Tag Archives: Line 3

Weekly News Check-In 2/11/22

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Welcome back.

This week’s news is full of evidence that protests and legal actions against fossil fuel expansion projects have been successful. On the heels of the Bureau of Land Management’s court-directed cancellation of lease sales for oil and gas development in the Gulf of Mexico, the Biden administration is taking a fresh look at Conoco-Phillips’ sketchy ‘Willow’ development proposal for Alaska’s North Slope. Meanwhile the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has been invalidating Mountain Valley Pipeline permits granted after shoddy, rubber-stamp reviews during the Trump administration. Industry is not pleased with all this, and has fought back against protesters who take non-violent direct action to delay and draw attention to these projects. Their boots-on-the-ground efforts support and often drive the legal mechanisms that ultimately enforce environmental protection. Applying political influence, Big Oil & Gas has encouraged 36 states to criminalize many forms of peaceful resistance. These new felony charges are sending good people to prison, but they aren’t stifling opposition.

The divestment movement is also holding strong. French energy giant TotalEnergies is reportedly having trouble lining up the money it needs to despoil large areas of Uganda and Tanzania by way of its proposed Lake Albert oil fields development and related East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). A significant number of potential investors and insurers are now guided by internal climate-related policies, and have lost their appetite for fossil profits.

Pumping the bellows on these headwinds for big polluters is an increasing awareness that our reliance on natural gas has made methane pollution an urgent climate threat – and an opportunity. At every step from extraction and transport, to local distribution networks with their stubbornly pervasive gas leaks, methane’s powerful warming effect is finally understood as a primary threat to holding global warming within manageable limits. Quickly ramping down natural gas production and use can deliver huge benefits, but that entails rapidly electrifying buildings and replacing fossil fuel electricity generation with renewables. It’s a suite of changes requiring grid modernization, a process hampered by its own technical and regulatory speed bumps.

Gas utilities are taking tentative steps to explore roles beyond their current business model. Some recognize they’ll need to change or be left behind.

Our Greening the Economy section considers how to prioritize decarbonization, including consideration of the military’s fuel habit. Then we focus on the possible, and look at some of the rapidly developing technologies taking us there. Clean energy is seeing some breakthroughs in solar panel recycling, and a number of college campuses are building geothermal district heating systems to reduce emissions. Even industrial sectors like cement manufacturing, currently considered hard to decarbonize, may have an all-electric future because of advances in ultra-high-temperature thermal storage.

We know that long-duration energy storage plays a critical role in retiring fossil fuel generating plants, but how we do it has huge environmental and social justice implications. We offer three articles featuring exciting emerging technologies that promise to solve a number of problems that lithium batteries can’t.

Lithium-ion batteries are a mature product, having years of service in phones, laptops, and electric vehicles. This allowed them to gain early dominance in the short-term energy storage market. Lately, a few developers have found they can use these batteries to provide longer-duration power by simply increasing their numbers – so the typical four-hour limit can stretch to eight. But lithium is not abundant and mining it can disrupt sensitive areas. As such, we prefer that it be reserved for mobile applications where its light weight and high energy density make it difficult to substitute. For large stationary applications, it looks like iron-air and iron flow batteries, gravity storage, and high-temperature thermal storage (among others), will soon displace lithium with greener, cheaper, more durable, and longer-duration alternatives.

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

North Slope pipelines
The Biden Administration Rethinks its Approach to Drilling on Public Lands in Alaska, Soliciting Further Review
The Bureau of Land Management is inviting public input on ConocoPhillips’ Willow project on the North Slope, following a court reversal on leases it approved last year in the Gulf of Mexico.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News
February 4, 2022

The Biden administration will give the public a new opportunity to weigh in on a major oil project proposed in the Alaskan Arctic, handing a victory to environmental groups that have opposed the development.

In an announcement late Thursday, the Bureau of Land Management said it would solicit comments about the Willow project, which would pump about 590 million barrels of oil over 30 years from a rapidly-warming ecosystem on Alaska’s North Slope.

The ConocoPhillips project was approved in the final months of the Trump administration, but its future was thrown into doubt after a federal court in Alaska vacated the approval last year and sent the project back to the BLM for further environmental review. The Biden administration initially supported the project by defending it in court, but then declined to appeal last year’s ruling.

Climate advocates had called on the BLM to open a public “scoping period” as part of the court-ordered review of Willow, and they said Thursday’s announcement was a sign that the Biden administration may be taking their concerns seriously.

“The agency is going to start from the very beginning to assess the project,” said Layla Hughes, an attorney with Earthjustice, an environmental law nonprofit that represented Indigenous and climate advocates in one of two lawsuits challenging the project that led to last year’s court ruling.

Hughes and other advocates had described Willow as a major test for the Biden administration’s climate policy, and had expressed concern that the BLM was conducting a narrow review in response to the court ruling, rather than taking a broader look at environmental and climate impacts. Advocates argue that such a review would show that the project should not proceed at all, given the urgency of limiting global warming and protecting a melting Arctic.

With Thursday’s announcement, Hughes said, “the agency is basically signaling its intent to meaningfully assess the project. Whether or not it does, we’ll have to see.”
» Read article      

protest felony charges
‘They criminalize us’: how felony charges are weaponized against pipeline protesters
Thirty-six states have passed laws that criminalize protesting on ‘critical infrastructure’ including pipelines. In Minnesota, at least 66 felony theft charges against Line 3 protesters remain open
Alexandria Herr, The Guardian
February 10, 2022

Last summer Sabine Von Mering, a professor of German at Brandeis University, drove more than 1,500 miles from Boston to Minneapolis to protest against the replacement of the Line 3 oil pipeline that stretches from Canada’s tar sands down to Minnesota.

Along with another protester, she locked herself to a semi-truck in the middle of a roadway, according to a filed court brief, as a means of peaceful resistance. But when she was arrested, she was charged with a serious crime: felony theft, which carries up to five years in prison.

Legal advocates say that in Minnesota the elevated charges are a novel tactic to challenge protest actions against pipeline construction. They see them as furthering evidence of close ties between Minnesota’s government and the fossil fuel industry. It follows reporting by the Guardian that the Canadian pipeline company Enbridge, which is building Line 3, reimbursed Minnesota’s police department $2.4m for time spent arresting protesters and on equipment including ballistic helmets. Experts say the reimbursement strategy for arrests is a new technique in both Minnesota and across the US, and there’s concern it can be replicated.

“I do a lot of representation for people in political protests and I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Jordan Kushner, a defense attorney representing clients charged in relation to Line 3 protests.

Two of Kushner’s clients were charged with felony “aiding attempted suicide” charges for crawling inside a pipe. The charge is for someone who “intentionally advises, encourages, or assists another who attempts but fails to take the other’s own life”, according to Minnesota law and carries up to a seven-year sentence. Authorities alleged that the protesters were endangering their lives by remaining inside the pipeline.

“To put it charitably, it’s a very creative use of this law,” said Kushner.
» Read article      

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

MVP taking fire
Another blow to the Mountain Valley Pipeline
It’s Monday, February 7, and a federal court is dealing blow after blow to a natural gas pipeline.
By Emily Pontecorvo, Grist
February 7, 2022

The Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 303-mile pipeline that would deliver natural gas from the shale fields of northern West Virginia to southern Virginia, is mostly built. But a federal court has indicated in the last few weeks that it shouldn’t be, siding with communities and environmental groups that have been fighting the project from the start.

On Thursday, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Endangered Species Act authorization for the pipeline, which was granted under the Trump administration. The court found that the agency’s assessment of impacts to two endangered fish species, the Roanoke logperch and candy darter, was flawed, and that the agency had failed to consider the impact of climate change in its analysis.

That blow follows two others the previous week, when the same court rejected permits that had been issued for the pipeline by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management for stream crossings in the Jefferson National Forest. This was the second time the court rejected the agencies’ permits for inadequately assessing the potential erosion and sediment disturbance caused by the pipeline. Throughout its development, the Mountain Valley Pipeline, or MVP, has been plagued by permitting battles that have delayed the project by four years and almost doubled its cost.

“Three more key federal agencies have been sent back to the drawing board after failing to analyze MVP’s harmful impacts,” said Kelly Sheehan, the senior director of energy campaigns for the Sierra Club, in a statement. Sheehan blamed the Trump administration’s “rushed, shoddy permitting” and urged the Biden administration to re-evaluate, and ultimately cancel, the whole project.
» Read article      

Highwater Ethanol
Carbon dioxide pipelines planned for Minnesota fall into regulatory black hole
Two multibillion-dollar pipelines would ship CO2 produced by ethanol plants to other states for underground storage.
By Mike Hughlett, Star Tribune
February 5, 2022

Two of the largest carbon dioxide pipelines in the world are slated to cross Minnesota, transporting the climate-poisoning gas for burial deep underground — yet also falling into a regulatory black hole.

CO2 is considered a hazardous pipeline fluid under federal law and in some states, including Iowa, but not Minnesota.

The pipelines — one of which would be more expensive than the Enbridge pipeline project across northern Minnesota — would primarily ship CO2 captured at ethanol plants across the Midwest.

Transporting and storing CO2 has never been done on this scale. Carbon-capture technology is still in a nascent stage. And a 2020 pipeline mishap in Mississippi caused an evacuation and dozens of injuries.

“CO2 is a hazardous material that can lead to absolutely disastrous ruptures,” said Bill Caram, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, a Washington state-based group. While CO2 isn’t explosive like natural gas, it’s an asphyxiant that can be fatal in large doses.

Right now, the CO2 pipelines don’t require approval from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). But the PUC in December opened a proceeding on whether it should change state regulations to deem CO2 pipelines as hazardous. The Minnesota Departments of Transportation, Agriculture, Commerce and Natural Resources (DNR) all favor such a change.

“A developing body of research has raised concerns about the safety and environmental effects of pipelines transporting CO2,” the DNR said in a PUC filing Monday. “Leaks or breaks in a pipeline can cause CO2 to accumulate in low-lying areas [including basements of area residences and buildings], thereby displacing oxygen.”
» Read article      

» More about pipelines

GAS LEAKS

Parker and Salem
Communities of color get more gas leaks, slower repairs, says study
By Barbara Moran, WBUR
February 4, 2022

People of color, lower-income households, and people with limited English skills across Massachusetts are more exposed to gas leaks — especially more hazardous gas leaks — than the general population, according to a new study. Those same communities also experience longer waits to get the leaks fixed.

“There is a disparity. It’s consistent. It’s across the state. That’s a civil rights issue to begin with,” said study co-author Marcos Luna, a professor of geography and sustainability at Salem State University. “This is not acceptable.”

Study co-author Dominic Nicholas built the database used in the study. Nichols, a program director for the Cambridge-based nonprofit Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET), had taken the natural gas utilities’ records of gas leaks, geocoded them, and made the data publicly available.

“With this large data set finally being geocoded and really high quality, it allowed us to explore the problem at different geographic scales, which was a breakthrough, I think, for this work,” Nicholas said.

Researchers examined how frequently gas leaks of different grades occurred by community, the ages of the leaks and how quickly they were repaired.

The research revealed that gas leaks don’t affect everyone in the state equally; rather, race, ethnicity, English language ability, and income are the leading indicators of exposure to leaks. While there was some variation across the state — for instance, income disparity was a larger factor than racial disparity in the Berkshires — the overall findings held true even in areas of the state with denser populations and more gas pipelines, and areas with older gas infrastructure.

About half of households in Massachusetts use natural gas for heat. Gas leaks create fire hazards, degrade air quality, kill trees and contribute to climate change.

Recent research has found that natural gas infrastructure in eastern Massachusetts emits methane — a potent greenhouse gas — at about six times higher than state estimates, and leaks have not decreased over the past eight years, despite state efforts to fix them.
» Read article     
» Read the study

» More about gas leaks

DIVESTMENT

TotalEnergies
Total’s East Africa Pipeline ‘Struggling’ To Find Financiers
The companies leading the project are “staying quiet on the crucial question of where the money will come from”, activists say.
By Maina Waruru, DeSmog Blog
February 7, 2022

Total’s “incredibly risky” crude oil pipeline may still lack the financial backing it requires, campaigners have claimed, as the controversial project moves one step closer to completion.

Once finished, the 1,443km-long East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) could transport up to 216,000 barrels a day from the Lake Albert region in landlocked Uganda to Tanga in Tanzania, with the first oil expected in 2025.

However, a coalition of environmental and human rights groups opposing the pipeline, Stop EACOP, says the announcement is thin on detail and the project is not yet assured.

The final investment decision was a “show of progress”, said Ryan Brightwell, a campaigner at non-profit BankTrack, but companies were “staying quiet on the crucial question of where the money will come from for their incredibly risky pipeline plans”.

A number of financial institutions have already distanced themselves from the project after the coalition briefed financiers about the risks last year.

The pipeline forms one part of the Ugandan oil development, which also includes the country’s first planned oil refinery, and two oil fields — Tilenga and Kingfisher.

In a statement responding to the final investment decision, the coalition noted that 11 international banks and three insurance companies have already declined to finance the project.

The final investment decision comes nine months after the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned there can be no more new oil and gas investments if the world is to limit temperature rise to 1.5C.

Brightwell, of BankTrack, warned that crackdowns on peaceful protesters in Uganda, as well as risks to “communities, nature, water and the climate”, were harming the project’s image. “No wonder the project is struggling to find financiers unscrupulous and reckless enough to back it,” he said.
» Read article     
» Read the StopEACOP statement

» More about divestment

GREENING THE ECONOMY

heavy lifter
Should the Defense Dept. be exempt from cutting greenhouse gas emissions?
The department is not actually off the hook, nor should it be.
By Sharon E. Burke, Boston Globe | Opinion
February 10, 2022

President Biden recently directed all federal agencies to cut greenhouse gas emissions. There’s just one problem, according to a new letter from 28 members of Congress: The single largest source of greenhouse gases in the federal government, the Department of Defense, is off the hook. The signatories to the letter, led by Senator Ed Markey, want the president to live up to his pledges on climate change by denying the Pentagon an exemption for military emissions.

