnowed at ever-higher temperatures.
» Read article         
» Read the IPCC report

SA coal power station
Only 6% of G20 pandemic recovery spending ‘green’, analysis finds
Review of G20 fiscal stimulus spending counters many countries’ pledges to ‘build back better’
By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
March 2, 2022

Only about 6% of pandemic recovery spending has been “green”, an analysis of the $14tn that G20 countries have poured into economic stimulus.

Additionally, about 3% of the record amounts governments around the world have spent to rescue the global economy from the Covid-19 pandemic has been spent on activities that will increase carbon emissions, such as subsidies to coal, and will do little to reduce greenhouse gases or shift the world to a low-carbon footing.

The analysis of the G20 fiscal stimulus spending, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, belies claims many governments made of a “green recovery” that would “build back better” from upheavals caused by the pandemic and lockdowns.

It comes just after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued “the bleakest warning yet” of the ravages of climate breakdown already under way, warning only urgent action to cut emissions could stave off the worst outcomes.

Jonas Nahm, assistant professor in the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in the US and lead author of the study, said governments had missed a vital opportunity, but there were still ways to improve the situation.

“The spending directed towards economic recovery could have significantly improved our chances of staying within 1.5C [of global heating] and we’ve collectively missed that opportunity,” he told the Guardian. “It’s disappointing that governments have yet to fully grasp that economic growth, prosperity and emissions reductions are actually complementary.”
» Read article          

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

coal complication
Ukraine war prompts European reappraisal of its energy supplies
Analysis: Russian invasion could speed up renewables transition – or lead to disastrous return to coal
By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
March 4, 2022

Vladimir Putin is using Russia’s hold over fossil fuel supplies to Europe as “a political and economic weapon” in the war in Ukraine, the world’s foremost energy adviser has said, presenting western governments with crucial questions over how they face down the threat to democracy while also heading off climate disaster.

Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, said: “Nobody is under any illusions any more. Russia’s use of its natural gas resources as an economic and political weapon shows Europe needs to act quickly to be ready to face considerable uncertainty over Russian gas supplies next winter.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted European governments, including the UK’s, to make a frantic reappraisal of their energy supplies – one that arguably should have come much sooner. The first outcome has been a fresh resolve in some countries – including from the UK business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng – to push for more renewable energy generation and energy efficiency to cut dependence on fossil fuels.

Kwarteng’s intervention – “The long-term solution is obvious: gas is more expensive than renewable energy, so we need to move away from gas,” he tweeted – was unexpectedly firm, cheering green campaigners who had feared that rightwing voices in the Tory party who have sought to make scrapping the net zero target a “culture war” issue were in the ascendant.

Doug Parr, the chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, said: “Kwasi Kwarteng has clocked it. Our dependence on gas is a problem, and warmer homes powered by renewables are the cheapest and quickest solution. Kwarteng must convince chancellor Rishi Sunak that we need a masterplan, and the money to get the UK off gas. We need to insulate our homes, roll out heat pumps and renewable power to rapidly address Putin’s grip on European gas markets, our sky-high energy bills, and the climate crisis unfolding before our eyes.”
» Read article          

renewable Europe
This is how we defeat Putin and other petrostate autocrats
After Hitler invaded the Sudetenland, America turned its industrial prowess to building tanks, bombers and destroyers. Now, we must respond with renewables
By Bill McKibben, The Guardian | Opinion
February 25, 2022

The pictures this morning of Russian tanks rolling across the Ukrainian countryside seemed both surreal – a flashback to a Europe that we’ve seen only in newsreels – and inevitable. It’s been clear for years that Vladimir Putin was both evil and driven and that eventually we might come to a moment like this.

One of the worst parts of facing today’s reality is our impotence in its face. Yes, America is imposing sanctions, and yes, that may eventually hamper Putin. But the Russian leader made his move knowing we could not actually fight him in Ukraine – and indeed knowing that his hinted willingness to use nuclear weapons will make it hard to fight him anywhere, though one supposes we will have no choice if he attacks a Nato member.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to dramatically reduce Putin’s power. One way, in particular: to get off oil and gas.

This is not a “war for oil and gas” in the sense that too many of America’s Middle East misadventures might plausibly be described. But it is a war underwritten by oil and gas, a war whose most crucial weapon may be oil and gas, a war we can’t fully engage because we remain dependent on oil and gas. If you want to stand with the brave people of Ukraine, you need to find a way to stand against oil and gas.

Russia has a pathetic economy – you can verify that for yourself by looking around your house and seeing how many of the things you use were made within its borders. Today, 60% of its exports are oil and gas; they supply the money that powers the country’s military machine.

And, alongside that military machine, control of oil and gas supplies is Russia’s main weapon. They have, time and again, threatened to turn off the flow of hydrocarbons to western Europe.
» Read article          

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

State House dome
2 senators say proposed building code comes up short
Urge Baker to allow communities to ban new fossil-fuel infrastructure
By Colin A. Young, CommonWealth Magazine
March 2, 2022

AS THE DEPARTMENT of Energy Resources launches hearings on its straw proposal for a stretch code update and a new municipal opt-in specialized stretch code, two key senators made clear to Commissioner Patrick Woodcock that they expect “substantial revisions” to the proposals before they take effect later this year.

Sens. Michael Barrett and Cynthia Creem, the chairs of the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee and Senate Committee on Global Warming, told Woodcock in a letter released Tuesday that the suite of state code changes the administration hopes will encourage builders to shift from fossil fuel heating in favor of electrification “comes up short” and took issue with the way DOER scheduled the five statutorily required public hearings.

“The straw proposal bars a city or town from mandating all-electric new construction, even after local officials allow for vigorous analysis and debate. For municipalities in Massachusetts and other progressive states, all-electric construction is the favored strategy for decarbonizing new buildings. Barring communities from employing it would be a significant setback,” the senators said. They added, “Bottom line: Despite its unequivocal support of ‘net zero emissions’ by 2050, despite the special challenges of reducing emissions in buildings, and despite having been given a full 18 months by the Legislature to do its work, the Baker administration has proposed a municipal opt-in specialized stretch energy code that comes up short.”

Updating the existing stretch code and creating a new net-zero specialized stretch code for cities and towns to adopt is one step lawmakers required in last year’s climate roadmap law to move Massachusetts towards net-zero emissions by the middle of the century. The law requires the new net-zero code be in place by the end of 2022.
» Read article          

Harbor Village
Incentives inform and inspire highly efficient affordable housing in Massachusetts
Passive house incentive programs from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and Mass Save have sparked the growth of high-performance multifamily buildings, with thousands more units in development.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
March 2, 2022

A pair of statewide incentive programs in Massachusetts is driving a surge of apartment buildings designed to the highly energy-efficient passive house standard.

