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Weekly News Check-In 4/15/22

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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

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Weekly News Check-In 9/10/21

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Welcome back.

With Labor Day behind us, data confirm that we just experienced the hottest Summer on record. Our event calendar – extending well into the Fall – includes deadly heat waves, wildfires, floods, and hurricanes. We were warned, beginning decades ago and repeatedly with increasing urgency. But we’re still locking in a hotter, more dangerous future.

With that in mind, we’re leading this week with profiles of individuals and groups whose hard work, sacrifice, protests, and actions have given us a shot at turning this around. These activists have also inspired others – and that is a foundation for hope.

The outcome is far from certain. Important climate legislation hangs in precarious partisan balance, while the shape of the future green economy is contested between established workers and a new generation with their own fresh ideas. Imagine being Jimmy Carter, who as president steered the country through a second major oil supply crisis in the ’70s and set the U.S. on an ambitious pivot toward renewable energy – only to see momentum lost to climate denial, Big Oil, Reagan, and the rest.

President Biden’s ambitious new program to generate 45% of the nation’s energy from solar by 2050 is a nod to Carter’s vision. Meanwhile, the question of where to locate all those solar panels is generating lots of debate and considerable innovation. The other half of that equation requires buildings to greatly increase energyefficiency. Long-duration energy storage ensures that energy is available whenever it’s needed, and to that end a Minnesota electricity cooperative is testing promising new iron-air battery technology. Then there’s aviation, which may be the hardest sector to clean up. We found a guide to six big problems to solve on the way to friendly skies.

As we glean energy from the sun and wind, store it away to use when necessary, and upgrade our buildings from energy guzzlers to sippers, it’s worth considering whether there’s room in that world for cryptocurrency. Another puzzler: will just-nominated Willie Phillips bring what’s needed to reform the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or are his industry ties too deep?

It’s time to pay attention to carbon capture and sequestration. We’ve delayed meaningful climate action for so long that scientists agree a certain amount of active CO2 removal from the atmosphere will be required to mitigate global heating effects. A direct air capture system operating in Iceland is one example of how this might work. We also have an excellent podcast and investigative report on how Big Oil and Gas is promoting their own version of this technology to justify continuing business as usual, which stacks up as a Very Bad Idea. CO2 pipelines? Yikes!

Meanwhile, another major study confirms that the majority of fossil fuel industry reserves must stay in the ground if we’re to meet the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement. So of course, the industry’s response is an all-out lobbying blitz aimed at preserving subsidies to keep them drilling, pumping, and burning on the taxpayer’s dime.

We thought we had pretty much covered all the ways biomass harms people, climate, and the environment – deforestation to acquire the fuel and high emissions when it’s burned. But a just-published article in The Guardian warns of health hazards in the middle phase. Workers at biomass plants are getting sick from exposure to wood pellet dust.

We’ll close with an overview of plastics in the environment – how they get there, and how they’re related to fossil fuels. And some good news, too! Common sense is fighting back against those insidious, useless, recycling triangles. California is on track to be the first state to ban them except on materials that actually get… recycled. Other states should be following soon.

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

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Lynn Nadeau
What Makes For An Activist?
By Judith Black, Clean Power Coalition
Photos by Jerry Halberstadt
September 9, 2021

Some people are so self involved that they don’t notice the world around them, except in the ways it touches them.

Some people see a problem, shrug their shoulders and say ‘That is too big! I can’t do anything about it.”

Lynn Nadeau looks at a problem, rubs her hands together, rolls up her sleeves, and says “Let’s get to it, now!”

When one of her best friends died at a relatively young age from breast cancer, she did not simply attend the funeral, make a donation to the American Cancer Society and go back to teaching math at an area high school. Along with Jane Bright, Lori Ehrlich (now state representative to the legislature for Marblehead, Swampscott, and Lynn), and a few others, she dug into what might have caused a healthy woman to contract a deadly cancer.  Data showed a high rate of cancer in the area of  a coal burning power plant across a small harbor, just upwind of them in Salem MA.

That is when this teacher, mother, and Democrat declared her intention to “clean that plant.” She held meetings in her living room, and HealthLink was born as a nonprofit entity with a mission to “protect public health by reducing and eliminating environmental toxins through education, research and community action.”  Confronting the plant owners, the town, and state protection agencies, she set out to stop the toxic emissions from that plant.  They marched, went to Washington, protested, informed, and eventually 15 years after their campaign began, the Salem Power Plant was closed and sold, the coal burning stopped.  Lead, fly ash, mercury and more from their uncovered waste piles no longer flew across the harbor into local air, water, land, porches, cars and boats which had been covered with soot.

This would be her first venture into environmental activism, but hardly her last.  Lynn quoted Archimedes “Give me a place to stand and a lever, and I will move the world.”
» Read article                

walk for water
Indigenous Resistance Instrumental in Stopping High-Profile Fossil Fuel Projects, Says Report
Indigenous peoples in North America have helped block tar sands mines, oil pipelines, and LNG export terminals. Their successes against the fossil fuel industry have kept enormous volumes of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
September 8, 2021

The efforts of Indigenous peoples in North America have helped block or delay a long list of major fossil fuel projects over the past decade, successfully leading to the avoidance of a massive amount of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report.

“The numbers don’t lie. Indigenous peoples have long led the fight to protect Mother Earth and the only way forward is to center Indigenous knowledge and keep fossil fuels in the ground,” Dallas Goldtooth, a Keep It In The Ground organizer for Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), said in a statement. The report was coauthored by IEN and Oil Change International, a research and advocacy organization focused on transitioning away from fossil fuels.

Indigenous resistance has been key in blocking at least eight major projects, including the Keystone XL pipeline, the C$20 billion Teck Frontier tar sands mine in Alberta, the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Oregon, and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to name a few. Taken together, those delayed and canceled projects would have been responsible for nearly 800 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, or about 12 percent of the total emissions of the U.S. and Canada in 2019.

Another half-dozen projects are currently contested, including the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota, the Coastal GasLink pipeline in British Columbia, and the Rio Grande LNG project in Texas, for example. These projects represent another 12 percent of total U.S. and Canadian emissions, which, if opponents have their way, would bring the total carbon pollution avoided due to Indigenous resistance to 1.6 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent. That’s roughly equal to the pollution from 400 new coal-fired power plants or 345 million passenger vehicles.

As the report notes, this is likely an underestimate because it only includes 17 of the largest and most iconic fossil fuel projects in recent years.
» Read article               
» Read the report: Indigenous Resistance Against Carbon

» More about protests and actions

LEGISLATION

drifting awayWill a Summer of Climate Crises Lead to Climate Action? It’s Not Looking Good
A $3.5 trillion budget bill is faltering in the Senate, and in America at large, well, as one expert put it: “It’s really hard to get people to change their way of life.”
By Marianne Lavelle, Inside Climate News
September 3, 2021

This summer, the climate crisis has roared into basement apartments in Brooklyn, leaped across the dry tops of the Sierra Nevadas and kicked over the towers that held up the power and communication networks of Louisiana. It has shredded homes in New Jersey and poured into the underpasses of Philadelphia, turning a cross-town expressway into a murky, swirling river.

But as fall approaches, bringing the best opportunity in years for Congress to act on global warming, prospects are dimming for the package of investments that make up President Joe Biden’s plan to jump-start a clean energy transition.

In the Senate, where Biden will need every Democratic vote to pass a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill that contains the bulk of his climate plan, party unity is fraying. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) placed an editorial in the Wall Street Journal calling for Democrats to “pause” the package, because of concerns over inflation and the national debt. Less noticed, but just as lethal to the package’s chances was a statement by a spokesman for Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) in Politico on Aug. 23: She will not support a $3.5 trillion budget bill, he said.
» Read article                

» More about legislation

GREENING THE ECONOMY

union pipefitters
One Big Hurdle for a San Diego Gas Ban: Union Labor
Across the state, cities are seeking to ditch gas and require buildings be equipped to run solely on electricity. Union-represented gas workers worry the trend could mean more work for electricians and less work for the people digging trenches or laying and maintaining gas pipes.
By MacKenzie Elmer, Voice of San Diego
September 8, 2021

The city of San Diego is about to drop its latest plan to fight climate change, but local unions representing workers in the natural gas industry are worried it could cost them jobs.

Across the state, cities are seeking to ditch gas and require buildings be equipped to run solely on electricity for all energy needs including heating and cooking. And union-represented gas workers are paying attention.

In short, they worry the trend could mean more work for electricians and less work for the people digging trenches or laying and maintaining gas pipes.

“It’s not just a pipeline, it’s a lifeline,” said Joe Cruz, executive director of the California State Council of Laborers, which represents the workers who do heavy digging for pipe laying. “(Natural gas) creates many good-paying jobs. The ban on natural gas and decarbonization efforts in California will have a major impact on laborers across the state, including San Diego if that moves forward.”
» Read article                

no point
‘No point in anything else’: Gen Z members flock to climate careers
Colleges offer support as young people aim to devote their lives to battling the crisis
By Angela Lashbrook, The Guardian
September 6, 2021

California is facing a drought so devastating, some publications call it “biblical”. Colorado now has “fire years” instead of “fire seasons”. Miami, which sees more dramatic hurricanes each year, is contemplating building a huge seawall in one of the city’s most scenic tourist districts to protect it from storm surges.

“Once you learn how damaged the world’s ecosystems are, it’s not really something you can unsee,” says Rachel Larrivee, 23, a sustainability consultant based in Boston. “To me, there’s no point in pursuing a career – or life for that matter – in any other area.”

Larrivee is one of countless members of Gen Z, a generation that roughly encompasses young people under 25, who are responding to the planet’s rapidly changing climate by committing their lives to finding a solution. Survey after survey shows young people are not just incorporating new climate-conscious behaviors into their day-to-day lives – they’re in it for the long haul. College administrators say surging numbers of students are pursuing environmental-related degrees and careers that were once considered irresponsible, romantic flights of fancy compared to more “stable” paths like business, medicine, or law.

“I cannot imagine a career that isn’t connected to even just being a small part of a solution,” says Mimi Ausland, 25, the founder of Free the Ocean, a company that aims to leverage small actions to remove plastic from the ocean.
» Read article                

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

Jimmy Carter RE plan
Joe Biden’s Solar Plan and the Prescience of Jimmy Carter
The best time to plant a solar panel was forty years ago—but Biden is trying hard to make up for lost time.
By Bill McKibben, The New Yorker
September 8, 2021

The Biden Administration’s announcement on Wednesday of a plan that could set the country on a course to generate forty-five per cent of its electricity from solar panels by mid-century might—might—someday be remembered as one of those moments that mattered. That’s because it sets a physical target whose progress will be relatively easy to measure—it’s the energy equivalent of announcing that “before this decade is out” we will achieve the goal of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” This plan is much more ambitious, though: the Apollo project focussed all the nation’s technological might on moving one person; this is more akin to landing all of us somewhere very new. But physical targets are easier to track and understand than, say, the squishy and amorphous chatter about “net zero” emissions and so forth. Observers will be able to track with ease our progress and see if future Administrations are keeping up the pace.

Jimmy Carter, midway through his Administration, and faced with the second OPEC oil shock, put forward a goal for producing twenty per cent of the country’s energy from renewable resources by the year 2000. In fact, as he unveiled solar panels on the White House roof, in 1979, he said these words:

In the year 2000, this solar water heater behind me, which is being dedicated today, will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy. . . . A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.

Carter was prophetic, and sadly so. I first saw one of those solar panels, which the Reagan Administration removed from the White House roof, in a Chinese museum. Had Carter been reëlected, and had we pursued steadily his vision through the nineteen-eighties and nineties, we may have gone down the learning curve decades earlier.
» Read article                

global health emergency
Medical Journals Call Climate Change the ‘Greatest Threat to Global Public Health’
By Winston Choi-Schagrin, New York Times
September 7, 2021

A collection of leading health and medical journals called this week for swift action to combat climate change, calling on governments to cooperate and invest in the environmental crisis with the degree of funding and urgency they used to confront the coronavirus pandemic.

In an editorial published in more than 200 medical and health journals worldwide, the authors declared a 1.5-degree-Celsius rise in global temperatures the “greatest threat to global public health.” The world is on track to warm by around 3 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by 2100, based on current policies.

“The science is unequivocal; a global increase of 1.5°C above the preindustrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse,” the authors wrote. “Indeed, no temperature rise is ‘safe.’”