The senator has a point. With the exception of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines, US armed forces depend on petroleum, chewing through around 90 million barrels a year.

At the same time, it’s not a realistic request. Imagine this scenario: President Vladimir Putin of Russia invades Ukraine, then begins amassing troops on Estonia’s border. NATO members agree to send troops to protect their ally, but Biden has to decline because flying C-130s full of soldiers to Eastern Europe would violate greenhouse gas targets.

No US president is going to agree to constrain military options in this way in order to cut greenhouse gases. Fortunately, there are better ways to advance climate policy, including at the Department of Defense.

No one actually knows the size of the defense sector’s carbon footprint (the Biden administration is taking bold steps to fix that, with accounting for the entire defense supply chain), but the Department of Defense itself emitted around 55 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2019. That’s significant for a single institution, but it adds up to less than 1 percent of America’s overall greenhouse gas footprint, which totaled about 6.6 billion metric tons in 2019.

In other words, if Biden were to completely eliminate the entire military tomorrow, it would barely make a dent in US greenhouse gas emissions. The largest American contributors to global climate change are all in the civilian economy — industry, agriculture and land use, electricity, transportation, and buildings. Even with better accounting of the defense sector, the main contributors will probably still be things like petrochemicals, power plants, and personal vehicles (an Abrams tank may get lousy gas mileage, but there are less than 5,000 of them, and they don’t travel very many miles in a normal workweek). A focus on the military would be a distraction from more important climate action priorities.

Still, the Defense Department is not actually off the hook, nor should it be. Most large corporations in the United States are taking environmental, social, and governance considerations seriously as both good business and responsible stewardship, and the Defense Department must also do so. Biden’s new executive order will accelerate the department’s ESG investments, including the electrification of almost 180,000 passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks, following in the footsteps of companies such as Amazon. It will also provide an additional push for clean electricity.
» Read article      

big shoes
‘Carbon footprint gap’ between rich and poor expanding, study finds
Researchers say cutting carbon footprint of world’s wealthiest may be fastest way to reach net zero
By Helena Horton, The Guardian
February 4, 2022

Wealthy people have disproportionately large carbon footprints and the percentage of the world’s emissions they are responsible for is growing, a study has found.

In 2010, the most affluent 10% of households emitted 34% of global CO2, while the 50% of the global population in lower income brackets accounted for just 15%. By 2015, the richest 10% were responsible for 49% of emissions against 7% produced by the poorest half of the world’s population.

Aimee Ambrose, a professor of energy policy at Sheffield Hallam University and author of the study published in the journal Science Direct, says cutting the carbon footprint of the wealthiest might be the fastest way to reach net zero.

In terms of energy demand in the UK, the least wealthy half of the population accounts for less than 20% of final demand, less than the top 5% consumes. While their homes may be more energy-efficient, high consumers are likely to have more space to heat. They also own and use more luxury items and gadgets.
» Read article      

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

flaring pit flames
To Counter Global Warming, Focus Far More on Methane, a New Study Recommends
Scientists at Stanford have concluded that the EPA has radically undervalued the climate impact of methane, a “short-lived climate pollutant,” by focusing on a 100-year metric for quantifying global warming.
By Phil McKenna, Inside Climate News
February 9, 2022

The Environmental Protection Agency is drastically undervaluing the potency of methane as a greenhouse gas when the agency compares methane’s climate impact to that of carbon dioxide, a new study concludes.

The EPA’s climate accounting for methane is “arbitrary and unjustified” and three times too low to meet the goals set in the Paris climate agreement, the research report, published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found.

The report proposes a new method of accounting that places greater emphasis on the potential for cuts in methane and other short-lived greenhouse gasses to help limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“If you want to keep the world from passing the 1.5 degrees C threshold, you’ll want to pay more attention to methane than we have so far,” said Rob Jackson, an earth system science professor at Stanford University and a co-author of the study.

Over a 100-year period, methane is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. However, over a 20-year period, a yardstick that climate scientists have previously suggested would be a more appropriate timeframe, methane is 81 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

“It’s a huge swing in how much we value methane, and therefore how many of our resources go towards mitigating it,” Abernethy said.

However, the use of either time frame remains largely arbitrary.

To determine a “justified” time frame, the Stanford researchers took the Paris climate goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius as a starting point, and then calculated the most appropriate time frame to meet that goal.
» Read article     
» Read the study

Watford City flare
Seen From Space: Huge Methane Leaks
A European satellite reveals sites in the United States, Russia, Central Asia and elsewhere that are “ultra emitters” of methane. That could help fight climate change.
By Henry Fountain, New York Times
February 4, 2022

If the world is going to make a dent in emissions of methane, a potent planet-warming gas, targeting the largest emitters would likely be the most cost-effective. But there’s a basic problem: How to find them.

A new study has shown one way. Using data from a European satellite, researchers have identified sites around the world where large amounts of methane are pouring into the air. Most of these “ultra emitters” are part of the petroleum industry, and are in major oil and gas producing basins in the United States, Russia, Central Asia and other regions.

“We were not surprised to see leaks,” said Thomas Lauvaux, a researcher at the Laboratory for Sciences of Climate and Environment near Paris and lead author of the study, published in Science. “But these were giant leaks. It’s quite a systemic problem.”

Among gases released through human activities, methane is more potent in its effect on warming than carbon dioxide, although emissions of it are lower and it breaks down in the atmosphere sooner. Over 20 years it can result in 80 times the warming of the same amount of CO2.

Because of this, reducing methane emissions has increasingly been seen as a way to more rapidly limit global warming this century.

“If you do anything to mitigate methane emissions, you will see the impact more quickly,” said Felix Vogel, a research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada in Toronto who was not involved in the study.

Among the nearly 400 million tons of human-linked methane emissions every year, oil and gas production is estimated to account for about one-third. And unlike carbon dioxide, which is released when fossil fuels are deliberately burned for energy, much of the methane from oil and gas is either intentionally released or accidentally leaked from wells, pipelines and production facilities.
» Read article      

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

PV panel close-up
Inside Clean Energy: Recycling Solar Panels Is a Big Challenge, but Here’s Some Recent Progress

German researchers have made solar cells from 100 percent recycled silicon.
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
February 10, 2022

German researchers said this week that they have taken silicon from discarded solar panels and recycled it for use in new ones.

This is a positive step for dealing with the coming mountain of waste from solar power, but it’s just one part of dealing with a complicated challenge.

The Fraunhofer Center for Silicon Photovoltaics CSP in Freiburg, Germany, said that its researchers were part of a team that produced solar cells from 100 percent recycled silicon. Cells are the little squares, usually blue, that you see arranged in a tile pattern on solar panels. They are the parts that capture the sun’s energy to convert it to electricity, and silicon is their essential material.

To get an idea of the significance of this announcement, I reached out to Meng Tao of Arizona State University, a leading authority on developing systems to recycle solar components.

“I applaud their progress,” he said about the work at the Fraunhofer Center.

And then he explained why recycling silicon is only a small part of dealing with solar power waste.

Most of the weight in a solar panel, about 75 percent, is glass, Tao said. Next is aluminum, with 10 percent; wiring in a junction box, at 5 percent; and silicon, with just 3.5 percent. Panels also contain small amounts of lead, which is one reason that they need to stay out of landfills. (The percentages are approximate and can vary depending on variations in the technology and manufacturer of the panels.)

So, silicon is an important material, and being able to recycle it is a step forward, but researchers need to find cost-effective ways to recycle all the parts in a solar panel.

Today, most recyclers that work with solar panels are breaking them apart to reuse the aluminum and the wiring, but there is a limited market for the other components, Tao said.

Researchers have been looking for uses for glass from solar panels and found solutions like making a material that can be mixed with concrete.

But the ultimate goal for solar recycling is to make the process circular, which means old solar components could be processed to be used in new solar components, Tao said. That hasn’t happened yet with glass.

The desire for a circular economy around solar panels is one reason why the announcement from the Fraunhofer lab is so encouraging.
» Read article      

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Carleton College
Colleges see untapped potential in geothermal district energy systems

Minnesota’s Carleton College is among a growing list of schools investing in the centuries-old technology as part of a path to eliminating greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner.
By Frank Jossi, Energy News Network
February 7, 2022

A small but growing list of U.S. colleges and universities are dusting off a centuries-old technology to help meet their ambitious climate goals.

Carleton College, a small, private liberal arts college in Northfield, Minnesota, is the latest to trade fossil-fueled steam heat for geothermal district energy as it aims to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner.

Completed last summer, the $41 million project is Minnesota’s first geothermal district energy system and one of only about two dozen nationwide. They vary in design but typically consist of a network of pipes and heat pumps that tap into steady, subterranean temperatures to heat and cool buildings on the surface.

Most U.S. geothermal district energy systems were built more than 30 years ago amid rising oil and gas prices in the 1970s and 1980s, but the technology is seeing a resurgence today on college campuses as schools look for tools to help them follow through on climate commitments.

“I think it is one of the only scalable solutions for creating a low-carbon campus,” said Lindsey Olsen, an associate vice president and senior mechanical engineer for Salas O’Brien. The California-based engineering and facility planning firm has worked with Carleton College and others on geothermal projects.

Geothermal energy has been used for district heating for over a century in the United States. In Europe, the systems date back to ancient Rome. The oldest still in operation was installed at Chaudes Aigues in France in 1330.

Adoption has been significant in Europe —  France, Germany and Iceland are the leaders — but a market has never fully developed in the United States. A 2021 report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory cited the availability of cheap natural gas, a lack of government incentives, and steep upfront costs as key factors. The U.S. geothermal district heating sector has been “relatively stagnant since the 1980s, with only four new installations over the past two decades,” the report said.

One emerging exception is higher education. “University and college campuses are currently leading the charge in pursuit of low-carbon district energy options as a result of aggressive greenhouse gas emission reduction goals (often 100%) within the next 15 to 30 years,” the report says.
» Read article      

» More about energy efficiency

BUILDING MATERIALS

electric cementRenewables for cement? Gates-backed startup eyes ‘missing link’
By David Iaconangelo, E&E News
February 8, 2022

A Bill Gates-backed startup is betting that renewables can serve as the foundation for low-carbon cement and be more than a clean resource for cars, buildings and power generation.

The company is Oakland, Calif.-based Rondo Energy Inc., which says it has figured out a way to turn wind and solar power into a source of intense heat and store it for the production of glass, cement and other common manufactured goods.

Many of those goods depend on fossil fuels to create the kinds of ultra-high temperatures necessary for production. Rondo’s plan, if successful, would prove a number of innovation experts wrong. It also highlights the race among emerging clean technologies for the future of heavy industry.

“This is the missing link for a very fast and profitable elimination of scope 1 emissions from industry,” John O’Donnell, Rondo’s chief executive, said in an interview yesterday about his company’s technology.

Rondo’s “thermal battery,” as the company describes the heat system, could provide a zero-carbon way to deliver heat reaching over 1,200 degrees Celsius, according to the company.

It said this morning it had raised $22 million in an initial funding round from two influential climate technology investors: Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund fronted by billionaire Gates, and Energy Impact Partners, whose $1 billion sustainable energy fund counts over a dozen large utilities as contributors.

O’Donnell said Rondo will use the money to start producing its thermal battery at scale, starting with hundreds of megawatt-hours’ worth of heat this year and hitting gigawatt-hour scale in 2023.

Scaling up the technology isn’t likely to be a cakewalk, not least of all because of the difficulty of selling clean heat at a low enough price to compete with fossil fuels — and convincing manufacturers to adopt the invention.

But new backing is notable because it suggests that some of the innovation world’s most prominent technical experts — such as those who work for Breakthrough and EIP — consider renewable electricity to be a strong option for decarbonizing heavy industry.
» Read article      

» More about building materials

LONG-DURATION ENERGY STORAGE

Grist video - ESS flow battery
This iron and water battery could power a more renewable grid
By Jesse Nichols, Grist
February 10, 2022

Grist reporter Jesse Nichols traveled to a factory in Oregon, that’s building a new type of battery.

Sitting in a row outside of the factory, these giant batteries are the size of freight containers. Powered by vats of iron and saltwater, they’re called iron flow batteries. And they’re part of a wave of cleantech inventions designed to store energy from the sun and the wind, and solve a problem that has stumped the energy world for more than 150 years.

The problem is described in a Scientific American article from 1861.

“One of the great forces nature furnished to man without any expense, and in limitless abundance, is the power of the wind,” the article says. “Its great unsteadiness, however, is causing it to be rapidly superseded for such purposes by steam and other constant powers.”

To unlock the potential of wind and solar power, you need some kind of energy storage device. That could be batteries, hydrogen, or the device proposed in the Scientific American article.

When it was windy, the device would crank these heavy iron balls up this marble chute. Then, when the wind stopped blowing, they could release the balls to get energy when they needed it.

Unsurprisingly, wind energy did not take off. And fossil-fuels dominated.
» Blog editor’s note: This video provides a great non-technical explanation of what a “flow battery” is. Also, don’t dismiss the original “heavy iron balls” concept of energy storage! See its 21st century update here.
» Watch 7 minute video              

Rondo heat battery
Renewable energy heat batteries for industrial applications gain funding
Startup Rondo Energy closed a $22 million Series A funding round to decarbonize industrial processes with equipment that converts solar and wind energy into thermal energy.
By Ryan Kennedy, PV Magazine
February 8, 2022

Rondo Energy announced the closing of a $22 million Series A funding round to support its technology, a renewable energy heat battery aimed at reducing the carbon impact of industrial processes. The funding round was led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Energy Impact Partners.

It is estimated about one third of global emissions can be attributed to heavy industry. And about 40% of that, or 10% of global emissions, comes from high-temperature industrial products like cement and steel.

The Rondo heat battery offers a zero emissions source of industrial heat, storing solar and wind energy at temperatures over 1200°C. The company said it plans to begin manufacturing and delivering systems to customers later this year.