In the past year, families have moved into 257 affordable housing units in complexes built to the standard, and about 6,000 additional units are now in various stages of development.

Early numbers indicate that this building approach costs, on average, less than 3% more than conventional construction and can slash energy use roughly in half. Air quality is higher in these buildings and residents report the units being more comfortable to live in. Many developers who have tried passive house building have been so pleased with the benefits for residents that they are eager to pursue more projects built to the standard.

“We’re getting closer and closer to the mainstream,” said Aaron Gunderson, executive director of Passive House Massachusetts. “The incentives help people get over that initial hesitancy to change and, once they discover what passive house is, there’s no looking back.”

Passive house is a performance standard that calls for a drastic reduction of energy consumption as compared to a similar, conventionally designed structure. Buildings that meet the standard have airtight envelopes, insulating windows, and continually insulated exterior walls.
» Blog editor’s note: an airtight building envelope sounds suffocating, but these buildings are very well ventilated with fresh air, using efficient energy recovery ventilator (ERV) systems that filter, reduce heat loss, and control humidity.
» Read article          

» More about energy efficiency

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

USPS inertia
The Challenges of an Electric-Vehicle Revolution
The United States Postal Service could lead by example with its new fleet of delivery trucks. What’s standing in the way?
By Ronald Brownstein, The Atlantic
February 18, 2022

Judging by the ads during last weekend’s Super Bowl, electric vehicles are poised to imminently dislodge gasoline-powered cars and trucks from their privileged place on America’s roadways.

An escalating dispute among President Joe Biden’s administration, congressional Democrats, and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy over modernizing the Postal Service’s vehicle fleet shows why the transition may not come quite that quickly. As soon as next week, the Postal Service may place the first order in a multibillion-dollar contract meant to ensure that it relies mostly on gas-powered vehicles until the middle of this century.

The Postal Service’s decision underscores how the transition to an electric-vehicle, or EV, future still faces powerful headwinds from inertia, the lure of the familiar, technological questions about the electric alternatives, and ideological resistance to disconnecting from fossil fuels. Though Democrats still hope to reverse the decision, the struggle with the Postal Service suggests that there are still many bumps ahead on the road to an electrified future for the nation’s cars and trucks.

[…]“All of the companies are struggling with their desire to continue making the gas-guzzling behemoths on which they know how to make money and to avoid having to make the electric vehicles, which they know are the future,” [Dan Becker, the director of the Safe Climate Transport Campaign at the Center for Biological Diversity] said.

The battle over modernizing the Postal Service fleet encapsulates many of these tensions between holding on to the familiar and leaping into the new.
» Read article           

» More about clean transportation        

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

dome
14 states urge FERC to tighten accounting rules to prevent utilities from recouping lobbying expenses
By Ethan Howland, Utility Dive
February 23, 2022

In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, FERC in December issued a “notice of inquiry” (NOI) to see if it should revise its accounting rules related to utility payments of trade association dues.

Under FERC’s accounting rules, association dues are considered “presumptively” recoverable, but the commission doesn’t allow expenses related to lobbying, influencing the public, or political activity to be recovered in rates.

In a first-ever lobbying disclosure report, EEI on Tuesday said its “core” budget for this year is $58.9 million. E9 Insight, a Boulder, Colorado-based consulting firm, estimated utility holding companies spent at least $91.6 million on trade association dues last year.

At a minimum, FERC should require utilities to substantiate their requests for recovery of industry association dues with breakdowns of the trade groups’ activities and clear connections showing how they benefit ratepayers, agencies from nine states said in joint comments.

“Showing that an industry association provides some services that benefit ratepayers should not create a presumption that all dues paid to the industry association are paid for ratepayers’ benefit,” the agencies said. They included the California Public Utilities Commission, the Connecticut attorney general and the Oregon attorney general, among others.

In their comments, the state agencies pointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decision in December to overturn FERC’s finding that Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) could recover about $6 million in expenses related to public relations.

“The disputed funds were paid to public relations contractors who hired ‘reliable power coalitions’ that would recruit individuals to testify before the state PUCs in support of PATH’s applications for necessary certificates; polled public opinion of the project; ran promotional advertisements; and sent lobbyists to persuade state officials that the certificates should be granted,” the state agencies said.
» Read article          

» More about FERC

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

IOUs too slow
Investor-owned utilities underestimate potential costs of carbon, climate change, Deloitte finds
By Emma Penrod, Utility Dive
February 24, 2022

Although most investor-owned utilities have set targets for decarbonization, many have also under-estimated the cost of failing to accelerate their decarbonization efforts, according to a new report from Deloitte.

Based on public filings, utilities anticipate a price of carbon in the range of $3-55 per metric ton by 2030, and $60-120 per metric ton by 2050. However, last March, Wood Mackenzie estimated that the price of carbon could run as high as $160 per metric ton by 2030 if the world is to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

The potential costs to utilities will likely escalate if action is delayed, according to Jim Thomson, vice chair, U.S. power, utilities and renewables leader for Deloitte. Utilities will need to work with regulators to deploy needed adaptations in time, he said.

Utilities in the northeastern U.S. have made the most progress toward decarbonization, while the Midwest and the South currently face the largest gap between current plans and global climate ambitions, according to the report. These two regions also face the greatest potential costs in the event of inaction. Climate change could cost individual Midwestern utilities $2.5 billion annually, while Southern utilities face $3.6 billion in potential annual costs, according to Deloitte.

While many utilities have plans to achieve decarbonization by 2050, moving the target to 2035 could result in considerable savings for utilities by reducing risks associated with carbon taxation, penalties for emissions noncompliance and lost investment opportunities, Thomson said. It would also reduce the probability of extreme weather events, which would further reduce costs—and the savings could be rolled over into additional adaptation and grid hardening efforts, he said.
» Read article          

» More about electric utilities

GAS UTILITIES

build back fossil free
Berkshire Gas sees natural gas as part of its plan to meet state climate goals. Some observers disagree
By Danny Jin, The Berkshire Eagle
February 27, 2022

Asked how it will help meet Massachusetts climate goals, Berkshire Gas said natural gas will remain a key part of its plans.

Consultants contracted by Berkshire Gas and other Massachusetts utilities released a draft report on Feb. 15 detailing possible strategies.

Based on that report and the stakeholder process, Berkshire Gas concluded in a Feb. 15 document that “all scenarios taken together, including qualitative and feasibility considerations, envision an important role for natural gas in the energy transition.”

Observers who have followed the process continue to voice one central concern. While the changes being floated continue to rely on burning gas, they wanted the process, which Attorney General Maura Healey requested in June 2020, to look at how companies could shift to a business model built around electrification.