Although medical journals have copublished editorials in the past, this marked the first time that publication has been coordinated at this scale. In total more than 200 journals representing every continent and a wide range of medical and health disciplines from ophthalmology to veterinary medicine published the statement. The authors are editors of leading journals including The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine.
» Read article                
» Read the medical journal editorial – call for emergency action

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

Lennon solar farm
From 4% to 45%: Energy Department Lays Out Ambitious Blueprint for Solar Power
The department’s analysis provides only a broad outline, and many of the details will be decided by congressional lawmakers.
By Ivan Penn, New York Times
September 8, 2021

The Biden administration on Wednesday released a blueprint showing how the nation could move toward producing almost half of its electricity from the sun by 2050 — a potentially big step toward fighting climate change but one that would require vast upgrades to the electric grid.

There is little historical precedent for expanding solar energy, which contributed less than 4 percent of the country’s electricity last year, as quickly as the Energy Department outlined in a new report. To achieve that growth, the country would have to double the amount of solar energy installed every year over the next four years and then double it again by 2030.

Such a large increase, laid out in the report, is in line with what most climate scientists say is needed to stave off the worst effects of global warming. It would require a vast transformation in technology, the energy industry and the way people live.
» Read article                
» Read the Dept. of Energy report

H2 horsetrading
As DOE ramps up Hydrogen Shot initiative, debate about means of production begins
By Emma Penrod, Utility Dive
September 7, 2021

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm kicked off a summit on the Hydrogen Shot — a challenge from the Department of Energy to industry and academics to find a means of cutting the cost of hydrogen to $1 per kilogram — with a call for participants to focus on clean, zero carbon solutions and to avoid “solutions that claim to be clean but are not.”

Breakout sessions during last week’s summit allowed participants to choose specialized discussions focused on ways hydrogen could be produced. One track covered the use of electrolysis to split water and create “green” hydrogen, while another considered innovations to conventional methods of extracting hydrogen from methane, and a third looked at early stage or even theoretical means.

While Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) described hydrogen as a true “all of the above fuel” and argued the U.S. needs to consider all possible options for hydrogen production, Chanell Fletcher,  deputy executive officer for the California Air Resources Board, expressed concern that casting too wide a net would “muddy the water and open the door for polluting pathways.”
» Read article                

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Sydney Engel
Opinion: Climate-friendly buildings are essential to city’s future
By Sydney Engel and Sarah Simon, Boston Business Journal
September 3, 2021

In Boston, buildings have a profound impact on the changing climate; just 3% of them account for 50% of all our greenhouse-gas emissions because they use so much oil and gas for heating and cooling. These fossil fuels emit not only substantial amounts of carbon dioxide but also other air pollutants known to make people sick. In Massachusetts, more people die from building-related air pollution than air pollution from electricity generation. We need climate-friendly, healthier buildings.

A solution for Boston is on the way. As shown in the 2018 Carbon Free Boston report, we can update our buildings and meet Boston’s 2050 carbon-neutral targets with efficiency improvements and existing heating and cooling technology.

This June, Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley took up a key element outlined in the city’s 2019 Climate Action Plan and introduced an update to the existing Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance, otherwise known as BERDO. This update would significantly decrease carbon emissions from large, existing buildings over the next 30 years while allowing building owners to decide how to meet the emissions standards.
» Read article                

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

Form Energy stock photo
Minnesota utility co-op sees big battery as piece of grid reliability puzzle

Great River Energy, a distribution and transmission cooperative, has partnered with a Massachusetts startup on a long-duration energy storage pilot project that it hopes will help buffer its grid from extreme cold and heat impacts.
By Frank Jossi, Energy News Network
September 10, 2021

The utility cooperative partnering with Form Energy on its first “iron air” battery project sees the long-duration energy storage technology as a potential buffer for its grid during extreme cold snaps like 2019’s polar vortex.

Great River Energy, a Minnesota generation and transmission cooperative that serves 28 member utilities, had been in discussions with the Massachusetts startup company for several years before committing to the pilot project, according to Jon Brekke, its vice president and chief power supply officer.

“We’re interested in pursuing long-duration storage because it gives us reliability advantages over traditional lithium-ion batteries,” Brekke said. “We can look at a 10-day weather forecast, and if we see that the weather is going to get very cold seven or eight days out, we can make sure that the battery is charged up.”

Wind speeds tend to decrease during extremely cold temperatures. Meanwhile, turbine components can become brittle or stop working as temperatures plunge into the double-digits below zero. Those factors caused Upper Midwest wind generation to drop off two winters ago during a prolonged polar vortex. (Coal and gas plants also experienced outages.)

The stakes for wintertime grid reliability will increase as more homes and buildings transition to electric heat, but long-duration energy storage could also help utilities manage the grid during scorching hot weather that is also becoming more common in Minnesota due to climate change.
» Read article                

» More about energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

six problems
The six problems aviation must fix to hit net zero
With passenger numbers growing and time to slash emissions dwindling fast, the industry must tackle urgent stumbling blocks on fuel, frequent flyers and more
By Jocelyn Timperley, The Guardian
September 5, 2021

Aviation tanked in 2020. The number of people taking flights fell by three quarters compared with 2019 levels and as a result there was a significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions from aviation. But as countries open up and people begin to fly again, aviation is expected to see a slow climb back to previous levels. The industry anticipates a return to 2019 passenger numbers globally by 2023 and to be back on track with previous growth projections within a couple of decades.

All this is bad news for the planet. CO2 emissions from the industry are likely to triple by 2050. But if the world is to limit global heating to 1.5C, it needs to have hit net zero CO2 emissions by this time. Aviation is a complicated sector to decarbonise. It has some prickly ingredients: difficult technological solutions, hidden extra climate effects, an association with personal freedoms and a disproportionately wealthy and powerful customer base. Here are just a few of the big hurdles the sector will need to overcome if it is ever to be carbon neutral.
» Read article                

» More about clean transportation

RENEWABLE ENERGY SITING IMPACTS

floating PV arrayPonds, reservoirs could host floating solar in space-constrained Massachusetts
Developers intend to install the floating solar panels atop storage ponds, water treatments plants, and other human-made bodies of water — a first in a state mired in debate over how best to site projects.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
September 7, 2021

A new joint venture between Boston-based BlueWave Solar and European photovoltaics firm Ciel et Terre is poised to bring floating solar panels to the ponds and reservoirs of Massachusetts for the first time. Supporters say the plan has the potential to mitigate ongoing concerns about finding enough space for clean energy development.

“This is an opportunity to site solar a lot more responsibly going forward,” said Mike Marsch, principal and head of solar development at BlueWave. “We think it’s an incredibly elegant and responsible way to use land.”

BlueWave has a history of building community solar projects and so-called “dual-use” installations, in which solar panels sit over active agricultural fields. Ciel et Terre, based in France, is a pioneer in the floating solar sector. The company introduced Hydrelio, a modular floating photovoltaic system, in 2012. In 2017, it launched a U.S.-based development arm, Laketricity.

Together they intend to develop floating solar projects atop human-made bodies of water such as storage ponds, water treatment plants, quarries, and reservoirs in Massachusetts and, eventually, the entire Northeast. Laketricity will contribute technology and on-the-ground experience, while BlueWave will share its extensive knowledge of the Massachusetts clean energy market and the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target program (SMART), which provides incentives to encourage solar development.
» Read article                

» More about renewable energy siting impacts

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

FERC building
Biden taps DC regulator Phillips to fill FERC’s 5th seat; ‘a gift to corporate utilities,’ says critic
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
September 10, 2021

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced plans to nominate Willie Phillips Jr., currently chairman of the District of Columbia Public Service Commission (PSC), to fill the vacant seat at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The choice is being closely watched, with the five-seat commission now split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, and Biden’s choice received mixed reviews. Commissioner Neil Chatterjee, who chaired the commission during part of the Trump administration, stepped down at the end of August.

The commission will play a key role in implementing the Biden administration’s clean energy and environmental goals. The White House has called for the U.S. to decarbonize its power sector by 2035 and to end carbon emissions across the economy by 2050.

Some environmental advocates had been hoping the next FERC commissioner would be more focused on consumer interests. Phillips’ nomination is a “gift to corporate utilities and the fossil fuel industry,” Drew Hudson, senior national organizer for Friends of the Earth, said in a statement.

Hudson noted that during his PSC tenure, Phillips voted to approve rate hikes, gas infrastructure and the merger between Washington, D.C.’s utility, Potomac Electric Power Co. (Pepco). and Exelon.

“Although if confirmed, Mr. Phillips would bring much needed racial diversity to the all-white and 4/5 male commission, his record of ignoring public comment and opposition from environmental justice advocates is a glaring red flag and demonstrates why he isn’t fit for this role,” Hudson said.

The Solar Energy Industries Association, on the other hand, said it is confident that Phillips “will help us put the regulatory reforms in place we need, all while championing equity and creating billions of dollars in economic growth.”
» Read article                

» More about FERC

CRYPTOCURRENCY

Bitcoin energy demand
Bitcoin Uses More Electricity Than Many Countries. How Is That Possible?
By Jon Huang, Claire O’Neill and Hiroko Tabuchi
September 3, 2021

Cryptocurrencies have emerged as one of the most captivating, yet head-scratching, investments in the world. They soar in value. They crash. They’ll change the world, their fans claim, by displacing traditional currencies like the dollar, rupee or ruble. They’re named after dog memes.

And in the process of simply existing, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, one of the most popular, use astonishing amounts of electricity.

We’ll explain how that works in a minute. But first, consider this: The process of creating Bitcoin to spend or trade consumes around 91 terawatt-hours of electricity annually, more than is used by Finland, a nation of about 5.5 million.

In the early days of Bitcoin, when it was less popular and worth little, anyone with a computer could easily mine at home. Not so much anymore.

Today you need highly specialized machines, a lot of money, a big space and enough cooling power to keep the constantly running hardware from overheating. That’s why mining now happens in giant data centers owned by companies or groups of people.

What if Bitcoin could be mined using more sources of renewable energy, like wind, solar or hydropower?

It’s tricky to figure out exactly how much of Bitcoin mining is powered by renewables because of the very nature of Bitcoin: a decentralized currency whose miners are largely anonymous.

Globally, estimates of Bitcoin’s use of renewables range from about 40 percent to almost 75 percent. But in general, experts say, using renewable energy to power Bitcoin mining means it won’t be available to power a home, a factory or an electric car.
» Read article                

» More about cryptocurrency

CARBON CAPTURE AND SEQUESTRATION

CO2 collector
Biggest Carbon Capture Effort Begins in Iceland, But Involves a Fraction of the Gas in the Atmosphere
Even a planned facility 10 times larger would have almost no impact on the 33 billion tons of carbon to be emitted this year.
By Leslie Hook, Financial Times, in Inside Climate News
September 9, 2021

The start-up behind the world’s biggest direct carbon capture plant said it would build a much larger facility in the next few years that would permanently remove millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

As Zurich-based Climeworks opened its Orca “direct air capture” project in Iceland on Wednesday, co-chief executive Jan Wurzbacher told the Financial Times it had started design work on a facility 10 times larger that would be completed in the next few years.

Orca will collect about 4,000 tons of CO2 a year and store it underground—a tiny fraction of the 33 billion tons of the gas forecast by the International Energy Agency to be emitted worldwide this year, but a demonstration of the technology’s viability.

“This is the first time we are extracting CO2 from the air commercially and combining it with underground storage,” Wurzbacher said.

The Orca plant sells the most expensive carbon offset in the world, costing as much as almost $1,400 a ton of CO2 removed and counting Microsoft founder Bill Gates among its customers.

Wurzbacher said commercial demand had been so high that the plant was nearly sold out of credits for its entire 12-year lifespan, prompting the accelerated development of the much larger plant using the same technology.
» Read article                

CO2 pipeline episode
It’s like a Rube Goldberg Pollution Machine – The CO2 Pipeline Episode
By 8 O’Clock Buzz, WORT 89.9 FM
August 31, 2021

Join Sikowis for the Tuesday 8 O’clock Buzz on WORT 89.9 FM in Madison! She will be discussing the new greenwashed, carbon capture tactic to address the climate crisis–CO2 Pipelines. This tactic is not so much a solution to curbing the climate crisis but more of a ploy by the fossil fuel industry and governments to keep drilling, fracking, and extracting rather than truly reducing emission levels.
» Listen to podcast                

gassing Satartia
The Gassing Of Satartia
A CO2 pipeline in Mississippi ruptured last year, sickening dozens of people. What does it forecast for the massive proposed buildout of pipelines across the U.S.?
By Dan Zegart, Huff Post
August 26, 2021

It was just after 7 p.m. when residents of Satartia, Mississippi, started smelling rotten eggs. Then a greenish cloud rolled across Route 433 and settled into the valley surrounding the little town. Within minutes, people were inside the cloud, gasping for air, nauseated and dazed.