“We believe the Rondo Heat Battery will prove critical to closing stubborn emissions gaps,” said Carmichael Roberts, Breakthrough Energy Ventures. “The cost of renewable energy has been steadily falling, but it hasn’t been an option for industries that require high temperature process heat since there was no way to efficiently convert renewable electricity to high temperature thermal energy. Rondo enables companies in industries such as cement, fuels, food and water desalination to reduce their emissions while also leveraging the falling costs of renewables.”

The system is designed to pull energy from solar, wind, and the energy grid, charging the battery intermittently, but delivering continuous heat. Rondo said the battery bricks are made of safe, widely available materials.
» Read article      

ENDURING thermal energy storage
NREL Results Support Cheap Long Duration Energy Storage in Hot Sand
By Susan Kraemer, SolarPACES
February 8, 2022

There aren’t many novel clean energy technologies that could also directly remove fossil energy plants. The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has created one.

Long duration storage at grid scale is crucial to meeting climate targets. Solar PV and wind have the momentum to be a big part of the new energy economy, but only if we can add enough energy storage to make these intermittent sources dispatchable on demand at lower cost and over longer durations and for many more cycles than batteries.

The world needs a long duration energy storage technology as cheap as pumped hydro, but without the environmental and location challenges.

To this end, three years ago the US Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy  ARPA-E  “DAYS” program funded NREL to advance long duration (100 hour) thermal energy storage charged by surplus electricity from PV or wind.

Thermal energy storage is a fully tested technology in commercial CSP [concentrated solar power] plants, but using a liquid; molten salts. However, increasingly, particle storage is being researched as a more efficient storage medium than molten salts which have a working range between 290°C and 560°C – due to the much higher temperature differential of 300°C and 1000°C in particles of sand.

“We’ve studied particle-based thermal energy storage since 2011, initially for concentrating solar power,” said Zhiwen Ma, the NREL project lead. “Now it has been extended – to standalone particle thermal energy storage and industrial process heat, and heating and cooling in buildings – for even broader decarbonization, by replacing coal and natural gas.

The team partnered with GE to integrate the storage with a gas turbine power cycle.“The point of it was to try to use commercial systems as much as possible in terms of power cycles since they have a hundred years of development there’s a lot of expertise already there,” said Colorado School of Mines Ph.D. student and NREL collaborator Jeffrey Gifford.

To charge this thermal battery, surplus power from the grid would heat sand in silos. The sand particles would heat air – a gas which is predominantly nitrogen – to drive a commercially available gas turbine. Air is a much more environmentally friendly gas than natural gas and when heated by the stored sand particles it can drive the same hot gas turbine used in gas power plants today with no modifications. The air would be heated by silica sand particles from the Midwest stored in 90 meter tall silos – about the height of today’s industrial silos.

“We wanted to generate a thermal energy storage system that could integrate with what already exists,” Giffords said. “Just like how we can turn on natural gas power plants today when we need them – that’s the role of our long duration energy storage system – to be able to shape wind and solar for them to be dispatchable.”
» Read article      

» More about long-duration energy storage

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLES

EnergySource geothermal station
Where Is There More Lithium to Power Cars and Phones? Beneath a California Lake.
The U.S. race to secure a material known as ‘white gold’ turns to the Salton Sea, where energy companies hope to extract lithium from a geothermal reservoir
By Alistair MacDonald and Jim Carlton, Wall Street Journal
February 8, 2022

CALIPATRIA, Calif.—In the U.S. hunt for lithium, an essential component of the batteries that power electric vehicles and cellphones, one big untapped source might be bubbling under a giant lake in Southern California.

The U.S. currently imports almost all of its lithium, but research shows large reserves in underground geothermal brines—a scalding hot soup of minerals, metals and saltwater. The catch: Extracting lithium from such a source at commercial scale is untested.

At California’s Salton Sea, three companies, including one owned by Warren Buffett’s conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway Inc., are pushing ahead with plans to do just that. Those efforts are backed by money from governments eager to secure supplies of critical minerals that are key to several modern technologies. Prices of lithium recently rose at their fastest pace in years as supply-chain bottlenecks mounted and demand from electric-vehicle makers such as Tesla Inc. intensified.

The plans could turn this southeastern corner of California into one of the largest producers of what some call “white gold” at a time when most of that material comes from Australia, Chile and China. The geothermal reservoir under the Salton Sea area is capable of producing 600,000 metric tons a year of lithium carbonate, according to estimates from the California Energy Commission. That level of output would surpass last year’s global production.

This push for lithium could also produce thousands of jobs in an area that sorely needs them. Imperial County, where the lake resides, has a population of 180,000 and is dependent on a volatile and low-wage farming industry. Unemployment was 14.7% in December, compared with 6.5% for the state. The county’s 20% poverty rate is the fourth-highest among California’s 58 counties.

“If it is what we hope, it would lift this entire valley off of what we have been living with,” said Imperial County Supervisor Ryan Kelley.
» Read article      

Swedish accent
New study probes impact of blackened wind turbine blades
By Joshua S Hill, Renew Economy
February 7, 2022

Swedish power company Vattenfall has announced plans to embark on further research into whether painting one of the three blades on a wind turbine black can help to reduce the number of bird collisions, with a new three-year study.

Despite stories spread by some media outlets and across social media platforms, wind turbines have been shown to be much less likely to kill birds compared to other man-made obstacles and threats, including coal-fired power plants, as one prime example.

Nevertheless, Vattenfall is seeking to mitigate the impact wind turbines can have on bird populations through a new study in the Dutch seaport of Eemshaven.

Vattenfall will paint a single turbine blade black on seven wind turbines in an effort to determine whether this method can reduce the risk of birds colliding with turbine blades.

In a study already underway through the compiling of a baseline measurement through 2022, the seven turbine blades will be painted black in early 2023 and be monitored for two years through to the end of 2024.

The study will also assess aviation safety and the impact of the painted blades on the landscape.

The three-year assessment will follow the results of an existing study partly financed by Vattenfall on the island of Smøla in Norway which found that painting one wind turbine blade can result in 70% fewer collisions.

“That has to do with the way birds perceive the moving rotor of a wind turbine,” said Jesper Kyed Larsen, environmental expert at Vattenfall.

“When a bird comes close to the rotating blades, the three individual blades can ‘merge’ into a smear and birds may no longer perceive it an object to avoid. One black blade interrupts the pattern, making the blending of the blades into a single image less likely.”

Put another way, the researchers – who published their findings in the journal Ecology and Evolution in mid-2020 – concluded that “Provision of ‘passive’ visual cues may enhance the visibility of the rotor blades enabling birds to take evasive action in due time.”

Further, not only was the annual fatality rate significantly reduced at the turbines with a painted blade by over 70%, relative to the neighboring control … turbines” but, for some birds – notably the white-tailed eagle – the black turbine blade seemed to ensure no fatalities whatsoever.
» Read article      

» More about siting impacts

MODERNIZING THE GRID

bidding floor upheld
A decision made behind closed doors may set clean energy back by two years
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
February 5, 2022

At a time when New England should be racing to bring as much clean energy online as possible to green its electricity supply, the grid moved this past week to effectively discourage major wind and solar projects for at least another two years.

Like other regional power suppliers, New England’s grid operator has been asked by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to remove or change a mechanism that makes it harder for clean energy projects to enter the competitive market. But after months of saying it supported such a measure, ISO-New England reversed its stance last week and aligned with a proposal from the natural gas industry that would slow-walk any such change.

“It’s another example of not meeting the moment to usher in the clean energy transition,” said Jeremy McDiarmid, of the Northeast Clean Energy Council. “It is an example of the system not being equipped to change as fast as we need it to.”

In Massachusetts, as in other states in the region, the clock is ticking to green the electrical grid. The climate legislation passed last year requires that the state halve its emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. To do so, the state is expecting a million homeowners to switch off fossil fuels and 750,000 vehicle owners to go electric by the end of the decade. But with those increased electricity demands, a crucial piece of the state’s equation is ensuring that the grid makes a rapid switch off fossil fuels and onto renewables.

The mechanism that was voted on — called a minimum offer price rule — limits what energy projects can bid into what’s known as the forward capacity market. Developers with successful bids are able to procure financing three years in advance, helping ensure that projects have the needed funds to be developed or expanded, and that the grid will have enough energy available in the future.

The minimum offer price rule was created to help insulate fossil fuel power plants from having to compete against renewables that cost less due to state programs and subsidies that exist to help foster clean energy development. It created a floor below which a developer cannot bid, meaning that those less expensive energy supplies, like large-scale offshore wind or solar, aren’t able to compete.

The fear from regulators and the fossil fuel industry was that without such a rule, fossil fuel plants could be forced offline before adequate clean energy was ready to fill the void on the grid, creating reliability problems. The effect has been that fossil fuel-fired power plants have been able to secure bids around the region, despite increasingly ambitious climate plans from the New England states that would indicate otherwise.
» Read article      

» More about modernizing the grid

GAS UTILITIES

HP water heater test
Vermont gas utility has a new service: helping to electrify your home

Vermont Gas Systems announced that it would begin selling, leasing, installing and servicing electric heat pump water heaters for customers in a move that it expects to be neutral to its bottom line.
By David Thill, Energy News Network
February 7, 2022

A Vermont natural gas utility is expanding into a new and unexpected line of business: helping customers switch to electric appliances.

Vermont Gas Systems (VGS) announced in December that it would begin selling, leasing, installing and servicing electric heat pump water heaters for customers in and around its service territory in the northwest part of the state.

The move comes as Vermont’s 2020 climate law raises existential questions about the future of fossil fuels in the state. Achieving a mandatory 80% reduction (from 1990 levels) in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 will all but require a reduction in natural gas sales.

“By offering this, VGS is helping Vermont achieve the climate action goals established by the Global Warming Solutions Act,” said Ashley Wainer, the company’s vice president of customer and energy innovation.

The company’s motivations aren’t entirely altruistic either. In a filing to state regulators in November, VGS explained that its “behind-the-meter” installation and maintenance services are an important source of revenue, expected to bring in about $1,175,000 in net revenue for the 2022 fiscal year.

“These services are a profitable part of VGS’s overall business, and the associated revenue reduces our [cost of service] and therefore reduces customers’ rates,” the company wrote.
» Read article      

» More about gas utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Cuero flare
The end of natural gas has to start with its name
The oil and gas industry didn’t invent the name. But it invented the myth of a clean fuel.
By Rebecca Leber, Vox
February 10, 2022

Locals in the town of Fredonia, New York, noticed in the early 19th century how gas would sometimes bubble up in a creek and catch fire when lit. This wasn’t much more than a curiosity until 1821, when a businessman captured and sold it for fuel to Fredonia shops. This “inflammable air,” as one newspaper called it, was cheap to transport relative to the other lighting fuels of the day — whale oil for candles and gas produced from coal. From the start, “nature’s gas,” as it was nicknamed, was celebrated as the healthy and virtually inexhaustible miracle fuel of the future.

A big part of the early appeal was how much cleaner gas seemed than coal. In the 19th century, people could see and smell the particulate matter, sulfur, and nitrogen leaving a trail of smoggy air in cities. By comparison, natural gas is almost entirely made up of methane, a colorless, odorless gas that produces far fewer of these pollutants when burned.

What no one knew back then was that methane is pollution, too — just a different kind. A large body of scientific research now shows that gas, when it’s produced and when it’s consumed, poses a danger to human health and to the climate.

In the 19th century, this ignorance was understandable, but today most people still don’t appreciate how insidious gas fuel is. When the climate communications group Climate Nexus conducted a poll of 4,600 registered US voters last fall, 77 percent had a favorable view of natural gas, far higher than when asked about their views on methane. Less than a third were able to link that natural gas is primarily methane. In the same poll, a majority incorrectly answered that they think methane pollution is declining or staying about the same. Other surveys show similar results.

The reason for the disconnect is embedded in the very name, “natural gas.” The word “natural” tends to bias Americans to view whatever it is affixed to as healthy, clean, and environmentally friendly. Natural foods, natural immunity, and natural births are among the many buzzwords of the moment.

“The idea that we ought to do what’s natural, we ought to use what’s natural, and we ought to consume what’s natural is one of the most powerful and commonplace shortcuts we have,” said Alan Levinovitz, a religion professor who wrote Natural: How Faith in Nature’s Goodness Leads to Harmful Facts, Unjust Laws, and Flawed Science. “The term influences people’s attitudes toward natural gas. People are going to be more likely to see natural gas as better than it is; they’re more likely to see it as safer.”
» Read article      

FF hot seat
‘Big Oil’ board members face hot seat over climate ‘deception’
Oil industry insiders to appear before US Congress as some of the most powerful companies in the world face a reckoning for the climate crisis.
By Jack Losh, Aljazeera
February 7, 2022

In 1977, an internal memo at Exxon, the United States oil giant, made clear that carbon emissions from its product were causing climate change. But not only that – time was running out to act.

“CO2 release most likely source of inadvertent climate modification,” said the shorthand document. “5-10 yr time window to get necessary information.”

But over the coming years, rather than dropping fossil fuels to avert the dangers outlined in its own research, Exxon and other oil corporations chose a different path. The industry orchestrated a systematic campaign of disinformation to dupe the public, impede political action, and protect profits.

“Emphasize the uncertainty in scientific conclusions regarding the potential enhanced Greenhouse effect,” said an Exxon paper in 1988, one of many published in the America Misled report on the fossil fuel industry.

“Stress environmentally sound adaptive efforts,” said another internal memo the following year. “Victory will be achieved when average citizens ‘understand’ (recognize) uncertainties in climate science,” added one more in 1998.

Against this decades-long backdrop of deception and denial, oil industry insiders will appear before the US Congress as some of the most powerful energy companies in the world face a reckoning for their role in creating – and attempting to cover up – the climate crisis.

Board members at BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell will be questioned under oath by a House panel on Tuesday. The aim is to illuminate the industry’s contribution to humanity’s worst existential threat – and how, at the same time, it spread disinformation to cast doubt over the catastrophic impact of burning its products.