[…]Berkshire Gas lists its proposals as consumer education, energy efficiency, electrification, low-carbon fuel growth, renewable electricity, hydrogen and renewable natural gas, and developing technologies.

The reliance on “decarbonized” gases, which refer to synthetic natural gas, hydrogen and renewable natural gas, gives the appearance of a dog and pony show to Jane Winn, executive director of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team.

“You can’t call something ‘decarbonized’ that’s still got carbon in it,” Winn said. “It’s as bad as calling it ‘natural’ gas to make it sound good.”

[…]Climate groups have called for utilities to move toward electrification using solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower instead.

Researchers have debated the merits of synthetic natural gas, hydrogen and renewable natural gas. William Moomaw, a former International Panel on Climate Change scientist who now lives in Williamstown, has said he believes that leaning on those gases, which all emit greenhouse gases when burned, delays an inevitable transition.

[…]Rosemary Wessel, director of BEAT’s No Fracked Gas in Mass. program, said she wants [Attorney General] Healey or the Department of Utilities to reject the report and ask the companies to start from scratch.

“They should say, ‘Well, sorry. It didn’t hit the mark. You’re going to have to do it again,’ ” Wessel said.

Critics have argued that allowing the companies to hire and select the consultants gave them inordinate power over a process meant to change the industry.

[…]While the companies plan to file another three-year plan in 2024, Wessel said she believes the companies have delayed changes.

“This could just turn into a perpetual exercise without a lot of results, where every time they’ll look at it again, and it’ll be the same sort of stall tactic that we’re seeing here,” she said. “They really need to develop new business models, and they have failed to do that.”
» Read article         
» Read the draft report         
» Read the Berkshire Gas overview

» More about gas utilities

CRYPTOCURRENCY

bitcoin mining farm
Bitcoin mining is ‘less green than ever’ after leaving China
Miners lost a key source of renewable energy
By Justine Calma, The Verge
February 28, 2022

Bitcoin’s carbon dioxide pollution has gotten even worse since China ousted Bitcoin miners last year, according to a new analysis. It’s likely the result of Bitcoin miners substituting China’s abundant hydropower with coal and gas, experts say.

“We actually see Bitcoin becoming less green than ever before,” says Alex de Vries, lead author of the analysis published last week in the journal Joule. That directly counters continued claims by industry groups that renewable energy would clean up Bitcoin’s operations.

The new report shows that the Bitcoin boom is becoming a bigger problem for the world’s efforts to eliminate fossil fuel pollution. Mining bans, like the one China put in place last year, don’t seem to be very effective in curbing emissions, de Vries points out, because miners can easily find cheap, dirty energy elsewhere.

Bitcoin currently has a carbon footprint comparable to the Czech Republic’s, according to de Vries’ estimate. The cryptocurrency generates so many greenhouse gas emissions, thanks to the super energy-hungry process of mining new coins. Miners essentially race to solve ever-more-complex puzzles in order to verify transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain, receiving new coins as a reward. The hardware they use to solve those puzzles burns through vast amounts of electricity (and also adds to the world’s growing e-waste problem).

China was home to over 70 percent of the world’s Bitcoin mining operations until the country kicked them out in 2021, purportedly in part because of environmental concerns.
» Read article         
» Read the analysis

» More about crypto       

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

road hogs
Latest energy wake-up call: How long must we depend on autocratic petro-states?
By Andreas Karelas, The Hill | Opinion
March 2, 2022

As Americans navigate through politically divisive times, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted a clear area of consensus across the aisle: We need to move past our addiction to foreign oil. The only divergence seems to be how. But the “how” is not rocket science. It’s time to say goodbye to fossil fuels once and for all. Hopefully, this latest threat to global energy supply will inspire us to act, and act swiftly.

Indigenous Environmental Network organizer Dallas Goldtooth tweeted “I know the reasons for the #UkraineCrisis are complicated. But it would be remiss of us to not mention how energy is a factor in this invasion. In some ways the conflict is being driven, literally and figuratively, with hands lathered in oil and gas.”

Given the latest shock to world energy markets due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the world is once again waking up to the realities of dependence on foreign despots for energy. Of course, you don’t have to look back too far to recall similar episodes.

Many have argued the Iraq war was motivated in part to keep Iraqi oil flowing to international markets. Before that, the oil shocks of the 1970s spurred President Carter to call for reduced energy usage and to put solar panels on the White House. But once the gas flowed again and the pressure at the pump eased, President Regan took the solar panels off the roof and called for more business as usual, which decades later has come back to haunt us.

All the presidents since, Republican and Democrat alike, have called for ending our addiction to foreign oil, and while some have tinkered in the margins, none of their policies have ever moved the needle.

The U.S. military alone spends $81 billion a year protecting oil shipping lanes and keeping troops in oil-producing regions. This not-too-often spoken about subsidy for giant fossil fuel companies allows them to continue doing business in, supporting and legitimizing, what are often authoritarian ruled petro-states, not friendly to the U.S. and its allies, through taxpayer dollars and tragically, American lives.
» Read article          

big gas station
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has left a hole in the global energy market
Will countries fill it with more oil and gas, or with renewables?
By Shannon Osaka, Grist
February 28, 2022

On Thursday, as bombs fell on major cities in Ukraine and families sheltered in homes, subway stations, and parking garages, global energy prices spiked. For the first time since 2014, crude oil prices surged to over $100. The cost of European natural gas, which has already been at record highs since last summer, increased by almost 20 percent in a single day.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a shock to a global fossil fuel system that has been on edge for the past year. Russia is the world’s largest natural gas and second-largest oil exporter, and provides 40 percent of Europe’s natural gas supply. (One expert wryly referred to the country as “one big gas station.”) If flows of oil and natural gas from the country are disrupted, the entire world could end up paying more for energy at a time when economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is increasing demand.

There are also questions about whether the war and resulting spike in energy prices will accelerate — or disrupt — the process of shifting to cleaner sources of energy. The conflict and prior energy crunch have exposed the fragility of relying on fossil fuels, especially from foreign powers. But as prices climb, will countries shore up their domestic supplies with fossil fuels or renewables?

In the U.S., some fossil fuel companies and lobbyists are seizing on the crisis to encourage expanded oil and gas production. Last week, the American Petroleum Institute — an oil and gas industry group — urged President Joe Biden to accelerate permitting for fossil fuel infrastructure and allow for more oil and gas development on public lands. “As crisis looms in Ukraine, U.S. energy leadership is more important than ever,” the group tweeted. Republicans in Congress have similarly called on the president to reverse his “war on American energy” and boost fossil fuel production in response to the situation in Ukraine. (While Biden has halted new oil and gas leasing on public lands, he has still allowed substantial drilling during his term.)
» Read article          

over a barrel
US fossil fuel industry leaps on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to argue for more drilling
Petroleum lobby calls for looser regulation and drilling on public lands to ‘ensure energy security’
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
February 26, 2022

The US oil and gas industry is using Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to pressure the Biden administration to throw open more land and ocean for domestic drilling and to loosen regulations for large companies attempting to ramp up their fossil fuel extraction.