Some two dozen individuals were overcome within a few minutes, collapsing in their homes; at a fishing camp on the nearby Yazoo River; in their vehicles. Cars just shut off, since they need oxygen to burn fuel. Drivers scrambled out of their paralyzed vehicles, but were so disoriented that they just wandered around in the dark.

The first call to Yazoo County Emergency Management Agency came at 7:13 p.m. on February 22, 2020.

“CALLER ADVISED A FOUL SMELL AND GREEN FOG ACROSS THE HIGHWAY,” read the message that dispatchers sent to cell phones and radios of all county emergency personnel two minutes later.

First responders mobilized almost immediately, even though they still weren’t sure exactly what the emergency was. Maybe it was a leak from one of several nearby natural gas pipelines, or chlorine from the water tank.

The first thought, however, was not the carbon dioxide pipeline that runs through the hills above town, less than half a mile away. Denbury Inc, then known as Denbury Resources, operates a network of CO2 pipelines in the Gulf Coast area that inject the gas into oil fields to force out more petroleum. While ambient CO2 is odorless, colorless and heavier than air, the industrial CO2 in Denbury’s pipeline has been compressed into a liquid, which is pumped through pipelines under high pressure. A rupture in this kind of pipeline sends CO2 gushing out in a dense, powdery white cloud that sinks to the ground and is cold enough to make steel so brittle it can be smashed with a sledgehammer.
» Read article                

» More about CCS

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Inglewood Oil FieldTo Meet Paris Accord Goal, Most of the World’s Fossil Fuel Reserves Must Stay in the Ground
A new study in Nature reports that oil, gas and coal production must begin falling immediately to have even a 50 percent chance of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News
September 8, 2021

After a summer of weather extremes that highlighted the urgency of limiting global warming in starkly human terms, new research is clarifying what it will take to do so. In order to have just a 50 percent chance of meeting the most ambitious climate target, the study found, the production of all fossil fuels will need to start declining immediately, and a significant majority of the world’s oil, gas and coal reserves will have to remain underground over the next few decades.

While the research, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, is only the latest to argue that meeting the 2015 Paris Agreement goals to limit warming requires a rapid pivot to clean energy, it lays out with clear and specific figures exactly how far from those targets the world remains.

“The inescapable evidence that hopefully we’ve shown and that successive reports have shown is that if you want to meet 1.5 degrees, then global production has to start declining,” said Daniel Welsby, a researcher at University College London, in the United Kingdom, and the study’s lead author. As part of the Paris Agreement, nations agreed to try to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

The study found that nearly 60 percent of global oil and gas reserves and about 90 percent of coal reserves must be left unexploited by 2050, though a portion of those fuels could be produced in the second half of the century. Total oil and gas production must begin declining immediately, the research said, and continue falling at about 3 percent annually through 2050. Coal production must fall at an even steeper rate.

While the authors noted a few signs of change, including that coal production is already on the decline, the current course is far off what’s needed.
» Read article                
» Read the research paper

fossil lobby blitz
Oil Industry Launches Lobbying Blitz as Congress Targets Fossil Fuel Subsidies
A lobbying group representing large fracking companies is pressing Democrats to keep in place billions of dollars of subsidies that drillers receive.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
September 2, 2021

The oil industry has embarked on a lobbying blitz in an effort to derail any attempts by Congress to repeal fossil fuel subsidies as part of a much broader assault by corporate interests on the $3.5 trillion budget package that Democrats are currently drafting.

In particular, the oil industry is worried about the potential loss of one specific subsidy that they receive: the intangible drilling cost (IDC) deduction. This allows companies to deduct from their taxes the costs of drilling new wells.

The industry’s fear follows a letter sent to Democratic leadership on August 30, by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the Chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), who chairs the subcommittee on Environment.

The letter, signed by 50 other Democrats from the House of Representatives, specifically calls for the removal of the IDC deduction as part of the budget reconciliation process underway. The tax giveaway is worth billions of dollars each year, and makes up a large portion of the $20.5 billion that Democrats are targeting.

“Fossil fuel subsidies have been embedded in our tax code for over a hundred years, enriching oil and gas companies and their lobbying firms at the expense of our planet. It comes as no surprise to see Big Oil currently working overtime to protect these benefits,” Congressman Ro Khanna’s office told DeSmog in a statement. “What’s different now is that we have a real chance to end the worst of these subsidies in the Build Back Better Act and I’m committed to working with my colleagues in Congress to do so.”
» Read article                
» Read the letter

» More about fossil fuels

BIOMASS

Drax in the dock
Drax faces prosecution over health risk of dust from biomass pellets
Allegations relate to employee safety at power plant and spark renewed criticism from environmentalists
By Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian
September 2, 2021

The owner of the Drax power plant in North Yorkshire faces a criminal prosecution hearing after allegations that dust from wood pellets used to generate electricity could pose a risk to its employees’ health.

The company has earned hundreds of millions of pounds in subsidies by upgrading its generating units to burn biomass pellets instead of coal, but the Health and Safety Executive is taking it to court over concerns that the wood dust may have threatened employee health.

Drax will appear at Leeds magistrates court on 30 November to face the allegations as well as a separate charge that it breached risk assessment obligations before allowing employees to work with potentially “hazardous substances” at the plant.

The charges, which first reported by Sky News, have reignited criticism of Drax’ biomass strategy from environmentalists, who say burning wood pellets risks wasting multimillion pound subsidies and fueling the climate crisis.
» Read article                

» More about biomass

PLASTICS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

spooky pooka
The Big Problem With Plastic
CR reveals where most of the plastic you throw away really ends up and explains what to do to limit its environmental harm
By Kevin Loria, Consumer Reports
September 08, 2021

Consider the amount of plastic you put into the trash or recycling on a typical day. There’s the lid to your coffee cup, and perhaps a bag from a newspaper. There’s the wrapper from a granola bar, a yogurt container, a salad clamshell, and the plentiful packaging from inside a box that arrived in the mail.

Many of these plastic items are useful and convenient, but they also come with a high environmental cost. In 2016, the U.S. generated more plastic trash than any other country—46.3 million tons of it, according to a 2020 study published in Science Advances. That’s 287 pounds per person in a single year. By the time these disposable products are in your hands, they’ve already taken a toll on the planet: Plastics are mostly made from fossil fuels, in an energy-intensive process that emits greenhouse gases and creates often hazardous chemicals.

And then there’s what happens when you throw them away.

If you’re like most people, you probably assume that when you toss plastic into the recycling bin it will be processed and turned into something new. The truth is that only a fraction of plastic is actually recycled. According to the most recent data estimates available from the Environmental Protection Agency, just 8.7 percent of the plastic that was discarded in the U.S. in 2018 was recycled.

The popular perception that plastic is easily and widely recycled has been shaped by decades of carefully calculated messaging designed and paid for by the petroleum and gas companies that make most of that plastic in the first place, and the beverage companies that depend on plastic to bottle their products.
» Read article                

» More about plastics in the environment

PLASTICS RECYCLING

no trash
California Aims to Ban Recycling Symbols on Things That Aren’t Recyclable
The well-known three-arrows symbol doesn’t necessarily mean that a product is actually recyclable. A new bill would limit the products allowed to feature the mark.
By Hiroko Tabuchi and Winston Choi-Schagrin, New York Times
September 8, 2021

The triangular “chasing arrows” recycling symbol is everywhere: On disposable cups. On shower curtains. On children’s toys.

What a lot of shoppers might not know is that any product can display the sign, even if it isn’t recyclable. It’s false advertising, critics say, and as a result, countless tons of non-recyclable garbage are thrown in the recycling bin each year, choking the recycling system.

Late on Wednesday, California took steps toward becoming the first state to change that. A bill passed by the state’s assembly would ban companies from using the arrows symbol unless they can prove the material is in fact recycled in most California communities, and is used to make new products.

“It’s a basic truth-in-advertising concept,” said California State Senator Ben Allen, a Democrat and the bill’s lead sponsor. “We have a lot of people who are dutifully putting materials into the recycling bins that have the recycling symbols on them, thinking that they’re going to be recycled, but actually, they’re heading straight to the landfill,” he said.

The measure, which is expected to clear the State Senate later this week and be signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, is part of a nascent effort across the country to fix a recycling system that has long been broken.

Though materials like paper or metals are widely recycled, less than 10 percent of plastic consumed in the United States is recycled, according to the most recent estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency. Instead, most plastic is incinerated or dumped in landfills, with the exception of some types of resins, like the kind used for bottled water or soda.

For years, the United States also shipped much of its plastic waste overseas, choking local rivers and streams. A global convention now bans most trade in plastic waste, though U.S. waste exports have not completely ceased.

This summer, Maine and Oregon passed laws overhauling their states’ recycling systems by requiring corporations to pay for the cost of recycling their packaging. In Oregon, the law included plans to establish a task force that would evaluate “misleading or confusing claims” related to recycling. Legislation is pending in New York that would, among other things, ban products from displaying misleading claims.
» Read article                

» More about plastics recycling

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Weekly News Check-In 7/30/21

banner 18

Welcome back.

We’ll cover a lot of ground in this newsletter, but first kick back and enjoy Ben Hillman’s wonderful short video explaining the problem with our highly-polluting peaking power plants, and what we’re doing here in Berkshire County to clean them up.  We also offer an excellent new report that details the considerable environmental and financial advantages of replacing Peabody’s planned gas/oil peaker with battery storage.

Enbridge Line 3 protesters who received heavy-handed treatment from law enforcement have won a restraining order against the Hubbard County (MN) Sheriff’s department. A little farther north, the divestment movement chalked a win as Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline lost its principal insurer.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts climate activists and state legislators are not resting on their laurels since passing landmark climate legislation. We’re seeing a welcome push for modifications to the law that will kick off early and substantial action, and put the state on the right path to achieve its emission reduction obligations on schedule.

The transition away from coal and natural gas will affect the communities that currently rely on those industries. We found stories of two plans to manage that change while protecting workers – addressing both the Appalachian fracklands and coal country.

In Climate, we report that Earth’s vital signs are worsening, and also that the recently-concluded G-20 summit meeting of the world’s wealthiest nations failed to reach agreement on a rapid phase-out of coal… a failure that must now be corrected at the November COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Scotland.

A large tidal turbine has begun sending power to the UK grid from from a high-flow channel off Scotland’s Orkney Islands. Long eclipsed by wind and solar, this clean energy technology is just starting to hit its stride. Energy efficiency will get a big boost if Massachusetts passes the Better Buildings Act, designed to raise the bar for commercial buildings. And a story from Holyoke drives home the urgent need to make those efficiency improvements in our built environment. Form Energy’s newly revealed iron-air battery technology continues to sparkle in the energy storage news, based on its potential to profoundly influence all of the above.

Last week we called out General Motors for corporate disregard of some distressed EV owners. Now it’s time for a look at Toyota’s hypocrisy. The one-time leader in electric vehicle technology made a bad bet on hydrogen fuel cells, and is now actively attempting to delay the EV transition timeline in an apparent effort to allow it to catch up. Meanwhile, heavy trucks could pull power from overhead cables along highways, allowing them to carry just enough battery for off-highway travel. The concept would increase both range and cargo capacity – a double win.

We found contrasting stories from opposite corners of the country. Ironically – considering that Florida will be the first state erased from the map by rising seas – its climate-denying governor and legislature just forced Tampa and other localities to scrap plans to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Northwest Washington’s Whatcom County, meanwhile, enacted a law that prohibits new fossil fuel infrastructure and strictly limits expansion of existing facilities.

Today, Massachusetts’ Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE), held an oversight hearing to consider revised rules for biomass in the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. We are grateful to Senators Adam Hinds and Jo Comerford, among others, for presenting clear, science-based arguments against placing this dirty and destructive fuel in the same renewable energy class with wind and solar.

And we finish with welcome news that Canada declared plastics an environmental toxin, opening a path for badly needed regulation of single-use packaging and recycling.

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

PPPP
VIDEO: The Pittsfield peaker plant problem
By Ben Hillman, in Berkshire Edge
July 28, 2021
» Blog editor’s note: Special thanks to Ben Hillman for producing this outstanding and informative video in support of our Put Peakers in the Past campaign!

» Watch video           

step oneReport: Battery storage could be viable alternative
By Erin Nolan, The Salem News
July 29, 2021

Battery storage powered by renewable energy resources could be a viable alternative to the proposed 55-megawatt natural gas-fired “peaker” plant in Peabody, according to a report by Strategen Consulting.