Although the hearings cannot bring criminal prosecutions, experts see them as a crucial means of shifting public opinion. And that could spur consumers to shun carbon-based fuels and encourage investors to strip big polluters of capital, while empowering environmental activists and lawyers to take on powerful industrial interests.
» Read article      

» More about fossil fuels

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Weekly News Check-In 10/8/21

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Welcome back.

Now that tar sands oil from Alberta is flowing through the hotly contested Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, it’s worth taking a moment to remember the many protests and actions that stood in its way – and prepare for the next round. We also look at some of the arguably unethical tactics used against Water Protectors during the struggle. Meanwhile, thousands of miles of leaky gas pipelines are being replaced in Massachusetts at ratepayer expense – and it’s time to reconsider whether resources might be better applied toward non-emitting alternatives.

Boston just passed  blockbuster legislation to guide many existing buildings toward net-zero emissions by 2050. While only 4% of buildings are affected by the new law, they contribute an incredible 42% of total emissions from all sources. An estimated 85% of these buildings will still be standing at mid-century – so it’s imperative to clean them up. News on the national scene is less encouraging, as Corporate America mounts a full-on lobbying assault of President Biden’s climate initiatives.

Key to the energy transition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is sharpening its scrutiny of proposed gas infrastructure projects. Many pipeline projects have been approved in the past without having established a legitimate need for the energy they’re built to transport, and Chairman Richard Glick is attempting to set the bar higher.

We just experienced a summer in which just about everyone felt they’d received too much or too little rain. It’s true – and our Climate section makes sense of it. This year’s Nobel Prize winners in Physics helped make that possible – with research showing how to understand big systems with enormous uncertainties.

We have lots of good news this week, including a forecast for continuing decreases in clean energy costs, some optimism that the carbon intensity of concrete can be reduced and managed, and exciting news that ESS’s long duration iron flow battery technology is attracting investors and orders. Heads up for a possible wrong turn in clean transportation, as Michigan – pothole capital of the Midwest – prepares to build a stretch of roadway to test wireless electric vehicle charging on the go. We wish them success, but it seems like a gamble.

We’re introducing a new section devoted to deep-seabed mining, an extreme and risky emerging resource extraction model motivated in large part by the huge projected demand for scarce metals needed to power mind-boggling numbers of electric vehicles. What we know is that we’re really quite ignorant of the deep ocean, its ecology, how it sustains the broader web of life, and how it affects the carbon cycle. We’re calling this a Very Bad Idea, and have included four excellent articles to help you get up to speed.

Recall that we began this week’s post with a look at the nasty fight over Line 3. Keep that in mind as you check out the fossil fuel industry’s pricey, happy-making Times Square ad buy – huge billboards extolling Americans to “choose friendly oil”. Including fanciful images of colorful maple leaves wafting from gas pumps. Yup – it’s our friends up north pushing this drivel, greenwashing the very same high carbon tar sands sludge they’re shoving down Line 3, across treaty-protected fragile ecosystems in northern Minnesota. Shut it down.

A much longer-running ad campaign by the natural gas industry created a deep and abiding love of gas cookstoves in this country. Consumer reluctance to switch that one appliance to electric is hampering attempts to swap out other appliances like water heaters, furnaces, and clothes dryers for their electric counterparts – and ultimately to ban gas hookups altogether. Time for us to talk about it.

Massachusetts is set to approve a liquefied natural gas facility in Charlton, MA – a project opposed by the town. The plant will produce up to a quarter million gallons of LNG per day, and will primarily serve winter peak demand. The need for that can be debated, but this is certain: The LNG will be loaded on tanker trucks and distributed via public roadways to various offloading stations. While the safety record of LNG truck transport is pretty good so far, “If an LNG tanker were breached and a vapor cloud ignited, an explosion could send projectiles hundreds of feet as well as set off a fire that can burn as high as 2,426 degrees – more than twice the flame temperature of gasoline.” according to Delaware Currents reporting.

Since we’re talking about burning stuff, we’ll close with a report on biomass – and have a look at the industry’s claim of carbon neutrality.

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

no parking any time
Oil is now flowing on Line 3. The fight to stop it isn’t over.
Anti-pipeline activists promise to continue holding polluters and policymakers accountable.
By Joseph Winters, Grist
October 1, 2021

Months of protests and a six-year legal battle culminated on Thursday, when the Canadian oil company Enbridge announced that work on its controversial new Line 3 pipeline was “substantially completed,” and that oil would begin flowing across northern Minnesota on Friday.

Line 3 “will soon deliver the low cost and reliable energy that people depend on every day,” said Al Monaco, Enbridge’s president and CEO, in a press release.

The $3 billion project was billed by Enbridge as a replacement for its existing pipeline, which was built in the 1960s and had begun to corrode. The new Line 3 will double the pipeline’s capacity, enabling the company to transport 760,000 barrels a day from tar sands in Alberta to refineries in the U.S. Midwest — traveling through Anishinaabe territory in the process.

Line 3 opponents argue that the expanded pipeline will exacerbate climate change and contaminate Minnesota waterways. More than two dozen drilling fluid spills were reported over the summer, and activists say that oil spills are inevitable over the 800 wetlands and 200 bodies of water that lie along the pipeline’s route. The largest accident to date, a 24-million-gallon groundwater leak near Clearbrook, Minnesota, led the state’s Department of Natural Resources to fine Enbridge $3.32 million.

Because the risk of an oil spill is so high, attorneys representing the region’s Indigenous people also argue that the pipeline violates Anishinaabe treaty rights for hunting, fishing, and gathering wild rice. A Line 3 oil spill could contaminate hundreds of acres of land covered in the treaties of 1854, 1855, and 1867, jeopardizing Anishinaabe rights to “make a modest living from the land.”

Despite the setback, many advocacy groups vowed to keep pressuring the Biden administration, Democratic lawmakers, and Enbridge in an effort to see the pipeline ultimately shut down. “The Line 3 fight is far from over, it has just shifted gears,” wrote the Indigenous Environmental Network. “We will continue to stand on the frontlines until every last tar sands pipeline is shut down and Indigenous communities are no longer targeted but our right to consent or denial is respected.”
» Read article                  

hired hands
Revealed: pipeline company paid Minnesota police for arresting and surveilling protesters
Enbridge picked up the tab for police wages, training and equipment – and let county police know when it wanted demonstrators arrested
By Hilary Beaumont, The Guardian
October 5, 2021

The Canadian company Enbridge has reimbursed US police $2.4m for arresting and surveilling hundreds of demonstrators who oppose construction of its Line 3 pipeline, according to documents the Guardian obtained through a public records request.

Enbridge has paid for officer training, police surveillance of demonstrators, officer wages, overtime, benefits, meals, hotels and equipment.

Enbridge is replacing the Line 3 pipeline through Minnesota to carry oil from Alberta to the tip of Lake Superior in Wisconsin. The new pipeline carries a heavy oil called bitumen, doubles the capacity of the original to 760,000 barrels a day and carves a new route through pristine wetlands. A report by the climate action group MN350 says the expanded pipeline will emit the equivalent greenhouse gases of 50 coal power plants.

The project was meant to be completed and start functioning on Friday.

Police have arrested more than 900 demonstrators opposing Line 3 and its impact on climate and Indigenous rights, according to the Pipeline Legal Action Network.

It’s common for protesters opposing pipeline construction to face private security hired by companies, as they did during demonstrations against the Dakota Access pipeline. But in Minnesota, a financial agreement with a foreign company has given public police forces an incentive to arrest demonstrators.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which regulates pipelines, decided rural police should not have to pay for increased strain from Line 3 protests. As a condition of granting Line 3 permits, the commission required Enbridge to set up an escrow account to reimburse police for responding to demonstrations.

Enbridge told the Guardian an independent account manager allocates the funds, and police decide when protesters are breaking the law. But records obtained by the Guardian show the company meets daily with police to discuss intelligence gathering and patrols. And when Enbridge wants protesters removed, it calls police or sends letters.

“Our police are beholden to a foreign company,” Tara Houska, founder of the Indigenous frontline group Giniw Collective, told the Guardian. “They are working hand in hand with big oil. They are actively working for a company. Their duty is owed to the state of Minnesota and to the tribal citizens of Minnesota.”

“It’s a very clear violation of the public’s trust,” she added.
» Read article                  

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

pipe replacement
As Massachusetts envisions a fossil fuel-free future, gas companies are quietly investing billions in pipelines
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
October 3, 2021

More than 21,000 miles of aging gas pipelines lie under the streets in Massachusetts, nearly enough to encircle the earth. When researchers began discovering about a decade ago that tens of thousands of leaks across that vast network discharged tons of hazardous methane into the air, the Legislature went to work. A law was passed, and in short order, gas companies embarked on a massive, years-long upgrade.

Since then, the gas companies have slogged through a slow, expensive process of digging up pipes and replacing them with new ones meant to last more than half a century. Costs soared. And something else happened: The state passed a climate law that effectively called for the end of natural gas.

Now, a detailed analysis of the cost and effectiveness of the program, to be released Monday, is raising questions among some experts about whether the program should be modified or even scrapped, potentially allowing money to flow to other climate-related needs.

“The question people need to ask is: The world has changed; does this program really make sense any more given climate change, the fact that we’re moving toward a low-carbon economy, and that the Commonwealth has very aggressive climate mandates?” said Dorie Seavey, an economist who conducted the study on behalf of the advocacy group Gas Leaks Allies, a coalition of scientists, activists, and environmental organizations working to reduce methane emissions from natural gas.

Senator Mike Barrett, who reviewed an early copy of the report, called it a watershed analysis that should leave residents wondering: “When do we stop investing in what is essentially as-good-as-new infrastructure, when what we really must be about is walking away from the natural gas enterprise as we know it?”

Attorney General Maura Healey, who in 2020 called on the state to investigate the future of the natural gas industry in light of Massachusetts’ climate goals, said, “The questions raised in this report … warrant a fresh statewide look at this program.
» Read article                 
» Read the analysis               

Just Say NO
PennEast Pipeline Cancelation Could Signal ‘End of an Era’ for Unnecessary Fossil Fuel Projects
The pipeline would have crossed more than 88 waterways, 44 wetlands, 30 parks, and 33 conservation easements. Experts say the cancelation demonstrates that federal regulators must stop approving gas pipelines that fail to show they are needed in the first place.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
September 30, 2021

A major natural gas pipeline in Pennsylvania was canceled this week in the face of a thicket of legal obstacles and intense local opposition. The cancelation may punctuate what could be the end of a decade-long pipeline building frenzy in the U.S. as federal regulators begin to heed calls from activists and local communities to increase scrutiny over unneeded pipelines crisscrossing the country.

The PennEast pipeline would have carried Marcellus shale gas from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, across the Delaware River and to Mercer County, New Jersey. But the developers of the project canceled it on September 27, citing its inability to obtain state-level water quality permits from New Jersey. The decision came three months after the company won a case before the U.S. Supreme Court related to the corporation’s ability to seize state land using eminent domain authority.

The cancelation highlights the obstacles that several other high-profile projects currently face. For instance, the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia still needs state-level environmental permits, as does the Pacific Connector gas pipeline in Oregon, which would feed the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas export project. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is under construction but still faces many more hurdles standing in the way of its completion. Jordan Cove is all but dead.

But the fate of PennEast is not simply a story about a pipeline stopped by state regulators over water permits. It also represented the “systemic ostrich-like refusal” by federal regulators to assess whether there is market demand for gas before approving pipeline projects in the first place, Megan Gibson, an attorney at the Niskanen Center, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C., told DeSmog.

Natural gas pipelines that cross state lines must obtain approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which grants a certificate if the project is deemed to be in the public interest. Typically, if a project shows that there is a commercial need for the gas, FERC simply approves the certificate.

But in many cases, the need for the gas is highly suspect. An industry trend in recent years saw developers of natural gas pipelines make deals with subsidiaries or affiliates of themselves, and use those agreements to demonstrate that a pipeline is needed.

“FERC has in the past assumed that if the company wanted to build it, then it must be needed. It’s not such an unusual thing to think if you don’t think through how the money works,” Suzanne Mattei, an energy policy analyst with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), told DeSmog.

The pipeline “doesn’t have to be needed for them to make money off of it,” she said.

That is because gas pipelines are guaranteed a rate of return for building the projects – the pipeline builder recoups the cost of construction plus extra for profit – so pipeline companies can make money whether or not the gas is actually needed. In the end, gas ratepayers are saddled with the costs of a superfluous pipeline.
» Read article               

» More about pipelines

LEGISLATION

pedestrian walking
Boston just enacted its ‘single most impactful initiative’ to curb greenhouse gas emissions
The new measure, dubbed BERDO 2.0, requires large buildings to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
By Nik DeCosta-Klipa, Boston.com
October 5, 2021

In the midst of a heated mayoral race and in the shadows of two much-hyped local sports events, Boston may have just taken one of the biggest steps of any major city in the country toward reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.

Acting Mayor Kim Janey signed an ordinance Tuesday that will require existing large buildings in Boston to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Technically an amendment to a 2013 ordinance that required all commercial and residential buildings that are at least 35,000 square feet in size or have at least 35 units to report their energy and water use, the measure — dubbed BERDO 2.0 — expands the city’s authority to set emission and reporting requirements for buildings greater than or equal to 20,000 square feet or with at least 15 units.

In a statement, Janey called the ordinance a “monumental achievement that will have positive impacts on our residents for generations to come.”

In a press release, her office was even more blunt: “This policy is the single most impactful initiative to curb Boston’s carbon emissions.”

How so?

As much as climate change conversations often focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cars, 70 percent of Boston’s emissions comes from buildings.

And while the new policy only affects 4 percent of the city’s buildings, those large buildings account for 60 percent of building emissions — or roughly 42 percent of all citywide emissions.

The ordinance requires affected building owners to submit plans setting forth their path to carbon neutrality by 2050 with emission reduction targets every five years. They have a number of options to get there: pursue energy efficiency improvements, switch from gas to electric heating, incorporate clean energy systems like solar, and/or purchase carbon offsets.