Just hours before Russian troops began their unprovoked assault on Ukraine, the American Petroleum Institute (API) posted a string of tweets calling for the White House to “ensure energy security at home and abroad” by allowing more oil and gas drilling on public lands, extend drilling in US waters and slash regulations faced by fossil fuel firms.

API, which represents oil giants including Exxon, Chevron and Shell, has called on Biden to allow an expansion of drilling and to drop regulations that impede new gas pipelines in order to help reduce fuel costs for Americans and support European countries that have seen gas costs spiral due to concerns over supply from Russia, which provides Europe with around a third of its gas.

“At a time of geopolitical strife, America should deploy its ample energy abundance – not restrict it,” said Mike Sommers, the chief executive of API. Sommers added that Biden was “needlessly choking our own plentiful supply” of fossil fuels.

Some leading Republicans have joined the calls. “No administration should defend a Russian pipeline instead of refilling ours,” Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, told her state’s legislature this week. “Every day, I remind the Biden administration of the immense benefits of Alaska production, energy and minerals alike, and every day I remind them that refusing to permit those activities can have harmful consequences.”

Environmental groups were quick to criticize the renewed push for more drilling, accusing proponents of cynically using the deadly Ukrainian crisis to benefit large corporations and worsen the climate crisis.

“Expanding oil and gas production now would do nothing to impact short term prices and would only accelerate the climate crisis, which already poses a major threat to our national security,” said Lena Moffitt, chief of staff at Evergreen Action, a climate group. “We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and stand opposed to actions by leaders of the fossil fuel industry that attempt to profit off of these harrowing atrocities.”
» Read article          

» More about fossil fuel

WASTE INCINERATION

seven six five four
Combustion of plastics could be creating a surge in waste-to-energy plants’ climate emissions
Incineration of plastics containing “forever chemicals” could be generating potent greenhouse gas emissions, but testing methods are not yet in place.
By Marina Schauffler, Energy News Network
February 25, 2022

How much does household waste fuel the climate crisis? Official numbers suggest a small role, but the full contribution is not yet known — even by regulators and scientists.

As New England states work to curb greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and heating, little attention goes to landfills and municipal solid waste, or “waste-to-energy,” incinerators. Combined, those sources typically represent 5% or less of each state’s total emissions, and they get scarce mention in climate action plans.

But growing volumes of plastics in the waste stream complicate incinerator emissions accounting. Less than 9% of plastics are recycled, and global plastic production is expected to double by 2040.

Plastic combustion produces many more byproducts than the three greenhouse gases that most incinerators report annually to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide and methane.

Some chemical compounds in plastics don’t appear to degrade during incineration, while others break down partially and recombine, potentially forming potent and enduring greenhouse gases — compounds that are thousands of times more effective at trapping heat than CO2  and can linger in the atmosphere for millennia.

Scientists do not yet know the scale of the problem, but a growing body of research suggests that even small amounts of these powerful warming agents could have a significant impact.

The Northeast is home to roughly half of the nation’s 75 waste-to-energy  incinerators, most of which were constructed in the 1980s and are now passing their expected 30-year lifespans.

These facilities typically operate around the clock, feeding waste into boilers that generate steam to produce electricity and that release pollutants in the form of gaseous emissions, fly ash, bottom ash and leachate.

Far more waste is burned in the Northeast than the EPA’s national estimate of 12%. Maine, for example, burns 34% of its municipal waste, Massachusetts 71% and Connecticut 80%.
» Read article          

» More about waste incineration

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Juhu beach
For the First Time, Nations Band Together in a Move Toward Ending Plastics Pollution
A United Nations resolution embraces a broad definition of the problem that encompasses the life-cycle of plastics, from production to disposal.
By James Bruggers, Inside Climate News
March 3, 2022

A United Nations gathering in Kenya on Wednesday set the world on track to forge for the first time a legally binding global agreement to curb plastic pollution.

The language in a resolution adopted, to a standing ovation, by delegates to the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) gave environmental advocates much of what they were looking for: a broad definition of the problem to include pollution across the plastics life-cycle, from production to design to disposal.

There are still a lot of contentious details to navigate, including financial and compliance issues that are only hinted at in the resolution. And the petrochemical and plastics industries are expected to fight any efforts by governments to slow down plastics production.

But against the backdrop of what U.N. officials described as a “triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature loss and pollution,” the assembly’s decision marks the beginning of an official process over the next two years to negotiate a treaty aimed at ending global plastics waste. It establishes a formal negotiating committee that will begin meeting later this year, focused on plastics pollution in marine and other environments, including the tiny bits of plastics debris known as microplastics.

“We are making history today and you should all be proud,” Espen Barth Eide, the assembly’s president and Norway’s Minister for Climate and the Environment, said after declaring the adoption of the resolution without any dissent.

Moments later, Monica P. Medina of the State Department, the U.S. representative at the assembly, fought back tears as she spoke to the gathered delegates.

“It’s the beginning of the end of the scourge of plastics pollution on the planet,” Medina said. “We will look back on this as a day for our children and grandchildren.”
» Read article         
» Read the draft resolution         

» More about plastics in the environment

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


» Learn more about Pipeline projects
» Learn more about other proposed energy infrastructure
» Sign up for the NFGiM Newsletter for events, news and actions you can take
» DONATE to help keep our efforts going!

Weekly News Check-In 8/13/21

banner 01

Welcome back.

The municipal power commission seeking to build an already-outdated fossil peaking power plant in Peabody, MA received approval from the Department of Public Utilities to obtain bond funding for the project. By granting approval the MA-DPU ignores the International Energy Agency’s warning against building new gas infrastructure, the emissions reductions requirements of Massachusetts’ own climate roadmap law, and Monday’s hair-on-fire climate report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This bombshell report makes crystal clear that we’ve already waited too long to bring down emissions – and that our very narrow window to salvage a recognizable future is closing fast. The peaker plant’s opponents – environmental, climate, and public health stewards, along with community leaders – are digging in for a fight.

We felt it too – this week’s relentless news of our climate on the brink, floods and fires, suffering and destruction – left us feeling pretty thoroughly pummeled.  Fortunately our friend Danny Jin wrote a piece for The Berkshire Eagle, helping to put each of our individual protests and actions into perspective. While none of us can solve this mess on our own, we can act collectively in ways that truly matter. Thank you Danny, and thanks to all you folks who help us amplify your voices and efforts.