The report, which was prepared on behalf of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN) and the Clean Energy Group, states battery storage would be preferable to the proposed plant from both financial and environmental standpoints.

“This assessment once again illustrates that battery storage is a cheaper and cleaner alternative to polluting fossil-fuel peaker plants,” said Clean Energy Group Vice President Seth Mullendore in a statement. “We’ve seen the same result in our work with environmental justice advocates across the country, from California to Kentucky and New York to Louisiana. Battery storage and renewable generation is the clear path forward, not locking communities and the climate into decades of additional devastating emissions.”

Previously, both MMWEC and PMLP officials stated during public meetings that batteries are not a feasible replacement for the proposed plant— referred to as Project 2015A in public documents. The officials explained that batteries are expensive, require more space than is available on PMLP’s property, and would fail to provide adequate reliability to the electric grid.

In the report, however, Strategen argues that despite these claims, battery storage would actually be a far more economic option.

“When accounting for capital, fuel, and operations and maintenance costs, as well as for the expected energy and ancillary services revenue, the net cost of batteries is projected to be significantly lower than that of Project 2015A,” according to a press release from MCAN and the Clean Energy Group.
» Read article              
» Read the Strategen report                

» More about peaker plants

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

roadblock
Judge Grants Restraining Order Against Minnesota County Sheriff in Line 3 Fight
By Karen Savage, Drilled News
July 23, 2021

A judge on Friday granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office from blocking vehicular access to Namewag Camp, an Indigenous woman and two-spirit-led camp opposing Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline.

In the order Hubbard County District Court Judge Jane M. Austad ordered the sheriff’s office to stop “barricading, obstructing, or otherwise interfering with access to the property” and prohibited deputies from stopping vehicles, issuing citations, or arresting or threatening to arrest individuals for driving on the driveway.

Winona LaDuke, Tara Houska, and two additional plaintiffs filed a lawsuit last week alleging that the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office had illegally conducted a 2-day  blockade of the camp driveway and was continuing to illegally issue citations to Indigenous water protectors and their allies for using the driveway.
» Read article               

» More about protests and actions

DIVESTMENT

TMP under pressure
Trans Mountain Pipeline Loses Lead Insurer as Zurich Steps Away
By The Energy Mix
July 24, 2020

Mammoth global insurance company Zurich has decided to abandon its role as principal insurer for the Trans Mountain pipeline when its coverage expires August 31.

The pipeline’s annual liability insurance contract filed with the Canada Energy Regulator April 30 “had shown Zurich was the lead insurer for the pipeline,” Reuters reports. “Zurich was the sole insurer for the first US$8 million of potential insurance payouts, and the company provided a total of US$300 million in cover with other insurers, the 2019-20 energy regulatory filing showed.”

“If you needed proof that petitions, emails, and calls work—this is it,” enthused Stand.earth, one of 32 groups urging Trans Mountain’s 26 insurers to abandon the project by August 31. “This project is never getting built.”

Two insurance companies, Munich Re and Talanx, had already decided to abandon the controversial pipeline.

The energy regulatory filing listed Lloyd’s of London, Chubb Ltd., Liberty Mutual, and a unit of the Munich Re group as other insurers backing the pipeline. Munich Re has “said it would review the contract given its new underwriting guideline on oil sands, which have a higher carbon footprint than conventional oil,” Reuters says.

A Trans Mountain spokesperson told the news agency the company still has enough insurance to operate and continue expanding the pipeline. “There remains adequate capacity in the market to meet Trans Mountain’s insurance needs and our renewal,” she said in an emailed statement.
» Read article               

» More about divestment

LEGISLATION

call for action
Climate advocates seek ‘action’ legislation to move beyond road map bill
By Danny Jin, Berkshire Eagle
July 26, 2021

The Massachusetts climate plan that became law in March, climate advocates say, was a step in the right direction.

That bill set a target for the state to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. While setting the target was a positive development, climate leaders say, the state also needs to take the necessary actions to meet it.

“The centerpiece of that bill was setting goals and directing the administration to come up with a plan to meet those goals,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts. “In my view, goals are good and plans are good. But, goals and plans are not sufficient. We need action, too.”

The road map bill directs the governor’s office to set interim emissions limits for every five-year increment through 2050. It requires the 2030 limit to be at least 50 percent below 1990 levels, the 2040 limit to be at least 75 percent below 1990 levels and the 2050 limit to be at least 85 percent below 1990 levels. Beyond those requirements, control over the five-year plans falls entirely to Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides, in the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker.

“While the road map bill set up a bunch of emissions targets for the state to reach, it leaves it pretty open how we’re going to get there,” said Jacob Stern, deputy director of Sierra Club Massachusetts. “It basically leaves it nearly entirely up to the governor to figure out what happens in between.”

The 100 Percent Clean Act would set the state on a path for 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 through requirements it would set for both investor-owned and municipal utilities.

It also would place a focus on less-scrutinized emissions from buildings and transportation. To achieve 100 percent clean heating by 2045, it would require new houses and small commercial buildings to use clean heating by 2025 and would apply that requirement to all new buildings after 2030. And to reach 100 percent clean transportation by 2045, transit authorities would have to transition to zero-emission buses, and only zero-emission cars would be sold in the state after 2035.

Although some observers, including the Baker administration, have expressed concerns that specific requirements or restrictions could inhibit economic activity, climate groups see a clean energy transition as an economic opportunity rather than an impediment.
» Read article               

» More about legislation

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Fracking Richland
Advocates say energy efficiency — not gas — offers Appalachia best economic prospects

Analyses suggest investment in the energy efficiency sector could let a larger share of money stay in communities vs. natural gas operations.
By Kathiann M. Kowalski, Energy News Network
July 23, 2021

Investment in energy efficiency should be part of a transition plan to improve the quality of life for counties in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania that have had lots of natural gas activity, according to new reports from the Ohio River Valley Institute.

The reports also shed light on why the overall quality of life has lagged in seven counties that have produced the lion’s share of Ohio’s fracked gas, even as their gross domestic product has risen.

“When you do energy efficiency — not just in homes, but in businesses, workplaces, schools and other public buildings — you are also contributing to an improved quality of life,” said Sean O’Leary, lead author of the two reports released Wednesday.

First, energy efficiency work on heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and doors and windows tends to be labor-intensive, O’Leary said. “For each dollar that goes into them, they generate about three to four times as many jobs as a dollar spent or earned in natural gas.”

“These are businesses that are done by local contractors,” O’Leary continued. “When you spend money with them, the money stays in the local economy. They hire local workers, and it has a multiplier effect.”

“The third thing is that these kinds of investments have an annuity value,” O’Leary said. “That is, they cause savings on utility bills.” That translates into a lower drain on residents’ personal incomes. And, “the savings go on for decades.”
» Read article              
» Read the Ohio River Valley Institute reports

coal community funds
Biden Administration Earmarks Funds For Coal Communities
By Tsvetana Paraskova, Oil Price
July 23, 2021

The Biden Administration is committing $300 million to invest in the economic development of coal and coal power plant-affected communities as part of a $3-billion funding for investment in America’s communities, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said.

“We believe that this $300 million investment in coal communities is the largest economic development that EDA has ever made in coal communities.  And we know that it will enable these communities to recover, diversify their economies, and grow,” Secretary Raimondo said at a White House briefing on Thursday.

The applications for funding went live late on Thursday on the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) website.

Investing in America’s Communities is a funding opportunity to invest the $3 billion that EDA received from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act to help communities across the country build back better.

The investment in coal communities “will ensure that they have the resources to recover from the pandemic and will help create new jobs and opportunities, including through the development or expansion of a new industry sector,” EDA said.

“Coal and power plant communities have been hard hit by the energy transition – and these pandemic relief funds are just the beginning of the Biden Administration’s efforts to support economic and community revitalization efforts in these parts of the country,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said.

Secretary Granholm and the Biden Administration target the U.S. to get to 100 percent clean electricity by 2035.
» Read article               

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

Chubut wildfires
Scientists who Issued ‘Climate Emergency’ Declaration in 2019 Now say Earth’s Vital Signs are Worsening
A rapid and urgent phaseout of fossil fuels is needed, scientists warn, in order to avoid crossing dangerous climate tipping points.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
July 27, 2021

From devastating wildfires to rising methane emissions, Earth’s vital signs are continuing to deteriorate, scientists warn. An urgent global phaseout of fossil fuels is needed, they say, reiterating calls for “transformative change,” which is “needed now more than ever to protect life on Earth and remain within as many planetary boundaries as possible.”

The warning comes roughly a year and a half after a global coalition of 11,000 climate scientists declared a climate emergency, warning that global action was needed to avoid “untold suffering due to the climate crisis.” The new paper examining Earth’s vital signs, published in the journal BioScience, is authored by some of the same scientists who helped spearhead the climate emergency declaration.

“There is growing evidence we are getting close to or have already gone beyond tipping points associated with important parts of the Earth system, including warm-water coral reefs, the Amazon rainforest and the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets,” William Ripple, a professor of ecology at Oregon State University (OSU) and one of the paper’s lead authors, said in a statement.

The team of researchers and scientists, collaborating from Massachusetts in the U.S., Australia, the U.K., France, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, and Germany, took stock of 31 variables that collectively offer a gauge for the planet’s health. Many of those metrics have worsened since the group originally declared a climate emergency in 2019.

Both methane and carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have reached new record highs, the study reveals. Sea ice has dramatically shrunk, and so too has the ice mass in Greenland and Antarctica. Wildfires in the U.S. are burning more acreage. And deforestation in the Amazon is occurring at its fastest rate in 12 years.

Ruminant livestock — cows, sheep and goats — now exceed 4 billion, and their total mass exceeds that of humans and wild animals combined. Cows in particular are huge contributors to climate change due methane emissions released from belching, and deforestation resulting from clearing land for livestock.

The global pandemic offered only a modest and brief respite from some of these trends, the scientists note, such as a short drop in the use of fossil fuels as the world went into lockdown, but a quick rebound in oil and gas consumption demonstrates that the world remains stuck on a dangerous track.
» Read article              
» Read the Earth vital signs paper

G20 fails coal phaseoutG20 Fails on Coal Phaseout, Delays Decisions on Climate Finance, Fossil Subsidies
By Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix
July 25, 2021

Environment and energy ministers from the world’s 20 wealthiest countries have failed to agree on a 2025 coal phaseout, made no progress on international climate finance, and refused to set a deadline to end fossil fuel subsidies, just 100 days before high-stakes negotiations get under way at this year’s UN climate conference, COP 26, in Glasgow.

At their summit meeting in Naples, the G20 ministers agreed they would all submit new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to speed up their greenhouse reductions by 2030. And “G7 nations as well as Mexico and South Korea supported a more ambitious plan to phase out the use of unabated coal power by 2025, which was opposed by nations including Russia, India, Saudi Arabia, and China,” the Brisbane Times reports.

But in the end, “observers from climate groups saw the failure to agree on a rapid phaseout of coal as a setback to the prospects of reaching an agreement to keep global warming to as close to 1.5°C as possible” during the COP 26 negotiations in November.

“A minority of G20 ministers continue to sit on the wrong side of history by promoting the expansion of fossil fuels,” said Eddy Pérez, international climate diplomacy manager at Climate Action Network-Canada. “It’s now up to leaders to make the G20 responsive to the devastating climate emergency ahead of COP 26.”

“Our common house is on fire, and the world’s biggest countries need to come together to put it out,” said E3G senior associate Alden Meyer. “While Italy’s leadership secured some agreement from G20 climate and energy ministers on the scale of the problem and the need for action, there are still deep divisions on the way forward.”
» Read article               

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

tidal turbine
World’s most powerful tidal turbine begins exporting power to grid
By Joshua S Hill, Renew Economy
July 29, 2021

The world’s most powerful tidal turbine, built by Scottish tidal stream turbine manufacturer Orbital Marine Power, has begun exporting power to the UK grid, delivering an important milestone for the tidal marine industry.

The 2MW O2 tidal turbine is located at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) at Scotland’s Orkney islands, anchored in the Fall of Warness tidal test site.

Measuring in at 74-metres and benefiting from some of the strongest tidal currents in the world, the O2 tidal turbine is expected to run for the next 15 years, generating enough electricity to meet the annual demand of around 2,000 homes.

“This is a major milestone for the O2 and I would like to commend the whole team at Orbital and our supply chain for delivering this pioneering renewable energy project safely and successfully,” said Andrew Scott, Orbital CEO.

“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector.”