(City officials have estimated that 85 percent of the buildings that will be standing in Boston in 2050 are already standing today, so it wouldn’t be enough to apply the net-zero targets on new developments.)
» Read article             

captured
US corporations talk green but are helping derail major climate bill
Apple and Amazon are among dozens of companies whose lobbying groups are fighting to stop the Democrats’ reconciliation package.
By Joseph Winters, Grist
October 7, 2021

Folded into the Democrats’ multitrillion-dollar budget reconciliation package is some of the U.S.’s most far-reaching climate legislation ever. Even scaled back from its originally proposed size of $3.5 trillion, the bill could go a long way toward helping the nation meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

But corporate opposition has been fierce. In recent months, powerful lobbying groups have unleashed a storm of advertisements, reports, and targeted donations meant to stop the package from passing. And while many of these efforts have been spearheaded by the usual suspects — Koch Industries front groups, for example — others have been quietly backed by the U.S.’s largest and ostensibly greenest companies.

Disney, AT&T, Deloitte, United Airlines, and some of the country’s biggest tech firms — including Apple and Microsoft — are among dozens of the country’s most powerful corporations helping to block the passage of President Joe Biden’s landmark climate legislation, according to a new report from the corruption watchdog group Accountable.US. Their contributions to groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — which is fighting tooth and nail against the reconciliation package — are undermining what many advocates have called our “last shot” for meaningful climate policy during this decade.
» Read article              
» Read the Accountable.US report

» More about legislation

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

EPA advice
FERC Chair Glick calls for tougher reviews of natural gas projects as commission staff reject EPA advice
By Ethan Howland, Utility Dive
September 30, 2021

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission needs to bolster its reviews of how proposed natural gas infrastructure projects could affect the climate as well as environmental justice communities while also making sure they are needed to keep its decisions from being overturned by courts, according to agency head Richard Glick.

In the last several years, FERC often cut corners in its environmental reviews, Glick said in a letter, released Sept. 27, to Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s ranking member.

“That dramatically increases the risk that the courts will invalidate the commission’s decisions, which in turn adds substantial risks for the infrastructure developers who rely on commission orders when investing millions, and sometimes billions, of dollars in new projects,” Glick said.

Glick’s letter highlights flaws in FERC’s review process for gas infrastructure that should be addressed as soon as possible by updating the agency’s decades-old natural gas certificate “policy statement,” according to an attorney with New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity.

Since he joined FERC four years ago, Glick has argued the agency isn’t taking a sharp enough look at how gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas facilities affect the climate as well as environmental justice communities, or whether the proposed facilities are even needed.

It is unlikely FERC will approve major gas projects until the agency revises its process for reviewing them, according to Gillian Giannetti, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
» Blog editor’s note: this quote clearly highlights the critical need for opponents to file comments on EVERYTHING: “Glick said he understood pipeline and LNG companies want prompt decisions on their proposals, which is why he has moved forward with projects that no one filed protests over and therefore cannot be appealed in court, even in cases where he had concerns about their environmental analysis.”
» Read article               

» More about FERC

CLIMATE

WMO water report
World Meteorological Organization Sharpens Warnings About Both Too Much and Too Little Water
With global warming intensifying the water cycle, floods and droughts are increasing, and many countries are unprepared.
By Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News
October 6, 2021

The global supply of fresh water is dropping by almost half an inch annually, the World Meteorological Organization warned in a report released this week. By 2050, about 5 billion people will have inadequate access to water at least one month per year, the report said.

Overall, global warming is intensifying the planet’s water cycle, with an increase of 134 percent in flood-related disasters since 2000, while the number and duration of droughts has grown by 29 percent over the same period. Most of the deaths and economic losses from floods are in Asia, while Africa is hardest hit by drought.

“The water is draining out of the tub in some places, while it’s overflowing in others,” said Maxx Dilley, director of the WMO Climate Programme. “We’ve known about this for a long time. When scientists were starting to get a handle on what climate change was going to mean, an acceleration of the hydrological cycle was one of the things that was considered likely.”

Researchers are seeing the changes to the hydrological cycle in its impacts as well as in the data, Dilley said.

“And it’s not just climate,” he said. “Society plays a major role, with population growth and development. At some point these factors are really going to come together in a way that is really damaging. This summer’s extremes were early warnings.”
» Read article              
» Read the report

physics nobel 2021
Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded for Study of Humanity’s Role in Changing Climate
The work of Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi “demonstrate that our knowledge about the climate rests on a solid scientific foundation,” the committee said.
By Cade Metz, Marc Santora and Cora Engelbrecht, New York Times
October 5, 2021

Three scientists received the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday for work that is essential to understanding how the Earth’s climate is changing, pinpointing the effect of human behavior on those changes and ultimately predicting the impact of global warming.

The winners were Syukuro Manabe of Princeton University, Klaus Hasselmann of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, and Giorgio Parisi of the Sapienza University of Rome.

Others have received Nobel Prizes for their work on climate change, most notably former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, but the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said this is the first time the Physics prize has been awarded specifically to a climate scientist.

“The discoveries being recognized this year demonstrate that our knowledge about the climate rests on a solid scientific foundation, based on a rigorous analysis of observations,” said Thors Hans Hansson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics.

Complex physical systems, such as the climate, are often defined by their disorder. This year’s winners helped bring understanding to what seemed like chaos by describing those systems and predicting their long-term behavior.
» Read article               

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

cheaper faster
The decreasing cost of renewables unlikely to plateau any time soon
Early price forecasts underestimated how good we’d get at making green energy.
By Doug Johnson, Ars Technica
October 3, 2021

Past projections of energy costs have consistently underestimated just how cheap renewable energy would be in the future, as well as the benefits of rolling them out quickly, according to a new report out of the Institute of New Economic Thinking at the University of Oxford.

The report makes predictions about more than 50 technologies such as solar power, offshore wind, and more, and it compares them to a future that still runs on carbon. “It’s not just good news for renewables. It’s good news for the planet,” Matthew Ives, one of the report’s authors and a senior researcher at the Oxford Martin Post-Carbon Transition Programme, told Ars.

The paper used probabilistic cost forecasting methods—taking into account both past data and current and ongoing technological developments in renewables—for its findings. It also used large caches of data from sources such as the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Bloomberg. Beyond looking at the cost (represented as dollar per unit of energy production over time), the report also represents its findings in three scenarios: a fast transition to renewables, a slow transition, and no transition at all.

Compared to sticking with fossil fuels, a quick shift to renewables could mean trillions of dollars in savings, even without accounting for things like damages caused by climate change or any co-benefits from the reduced pollution. Even beyond the savings, rolling out renewable energy sources could help the world limit global warming to 1.5° C. According to the report, if solar, wind, and the myriad other green energy tools followed the deployment trends they are projected to see in the next decade, in 25 years the world could potentially see a net-zero energy system.

“The energy transition is also going to save us money. We should be doing it anyway,” Ives said.
» Read article              
» Read the report: Empirically grounded technology forecasts and the energy transition

» More about clean energy              

BUILDING MATERIALS

low-carbon concrete
Concrete’s role in reducing building and pavement emissions
MIT researchers find emissions of U.S. buildings and pavements can be reduced by around 50 percent even as concrete use increases.
By Andrew Logan, MIT News
September 16, 2021

As the most consumed material after water, concrete is indispensable to the many essential systems — from roads to buildings — in which it is used.

But due to its extensive use, concrete production also contributes to around 1 percent of emissions in the United States and remains one of several carbon-intensive industries globally. Tackling climate change, then, will mean reducing the environmental impacts of concrete, even as its use continues to increase.

In a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of current and former researchers at the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub (CSHub) outlines how this can be achieved.

They present an extensive life-cycle assessment of the building and pavements sectors that estimates how greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction strategies — including those for concrete and cement — could minimize the cumulative emissions of each sector and how those reductions would compare to national GHG reduction targets.

The team found that, if reduction strategies were implemented, the emissions for pavements and buildings between 2016 and 2050 could fall by up to 65 percent and 57 percent, respectively, even if concrete use accelerated greatly over that period. These are close to U.S. reduction targets set as part of the Paris Climate Accords. The solutions considered would also enable concrete production for both sectors to attain carbon neutrality by 2050.

[Low-carbon concrete strategies include recycled content, carbon capture in cement production, and the use of captured carbon to produce aggregates and cure concrete.]

Despite continued grid decarbonization and increases in fuel efficiency, they found that the vast majority of the GHG emissions from new buildings and pavements during this period would derive from operational energy consumption rather than so-called embodied emissions — emissions from materials production and construction.
» Read article              
» Read the research paper

» More about building materials

ENERGY STORAGE

better mousetrap
ESS, SB Energy reach major deal for flow battery technology with 2 GWh agreement
By Jason Plautz, Utility Dive
October 4, 2021

The deal is a significant volume for the flow battery technology. The vast majority of battery storage on the market — 85% of newly installed storage around the world, according to a 2020 report from Navigant Research — is based on lithium-ion technology. While that technology is relatively cheap and well-tested, the batteries do carry concerns about their fire risk, their slow charging time and the supply chain impact of extracting minerals.

ESS’ flow batteries, on the other hand, rely on common materials and don’t carry the same safety risks. The five-year partnership with SB Energy acts as a major vote of confidence for the technology, said ESS CEO Eric Dresselhuys.

“This deal is really the culmination of years of work to show that there’s a better mousetrap out there that solves more problems and is better for where the grid is going,” Dresselhuys said. “Once people see that we’ve been vetted and tested and approved by partners like SB, that provides a lot of confidence.”
» Read article               

» More about energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

on the go
Michigan plans to build the country’s first wireless EV charging road.
Will it work?
By Jena Brooker, Grist
October 5, 2021

To help Michigan reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced last month that the state will construct the nation’s first wireless electric vehicle charging road — a one-mile stretch in the Metro Detroit area.

“Michigan was home to the first mile of paved road, and now we’re paving the way for the roads of tomorrow,” Whitmer said in a press release, “with innovative infrastructure that will support the economy and the environment.”

A wireless EV road works like this: As a car drives over it, the vehicle’s battery is charged by pads or coils built under the surface of the street using magnetic induction. It doesn’t give the car a full charge, but it helps add some additional mileage to a vehicle before its next complete powering up.

The project is still in the very early stages: The Michigan Department of Transportation began accepting proposals for the project on September 28. Until one is selected, it’s unknown exactly where the road will be, what it will look like, the precise cost, or how soon it could be operational. But some are questioning whether the project is worth it. Is it the best use of funds in a state with poor transit and crumbling infrastructure? And how will it even work, particularly in a place with harsh weather extremes like the Midwest?
» Read article               

» More about clean transportation

DEEP-SEABED MINING

SCONZ ruling
New Zealand ruling against deep-sea mining set a global precedent – now Ardern should ban it
Last week’s court decision affirmed the view that seabed mining is too dangerous, too risky and too harmful to the environment
By Phil McCabe and James Hita, The Guardian | Opinion
October 4, 2021

The decision by New Zealand’s Supreme Court last week against a giant seabed mining proposal in the South Taranaki Bight is a wake-up call for the world’s would-be seabed mining industry, both in the deep oceans of international waters and for countries contemplating such activities off their own coasts.

The mining operation, proposed by Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR), would have dug up 50 million tonnes of the seabed every year for 35 years, targeting 5m tonnes of iron ore and dumping the remaining 45m tonnes back into the ocean.

The decision sets an important global precedent favouring environmental protection over damaging seabed mining.

This was the third seabed mining application in New Zealand since 2013, all three have now been declined. It was this company’s second attempt. A 2014 application to mine the deep seabed of the Chatham Rise, east of New Zealand’s South Island, was refused due to the potential harmful environmental effects.

This Supreme Court decision means that seabed mining causing “material damage” to the environment, in effect, cannot be approved under New Zealand law.

It affirms views held by an impressive spectrum of ocean-loving people who have engaged with this issue over the last decade. That seabed mining is too dangerous, too risky and would bring too much harm to the environment.
» Read article               

antithetical
‘Antithetical to science’: When deep-sea research meets mining interests
By Elham Shabahat, Mongabay
October 4, 2021

The high cost of studying deep-sea ecosystems means that many scientists have to rely on funding and access provided by companies seeking to exploit resources on the ocean floor.

More than half of the scientists in the small, highly specialized deep-sea biology community have worked with governments and mining companies to do baseline research, according to one biologist.

But as with the case of industries like tobacco and pharmaceuticals underwriting scientific research into their own products, the funding of deep-sea research by mining companies poses an ethical hazard.

Critics say the nascent industry is already far from transparent, with much of the data from baseline research available only to the scientists involved, the companies, and U.N.-affiliated body that approves deep-sea mining applications.
» Read article               

not yours
‘False choice’: is deep-sea mining required for an electric vehicle revolution?
Deep sea mining firms claim their rare metals are necessary to power clean tech – but with even major electric car firms now backing a moratorium, critics say there is an alternative
By Karen McVeigh, The Guardian
September 28, 2021

Douglas McCauley, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara and director of the Benioff Ocean Initiative, says the potential impact of deep-sea mining keeps him up at night.

Electrification of vehicle fleets is a “positive pathway” to reduce carbon emissions, says McCauley. But he accuses deep-sea mining companies of a “false narrative” that we must mine the ocean to meet renewable energy’s demand for metals.

“There are some very significant questions being raised by scientists about the impacts of ocean mining,” he says. “How much extinction could be generated? How long will it take these extremely low-resilience systems to recover? What impact will it have on the ocean’s capacity to capture carbon?”

Campaigners highlight the uncertainty in assumptions behind often wildly different projected metal demand. In July, Greenpeace researchers showed many projections for metal demand by 2050 assumed ongoing use of cobalt and nickel-dependent lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and storage, despite alternatives being developed, including Tesla’s use of lithium iron phosphate batteries, which require neither metal.

Kevin Bridgen, senior scientist for Greenpeace Research Laboratories, says: “People are saying ‘we are not going to have enough metals if we carry on doing as we’ve always done’, but changes are already taking place.”

Increasingly, car companies are joining in the revolt. In March, BMW and Volvo, with Google and Samsung, became the first global companies to sign up to the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) call for a moratorium on deep-sea mining. In backing the call, WWF says, the companies committed to not sourcing any metals from the seabed, to exclude them from their supply chains and not to finance deep-sea mining, until the risks are better understood and the alternatives exhausted.