On a hopeful note, Federal legislation in the form of a $3.5Tn “soft” infrastructure bill is moving ahead. If it survives reasonably intact and becomes law, it will put the US on a footing to begin to finally address climate and environmental issues – and signal to the world that time for delay is over. One practical effect at home would be the creation of a vibrant, green economy with a new Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) providing employment for millions of Americans to plant urban trees, manage forests, and make homes more energy efficient and resilient.

Clean energy reporting indicates a need for solar and wind power to quadruple their rate of deployment this decade. California is doing its part by backing a mandate requiring solar panels and battery storage on many new commercial and high-rise multifamily buildings.

Another milestone was met for clean transportation when Factorial Energy’s solid state EV battery cell showed good results in energy density, charging speed, charge-discharge cycles, safety, and cost. Also, a pilot program in Kansas City is installing EV charging stations curbside on city street lights, hoping to make EVs practical for street-parking apartment dwellers.

Meanwhile, on the fossil side of news, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission finds itself having to take another look at the Spire STL pipeline in St. Louis to justify whether its construction was actually necessary. This DC Circuit Court case may influence FERC’s approach to future pipeline approvals. And new reporting shows how subsidies to the fossil fuel industry create a can’t-lose situation for polluters.

Now that Massachusetts law bars biomass generating plants from operating near environmental justice communities, the few remaining places that could legally host one of these facilities find the prospect distinctly unappealing. It’s time for complete removal of this dirty energy from the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.

We’ll close with a fish story – about one particular individual who was caught in Lake Ontario six years ago and found to have 915 individual man-made particles, including microplastics, synthetic materials containing flame retardants or plasticizers, dyed cellulose fibers, and more—in its body.

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

— The NFGiM Team

PEAKING POWER PLANTS

decommish 20MWPeabody power plant gets green light
Department of Public Utilities OKs bonds up to $170M
By Erin Nolan, The Salem News
August 12, 2021

PEABODY — Plans to build a 55-megawatt “peaker” power plant in the city are forging ahead.

According to a decision filed by the Department of Public Utilities Aug. 12, the department approved a request from the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company (MMWEC) for up to $170 million in bonds to fund the construction of the plant.

But according to a press release from the Massachusetts Climate Action Network, these changes aren’t enough to justify a new fossil fuel-burning plant in a community already burdened by air pollution from two existing peaker plants.

“We are deeply disappointed by the outcome of this proceeding,” said Sarah Dooling, Executive Director of MCAN in the release. “DPU’s approval brings MMWEC one step closer to building a power plant that will contribute to local pollution and harm local community members, while highlighting — yet again — how broken DPU processes are. The DPU is meant to serve the people of the Commonwealth by considering safety, security, reliability of service, affordability, equity, and greenhouse gas emission reductions in their decision making. In approving these bonds without requiring further evaluation of the project, DPU has abandoned their mission to promote equity and emissions reductions. MCAN will continue to push for the Baker Administration to do their job and protect vulnerable communities by demanding that the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs re-open the MEPA process for this project and require MMWEC to conduct an environmental impact review.”

Mireille Bejjani, a Massachusetts Community Organizer for the nonprofit Community Action Works, called the DPU’s decision “insulting to Peabody residents who are concerned for their health and our climate.”

In the press release, Bejjani also noted that the decision comes only days after the United Nations released a report which warns that the world will continue to see climate change-induced disasters for years to come.
» Read article             

» More about peaker plants          

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Old Parana RiverDown about climate change? Here are four ways local organizers say you can do something about it
By Danny Jin, The Berkshire Eagle
August 9, 2021

A Monday report from U.N. scientists forecasts a bleak future for the planet if people continue burning coal, oil and gas.

“This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

Scrolling through such gloomy projections can lead to a sense of “climate despair,” a condition of feeling helpless against impending doom.

But, people are not powerless. An individual in Berkshire County cannot singlehandedly stop climate change, an effort that will require action from governments across the world. But, local organizers say, there are actions that everyday people can take to shake off defeatism and hold those in power accountable.
» Read article             

» More about protests and actions         

LEGISLATION

time up
UN climate report raises pressure on Biden to seize a rare moment
The US president may have only one chance to pass legislation to confront the crisis: ‘We can’t wait’
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
August 10, 2021

A stark UN report on how humanity has caused unprecedented, and in some cases “irreversible”, changes to the world’s climate has heaped further pressure on Joe Biden to deliver upon what may be his sole chance to pass significant legislation to confront the climate crisis and break a decade of American political inertia.

The US president said the release on Monday of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report showed that “we can’t wait to tackle the climate crisis. The signs are unmistakable. The science is undeniable. And the cost of inaction keeps mounting.”

The IPCC report, developed over the past eight years by scientists who combed over more than 14,000 studies, shows that the US, like the rest of the world, is running out of time to avoid disastrous climate impacts, with a critical global heating threshold of 1.5C to be breached far earlier than previously expected, potentially within a decade.

“This is not a future problem, it’s a problem now. I’m literally seeing climate change out of my window, climate change is in my lungs,” said Linda Mearns, an IPCC report co-author located in Boulder, Colorado, which has been baked in extreme heat and wildfire smoke in recent weeks.

Mearns, who has been involved in IPCC reports since 1990, said the latest iteration was “very thorough and disturbing” and demanded a strong response. “I’m not sure what will be required for people to get it, but my hope is that it will galvanize everyone in Glasgow to meet their agreements,” she added in reference to UN climate talks between world leaders in October.

Much of that global action will hinge upon the response mustered by the US, the world’s second-largest carbon emitter. Biden’s narrow window of opportunity to drastically cut emissions is dependent upon the contents of a $3.5tn bill that Democrats hope to pass before midterm elections next year, when the party may well lose control of Congress.

“Congress didn’t pass a climate bill in 2009 and it’s taken over a decade to get us back to serious climate legislation,” said Leah Stokes, a climate policy expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “This summer is the best chance we have ever had to pass a big climate bill. This is it. President Biden is poised to become the climate president we need. But there are no more decades left to waste.”
» Read article             
» Read about Obama’s 2009 attempt to pass climate legislation                

» More about legislation                 

GREENING THE ECONOMY

CCC support
Reconciliation could create a new kind of climate job
Energy and resiliency projects need more boots on the ground
By Justine Calma, The Verge
August 4, 2021

If Democrats and progressives have their way, tens of thousands — or even millions — of Americans could soon find work planting urban trees, managing forests, and making homes more energy efficient and resilient to the ravages of climate change. They’d form a new “Civilian Climate Corps” that lawmakers and activists are hoping to fund through the budget reconciliation process.