Tidal power has been one of the junior renewable energy technologies for a while now, showing tremendous potential but falling prey to the success of more established technologies like wind and solar, which has attracted most of the available investment capital needed to scale up.
» Read article               

Silver State
Solar plus storage in Nevada to “fill the gap” left by retiring coal
By Joshua S Hill, Renew Economy
July 28, 2021

United States’ renewable energy developers Avangrid Renewables and Primergy Solar have announced they will work together to deliver a 600MW portfolio of solar-plus-storage projects in Nevada, designed to “fill the gap left by retiring coal generation”.

Avangrid Renewables, the renewable energy subsidiary of American energy company Avangrid, confirmed a sale agreement last week with

Solar developer Primergy Solar, owned by Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners, will buy the 250MW Iron Point Solar Project and the 350MW Hot Pot Solar Project from Avangrid, both of which will be co-located with battery storage.

The Iron Point project will be paired with 4-hour 200MW of battery storage, and Hot Pot will be paired with 4-hour 280MW of battery storage.

“Our vision has always been to develop projects with clean, renewable sources of power to fill the gap left by retiring coal generation,” said Alejandro de Hoz, president and CEO of Avangrid Renewables.

“What makes this project unique is its location in northern Nevada where there hasn’t been significant solar development activity. These projects will contribute substantially to transitioning the Silver State to a low-carbon energy future.”
» Read article               

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Boston MAMassachusetts considers higher efficiency bar for large commercial buildings
The Better Buildings Act would phase in energy efficiency requirements for large commercial buildings. The standards would be developed by state officials and vary depending on the type of building.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
July 28, 2021

A bill pending in the Massachusetts Legislature could make the state one of the first to require all large commercial buildings to meet energy use performance standards, a measure that could slash their emissions more than 80% by 2040, supporters say.

The Better Buildings Act would mandate energy use reporting from large commercial buildings. Buildings that fail to meet performance standards would be required to reduce emissions or pay a fee to the state. Only Washington and Colorado have similar statewide rules in place, though several cities and towns throughout the country have adopted such measures.

“There’s no way for us to meet our climate goals as a state without tackling emissions from our buildings,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director of Environment Massachusetts. “And we haven’t really grappled yet with what we need to do to get all of our existing building stock off fossil fuels.”

As Massachusetts attempts to reach its goal of going carbon-neutral by 2050, emissions from existing buildings are likely to be one of the thorniest challenges. Heating and hot water for commercial and residential buildings account for about 27% of the state’s carbon emissions, and electricity generation contributes another 17%.

Massachusetts has some of the country’s oldest building stock, much of which is fitted with oil-burning heating systems, drafty windows, and meager insulation. There is widespread acknowledgment that cutting emissions in existing buildings will require extensive upgrades and retrofits, often at significant cost to owners.
» Read article               

empower your world
Holyoke natural gas moratorium stays in place; capacity remains top issue
By Dennis Hohenberger, MassLive
July 28, 2021

HOLYOKE — With no end to its natural gas moratorium in sight, Holyoke Gas & Electric is “aggressively” pursuing energy alternatives to stay ahead of demand.

James Lavelle, HG&E’s general manager, provided an update on the moratorium to the City Council’s Development and Government Relations Committee on Monday. Councilor at Large Rebecca Lisi previously filed orders seeking to understand the suspension and the utility’s renewable energy portfolio.

HG&E imposed the moratorium on new commercial and residential natural gas services in 2019 because of capacity limitations.

“It’s a top priority to do everything we can to lift the moratorium,” Lavelle said. “The best solution would be for us to get access to more natural gas supply to the city to be able to lift that.” But Lavelle told the committee he does not foresee an “imminent solution.”

“We have a moratorium because there isn’t enough gas supply to meet the demand on a peak winter day safely,” he said.

The current pipeline capacity is around 12,000 dekatherms a winter day, while HG&E’s system demands 20,000 dekatherms. The goal is to increase capacity by 5,000 dekatherms on peak days.

One dekatherm equals 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas, and is about what an average home uses on a cold winter day.

“The solution again is getting more capacity either in a pipeline or some other way,” Lavelle said. “You’re talking about 5,000 homes converting to electrification, which we’re pushing, but it’s going to take a long time to get that number.”
» Blog editor’s note: Holyoke is experiencing the real-world effects of a restricted natural gas supply while electrical conversion and energy efficiency upgrades have proceeded too slowly to make up the difference. This should be a warning to policymakers – and recognized as an opportunity.
» Read article               

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

focus on Form
Form Energy’s $20/kWh, 100-hour iron-air battery could be a ‘substantial breakthrough’
By Jason Plautz, Utility Dive
July 26, 2021

Somerville, Massachusetts-based startup Form Energy on Thursday announced the chemistry for an iron-air-exchange battery that could offer long-duration storage at a price of less than $20/kWh.

The technology relies on thousands of small iron pellets which rust when exposed to oxygen, then revert back to iron when oxygen is removed. That process can power a battery that Form claims can deliver electricity for 100 hours.

Form also announced a $200 million Series D funding round led by an investment from the innovation fund of steelmaker ArcelorMittal, one of the world’s leading iron ore producers. ArcelorMittal will also non-exclusively supply iron materials developed jointly with Form for use in the batteries.

Mateo Jaramillo, Form CEO and co-founder, said he doesn’t consider the company’s technology to be long-duration storage, instead preferring the term “multi-day storage.” The capacity of the Form battery to dispatch energy for 100 hours, he said, “puts it in a different category” than the broad definition of long-duration storage, generally defined as systems with at least 10 hours of duration.

Jaramillo, who previously led Tesla’s energy storage arm, said he considers the Form Energy technology as “complementary, not in competition” with shorter-duration lithium-ion batteries.

That balance, experts say, will be essential to transition the grid to renewable energy. While lithium-ion batteries can store energy for hours and distribute it throughout the day, a 100% renewable grid will need larger storage systems to tackle the day-to-day or seasonal variability in renewable production. While there are a variety of long-duration technologies on the market, the high cost and infrastructure difficulties have limited widespread penetration.
» Read article               

» More about energy storage                

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

bad bet on H2
Toyota Led on Clean Cars. Now Critics Say It Works to Delay Them.
The auto giant bet on hydrogen power, but as the world moves toward electric the company is fighting climate regulations in an apparent effort to buy time.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
July 25, 2021

The Toyota Prius hybrid was a milestone in the history of clean cars, attracting millions of buyers worldwide who could do their part for the environment while saving money on gasoline.

But in recent months, Toyota, one of the world’s largest automakers, has quietly become the industry’s strongest voice opposing an all-out transition to electric vehicles — which proponents say is critical to fighting climate change.

Last month, Chris Reynolds, a senior executive who oversees government affairs for the company, traveled to Washington for closed-door meetings with congressional staff members and outlined Toyota’s opposition to an aggressive transition to all-electric cars. He argued that gas-electric hybrids like the Prius and hydrogen-powered cars should play a bigger role, according to four people familiar with the talks.

Behind that position is a business quandary: Even as other automakers have embraced electric cars, Toyota bet its future on the development of hydrogen fuel cells — a costlier technology that has fallen far behind electric batteries — with greater use of hybrids in the near term. That means a rapid shift from gasoline to electric on the roads could be devastating for the company’s market share and bottom line.

The recent push in Washington follows Toyota’s worldwide efforts — in markets including the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and Australia — to oppose stricter car emissions standards or fight electric vehicle mandates. For example, executives at Toyota’s Indian subsidiary publicly criticized India’s target for 100 percent electric vehicle sales by 2030, saying it was not practical.

Together with other automakers, Toyota also sided with the Trump administration in a battle with California over the Clean Air Act and sued Mexico over fuel efficiency rules. In Japan, Toyota officials argued against carbon taxes.

“Toyota has gone from a leading position to an industry laggard” in clean-car policy even as other automakers push ahead with ambitious electric vehicle plans, said Danny Magill, an analyst at InfluenceMap, a London-based think tank that tracks corporate climate lobbying. InfluenceMap gives Toyota a “D-” grade, the worst among automakers, saying it exerts policy influence to undermine public climate goals.
» Read article               

electric motorwayUK government backs scheme for motorway cables to power lorries
E-highway study given £2m to draw up plans for overhead electric cables on motorway near Scunthorpe
By Jasper Jolly, The Guardian
July 27, 2021

The government will fund the design of a scheme to install overhead electric cables to power electric lorries on a motorway near Scunthorpe, as part of a series of studies on how to decarbonise road freight.

The electric road system – or e-highway – study, backed with £2m of funding, will draw up plans to install overhead cables on a 20km (12.4 miles) stretch of the M180 near Scunthorpe, in Lincolnshire. If the designs are accepted and building work is funded the trucks could be on the road by 2024.

Road freight is one of the hardest parts of the economy to decarbonise, because no technology exists yet on a large scale that is capable of powering long-haul lorries with zero direct exhaust emissions.

New diesel and petrol lorries will be banned in Britain by 2040 as part of plans to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. That has given lorry companies little time to develop and commercialise technology that will be crucial to the functioning of the economy. While cars can rely on lithium ion batteries, the weight of a battery required to power a fully laden truck over long distances has prompted trucking companies to look for alternatives.

The e-highway study is one of several options that will be funded, along with a study of hydrogen fuel cell trucks and battery electric lorries, the Department for Transport said on Tuesday.

On the e-highway, lorries fitted with rigs called pantographs – similar to those used by trains and trams – would be able to tap into the electricity supply to power electric motors. Lorries would also have a smaller battery to power them over the first and last legs of the journey off the motorway.
» Read article               

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Dunkin FL
A Florida city wanted to move away from fossil fuels. The state just made sure it couldn’t.
The story behind Florida’s new laws that strip cities of their ability to fight climate change.
By Emily Pontecorvo & Brendan Rivers, Grist
July 29, 2021

In January, Tampa was set to become the 12th city in Florida to set a climate goal to transition to 100 percent clean energy. But that was before the natural gas industry and Republican state lawmakers got involved. 

Tampa City Councilman Joseph Citro had worked for months with environmental groups and local businesses on a non-binding resolution — more of a North Star for the city than a mandatory policy. As part of its clean energy goal, the resolution supported a ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure including pipelines, compressor stations, and power plants.

No state-level policies in Florida require reducing planet-heating emissions, and some federal and state lawmakers deny the science of human-caused climate change. So it’s been up to cities and towns to do what they can, like buying electric school buses and powering municipal buildings with renewable energy. Increasingly, local governments are ramping up their ambitions. 

But around the country, the gas industry has aggressively lobbied against local climate policies while simultaneously trying to get state legislatures to strip cities of their ability to restrict fossil fuels.

That fight was about to come to Florida. Just as Citro was finessing the final language on his city resolution, Republican state Senator Travis Hutson of Palm Coast introduced bills that would make Citro’s Tampa proposal illegal. Hutson wanted to prohibit cities from passing any policies aimed at regulating energy infrastructure or fuel sources.

Lawmakers approved Hutson’s bills, and Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed them in June. Florida law now prohibits local governments from taking “any action that restricts or prohibits” energy sources used by utilities. (It also voids any such existing local policies, except in cities that own their utilities, like Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tallahassee.) And it prevents local officials from banning gas stations or requiring gas stations to install electric vehicle chargers.
» Read article              

derailed
An Oil Industry Hub in Washington State Bans New Fossil Fuel Development
The plan brings together local stakeholders, including the oil industry, labor unions and environmental groups.
By Marianne Lavelle, Inside Climate News
July 29, 2021

Eight years ago, Whatcom County, on the northwest coast of Washington State, seemed destined to become the gateway through which North America’s expanding fossil fuel industry would connect with the hungry energy markets of Asia.

The BP and Phillips 66 refineries in Ferndale, Washington—about 100 miles north of Seattle—were building new receiving facilities for oil trains to deliver crude from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota. Tar sands oil from Canada also was coming in, with plans looming to expand pipeline capacity. And, most significantly, the nation’s largest coal export terminal was set to be built just to the south in Bellingham, expected to unload 15 coal trains weekly that would rumble into the county from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.

But the massive coal proposal would prove to be the undoing of the vision of Whatcom County as a fossil fuel export mecca. The plan produced a ferocious backlash, killing the project in 2016 and sparking a local political upheaval that culminated on Tuesday night.