In calling for a ban, Claudia Becker, BMW’s expert in sustainable supply-chain management, says she fears mining the deep sea could have “irreversible consequences”.
» Read article               

cutting machines
Race to the bottom: the disastrous, blindfolded rush to mine the deep sea
One of the largest mining operations ever seen on Earth aims to despoil an ocean we are only barely beginning to understand
By Jonathan Watts, The Guardian
Photo: Nautilus Materials
September 27, 2021

A short bureaucratic note from a brutally degraded microstate in the South Pacific to a little-known institution in the Caribbean is about to change the world. Few people are aware of its potential consequences, but the impacts are certain to be far-reaching. The only question is whether that change will be to the detriment of the global environment or the benefit of international governance.

In late June, the island republic of Nauru informed the International Seabed Authority (ISA) based in Kingston, Jamaica of its intention to start mining the seabed in two years’ time via a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, The Metals Company (TMC, until recently known as DeepGreen). Innocuous as it sounds, this note was a starting gun for a resource race on the planet’s last vast frontier: the abyssal plains that stretch between continental shelves deep below the oceans.

In the three months since it was fired, the sound of that shot has reverberated through government offices, conservation movements and scientific academies, and is now starting to reach a wider public, who are asking how the fate of the greatest of global commons can be decided by a sponsorship deal between a tiny island and a multinational mining corporation.

The risks are enormous. Oversight is almost impossible. Regulators admit humanity knows more about deep space than the deep ocean. The technology is unproven. Scientists are not even sure what lives in those profound ecosystems. State governments have yet to agree on a rulebook on how deep oceans can be exploited. No national ballot has ever included a vote on excavating the seabed. Conservationists, including David Attenborough and Chris Packham, argue it is reckless to go ahead with so much uncertainty and such potential devastation ahead.
» Read article               

» More about deep-seabed mining

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

tar sands operation
Alberta’s ‘Friendly’ Oil is Most Carbon-Intensive in New International Index
By Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix
October 5, 2021

A team of international analysts is pointing to a Canadian tar sands/oil sands operation as the most carbon-intensive by far in an index of major oilfields around the world, even as Alberta’s Canadian Energy Centre launches a Times Square ad campaign touting the country’s “friendly” oil.

“Choose friendly oil. Cleaner. Closer. Committed to Net Zero,” the C$240,000 video billboard campaign proclaims. But the ads landed just as S&P Global Platts unveiled a new monthly calculation of the carbon intensity and resulting carbon offset premiums for 14 major crude oil fields, including the 140,000-barrel-per-day Cold Lake facility, which Imperial Oil touts as “the longest running oil sands operation in Northeastern Alberta”.

The S&P Global Platts analysis adds another distinction to Cold Lake’s longevity: at 81.87 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per barrel as of July 2021, Cold Lake is by far the most carbon-intensive of the 14 fields the firm looked at in North America, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Latin America. Next up was the Kirkuk field in Iraq, at 58.84 kilograms per barrel, followed by North Dakota’s Bakken field at 30.86. The lowest-emitting, Norway’s Jan Sverdrup field, produced only 3.73 kilograms.

As a group, the 14 fields averaged 25.11 kilograms of CO2e per barrel, less than one-third of Cold Lake’s emissions intensity.

Those numbers didn’t seem to make it into the messaging from Canada’s Energy Centre CEO Tom Olsen. “We’re right here next door. And we’re cleaner. We’re closer and we’re committed to net zero. So turn your eyes our way,” he told CBC News. “We think we should meet the demand for energy that the United States needs over and above what they produce domestically. And frankly, for the rest of the world.”
» Read article               

choose friendly oil
Alberta energy ‘war room’ launches Times Square ad, expert questions campaign
Campaign promotes Canada’s clean energy in U.S., but Andrew Leach says it’s still emissions heavy
By Elise von Scheel, CBC News
September 28, 2021

Alberta’s Canadian Energy Centre has launched an ad campaign in Times Square to promote the country’s oil and gas industry in the United States.

The initiative from the province’s so-called energy “war room” is spending $240,000 to push Canada’s sector as the solution to “cleaner energy and lower gas prices,” according to its website.

The centre operates as a private corporation, created by the United Conservative Party government, to promote Alberta energy. It has been beleaguered with branding and messaging problems since its launch.

“We’re right here next door. And we’re cleaner. We’re closer and we’re committed to net zero. So turn your eyes our way,” CEO Tom Olsen told CBC News.

“We think we should meet the demand for energy that the United States needs over and above what they produce domestically. And frankly, for the rest of the world.”

The video billboards in New York City feature maple leaves pouring from a gas pump nozzle with the caption “Choose Friendly Oil.” About 96 per cent of Canada’s oil and gas exports go to the U.S., according to Natural Resources Canada.

And the centre is asking Americans to write to the Joe Biden administration urging the U.S. government to lean on cleaner Canadian energy instead of requesting more production from Russia and OPEC countries like Saudi Arabia — as surging U.S. gas prices recently reached a seven-year high.

But one expert says it’s disingenuous to call the Canadian industry clean.

“You can read their statement of saying oilsands have gotten cleaner, but the oilsands barrels themselves relative to a global average are still pretty emissions intensive. So there’s not really a good way to reconcile what they’re saying at Times Square with what we know from the data,” said Andrew Leach, an energy and environmental economist at the University of Alberta.

“All of our data says that the average Canadian barrel is getting more emissions intensive.”
» Read article               

» More about fossil fuel

GAS BANS

cookin with gas
We need to talk about your gas stove, your health and climate change
By Jeff Brady, NPR
October 7, 2021

Americans love their gas stoves. It’s a romance fueled by a decades-old “cooking with gas” campaign from utilities that includes vintage advertisements, a cringeworthy 1980s rap video and, more recently, social media personalities. The details have changed over time, but the message is the same: Using a gas stove makes you a better cook.

But the beloved gas stove has become a focal point in a fight over whether gas should even exist in the 35% of U.S. homes that cook with it.

Environmental groups are focused on potential health effects. Burning gas emits pollutants that can cause or worsen respiratory illnesses. Residential appliances like gas-powered furnaces and water heaters vent pollution outside, but the stove “is the one gas appliance in your home that is most likely unvented,” says Brady Seals with RMI, formerly Rocky Mountain Institute.

The focus on possible health risks from stoves is part of the broader campaign by environmentalists to kick gas out of buildings to fight climate change. Commercial and residential buildings account for about 13% of heat-trapping emissions, mainly from the use of gas appliances.

Those groups won a significant victory recently when California developed new standards that, once finalized, will require more ventilation for gas stoves than for electric ones starting in 2023. The Biden administration’s climate plan also calls for government incentives that would encourage people to switch from residential gas to all-electric.
» Read article               

» More about gas bans

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

town objections ignored
Over town objections, $100M Charlton natural gas pipeline and facility slated for final approval
By Katherine Hamilton, Worcester Business Journal
October 1, 2021

A pipeline and natural gas liquidation plant proposed in Charlton was recommended for approval on Sept. 20 and will go up for a final vote before the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board next week, according to a notice on Mass.gov.

Northeast Energy Center, LLC, which is registered to Philadelphia energy infrastructure company Liberty Energy Trust, is proposing construction of a liquefied natural gas facility and pipeline in Charlton. The project will cost $100 million, including the cost of land acquisition, according to the siting board’s tentative decision report.

The plant would liquefy pipeline natural gas, store the LNG, and load tanker trucks. It would be capable of storing 2 million gallons of LNG and producing up to 250,000 gallons per day, according to the siting board’s tentative decision.

The siting board’s tentative decision, which recommended approval of the project, said it will consider and compare two sites for the project, one along Route 169 and one along Route 20.
» Blog editor’s note: The LNG from this facility, up to 250,000 gallons per day, will be carried away on tanker trucks, over our roadways and through our neighborhoods, to wherever the fuel is needed. Drive safely!
» View final comments by No Fracked Gas in Mass and BEAT
» View final comments by Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast (PLAN-NE)

» Read article               

» More about LNG

BIOMASS

Enviva plant NC
Biomass is promoted as a carbon neutral fuel. But is burning wood a step in the wrong direction?
Many scientists and environmental campaigners question the industry’s claims to offer a clean, renewable energy source that the planet desperately needs
By Rebecca Speare-Cole, The Guardian
October 5, 2021

Biomass has been promoted as a carbon-neutral energy source by industry, some countries and lawmakers on the basis that the emissions released by burning wood can be offset by the carbon dioxide taken up by trees grown to replace those burned.

Yet there remain serious doubts among many scientists about its carbon-neutral credentials, especially when wood pellets are made by cutting down whole trees, rather than using waste wood products. It can take as much as a century for trees to grow enough to offset the carbon released.

Burning wood for energy is also inefficient – biomass has been found to release more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than coal or gas, according to a 2018 study and an open letter to the EU signed by nearly 800 scientists.

This CO2 is theoretically reabsorbed by new trees, but some scientists suggest relying on biomass could actually end up increasing emissions just at the time when the world needs to sharply reduce emissions and reach goals of becoming net zero by 2050. “During these decades, warming increases and permafrost and glaciers continue to melt, among other permanent forms of climate damage,” said Tim Searchinger, a senior energy and environment research scholar at Princeton.

Over the last decade a wave of biomass plants have opened their doors or ramped up production across the US south, where they have access to the region’s vast hardwood and other wetland forests, many of which are on unprotected private lands.
» Read article               

» More about biomass

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Weekly News Check-In 8/20/21

banner 02

Welcome back.

With Canadian energy giant Enbridge crowing about its imminent completion of the controversial Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline, protests and actions in Minnesota range from health professionals pointing out the hazards, to highly personal actions seizing the moral high ground as government fails to protect people and the environment.

Meanwhile, federal judge Sharon Gleason reversed US government approval of ConocoPhillips’ huge “Willow” pipeline project in Alaska, citing inadequate plans to protect polar bears along with failure to analyze the project’s greenhouse gas emissions or explore credible alternatives to the project. ConocoPhillips is expected to appeal. Sadly, Alaska’s governor, its congressional delegation, and even the Biden administration are defending the project – apparently prioritizing potential jobs in a dying industry over survival of a human-habitable planet. You’re not too far off the mark if you recognize that sort of logic as similar to that used by people in the grip of chemical dependencies.

For the few corners of the globe that are not yet as deeply hooked on the fossil economy as wealthy nations, current technology presents a development opportunity to leapfrog directly into a green economy. This is essential, but we’re already committed to a hotter future with increasingly extreme weather clearly tied to climate change.

While transitioning quickly to clean energy is part of the solution, we’re keeping an eye on false promises promoted by Big Oil & Gas and other entrenched interests. Blue hydrogen falls squarely into this category. While the concept has already captured huge government subsidies, a new study shows it’s actually worse for the climate than burning coal or gas. Hey, we have good news in this section too, about new developments in ocean wave energy and flexible solar panels!

Our Energy Efficiency section offers a peek into how homes will generate and manage energy in the near future, and also considers which state might be the first to ban natural gas hookups in new construction. Also related to home energy: residential battery storage is still expensive, but it’s finding a niche market providing emergency backup power.

General Motors once again headlines our Clean Transportation section, having announced that they will replace nearly 70,000 defective battery modules in Chevy Bolt 2017-19 model years. It’s late but welcome news for drivers who found GM’s interim solution, “don’t park the car in your garage, and don’t charge the vehicle unattended”, less than satisfying.

Aside from the blue hydrogen boondoggle mentioned above (more about that in our Fossil Fuel Industry section), Big Oil/Gas/Utility is heavily promoting a self-serving suite of carbon capture & sequestration schemes. Our position is simple: we support the development and deployment of direct air capture technology, recognizing the benefit of actively removing excess CO2 from the atmosphere. We do not support projects attached to smokestacks that have the effect of delaying the retirement of facilities that could otherwise be replaced with non-emitting alternatives.

Another greenwashing trend to watch involves the liquefied natural gas industry’s campaign to claim their operations achieve net-zero emissions, in an attempt to win project approvals in the face of recent scientific evidence that the fuel is a climate disaster.

Closing on a high note, the Army Corps of Engineers has demanded a full environmental review of the giant Formosa Plastics plant – a proposed facility intended for Louisiana’s notorious ‘Cancer Alley’, that would produce 800 tons of toxic air pollutants every year, along with the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions of three standard coal-fired power plants. This sets the project back considerably, and is a credit to the community group Rise St. James and other activists who fought for years to be heard.

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

John Miller
Diver who helped after I-35W bridge collapse returns medals in protest of Line 3 pipeline
He gave them back “as an act of desperation, and because I saw no other way to help bring the necessary urgency and attention to this matter.”
By Melissa Turtinen, Bring Me The News
August 17, 2021

A Navy Diver who helped recover victims of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis 14 years ago has returned the honors he received in protest of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline.

John Miller, who lived in Minnesota for 29 years and now lives in Maui, Hawaii, returned the medals during an event Monday alongside the Red Lake Treaty Camp representing the Red Lake Nation. The event was held near the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis.

Miller’s unit led the charge in retrieving the bodies of people missing after the bridge collapsed on Aug. 1, 2007, in what became known as the “sacred mission.” He was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal by the Secretary of Defense, and from Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty he received the Minnesota Commendation Ribbon with Pendant and a Certificate of Commendation.

Miller in a news release said in “good conscience” he can “no longer keep” the awards from the State of Minnesota, noting he’s doing this in defense of Minnesota’s lands, the Mississippi River and the people of Minnesota to “raise critical public awareness about the disastrous effects of the Line 3 pipeline.”
» Read article             

Mears Park MN
Joining Fight Against Line 3, Health Professionals Urge Biden to Block Project
“It is essentially science denial to permit a pipeline of this magnitude during a climate crisis.”
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
August 17, 2021

U.S. doctors, nurses, and other health professionals came together Tuesday for a national day of solidarity against Line 3 that included various events and a letter calling on President Joe Biden to block Enbridge’s tar sands project.