For more than a decade, different proposals have floated around for a new civilian mobilization focused on climate adaption. Recently, the idea has picked up significant momentum. The most ambitious proposal yet was introduced by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in April. Joe Biden proposed a more pared down Civilian Climate Corps as part of his American Jobs Plan in March, drawing on a range of previous proposals. Most recently, lawmakers have pushed for some form of the corps to be included in upcoming budget reconciliation negotiations, sending a joint letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in July.

The proposals differ in size and scope, but each would put people to work on federally funded projects that can minimize the toll climate change takes on the US. That might mean installing solar panels in Philadelphia, tending to sustainable urban farms in New York City, or building new career pathways for former coal communities in Appalachia. The Climate Corps would be overseen by a new body within the White House, and would also bolster the work of federal agencies like FEMA that already partner with other corps programs. And as the government establishes a new funding stream, the hope is that communities will find new projects and ways to adapt.
» Read article             
» Read the letter to House and Senate leadership             

KS and client
‘A literal return to the earth’: is human composting the greenest burial?
California may legalize human composting, a process in which the body breaks down into soil over the course of about 30 days
By Dani Anguiano, The Guardian
August 12, 2021

Is there a greener way to honor those who have died?

Humans have caused unprecedented and irreversible changes to the climate in our time on Earth – pollution that continues even in death. But, across the US, some are posing an alternative: human composting.

Traditional after-death options such as burial and cremation can be tough on the environment, either by taking up land and emitting chemicals into the ground or by using fossil fuels and gas.

That’s why California lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow for human composting, or the natural organic reduction of human remains to soil.

It’s not the first state to do so. Washington state legalized natural organic reduction in 2020, allowing the human soil to be used in a forest as well as given to families.

Colorado has enacted similar legislation – restricting the soil from being used to grow crops that people will eat – as has Oregon. Delaware, Hawaii and Vermont are considering natural organic reduction bills.

Recompose, a Seattle-based company, was the first company in the US to get into the human composting business.

“The natural organic reduction allows a literal return to the earth,” said Anna Swenson, an outreach manager with Recompose. “Some people like the idea of being in a forest when they die. That’s what I’ve chosen for myself.”

The process saves about a metric ton of CO2 per person, according to Recompose, either by preventing it from entering the atmosphere or removing it, sequestering some carbon in the soil. That’s the equivalent of about 40 propane tanks, Swenson said. “You can picture a backyard of 40 propane tanks and for every person that adds up,” she said.

Cremation relies on fossil fuels, and ​​emits millions of tons of carbon dioxide each year, while the burial of embalmed bodies can cause chemicals to seep into the earth. “As a body degrades the soil becomes contaminated, and material can leach into the groundwater,” said Francis Murray, an associate professor of environmental science at Murdoch University, to Vice.

Recompose has worked with 60 families in Washington and has been at capacity since it opened in December.
» Read article              

» More about greening the economy               

CLIMATE

Elvia Island on fire
Major climate changes inevitable and irreversible – IPCC’s starkest warning yet
Report warns temperatures likely to rise by more than 1.5C bringing widespread extreme weather
By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
August 9, 2021

Human activity is changing the Earth’s climate in ways “unprecedented” in thousands or hundreds of thousands of years, with some of the changes now inevitable and “irreversible”, climate scientists have warned.

Within the next two decades, temperatures are likely to rise by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, breaching the ambition of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, and bringing widespread devastation and extreme weather.

Only rapid and drastic reductions in greenhouse gases in this decade can prevent such climate breakdown, with every fraction of a degree of further heating likely to compound the accelerating effects, according to the International Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading authority on climate science.

The comprehensive assessment of climate science published on Monday, the sixth such report from the IPCC since 1988, has been eight years in the making, marshalling the work of hundreds of experts and peer-review studies. It represents the world’s full knowledge to date of the physical basis of climate change, and found that human activity was “unequivocally” the cause of rapid changes to the climate, including sea level rises, melting polar ice and glaciers, heatwaves, floods and droughts.

World leaders said the stark findings must force new policy measures as a matter of urgency, to shift the global economy to a low-carbon footing. Governments from 197 countries will meet this November in Glasgow for vital UN climate talks, called Cop26.
» Read article             
» Read the IPCC report       

no B plan
Global Climate Panel’s Report: No Part of the Planet Will be Spared
A new IPCC science assessment, coming before COP26 in November, called for immediate action and showed that this summer’s extremes are only a mild preview of the decades ahead.
By Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News
August 9, 2021

Amidst a summer of fires, floods and heat waves, scientists on Monday delivered yet another reminder that burning more fossil fuels in the decades ahead will rapidly intensify the impacts of global warming. Only pulling the emergency brake right now on greenhouse gas emissions can stop the planet from heating to a dangerous level by the end of the century, the scientists’ report concluded.  

The report, Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis, is the first installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which will be completed in 2022. It was approved Aug. 6 by 195 member governments of the IPCC.

The report, by the panel’s Working Group I, assesses the physical science of climate change. It found that global warming is worsening deadly extremes like droughts and tropical storms and that every part of the planet is affected.
» Read article                        

please panicScientists Warn That the Earth Is Literally Dying
“Policies to combat the climate crisis or any other symptoms should address their root cause: human overexploitation of the planet.”
By Dan Robitzski, Futurism
July 28, 2021

A team of scientists just took the planet’s vitals and delivered a grim prognosis: the damage that humanity is causing may be terminal.

In other words, the planet is in really, really bad shape — out of the 31 metrics of ecological health that a team of prominent scientists from a long list of universities around the world looked at, 18 are facing all-time poor results, they told Agence France-Presse. The researchers behind the update are among the 14,000 experts who have now signed a statement saying the planet is in a state of emergency. Thanks to a “business as usual” approach to managing our pale blue dot, they conclude in a report slated for publication in the journal BioScience, we as a global society are approaching many environmental tipping points — and have already blown past several others.

Atmospheric methane and carbon dioxide levels are at a record high. Arctic ice and glaciers are at an all-time low. Sea levels and oceanic temperatures are at their highest, as is the rate of deforestation in the Amazon.

The list of standout ecological horrors continues — and University of Exeter Global Systems Institute director Tim Lenton warned AFP that the damage is already making the climate “behave in shocking, unexpected ways.”

The problem, the experts say, is that focusing too much on any single issue might become a wild goose chase. They say that the overall problem, more than any single factor or hazard, is humanity’s winner-take-all approach to planetary stewardship.