At its weekly meeting, the Whatcom County Council voted to approve an overhaul of local land-use policies, allowing existing refineries to expand but prohibiting new refineries, transshipment facilities, coal plants, piers or wharfs in its coastal industrial zone. The new rules also require a public review of the environmental impact of any significant expansion at existing refineries and other facilities, including any increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The moves were spearheaded by council members who had won their seats since 2013, and were driven to get into local politics by the coal terminal controversy. Environmental advocates, who worked for a decade to defeat plans for more carbon-polluting industry on the northwest coast, say it is the first time a local government in the United States has utilized land use law to impose such a broad, permanent ban on fossil fuel development.
» Read article               

» More about fossil fuel

BIOMASS

Senator Comerford
Dear Jo with Sen. Jo Comerford: What gets defined as renewable energy?
By JO COMERFORD, Daily Hampshire Gazette | Column
July 27, 2021

This week, our air turned hazy as winds blew in wildfire smoke from the west coast, a stark reminder that when it comes to climate change, we’re all in this together.

On Friday, I’ve been invited to testify at an oversight hearing of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE). The subject? Biomass, or the burning of natural material like wood at a large scale to generate energy.

The Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has issued updated draft regulations for the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The RPS mandates that electricity suppliers in Massachusetts get a certain percentage of the energy they provide to customers from renewable sources. When the RPS began, suppliers were required to get just 1% of their energy from renewables. This year, suppliers are required to get 18 percent of their energy from “Class 1 renewable resources.” That requirement will now increase by 3% per year thanks to the legislature’s passage of omnibus climate legislation earlier this session, ensuring that at least 40% of our energy will come from renewable resources by 2030.

(And, yes. I still maintain that we should be on a path to 100% renewable energy, given the climate crisis.)

So what’s the catch? In this case, it hinges on what gets defined as a renewable resource.

Biomass should not be considered a Class 1 renewable resource, like solar or wind. It doesn’t matter where the facility is sited, the science still says, “No.” A biomass plant located more than five miles away from an environmental justice community is not any “greener” than a biomass plant in Springfield. Location of the facility has never been a factor in RPS Class 1 eligibility, and only the most environmentally friendly sources should be included in this most strict Class 1 category.

In May of this year, dozens of national climate and public health organizations released A Declaration on Climate Change and Health, calling on President Biden and Congress to “heed the clear scientific evidence and take steps now to dramatically reduce pollution that drives climate change and harms health.” In a short list focused on “equitable climate action and pollution cleanup,” these groups called for “measures to secure dramatic reductions in carbon emissions from power plants, including rapid phaseout of power plants that burn fossil fuels, biomass, and waste-for-energy.”
» Read article               

chips and pellets
Biomass critics press lawmakers for more stringent regulations
By SCOTT MERZBACH, Daily Hampshire Gazette
July 26, 2021

Local groups focused on environmental policy are trying to keep pressure on state officials to strengthen rules surrounding biomass energy, even after a controversial biomass plant in Springfield was canceled in the spring.

“We are hopeful that substantive legislation, including explicitly forbidding subsidies for woody biomass power plants, will emerge from this legislative session,” says Martha Hanner, a member of the League of Women Voters in Amherst.

Several area organizations recently signed onto a letter written by the Partnership for Policy Integrity in Pelham and sent to the Legislature’s Joint Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, calling for hearings on the revised Renewable Portfolio Standards issued by the Department of  Energy Resources.

Both the League of Women Voters chapters in Northampton and Amherst are among 86 organizations supporting the letter that is going to state Sen. Michael J. Barrett and state Rep. Jeffrey N. Roy. The letter expresses appreciation that the current regulations have the highest standards and now include an environmental justice provision, which would prohibit any wood-burning power plant built in or within five miles of an environmental justice community.

The groups are concerned, though, that new standards dramatically weaken some health and environmental protections in the current regulations.

“Ultimately the best solution may be to pass laws specifically excluding woody biomass from the state’s clean energy subsidy programs and providing broader protections for environmental justice communities,” they write.
» Read article               

» More about biomass

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

captured gannet
Canada Declares Plastics Toxic, Paving the Way for Restrictions
“I think the days of waiting for recycling to work are over,” notes one environmentalist.
By Marc Fawcett-Atkinson, National Observer, reproduced in Mother Jones
May 14, 2021


Plastic is now considered toxic under Canada’s primary environmental law—the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA)—the Trudeau government announced Wednesday.

The decision, which comes despite months of lobbying by Canada’s $28 billion plastics industry, paves the way for a proposed ban on some single-use items. A series by Canada’s National Observer earlier this year cataloged the sustained push by the plastics and food industries to disassociate plastics from anything to do with the word “toxic.”

However, the government held firm, which now clears the way for other measures to reduce plastic waste proposed by the government last fall. “This is the critical step,” said Ashley Wallis, plastics campaigner for Oceana Canada. “It’s the key that unlocks so many possibilities to help us actually address the plastic pollution crisis.”

About 3.3 million metric tons of plastic is discarded in Canada each year, and less than 10 percent—about 305,000 metric tons—is recycled. The remainder goes to landfills, incineration, or leaks into rivers, lakes and oceans, according to a 2019 study commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).

The industry is also poised to drive continued oil and gas extraction, with some petrochemical companies expecting it to account for up to 90 percent of their future growth, according to a 2020 report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative.

A 2020 government science assessment found ample evidence that plastic harms the environment, choking seabirds, cetaceans and other wildlife. The findings form the basis of the government’s decision, as substances can be considered toxic under CEPA if they harm the environment and biodiversity, human health, or both.

In October 2020, ECCC released a proposal to deal with the problem. Under the proposed rules, Canada will ban six single-use plastic items, like straws and six-pack rings, create incentives for companies to use recycled plastic, and force plastic producers to pay for recycling.
» Read article               

» More about plastics and the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 7/23/21

banner 17

Welcome back.

Our friends and neighbors are participating in a stand-out protest at the corner of Dalton and Thorndyke Ave in Pittsfield till 6pm today, bringing attention to the bad health and climate effects of peaking power plants – and the need to replace them with batteries. If you’re in the area, head over to join them, or offer a honk and supportive wave as you drive by! Meanwhile, we have breaking news about exciting developments in long-duration battery storage that carry the potential to make all fossil fuel power plants – not just peakers – obsolete within a few years. These developments highlight just how out-of-step Peabody’s proposed 55MW gas/oil peaker plant would be, even as its developer insists on moving forward.

Protests and actions are focused on big banks that finance fossil projects – raising the stakes ahead of this fall’s UN climate summit in Britain. Of course, oil and gas extraction is driven by global demand to either burn the stuff as fuel or process it into other products. A pair of articles explore how a greener economy will have to contend with the issues of consumerism and meat consumption.

This week’s climate reporting includes another stark warning from the International Energy Agency (IEA), noting that we’re failing to lower emissions at all. It spotlights the hypocrisy of wealthy governments’ “build back better” campaigns, which have so far devoted scant resources to clean energy. We also found an article explaining why Canada, a country that definitely knows better, continues to behave as if its fossil future extends forever.

Meanwhile, clean energy keeps getting cheaper, and policy negotiations around modernizing the grid are getting into the real nitty-gritty of figuring out how to allocate transmission reform costs among various stakeholders.

You’ve probably heard the Big Oil propaganda that electric vehicle emissions can be high if drivers recharge from a grid supplied by dirty fuels like coal and oil. An extensive global study resoundingly busted that myth. Turns out EVs are considerably cleaner than comparable gasoline or diesel vehicles no matter where they plug in. Even as global sales surge, General Motors seems determined to drive away its own EV customers. The company is botching its response to defects in the 2017-19 Chevy Bolt that resulted in numerous battery fires.

Carbon capture & sequestration (along with green hydrogen) are increasingly promoted as climate solutions by major fossil fuel players. By banging the drum for this unproven and expensive technology, they hope to convince policymakers that “business as usual” is on the cusp of magically going emissions free. Two articles describe this ongoing folly, and – yikes! – show how much influence it’s already exerting. We consider carbon capture to be a good thing, and support developing technologies that economically pull carbon dioxide from ambient air. It should never serve to enable or encourage continued combustion of fossil fuel.

We close with an update on a fossil fuel industry story we’ve followed for a long time – the unsustainable business model of fracking. While some shale gas production remains viable, it appears that shale oil projects are coming up dry in the hunt for investors.

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

Pitts Gen
Some want to stop pollution from local power plants. How does that pollution impact health?
By Danny Jin, The Berkshire Eagle
July 17, 2021

PITTSFIELD — Air pollution might not come up often in conversations between medical doctors and patients. Yet, doctors say that pollutants, including those emitted by local “peaker” power plants, can play a role in worsening heart and lung health.

Exposure to pollutants is associated with greater rates of developing asthma and other ailments that reduce lung function. Small particles known as particulate matter are especially concerning, and those levels also are linked with heightened risk for suffering a heart attack.

“Science has shown that pollutants take years off our lives,” said Dr. David Oelberg, a lung specialist with Berkshire Health Systems. “A lot of this stuff is not something that a patient is going to feel hurts them on a day-to-day basis unless they can see smog in the air. … It’s a bit of a silent killer.”

Oelberg said he only recently has become aware of peaker plants, but he since has signed a petition circulated by the Berkshire Environmental Action Team asking the owners of three local peaker plants to consider switching to less-polluting energy sources. He named carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter as harmful pollutants.

BEAT and about 20 other groups are seeking to transition the three peakers to clean energy. The coalition has had what it says are collaborative discussions with the owner of two of those plants, and it now is focusing its efforts on Pittsfield Generating, a gas-fired plant on Merrill Road, near Allendale Elementary School and the Morningside neighborhood in Pittsfield.
» Read article           

Peabody 20MW fossil plant
Peabody utility plans to shutdown older plant
By Erin Nolan, The Salem News
July 21, 2021

PEABODY — Plans to build a 55-megawatt natural gas-powered “peaker” plant along the Waters River are forging ahead, but the Peabody Municipal Light Plant officials recently announced their decision to decommission an existing 20-megawatt fossil fuel-burning plant at the same location.

According to PMLP Manager Charles Orphanos, the decision to retire the older, less efficient plant was made after hearing the concerns of ratepayers and analyzing new census data which shows an increase in the number of “environmental justice areas” surrounding the plant.

Plans to build a new peaker plant, which would only run during periods of especially high demand for electricity, have been in the works since 2015. The plant, referred to as Project 2015A in public documents, would be owned and operated by the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company (MMWEC) and was previously approved to be built at PMLP’s Waters River substation, behind the Pulaski Street Industrial Park.

On May 11, MMWEC announced they were pausing the $85 million Project 2015A in order to address the environmental and health concerns of residents, seek input from stakeholders and consider alternative energy options.

Sudi Smoller, a Peabody resident and a member of the community group Breathe Clean North Shore (BCNS), said while she and other members of the group are grateful for PMLP’s decision to decommission Gas Turbine Number One, she still has additional concerns.

“We still don’t trust MMWEC or PMLP,” she said, noting all the changes which have been made over the past several weeks. “That suggests to me that we need more time to continue making improvements.”

She also noted that the two plants are not the same size, and decommissioning one plant does not change the fact the PMLP and other municipal light plants are investing in a fossil fuel resource even as climate change concerns are growing.

Smoller also said she is unhappy that MMWEC has not committed to doing an environmental impact study or comprehensive health impact study.

Jerry Halberstadt, another Peabody resident and member of BCNS, said he is also still hoping for more comprehensive environmental and health reviews.

“PMLP has promised to decommission an old, expensive peaker plant, but that does not offset the long-term harm that the new 55MW peaker plant will do,” he said in a statement. “The old plant is long past retirement age; it is a good, but not a sufficient concession. If PMLP and MMWEC were sincere in their desire to respect the concerns of citizens, they would enter into meaningful negotiations.”
» Read article           

» More about peakers

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Chase funds climate crimes
‘Deadline Glasgow’: As Climate Summit Looms, Campaign Targets Complicity of Banks and Biden
Scores of groups are “calling on all financial institutions and the U.S. government to end their support for companies engaged in climate destruction and human rights abuses.”
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
July 20, 2021

More than 160 organizations launched a new campaign Tuesday, ahead of a United Nations climate summit this fall, demanding that Wall Street and U.S. President Joe Biden cut off funding for companies and projects fueling the climate emergency.

The “Deadline Glasgow—Defund Climate Chaos” campaign is spearheaded by the Stop the Money Pipeline coalition, which targets asset managers, banks, and insurers for their roles in climate destruction.

However, anyone who supports the campaign’s demands can sign a petition “calling on all financial institutions and the U.S. government to end their support for companies engaged in climate destruction and human rights abuses by the start of the Glasgow climate talks.”