The health professionals are pressuring Biden to “take action that climate science demands, listen to the voices of Indigenous frontline leaders,” and reverse the federal government’s permitting of Line 3 under former President Donald Trump.

Their call echoes demands of Indigenous and climate activists who have long fought against the Canadian company’s effort to replace an aging pipeline with one that would have the capacity to transport 760,000 barrels daily.

Noting the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the latest climate science that was released last week, the health professionals… highlight that Line 3 is a problem for not only the climate but also environmental justice, warning that letting the project proceed conflicts with Biden’s “stated goal to stand up against fossil fuel companies and other polluters who put their own profits over people and disproportionately harm communities of color and low income communities.”
» Read article             

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

CP logo
Federal judge throws out U.S. approval of ConocoPhillips Alaska oil project
By Reuters
August 18, 2021

A federal judge on Wednesday reversed the U.S. government’s approval of ConocoPhillips’ planned $6 billion Willow oil development in Alaska, citing problems with its environmental analysis, according to court documents.

The ruling is a fresh blow to a massive drilling project that Alaskan officials hoped would help offset oil production declines in the state.

In her order, Alaska District Court Judge Sharon Gleason said she was vacating the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s approval of the development in part because the agency failed to include greenhouse gas emissions from foreign oil consumption in its environmental analysis. It also “failed to adequately analyze a reasonable range of alternatives” for the project, she wrote.

Gleason also said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not outline specific measures to mitigate the project’s impact on polar bears.

Willow, planned for the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, was approved by the Trump administration last year as part of its push to ratchet up fossil fuel development on federal lands.

The decision was followed promptly by lawsuits from environmental groups, which argued in part that the government had failed to take into account the impact that drilling would have on wildlife.

Those same groups harshly criticized the administration of President Joe Biden for defending the project’s approval in court, saying it was at odds with his climate change agenda.
» Blog editor’s note (reality check from Alaska Daily News): Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy implied an appeal in a statement issued after the decision: “Make no mistake, today’s ruling from a federal judge trying to shelve a major oil project on American soil does one thing: outsources production to dictatorships and terrorist organizations,” the governor said. “This is a horrible decision. We are giving America over to our enemies piece by piece. The Willow project would power America with 160,000 barrels a day, provide thousands of family-supporting jobs, and greatly benefit the people of Alaska.”
» Read article            
» Read Judge Gleason’s opinion

» More about pipelines

GREENING THE ECONOMY

leapfrog to green
‘Leapfrogging’ to Renewable Power Can Deliver Low-Carbon Energy Equity Worldwide
By The Energy Mix
August 17, 2021

Renewable technologies could help emerging economies achieve better and more equitable energy access—without adding to the world’s carbon emissions.

“Instead of developing energy infrastructures based on fossil fuels, low-income countries could leapfrog straight to cleaner, low-carbon technologies,” writes New Scientist. “For low-income countries, making big improvements in access to electricity is crucial. Better access to energy is linked to improvements in education, economic development, and health, for example.”

Currently, Sustainable Energy for All estimates that “759 million people lack access to electricity and 2.6 billion people are unable to cook cleanly.” Expanding energy access can help improve education, economic development, and health, but developing countries have been limited in efforts to achieve these benefits without sufficient energy from fossil fuels.

But with many regions lacking any existing energy infrastructure at all, that gap opens the opportunity to embrace renewables.

It is not unprecedented for countries to sidestep earlier technological progressions of industrialized countries, New Scientist notes. Adopting recent advances in renewable power without first pursuing fossil fuels recalls similar developments in the telecommunications sector, where emergent nations bypassed landlines and jumped directly to widespread mobile phone use.
» Read article             

heat watchCharting a Course to Shrink the Heat Gap Between New York City Neighborhoods
Community organizers and New York residents hope high-resolution maps of hot spots in the Bronx and Manhattan will result in more equitable development.
By Delger Erdenesanaa, Inside Climate News
August 18, 2021

NEW YORK, N.Y.—A few weeks after a deadly June heat wave baked much of the United States, Francisco Casarrubias and another volunteer drove a 10-mile loop around the South Bronx with what looked like a small plastic periscope attached to the car’s passenger window. The sensor, which recorded the air temperature and humidity every second, was one of hundreds deployed around the country in a campaign to map the hottest neighborhoods in more than 20 cities, including New York.

Most people who live in cities know intuitively that areas with more concrete and asphalt are hotter than those with more parks, trees and water. Neighborhoods that were redlined in the 1930s—excluded from real estate investment, often because the residents were people of color or immigrants—tend to be hotter even now than others. This includes much of the South Bronx, which today is a densely populated and mostly low-income Black and Latino area

Community organizers hope to use the data collected this summer by volunteers like Casarrubias to make the case for investing in green space for the South Bronx. They want to usher in a new kind of development that improves residents’ health and quality of life, according to Melissa Barber, a physician and co-founder of the organization South Bronx Unite.
» Read article             

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

Moscow misters
July 2021 Hottest Month Ever Recorded, Says NOAA
By Deutsche Welle, in EcoWatch
August 15, 2021

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US said on Friday that July 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded globally.

“July is typically the world’s warmest month of the year, but July 2021 outdid itself as the hottest July and month ever recorded. This new record adds to the disturbing and disruptive path that climate change has set for the globe,” said Rick Spinrad, administrator of NOAA.

NOAA climatologist Ahira Sanchez-Lugo said land temperatures over the Northern Hemisphere, with heatwaves in North America and parts of Europe, pushed the mercury past the record.

The last seven Julys from 2015 to 2021 have been the hottest ever, in 142 years of recordkeeping, Sanchez-Lugo added.

“The extreme events we are seeing worldwide — from record-shattering heat waves to extreme rainfall to raging wildfires — are all long-predicted and well understood impacts of a warmer world. They will continue to get more severe until the world cuts its emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases down to net-zero,” he added.

A report released by the UN last week issued a red alert for climate goals, are “nowhere close” to achieving the 1.5-degree target set during the Paris climate agreement.
» Read article             

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

blue not green
Study finds blue hydrogen worse for climate than burning coal or gas
By Petra Stock, Renew Economy
August 16, 2021

It is touted as a “clean” technology, but so-called “blue” hydrogen produced from gas – even with carbon capture – is significantly worse for the climate than burning coal or gas directly, a new study by Cornell and Stanford researchers has found.

Cornell’s Robert Howarth and Stanford’s Mark Jacobson asked the question, “how green is blue hydrogen?” in their peer-reviewed paper, the first to examine the total or ‘lifecycle’ greenhouse gas emissions from blue hydrogen.

The answer? “We see no way that blue hydrogen can be considered ‘green’,” the researchers concluded.

Emissions associated with producing blue hydrogen from gas were actually greater than emissions from burning gas or coal directly, the paper found. This was because of the significant extra energy required for processes to produce hydrogen and power carbon capture and storage.

The hydrogen industry is a significant source of climate pollution globally, responsible for around 830 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, equivalent to the annual emissions from the United Kingdom and Indonesia combined, according to the International Energy Agency.

That’s because nearly all hydrogen produced and used today comes from fossil fuels, and is classed as either ‘grey’ (from gas) or ‘brown’ (from coal).

‘Blue’ hydrogen involves producing hydrogen from coal or gas with the addition of carbon capture and storage. ‘Green’ hydrogen is produced using a process called electrolysis powered by renewable energy.

Howarth said that while blue hydrogen is often promoted as a climate solution, “unfortunately emissions remain very large”.

“Blue hydrogen sounds good, sounds modern and sounds like a path to our energy future. It is not”, he said.
» Read article            
» Read the paper: How green is blue hydrogen?

dual turbineAustralian “dual turbine” wave power breakthrough promises to double efficiency
By Sophie Vorrath, Renew Economy
August 18, 2021

An Australian-led research breakthrough has raised fresh hopes for wave power’s potential role in the global shift to renewables, with new technology that promises to double the amount of energy able to be harvested from ocean waves.

Researchers from RMIT University, in collaboration with the Beihang University in China, say they have developed a prototype of a “simple and economic” wave energy conversion device that could be twice as efficient at harvesting power than echnologies developed to date.

The technology is based on a buoy-type converter known as a “point absorber,” that harvests energy from the up and down movement of waves.

The key to the efficiency of the RMIT-created prototype, however, is in its ability to naturally float up and down with the swell of the wave – thus dispensing with the need for complicated synching tech – and its use of a “world-first” dual-turbine design.

According to a report published in the journal Applied Energy, the latter involves two turbine wheels stacked on top of each other, which rotate in opposite directions. These, in turn, are connected to a generator through shafts and a belt-pulley driven transmission system.

The generator is placed inside a buoy above the waterline to keep it out of corrosive seawater and extend the lifespan of the device.

“Our prototype technology overcomes some of the key technical challenges that have been holding back the wave energy industry from large-scale deployment,” said lead researcher Professor Xu Wang.

“With further development, we hope this technology could be the foundation for a thriving new renewable energy industry delivering massive environmental and economic benefits.
» Read article         

light and flexibleBendy, lightweight organic solar cells could be fast-tracked by new research
By Sophie Vorrath, Renew Economy
August 16, 2021

A breakthrough in the development of organic solar cells – whose light and bendy abilities have seen them wrapped around wind turbines in a recent trial by Acciona – could deliver a much-needed boost in efficiency and push them further along the path to commercialisation.

Organic solar cells get their name from their composition, with ingredients including materials and elements found in plants and animals, and hold the promise of being lightweight, flexible, and cheap to make.

Standing in the way of their commercialisation, however, is the fact that they have not yet reached the sunlight-to-electricity efficiencies of their silicon-based counterparts.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, in collaboration with experts from Canada, Belgium, New Zealand, and China, think they might be able to make up ground, however, with a way to move energy in organic materials up to 1000’s of times faster than before.
» Read article             

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

climate-adapted
Imagining the climate-proof home in the US: using the least energy possible from the cleanest sources
Solar energy use will become more common as power use becomes smarter and more automated.
By Oliver Milman, with graphics from Rashida Kamal, The Guardian
August 16, 2021

Dealing with the climate crisis involves the overhauling of many facets of life, but few of these changes will feel as tangible and personal as the transformation required within the home.

The 128m households that dot America gobble up energy for heating, cooling and lighting, generating around 20% of all the planet-heating emissions produced in the US. Americans typically live in larger, more energy hungry dwellings than people in other countries, using more than double the energy of the average Briton and 10 times that of the average Chinese person.

This sizable contribution is now coming under the scrutiny of Joe Biden’s administration, which recently put forward a raft of measures to build and upgrade 2m low-emissions homes. “Decarbonizing buildings is a big task but it’s an essential task,” said Michael Regan, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Rapid change will be needed to avoid disastrous climate change. To get to zero emissions by the middle of the century, the sale of fossil fuel boilers will have to end within five years, all new buildings will have to run on clean electricity by 2030 and half of all existing buildings will have to be fully retrofitted by 2040, a recent landmark International Energy Agency report warned.

“The appliances we use at home have tended to be overlooked but they are contributing a significant amount to climate change and we need to address that,” said Mike Henchen, an expert in carbon-free buildings at RMI. “That will touch people’s lives – our homes are our refuges, the places we know best. But hopefully the change will also make people’s homes more comfortable, safer and healthier, as well as reduce the climate impact.”

So what will the climate-adapted homes of the future look like?
» Read article             

not quiteInside Clean Energy: Which State Will Be the First to Ban Natural Gas in New Buildings?
As California’s new building code stops short of gas ban, here’s what other states are doing.
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
August 19, 2021

A new California building code is a leap forward for reducing the use of natural gas, with rules that set a strong preference for electric heating in new construction.

That’s the glass-half-full view of the rules the state’s energy commission approved last week, according to environmental advocates.

But many of those same people wanted much more. They had hoped that California would become the first state in the country to ban natural gas in most new construction, at a time of growing awareness of the health and climate benefits of all-electric buildings.

Now, advocates are looking to other states that may be the first to pass some kind of gas ban, with candidates that include Massachusetts, New York and Washington.

“California’s new building energy code takes a major step forward toward a future where we have healthy, fossil-fuel-free homes and buildings for all,” said Denise Grab, a manager in the carbon-free buildings group at RMI, the clean energy advocacy and research nonprofit. “That said, it doesn’t go all the way to zero emissions for new construction, which is something that a number of groups, including us, had called for and is needed.”
» Read article             

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

NeoVolta
EnergySage: Emergency backup power driving solar customers towards battery storage
By Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
August 18, 2021

Users of US solar price comparison site EnergySage are increasingly drawn towards battery storage through concerns around having enough power in emergency situations, with 70% of users now requesting storage with their solar quotes.

EnergySage is supported by the US Department of Energy (DoE) and enables over 500 pre-screened installation companies to provide quotes for rooftop solar, energy storage, community solar and project financing. It has just released an annual ‘Solar Marketplace Intel Report,’ aggregating and analysing data from the millions of users that obtain quotes.

Following February’s blackouts in Texas, there was a considerable rise in the number of solar shoppers requesting quotes for storage and that demand remained constant for the next five months. In fact, 78% of users in Texas cited resilience concerns and need for backup power as their main reason for wanting storage.

That said, financial interest also motivated a large number of people who were looking to make savings on their utility electricity rates, particularly in Arizona and California, where this applied to two-thirds of customers. About 15% wanted batteries with their solar to go completely off-grid, around a third wanted to be self-sufficient and about a third again said they wanted a future-proof solar PV system capable of adding a battery system later.
» Read article             

» More about energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

 Bolt at the beach
2017-2019 Chevy Bolt EV fire recall: GM will replace all battery modules
By Green Car Reports
August 17, 2021

GM has confirmed that it plans to replace all 68,667 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric cars that have potentially defective battery modules—including 50,925 in the U.S.—with new battery modules.

The announcement follows a second recall, announced in July, of the 2017-2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV due to a manufacturing defect that has caused some batteries to erupt in flames while charging.