“We need to stop treating the climate emergency as a stand-alone issue — global heating is not the sole symptom of our stressed Earth system,” Oregon State University ecologist William Ripple told AFP. “Policies to combat the climate crisis or any other symptoms should address their root cause: human overexploitation of the planet.”
» Read article                       
» Read the climate emergency statement          

» More about climate                       

CLEAN ENERGY

quadruple time
Solar and wind should quadruple this decade in response to ‘code red’ IPCC climate warning
By Jules Scully, PV Tech
August 9, 2021

A landmark new climate report from the United Nations “must sound a death knell” for coal and fossil fuels, according to secretary-general António Guterres, who is calling for a rapid increase in solar capacity and renewable energy investment.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, published today, finds that unless immediate and large-scale action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, limiting global warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.

The research says greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are responsible for approximately 1.1°C of warming since 1850-1900, and warns that averaged over the next 20 years, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C of warming.

Describing the report as a “code red for humanity”, Guterres called for immediate action on energy and urged governments to end all new fossil fuel exploration and production, and shift fossil fuel subsidies into renewable energy. 

“By 2030, solar and wind capacity should quadruple, and renewable energy investments should triple to maintain a net zero trajectory by mid-century,” he said.
» Read article                       

» More about clean energy                         

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Van Nuys Airport
California Panel Backs Solar Mandate for New Buildings
The state’s Energy Commission voted to require commercial and high-rise multifamily projects to have solar power and battery storage.
By Ivan Penn, New York Times
August 11, 2021

LOS ANGELES — California regulators voted Wednesday to require builders to include solar power and battery storage in many new commercial structures as well as high-rise residential projects, the latest initiative in the state’s vigorous efforts to hasten a transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources.

The five-member California Energy Commission approved the proposal unanimously. It will now be taken up by the state’s Building Standards Commission, which is expected to include it in an overall revision of the building code in December.

The energy plan, which would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, also includes incentives to eliminate natural gas from new buildings and to make it easier to add batteries to existing solar systems in single-family homes.

“The future we’re trying to build together is a future beyond fossil fuels,” David Hochschild, the chair of the Energy Commission, said ahead of the agency’s vote. “Big changes require everyone to play a role. We all have a role in building this future.”

The commercial buildings affected by the plan include hotels, offices, medical offices and clinics, retail and grocery stores, restaurants, schools, and civic spaces like theaters, auditoriums and convention centers.

The provisions would supplement requirements that took effect last year mandating that new single-family homes and multifamily dwellings up to three stories high include solar power.
» Read article                       

» More about energy efficiency              

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

FactorialCapacity Retention Milestone Achieved for 40-Ah Solid-State EV Battery
In a major breakthrough, Factorial Energy reached a capacity retention rate of 97.3% after 675 cycles for a 40-Ah cell at 25°C.
By Murray Slovick, Electronic Design
August 10, 2021

For electric vehicles (EVs) to capture more than just 4% of global car sales, buyers need to see dramatic price and performance improvements in the underlying battery systems. Liquid electrolytes perform effectively over a wide temperature range (from below 0°C to about 100°C). But they pose disadvantages: high flammability, capacity loss, electrolytic decomposition at high voltages limiting the use of high-voltage cathode materials, thermal runaway, and risk of leakage. 

Solid-state batteries don’t exhibit these drawbacks, allowing for higher operating temperatures due to better thermal stability. Thus, they’ve become an emerging option for next-generation EV traction batteries. Compared to EVs using conventional lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, those installed with solid-state batteries are expected to have a significantly higher range due to the high battery density.

Factorial Energy, headquartered in Woburn, Mass., announced capacity retention testing results of the company’s 40 amp-hour (Ah) solid-state cell technology. The company’s initial round of cell cycle behavior testing at 25°C demonstrated a 97.3% capacity retention rate after 675 cycles. These numbers are important because solid-state electrolytes are generally slow at transporting lithium ions—ionic diffusion in a solid tends to be orders of magnitude slower than ionic diffusion in a liquid. Therefore, batteries that cycle with adequate rate capability are hard to build.

A battery is judged on five metrics: how much energy it packs, how fast it charges, how many charge-discharge cycles it lasts, how safe it is, and how much it costs. Factorial says its solid-state battery technology can improve energy density, safety, charging rates, and costs over existing batteries.
» Read article                    

streetlight charging
Could streetlight-based charging help apartment dwellers go electric?
By Stephen Edelstein, Green Car Reports
August 6, 2021

The Kansas City Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC) will install streetlight-based EV charging stations under a pilot program evaluating curbside charging.

First spotted by photovoltaics industry trade journal PV Magazine, the program calls for installation of 240-volt Level 2 charging stations integrated with streetlight poles at locations throughout the Missouri city.

The program began its design phase in 2018, then ran through a feasibility analysis, which ended in 2020. The MEC is now conducting community outreach and beginning charging-station installations, which are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Charging at these stations will cost the same $0.22 per kilowatt-hour as at existing Kansas City public charging stations, according to an information page on the MEC’s website. Usage data will be recorded and analyzed to help inform future charging-infrastructure planning, according to the MEC.

Streetlight-based charging stations could help address the lack of charging options in urban areas. Most EV owners charge their cars at home, but that isn’t an option for apartment dwellers, who may not even have a driveway for garage space to park their cars.
» Read article                      

» More about clean transportation                

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

manufactured shortageFERC requests more evidence of reliability impacts as Spire STL pipeline seeks temporary approval
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
August 10, 2021

The Spire case has the potential to mark a significant shift in how FERC views the need for new gas infrastructure, according to some environmentalists. In its ruling vacating FERC’s 2018 approval of the pipeline, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals found that FERC ignored “plausible evidence of self-dealing” in its assessment of the project.

For the pipeline to continue operating, it will need to secure a temporary certificate of public convenience and necessity from FERC, something the company says is necessary to maintain reliable service to the project’s 650,000 customers. 

FERC, in its response to the request, asked the company to provide more detail on whether the company could meet service requirements without the pipeline, and to back up more thoroughly its claims that the pipeline provided essential reliability services during the February cold snap that led to widespread outages across the Midwest and Texas. Spire, in its comments, had claimed that not allowing the pipeline to remain in service could place “lives at risk.”

In comments supporting the company’s bid, Missouri officials, businesses and labor groups agreed that shutting down the pipeline could harm reliability of the local grid.

But EDF, in comments filed Thursday, argued the company’s application “is fraught with inaccuracies, lacking in key information, and should be scrutinized carefully by the Commission and rejected in part.”

Any emergency that may exist if the pipeline is shut down is a problem of Spire’s “own making,” given the pipeline was put into operation in the midst of legal challenges, according to EDF, and therefore the company should not be able to reap any financial benefits if the pipeline does secure temporary authorization.