The campaign includes an 8:00 pm ET kickoff event featuring Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.); 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben; and Giniw Collective founder Tara Houska, one of the Indigenous women leading the fight against the Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

The two-week U.N. summit known as COP 26, scheduled to start on October 31 in the Scottish city, will be “the most important climate talks since the Paris agreement,” the petition says. That deal, which outlines global goals for limiting temperature rise this century, was adopted at COP 21 in late 2015.

For this year’s summit, hosted by the United Kingdom in partnership with Italy, parties to the Paris agreement are being asked to present greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets for the next decade that align with reaching net zero by 2050.
» Read article           
» Sign the petition        

keep it in the ground line 3City, county leaders join calls to stop Enbridge pipeline projects in Minnesota, Wisconsin
By Chris Hubbuch, Wisconsin State Journal
July 20, 2021

Local leaders are drafting resolutions in support of people working to stop the expansion of Enbridge Energy pipelines that transport Canadian oil across Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The Madison City Council is expected to vote on a resolution Tuesday in support of Indigenous sovereignty and calling on local, state and federal leaders to stop the reroute of Line 5 in northern Wisconsin and construction of Enbridge’s $2.9 billion Line 3 replacement in Minnesota.

The resolution, which has 13 sponsors, notes that each of the lines crosses dozens of rivers, streams and wetlands, including the Mississippi River, and cites spills in 1991 and 2010 that leaked millions of gallons of oil into rivers.

Dane County Board member Heidi Wegleitner said she plans to introduce a similar resolution later this week.

Speaking at a send-off event Monday for several protestors heading to camps along the Line 3 pipeline route through northern Minnesota, Madison City Council President Syed Abbas said people in the United States are fortunate to have clean water.

“We are blessed and we have to say thanks to the Indigenous community for that,” Abbas said. “We need to stand with them. We might tomorrow get to a similar situation where we don’t have clean water because of contamination.”
» Read article           

» More about protests and actions

GREENING THE ECONOMY

retail shipping impact
New Report Reveals Top Retail Shipping Polluters
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
July 20, 2021

The coronavirus pandemic has left U.S. customers ever more reliant on retail goods shipped around the world to their doorsteps, but what does all of this fossil-fuel-fueled transportation cost the environment?

In a new report released Tuesday, nonprofits Pacific Environment and Stand.earth have uncovered the 15 retail giants that contribute the most both to the climate crisis and air pollution by shipping goods to the U.S. from overseas.

“These findings reveal new environmental and public health impacts of retail companies’ manufacturing and transport choices — and they are damning,” the report authors wrote.

By shipping goods, these 15 companies emitted the same amount of greenhouse gases as 1.5 million U.S. homes in 2019 alone. The same year, they also released two-billion vehicles worth of sulfur oxide pollution, 65.7 million vehicles worth of particulate matter pollution and 27.4 million vehicles worth of nitrous oxide pollution.

Walmart topped the list in terms of overall shipping emissions, followed by other familiar names Ashley, Target, Dole, Home Depot, Chiquita, Ikea, Amazon, Samsung, Nike, LG, Redbull, Family Dollar, Williams-Sonoma and Lowes.

The report notes that high shipping emissions are built into the retail business model that has been in place for decades, in which manufacturing is outsourced to other countries and shipped to the U.S. using fossil fuels. As a result, the world’s shipping fleet has quadrupled since the 1980s. Shipping now releases one billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, causes 6.4 million childhood asthma cases and contributes to 260,000 early deaths every year.
» Read article           
» Read the report                

greenwashing meatInvestigation: How the Meat Industry is Climate-Washing its Polluting Business Model

Growing global meat consumption threatens to derail the Paris Agreement, but that hasn’t stopped the meat industry insisting it is part of the solution to climate change.
By Caroline Christen, DeSmog Blog
July 18, 2021

In February last year, the head of a leading global meat industry body gave a “pep talk” to his colleagues at an Australian agriculture conference.

“It’s a recurring theme that somehow the livestock sector and eating meat is detrimental to the environment, that it is a serious negative in terms of the climate change discussions,” Hsin Huang, Secretary General of the International Meat Secretariat (IMS), told his audience. But the sector, he insisted, could be the “heroes in this discussion” if it wanted to.

“We cannot continue business as we have done in the past,” he went on. “If we are not proactive in helping to convince the public and policymakers in particular, who have an impact on our activities – if we are not successful in convincing them of the benefits that we bring to the table, then we will be relegated to has-beens.”

Huang’s speech points to an industry nervous about its role in a carbon-constrained future. In the face of mounting evidence of the livestock industry’s climate impacts and a growing array of meat alternatives, the sector has developed a multi-pronged PR strategy that seeks to legitimise not only the industry’s current activities but also its plans to scale up production — despite clear warnings from scientists that this could scupper efforts to meet climate targets.
» Read article           

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

cooling towersIEA Warns CO2 Emissions Set to Climb to ‘All-Time High’ as Rich Nations Skimp on Clean Energy
The Paris-based agency slammed rich governments for promising to “build back better” but refusing to “put their money where their mouth is.”
By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams
July 20, 2021

The International Energy Agency warned Tuesday that global carbon dioxide emissions are on track to soar to record levels in 2023—and continue rising thereafter—as governments fail to make adequate investments in green energy and end their dedication to planet-warming fossil fuels.

In a new report, IEA estimates that of the $16 trillion world governments have spent to prop up their economies during the coronavirus crisis, just 2% of that total has gone toward clean energy development.

Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, slammed what he characterized as the hypocrisy of rich governments that promised a green recovery from the pandemic but have thus far refused “to put their money where their mouth is.” Research published last month revealed that between January 2020 and March 2021, the governments of wealthy G7 nations poured tens of billions of dollars more into fossil fuels than renewable energy.

On top of being “far from what’s needed to put the world on a path to reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century,” Birol said that the money allocated to green energy measures thus far is “not even enough to prevent global emissions from surging to a new record.”

“Governments need to increase spending and policy action rapidly to meet the commitments they made in Paris in 2015—including the vital provision of financing by advanced economies to the developed world,” Birol continued. “But they must then go even further by leading clean energy investment and deployment to much greater heights beyond the recovery period in order to shift the world onto a pathway to net-zero emissions by 2050, which is narrow but still achievable—if we act now.”
» Read article           
» Read the IEA report

plan for Paris
EXCLUSIVE: Experts Press Trudeau to Link Regulator’s Energy Planning to 1.5°C Targets
By Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix
July 20, 2021

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under pressure to bring the Canada Energy Regulator (CER)’s energy futures modelling in line with the Paris climate agreement, The Energy Mix has learned, just as an international agency warns that the world’s 1.5°C climate stabilization target is slipping out of reach.

The CER’s annual Energy Futures report is a critically important tool in national energy policy, used by investors and businesses to project future supply, demand, and pricing for fossil fuels. Invariably, it projects continuing growth in fossil fuel production, despite the government’s promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45% this decade and bring the country to net-zero by 2050.

Now, in a July 8 letter obtained by The Mix, nearly two dozen climate scientists, academics, and energy system modellers are urging Trudeau to instruct the CER to model an energy future that supports the “monumental task” of bringing global greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050.

So far, the regulator “has only modelled a suite of scenarios that imply the Paris Agreement’s goals will not be met, where the world does too little to reduce its production and consumption of oil, gas, and coal, and where Canada’s climate policies lack ambition and fail to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050,” the letter states.

While the CER “presents itself as the authoritative source of [Canadian] energy information”, the regulator “does not currently model scenarios where Canada’s energy sector aligns with the government’s net-zero by 2050 goal,” the letter adds. As a signatory to the Paris Agreement and a member country to the International Energy Agency (IEA), “Canada should bring its energy futures modelling into alignment with international best practice and the government’s net-zero goal.”

To make that happen, Trudeau must direct the CER to model energy futures that are “informed” by the IEA’s recent Net Zero by 2050 report, which called for an immediate end to new fossil fuel projects, the 21 signatories say. The  projections in the IEA’s May 18 release were stark: the Paris-based agency foresaw global oil demand falling 75%, to 24 million barrels per day, between 2020 and 2050, gas demand dropping 55%, and remaining oil production “increasingly concentrated in a small number of low-cost producers.”

The takeaway quote from the IEA’s work: “Beyond projects already committed as of 2021, there are no new oil and gas fields approved for development in our pathway, and no new coal mines or mine extensions are required.”
» Blog editor’s note: this article illuminates the maddening disconnect between the Canadian government’s acceptance of climate science, and its refusal to formulate policies that phase out its production of fossil fuels.
» Read article         

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

investors pivoting
Investors pivoting to renewables as cost of energy drops and climate targets loom
By Sean Rai-Roche, PV Tech
July 19, 2021

Investors are turning away from fossil fuels and shifting into renewables because of falling costs and climate targets, with US banks lagging behind their European and Asian counterparts.

This was the message from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis’s (IEEFA) report Global Investors Move into Renewable Infrastructure, which was based on data from BloombergNEF.

It put the increasing investment down to “the inherent advantages of investment in clean energy”, such as higher risk adjusted returns and stable cashflows, along with the COVID-19 recovery packages of some governments incentivising green investment.

The report showed how in the financial year 2020, the clean energy sector received record investment, with US$501 billion committed – an increase of 9% of the previous year. Of this, the renewable energy sector received US$303 billion (60%) of total investment.

Total renewable energy installations hit 260GW last year despite COVID-19 pressures, which is 50% more than 2019. In contrast, total fossil fuel capacity dropped to 60GW in 2020 from 64GW in 2019.

A key factor here is the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) for renewables versus fossil fuels. Solar PV’s LCOE has fallen 90% since 2009, according to the report, while those of coal, nuclear and gas have either increased, remained flat or dropped only slightly.
» Read article           

» More about clean energy

MODERNIZING THE GRID

transmission cost allocation
Cost allocation remains key challenge for FERC ahead of transmission reform, Glick says
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
July 20, 2021

As federal regulators begin the long process of tackling transmission reform, one of several outstanding challenges will be how to allocate costs, according to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Richard Glick.

Transmission reform is considered a key policy development needed to unleash gigawatts of renewables onto the U.S. power grid, experts agree. FERC last week took an initial step toward revisiting its policies, which were last updated in 2011, by opening a comment period on an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANOPR). The commission will likely host technical conferences this fall as part of its effort to build a record before it issues a NOPR.

Glick ultimately wants to see an outcome that better prepares for future resource buildouts, expedites the interconnection process and improves cost allocation to better assess relative benefits. Cost allocation is poised to be one of the commission’s biggest challenges, but Glick said FERC’s recent joint task force with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners will help determine what allocation is appropriate.

“We know that the states play a huge role in … how transmission costs are allocated,” he said. “And because I think to the extent you can’t figure out where the costs are allocated, it’s very difficult to build the transmission facility in the first place.”

Current policy generally puts the majority of system costs for new transmission facilities onto power providers, which can cause renewables generators to back out of the interconnection queue altogether. Those withdrawals cause further delays to the already-clogged queues, according to a March report from Concentric Energy Advisors prepared for renewables industry groups. For example, a Tenaska complaint in front of FERC alleges that the Southwest Power Pool overcharged it millions of dollars in upgrade costs, which it says are not needed for its project, and would benefit other projects in the queue.
» Read article           

» More about modernizing the grid

ENERGY STORAGE

Form Energy iron-air
Startup Claims Breakthrough in Long-Duration Batteries
Form Energy’s iron-air batteries could have big ramifications for storing electricity on the power grid
By Russell Gold, Wall Street Journal
Photos by Philip Keith, WSJ
July 22, 2021

A four-year-old startup says it has built an inexpensive battery that can discharge power for days using one of the most common elements on Earth: iron.

Form Energy Inc.’s batteries are far too heavy for electric cars. But it says they will be capable of solving one of the most elusive problems facing renewable energy: cheaply storing large amounts of electricity to power grids when the sun isn’t shining and wind isn’t blowing.

The work of the Somerville, Mass., company has long been shrouded in secrecy and nondisclosure agreements. It recently shared its progress with The Wall Street Journal, saying it wants to make regulators and utilities aware that if all continues to go according to plan, its iron-air batteries will be capable of affordable, long-duration power storage by 2025.

Its backers include Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a climate investment fund whose investors include Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos. Form recently initiated a $200 million funding round, led by a strategic investment from steelmaking giant ArcelorMittal SA, MT 0.95% one of the world’s leading iron-ore producers.

Form is preparing to soon be in production of the “kind of battery you need to fully retire thermal assets like coal and natural gas” power plants, said the company’s chief executive, Mateo Jaramillo, who developed Tesla Inc.’s Powerwall battery and worked on some of its earliest automotive powertrains. [emphasis added]

On a recent tour of Form’s windowless laboratory, Mr. Jaramillo gestured to barrels filled with low-cost iron pellets as its key advantage in the rapidly evolving battery space. Its prototype battery, nicknamed Big Jim, is filled with 18,000 pebble-size gray pieces of iron, an abundant, nontoxic and nonflammable mineral.

For a lithium-ion battery cell, the workhorse of electric vehicles and today’s grid-scale batteries, the nickel, cobalt, lithium and manganese minerals used currently cost between $50 and $80 per kilowatt-hour of storage, according to analysts.

Using iron, Form believes it will spend less than $6 per kilowatt-hour of storage on materials for each cell. Packaging the cells together into a full battery system will raise the price to less than $20 per kilowatt-hour, a level at which academics have said renewables plus storage could fully replace traditional fossil-fuel-burning power plants.

A battery capable of cheaply discharging power for days has been a holy grail in the energy industry, due to the problem that it solves and the potential market it creates.

Form Energy’s iron-air battery breathes in oxygen and converts iron to rust, then turns the rust back into iron and breathes out oxygen, discharging and charging the battery in the process.

Earlier this year, it built Big Jim, a full-scale one-meter-by-one-meter battery cell. If it works as expected, 20 of these cells will be grouped in a battery. Thousands of these batteries will be strung together, filling entire warehouses and storing weeks’ worth of electricity. It could take days to fully charge these battery systems, but the batteries can discharge electricity for 150 hours at a stretch.
» Read article           

» More about energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

EV production lineOne of the biggest myths about EVs is busted in new study
Even EVs that plug into dirty grids emit fewer greenhouse gases than gas-powered cars
By Justine Calma, The Verge
July 21, 2021

A new study lays to rest the tired argument that electric vehicles aren’t much cleaner than internal combustion vehicles. Over the life cycle of an EV — from digging up the materials needed to build it to eventually laying the car to rest — it will release fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a gas-powered car, the research found. That holds true globally, whether an EV plugs into a grid in Europe with a larger share of renewables, or a grid in India that still relies heavily on coal.

This shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Fossil fuels are driving the climate crisis. So governments from California to the European Union have proposed phasing out internal combustion engines by 2035. But there are still people who claim that EVs are only as clean as the grids they run on — and right now, fossil fuels still dominate when it comes to the energy mix in most places.

“We have a lot of lobby work from parts of the automotive industry saying that electric vehicles are not that much better if you take into account the electricity production and the battery production. We wanted to look into this and see whether these arguments are true,” says Georg Bieker, a researcher at the nonprofit research group the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) that published the report. The ICCT’s analysis found that those arguments don’t hold true over time.

The report estimates the emissions from medium-sized EVs registered in 2021 in either India, China, the US, or Europe — countries that make up 70 percent of new car sales globally and are representative of other markets across the world, the ICCT says. Lifetime emissions for an EV in Europe are between 66 and 69 percent lower compared to that of a gas-guzzling vehicle, the analysis found. In the US, an EV produces between 60 to 68 percent fewer emissions. In China, which uses more coal, an EV results in between 37 to 45 percent fewer emissions. In India, it’s between 19 to 34 percent lower.
» Read article           
» Read the ICCT report

details emerging
GM leaves owner owing $12K after Bolt EV battery fire last year
By Sean Graham, Electrek
July 20, 2021

GM again exploded into the mainstream news last week with an announcement that it was no longer safe to charge the Chevy Bolt EV unattended and that owners should park outside and away from structures out of fire concerns. This all started with a recall of 68,000 Bolt EVs in November of last year. While Hyundai had a similar problem and eventually elected to replace all Kona EV batteries with newer ones, GM decided that software could fix their problems. There have been at least two Bolt EV fires that had the final software update installed, which prompted GM’s recent announcement.

We reached out to a GM spokesperson for comment. We were told that GM is diligently investigating these latest fires and is working on a potential update to owners as quickly as possible. But the spokesperson could not give a timeframe for how this would progress.

While some are quick to dismiss electric vehicle fires as still less common than gas car fires, the opposite is actually true in this particular case. The Chevy Bolt, at least the 2019 model year, is more than an order of magnitude more likely to catch fire than a 2019 gas car, and it can do so in the middle of the night when you’re sleeping.

Electrek exclusively sat down with several owners of Bolt EV fires, and here’s one of their stories.

This is the owner’s recount from his Bolt EV fire that occurred on June 29, 2020, that GM confirmed to be battery-related.
» Read article           

Alice now
Eviation’s Hotly Anticipated Electric Commuter Plane Will Make Its Maiden Voyage This Year
The Washington-based startup expects its plane to be ready for operation in 2024.
By Bryan Hood, Robb Report
July 19, 2021

Three years after it was announced, Eviation Aircraft’s first electric plane is almost ready to take flight.

The Washington-based startup says its debut aircraft, the Alice, could make its maiden flight before the year is out. In fact, the company is so confident in the battery-powered commuter jet that it expects it to be in operation by 2024.

The just-unveiled production version of the Alice looks quite a bit different from the plane Eviation first showed off back in 2018. The zero-emission prototype had a very clear science fiction-inspired look, but the final version will sport a more refined and traditional fixed-wing design. That’s not the only change, either. The Alice now has just two propellers, both mounted on the tail, as opposed to the three its prototype was outfitted with, which were located at the rear and at the end of each wing.

Despite these changes, the Alice will still have room for nine passengers, not including the two seats in the cockpit for the pilot and co-pilot. That will put the plane firmly in the commuter and business class when it’s finally ready for operation. Each propeller is powered by a magni650 electric motor by magniX, according to a press release. It will also feature a fly-by-wire system from Honeywell, which will afford the pilot improved controls.

Eviation says the Alice will have a top speed of 253 miles per hour and a range of 440 nautical miles, which works out to about 506 miles. That means the plane should be able to easily make the trip between Los Angeles and San Francisco on a single charge. Anyone paying attention to electric vehicle announcements is probably used to outlandish power and range claims, but Alice’s numbers should actually be attainable. That’s because its high-density battery system uses currently available cells.
» Read article           

» More about clean transportation

CARBON CAPTURE & SEQUESTRATION

carbon capture project
Will the Democrats’ Climate Legislation Hinge on Carbon Capture?
The bipartisan infrastructure bill may include billions in support for the technology. Progressive groups are not happy about it.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News
July 20, 2021

The Democrats’ fragile package of sweeping climate and infrastructure legislation might end up being held together by a technology known as carbon capture and storage. That is, if it doesn’t pull it apart.

The Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on a bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes billions in government support for carbon capture, which pulls carbon dioxide out of smokestack emissions or straight from the air and pumps it underground. But on Monday, a coalition of hundreds of progressive environmental groups sent an open letter to President Joe Biden and Democratic Congressional leaders calling on them to reject the technology.

“Carbon capture is not a climate solution,” the groups wrote in the letter, which was accompanied by an advertisement in the Washington Post. “To the contrary, investing in carbon capture delays the needed transition away from fossil fuels and other combustible energy sources, and poses significant new environmental, health, and safety risks, particularly to Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities already overburdened by industrial pollution, dispossession, and the impacts of climate change.”

The letter reflects a split that has emerged in the advocacy community and among Democrats. Many of the nation’s most influential, mainstream environmental groups did not sign the letter, while those organizations that did sign included more left-leaning, justice-focused and local groups.

Carbon capture and storage, or CCS, has taken on an increasingly central role in climate policy discussions over the last couple of years. It is one of the few climate actions that draws bipartisan support. Most major labor unions also support CCS, arguing that its deployment could provide new jobs and help extend the life of some gas or coal-burning power plants, which often provide high-paying union jobs. And the fossil fuel industries have promoted the technology for decades.
» Read article           
» Read the letter

future of natural gas
DOE Quietly Backs Plan for Carbon Capture Network Larger Than Entire Oil Pipeline System
Obama Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and major labor group AFL-CIO are behind the “blueprint” for a multi-billion dollar system to transport captured CO2 — and offer a lifeline to fossil fuel plants.
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
July 18, 2021

An organization run by former Obama-era Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, with the backing of the AFL-CIO, a federation of 56 labor unions, has created a policy “blueprint” to build a nationwide pipeline network capable of carrying a gigaton of captured carbon dioxide (CO2).

The “Building to Net-Zero” blueprint appears to be quietly gaining momentum within the Energy Department, where a top official has discussed ways to put elements into action using the agency’s existing powers.

The pipeline network would be twice the size of the current U.S. oil pipeline network by volume, according to the blueprint, released by a recently formed group calling itself the Labor Energy Partnership. Backers say the proposed pipeline network — including CO2 “hubs” in the Gulf Coast, the Ohio River Valley, and Wyoming — would help reduce climate-changing pollution by transporting captured carbon dioxide to either the oil industry, which would undo some of the climate benefits by using the CO2 to revive aging oilfields, or to as-yet unbuilt facilities for underground storage.

The blueprint, however, leaves open many questions about how the carbon would be captured at the source — a process that so far has proved difficult and expensive — and where it would be sent, focusing instead on suggesting policies the federal government can adopt to boost CO2 pipeline construction.

Climate advocates fear that building such a large CO2 pipeline network could backfire, causing more greenhouse gas pollution by enabling aging coal-fired power plants to remain in service longer, produce pipes that could wind up carrying fossil fuels if carbon capture efforts fall through, and represent an expensive waste of federal funds intended to encourage a meaningful energy transition.

In March, over 300 climate and environmental justice advocacy groups sent a letter to Congress, arguing that subsidizing carbon capture “could entrench the fossil economy for decades to come.”
» Read article           
» Read the letter

» More about CCS

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

shale drilling overThe U.S. Shale Revolution Has Surrendered to Reality
Fracking companies aren’t drilling as investment continues to dry up.
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
July 16, 2021

“Drill, baby, drill is gone forever.”

That was the recent assessment of Saudi Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman of the American oil industry’s future potential. As Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz is one of the most influential voices in the global oil markets. Fortune termed it a “bold taunt,” and a warning to U.S. frackers to not increase oil production.

The response by the U.S. producers — to shut up and take it — quietly confirms this reality. Shale oil’s era of growth appears to be over. The reason is that even as global oil demand and prices rise, the economics of the shale oil business model continue to not work. The U.S. shale industry has lost hundreds of billions of dollars in the past decade producing oil and selling it for less than it cost to produce.

This was possible because despite the losses, investors kept giving the industry money. But now investors appear to have grown tired of losing money on U.S. shale companies and new lending to the industry has dropped dramatically.

As reported this month by The Wall Street Journal, “capital markets showed little interest in funding expansive new drilling campaigns” for the U.S. shale industry. Shaia Hosseinzadeh, a partner at investment firm OnyxPoint Global Management LP,  told The Journal that the problem facing fracking companies is that “they can’t access cheap capital any longer.”

Without new infusions of money, the industry can’t drill for more oil, and that is why the Saudis feel confident taunting the U.S. oil industry. Prince Abdulaziz’s confidence is based in the financial realities of U.S. shale.
» Read article           

energy for progressHow a powerful US lobby group helps big oil to block climate action
The American Petroleum Institute receives millions from oil companies – and works behinds the scenes to stall or weaken legislation
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian
July 19, 2021

When Royal Dutch Shell published its annual environmental report in April, it boasted that it was investing heavily in renewable energy. The oil giant committed to installing hundreds of thousands of charging stations for electric vehicles around the world to help offset the harm caused by burning fossil fuels.

On the same day, Shell issued a separate report revealing that its single largest donation to political lobby groups last year was made to the American Petroleum Institute, one of the US’s most powerful trade organizations, which drives the oil industry’s relationship with Congress.

Contrary to Shell’s public statements in support of electric vehicles, API’s chief executive, Mike Sommers, has pledged to resist a raft of Joe Biden’s environmental measures, including proposals to fund new charging points in the US. He claims a “rushed transition” to electric vehicles is part of “government action to limit Americans’ transportation choice”.

Shell donated more than $10m to API last year alone.

And it’s not just Shell. Most other oil conglomerates are also major funders, including ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP, although they have not made their contributions public.

The deep financial ties underscore API’s power and influence across the oil and gas industry, and what politicians describe as the trade group’s defining role in setting major obstacles to new climate policies and legislation.

Critics accuse Shell and other major oil firms of using API as cover for the industry. While companies run publicity campaigns claiming to take the climate emergency seriously, the trade group works behind the scenes in Congress to stall or weaken environmental legislation.

Earlier this year, an Exxon lobbyist in Washington was secretly recorded by Greenpeace describing API as the industry’s “whipping boy” to direct public and political criticism away from individual companies.
» Read article           

» More about fossil fuel

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