Before the pipeline was placed into service, the region had adequate gas capacity, EDF argued, but the company took other assets out of service once the pipeline was approved by FERC, leaving the region more reliant on the pipeline. EDF urged Spire to disclose why those facilities were taken offline and whether they can be brought back into service.
» Read article             

» More about FERC          

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Lufkin
Follow the money: US subsidizes oil and gas so investors never lose
Finally, we have the numbers and they’re not pretty, detailing how it doesn’t matter what price fuel is.
By María Paula Rubiano A., Grist
August 9, 2021

It’s not a secret that subsidies for fossil fuels get in the way of decarbonization. Nations from the G20 group —including the U.S. — have pledged to phase out inefficient tax breaks for the fossil fuels industry. 

And yet, every year, the U.S. federal and state governments pour around $20.5 billion in subsidies into the oil and gas industry. But there are few concrete numbers that quantify the impact of these subsidies in the nation’s efforts to meet its climate goals. So Ploy Achakulwisut, a climate policy researcher at the Stockholm Environmental Institute, embarked on a project to put a tag on it.

Her team found that, as Achakulwisut puts it, “these [subsidies] are either bad or bad.” 

Her research, published in Environmental Research Letters, puts a number on the effects that 16 tax breaks and exemptions will have on 1,000 new U.S. oil and gas production fields projected to be built before 2030. The paper shows that if fossil fuel prices stay high, most of the subsidies — 96 percent in oil, 87 in gas— will go directly to the pockets of investors as profit. And if prices go down, these subsidies will help 60 percent and 74 percent of new oil and gas fields to remain profitable. The authors estimate that by helping the industry stay profitable in either scenario, these subsidies could add 150 million tons of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere in 2030. 

“We have to reduce emissions, but we also have to stop doing things that increase emissions; these things go hand in hand,” said Daniel Bresette, director of the non-profit Environmental and Energy Study Institute, and who wasn’t involved in the study. “This report helps demonstrate how what we’re doing now is exacerbating the [high-emissions] situation that we’re in right now.”
» Read article                    

PA crackdown support
New Poll Shows Pennsylvania Voters Want a ‘Crackdown’ on Fracking
As the promised benefits of fracking fail to materialize and the environmental costs mount, Pennsylvania voters of all demographics favor more regulation.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
August 5, 2021

Pennsylvania voters have become increasingly disillusioned with the fracking industry, with weak and declining support across all demographics, according to a new poll. By wide margins, voters in the Keystone State want “a serious crackdown on fracking operations.”

The poll, conducted by Data for Progress for the Ohio River Valley Institute (ORVI), an Appalachian-focused think tank, shows that large majorities of voters in Pennsylvania — including from large swathes of Republicans — are concerned about pollution from fracking, oppose subsidies to the industry, and support a range of new regulations.

The declining support for fracking is “an extension of trends that have been underway for some time,” Eric de Place, a research fellow at ORVI, told DeSmog. “Men, women, age groups, Republicans, Democrats, Independents … there is not a demographic that doesn’t support a crackdown on fracking,” he said.

On a long list of additional questions, large majorities favored more restrictions, more oversight, and less state support for the natural gas industry, which for years has enjoyed political backing at multiple levels despite signs of waning approval from Pennsylvania residents.

For example, by a 74 to 14 percent margin, respondents favored greater setback distances for fracking operations from homes, schools, hospitals, and other buildings. By a 79 to 9 percent margin, respondents favored mandatory disclosure of chemicals used in drilling, and the same margin supported a comprehensive health response from the state to address the effects of living near drilling sites.

Currently, Pennsylvania exempts fracking fluids from being classified as hazardous waste, a designation that would change how and where fracking waste is handled. Yet 69 percent of those polled support classifying fracking fluids in this way, compared to 21 percent that do not.
» Read article                       

» More about fossil fuels                      

BIOMASS

leaky shield
State wants to expose 5 South Shore towns to wood-burning power plants
The large-scale plants that would be eligible for state incentives under the newest proposed regulations burn 1,200 tons of wood per day.
By Wheeler Cowperthwaite, The Patriot Ledger
August 5, 2021

State-subsidized wood-burning power plants would be allowed in five South Shore towns if proposed state regulations are adopted. 

Cohasset, Scituate, Marshfield, Duxbury and Kingston are among 35 Massachusetts communities that could be affected by the plan.

 A new map proposed by the state Department of Energy Resources would protect the other 90 percent of the state’s 351 communities from state-subsidized “biomass” power plants, which critics say can cause pollution.

State Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth, and six other legislators sent a letter to state officials asking the Department of Energy Resources to stop considering wood-burning power plants as clean energy sources eligible for state subsidies.

“I honestly think the administration is trying to get out of incentivizing these power plants, but the way they did it left 35 communities vulnerable,” O’Connor said in a telephone interview.

The map would create a 5-mile buffer around environmental justice communities, preventing biomass projects in those areas from qualifying for the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard incentive program.

The map would leave stretches of land along the coastline in Cohasset, Scituate, Marshfield and Duxbury, as well as a sliver of Kingston, eligible for a state-subsidized wood-burning power plant. Communities in Western Massachusetts and half of Truro also would be eligible.

O’Connor said the broad definition of what makes an environmental justice community is a good thing, but leaving a few slivers in the state open to such projects defeats the purpose.
» Read article                       
» Read the letter to DOER              

» More about biomass                 

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

anglers
Record Levels of Harmful Particles Found in Great Lakes Fish
By Andrew Blok, Environmental Health News, in EcoWatch
August 12, 2021

A record-setting fish was pulled from Hamilton Harbor at the western tip of Lake Ontario in 2015 and the world is learning about it just now.

The fish, a brown bullhead, contained 915 particles—a mix of microplastics, synthetic materials containing flame retardants or plasticizers, dyed cellulose fibers, and more—in its body. It was the most particles ever recorded in a fish.

“In 2015 we knew a lot less about microplastics and contamination in fish. I was expecting to see no particles in most fish,” Keenan Munno, then a graduate student at the University of Toronto, told EHN. Every sampled fish had ingested some particles. Munno’s 2015 master’s work has spun out into six years’ worth of research, including the new Conservation Biology paper that reports these findings.

The findings point to the ubiquity of microplastics and other harmful human-made particles in the Great Lakes and the extreme exposure some fish experience—especially those living in urban-adjacent waters. While direct links between microplastics and fish and human health are still an issue of emerging science, finding plastics within fish at such high amounts is concerning.
» Read article                      
» Read the Conservation Biology paper          

» More about plastics in the environment         

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


» Learn more about Pipeline projects
» Learn more about other proposed energy infrastructure
» Sign up for the NFGiM Newsletter for events, news and actions you can take
» DONATE to help keep our efforts going!