GM hasn’t yet finalized this with a revised recall filing or confirmed a timeline for what will be a massive repair effort for the company. However it issued the following statement: “As part of GM’s commitment to safety, experts from GM and LG have identified the simultaneous presence of two rare manufacturing defects in the same battery cell as the root cause of battery fires in certain Chevrolet Bolt EVs. As a result, GM will replace recalled vehicles’ lithium ion battery modules with new lithium ion battery modules. We will notify customers when replacement parts are ready.”

The company emphasized Tuesday that the plan could still change. “If we determine a different remedy after additional investigation then we will adjust, but right now the plan is to replace all modules,” said spokesperson Kevin Kelly to Green Car Reports.
» Read article                

» More about clean transportation

CARBON CAPTURE AND SEQUESTRATION

Petra Nova mothballedFossil Fuel Companies Are Quietly Scoring Big Money for Their Preferred Climate Solution: Carbon Capture and Storage
The industry has been pushing through policies devoting billions of dollars to the technology, and much more is likely to come with legislation pending before Congress.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News
August 17, 2021

Over the last year, energy companies, electrical utilities and other industrial sectors have been quietly pushing through a suite of policies to support a technology that stands to yield tens of billions of dollars for corporate polluters, but may do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

These policies have fast-tracked environmental reviews and allocated billions in federal funding for research and development of carbon capture and storage, or CCS, technologies that pull carbon dioxide out of smokestacks or directly from the air before storing it underground. Just a single bill—the bipartisan infrastructure legislation that passed the Senate last week and is now headed to the House of Representatives—includes more than $12 billion in direct support for carbon capture, and could unlock billions more through other programs, according to the recent drafts.

Many environmental advocates argue that the massive government support would be better spent on proven climate solutions like wind and solar energy, which receive far less in direct funding under the infrastructure bill.

Simon Nicholson, co-director of the Institute for Carbon Removal Law and Policy at American University, said that if government support for carbon capture and storage is used to help test direct air capture, “then it’s a near-term investment that might have long-term positive implications. That nuance is hard to convey.” But, he added, “it is going to be a bit of a political and commercial scramble for funds here, because the oil and gas companies, the electricity companies, are going to want the money to go towards traditional CCS,” which is attached to smokestacks.
» Read article             

» More about CCS

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

H2ZEV
Oil firms made ‘false claims’ on blue hydrogen costs, says ex-lobby boss
Chris Jackson believes companies promoted ‘unsustainable’ fossil gas projects to access billions in taxpayer subsidies
By Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian
August 20, 2021

Oil companies have used false claims over the cost of producing fossil fuel hydrogen to win over the Treasury and access billions in taxpayer subsidies, according to the outgoing hydrogen lobby boss.

Chris Jackson quit as the chair of a leading hydrogen industry association this week ahead of a government strategy paper featuring support for “blue hydrogen”, which is derived from fossil gas and produces carbon emissions.

He said he could no longer lead an industry association that included oil companies backing blue hydrogen projects, because the schemes were “not sustainable” and “make no sense at all”.

The government’s strategy for the sector, announced this week, was criticised by environmental groups for taking a twin-track approach, giving equal weight to blue hydrogen and “green hydrogen”, which has no negative climate impact because it uses renewable electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

By contrast, blue hydrogen is made from natural gas, which has to be extracted from gas fields and then purified by the removal of carbon dioxide and methane, which have to be stored back underground. The process typically fails to capture 10-15% of its greenhouse gas emissions, which would accumulate as production ramps up.

Both kinds of hydrogen are much more expensive to produce than conventional fuels, so the government is proposing subsidies. It has launched a consultation to fund the difference between what producers can sell hydrogen for and what it costs them to manufacture it – similar to a scheme already used to drive down costs of offshore wind power.

“The Treasury has been told that blue hydrogen is cheap and will take millions of tonnes of carbon emissions out of the economy, which is all they need to hear. It checks the boxes they’re worrying about,” Jackson said.

“If the false claims made by oil companies about the cost of blue hydrogen were true, their projects would make a profit by 2030, after starting up in 2027 or 2028, because carbon prices are forecast to rise to £80 a tonne.

“Instead, they’re asking taxpayers for billions in subsidies for the next 25 years. They should tell the government they don’t need it. The fact that they don’t tells you everything you need to know.”
» Read article             

» More about fossil fuels

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

Hogan heroes
LNG Projects Make Claims of ‘Net-Zero’ to Ease Way for Expansion
Several proposed LNG projects in Canada promise carbon neutrality for their gas exports. But the claims lack detail and appear mostly designed to defang opposition to the gas rush.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
August 13, 2021

Under growing pressure to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, developers of liquefied natural gas (LNG) are turning to questionable claims about “carbon neutrality,” “net-zero,” or “green LNG,” in order to pass muster with governments, investors, and society, who are becoming increasingly anxious about the climate crisis.

However, while on the surface it may appear to be a positive shift towards lowering the greenhouse gas impact of their projects, the rhetoric about carbon-neutral LNG is mostly hollow, in another attempt to greenwash new fossil fuel projects into existence.

While the U.S. Gulf Coast typically receives much of the attention for the LNG rush, the Pacific Coast of Canada is home to multiple proposed LNG export projects, as energy companies scramble to export fracked gas from northeast British Columbia.

At least three proposed Canadian LNG projects are claiming they will be the cleanest LNG in the world, relying on renewable hydropower to power their liquefaction operations and otherwise using carbon offsets and carbon capture to partially mitigate their emissions. Left unsaid is that the offsets and captured carbon only account for a small portion of the total.

The assertions also lack detail, face technical problems, ignore leaking methane emissions, and depend on government subsidies for funding. The danger is that the net-zero claims obscure the true climate costs of LNG from the public, which experts warn can be on par or worse than coal, paving the way for the industry’s expansion. Claims that LNG can achieve “net-zero emissions” have been cited by both the B.C. and federal governments to justify greenlighting new gas export terminals.
» Read article             

» More about LNG

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Rise St James
Army Corps Orders Environmental Review of Proposed Formosa Plastics Plant in Louisiana’s ‘Cancer Alley’
If built, the plastics plant would pump air pollutants into surrounding communities and contribute more to climate change than three coal power plants. Corps announcement deals significant blow to project’s backers.
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
August 18, 2021

The Formosa Sunshine Project in St. James Parish, Louisiana, will undergo a full formal environmental review, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced in a memorandum issued today and posted on Twitter.

The decision deals a significant blow to the proposed multi-billion dollar plastics manufacturing site that would be located in the Gulf Coast region, potentially setting the project’s timetable back significantly.

The Corps highlighted concerns over environmental justice issues as it announced that it would require an environmental impact statement (EIS).

“As a result of information received to date and my commitment for the Army to be a leader in the federal government’s efforts to ensure thorough environmental analysis and meaningful community outreach, I conclude an EIS process is warranted to thoroughly review areas of concern, particularly those with environmental justice implications,” wrote Jaime Pinkham, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works.

If built, the Formosa plant would pump out up to 800 tons of toxic air pollutants each year into communities that have long-experienced the impacts of living near plastic manufacturing, oil refining, and other petrochemical projects. It would also generate 13.6 million tons of greenhouse gases — more than triple the amount of climate-altering pollution the Environmental Protection Agency estimates a standard coal-fired power plant produces.
» Read article            

» More about plastics and the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 8/6/21

banner 19

Welcome back.

The ongoing protests and actions targeting Enbridge’s Line 3 are led primarily by indigenous groups executing all the components of a successful nonviolent campaign. Meanwhile, the aging and degraded Line 5 pipeline poses an imminent threat to the Great Lakes, and its most vocal opponent is Michigan’s Governor Whitmer. A latecomer to these battles against fossil fuel infrastructure is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which until recently seemed happy to rubber-stamp approval for nearly every new project. While still internally conflicted between the commissioners, Chair Richard Glick is getting backup from the DC Circuit Court, which has ordered FERC to conduct robust climate and environmental justice impact analyses prior to final approval of two Texas liquefied natural gas terminals. This could affect consideration of future projects.

Massachusetts’ green economy will anchor to the offshore wind industry, and the state is offering $1.6 million in grants for job training to reduce some of the barriers that would keep people of color and low-income people from participating in the coming boom. We’re also keeping an eye on the geothermal industry – not a newcomer, but not yet mainstream either.

We’ve heard “net-zero by 2050” so often that it seems both a good thing and also inevitable. We offer a climate report that warns both assumptions are dangerously off the mark. Related to this – an urgent issue within the larger climate puzzle is how to retire massive numbers of coal plants – many of them relatively new – sooner rather than later. The Asian Development Bank proposes a novel solution, and is enlisting private sector financing to help.

We’ve recently started tracking a couple of climate “solutions” that have some merit but are being co-opted by the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries, boosting them as excuses to continue with business as usual. Carbon offsets & reforestation, along with carbon capture & sequestration, are two areas drawing a lot of unhelpful industry attention lately. We’re starting to hear about plans for a vast network of pipelines to send carbon dioxide from where it’s captured at emitters to locations where it will be sequestered. It’s worth noting that CO2 is a toxic gas in anything but very small concentrations. It is odorless and heavier than air, and if leaked from a pipeline would pool in low terrain – displacing all the air and asphyxiating every living being in the area.

California is facing a looming energy crisis, with its power supply threatened by drought, heat, and fire. Their solution is to speed up the clean energy transition. And while the whole country struggles against entrenched interests (building trades, real estate industry, etc.) to improve energy efficiency in building codes, Colorado has stepped out front with a host of new laws. Of course, when you build a new, efficient building, the last thing you want is to incorporate carbon-intensive materials. Financiers are beginning pressure steel manufacturers to greatly reduce emissions associated with making their product.

This week’s energy storage news considers the promise of Form Energy’s recently revealed iron-air battery chemistry, while a report on a fire at an Australian lithium-ion battery reminds us that even green power carries some risk.

Since we’re on the cusp of a clean transportation revolution, it’s great that the Guardian just published an article looking back at the last time we did this. At the dawn of the 20th century, horses were rapidly replaced by machines and electric vehicles ruled the road.

Fossil fuel industry news includes some troubling new subsidies tucked into the bipartisan infrastructure legislation making its way though the Senate. Also, how Facebook looked the other way as the industry spread misinformation on its platform. Meanwhile, liquefied natural gas continues to face headwinds in North America, with the cancellation of an LNG export terminal in Québec’s Saguenay region. This comes just weeks after the collapse of Pieridae Energy’s scheme to build a similar facility in Nova Scotia.

Finally, it was a big week for biomass news in Massachusetts, as a hearing on the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard ran straight into the state’s new climate laws and limits associated with siting polluters near environmental justice communities.

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

Old Crossing Treaty
Everyone has a role to play in stopping the Line 3 pipeline
Indigenous water protectors and allies are effectively engaging all four roles of social change — just what’s needed to beat a company as powerful as Enbridge.   
By Eileen Flanagan, Waging Nonviolence
August 2, 2021

On Monday, July 19, in a red shirt and long black skirt, Sasha Beaulieu strode toward the Middle River in northwestern Minnesota to fulfill her official role as the Red Lake Nation Tribal Monitor. The water was incredibly low from the drought, and in parts the river bed was completely dry — all of which she would report to the Army Corps of Engineers with the hope of stopping the Canadian corporation Enbridge from drilling under Middle River to install the controversial Line 3 pipeline. Enbridge had already polluted the Willow River while trying to install the pipeline, an accident discovered by water protectors and reported to regulators. Beaulieu explained on Facebook Live that the company is supposed to stop pumping water when the river level is below a foot and a half, but Enbridge was not complying.

As Beaulieu recorded her findings, 40 people from the Red Lake Treaty Camp took up positions on the bridge, chanting and holding signs, the largest of which said, “Honor the Old Crossing Treaty of 1863,” which gives people of the Red Lake Nation the right to sustain themselves through fishing on the region’s rivers, as well as hunting and performing ceremony there. Meanwhile, at the Shell River, two hours to the southeast, a different tactic was being deployed, as famed Indigenous rights activist Winona LaDuke and six other elder women sat in lawn chairs, blocking Enbridge construction in defiant civil disobedience.
» Read article            

» More about protests and actions                

 

PIPELINES

worst possible placeLine 5 pipeline between U.S. and Canada could cause ‘devastating damage’ to Great Lakes, say environmentalists
Canadian officials siding with Enbridge to keep pipeline running despite Michigan’s claims it is unsafe
By Samantha Beattie, CBC News
August 3, 2021

An aging pipeline that carries oil along the bottom of the ecologically sensitive and turbulent Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet, is in such a state of disrepair it could burst at any moment and cause catastrophic damage to the Great Lakes, environmentalists warn. 

Line 5, a 1,000-kilometre-long pipeline owned by Calgary-based Enbridge, carries up to 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids a day from Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ont., where it is shipped to other refineries in Ontario and Quebec.

It’s at the centre of a politically charged dispute between Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who’s ordered what she calls the “ticking time bomb” to be shut down, and Canadian officials, including Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who’ve sided with Enbridge in insisting it’s safe to keep running.

“Over the past year, I have both written and spoken to the Governor to express my disappointment and stress the importance of Line 5 in ensuring economic, environmental and energy security to the entire Great Lakes Region,” Ford said in a statement to CBC News.

“Our government believes pipelines are a safe way to transport essential fuels across the Great Lakes, operating in accordance with the highest pipeline safety standards.”

Enbridge says Line 5 is safe and saves the hassle of transporting huge amounts of fuel by truck or train.

But Michelle Woodhouse, water program manager at Toronto-based Environmental Defence, said it’s time to put politics aside and cut through Enbridge’s “manufactured narrative.” She says the danger the pipeline poses to the Great Lakes is too risky to take “a gamble.”

Line 5 was designed in 1953 to have a lifespan of 50 years, or until 2003. Eighteen years later, it’s still running, and has had its fair share of problems, said Woodhouse. 

“This is a very old, deteriorating, dangerous pipeline that has already leaked significant amounts of oil into the surrounding lands and water that it crosses through,” she said.

Since 1953, Line 5 has leaked 29 times, spilling 4.5 million litres of oil into the environment, according to media reports.

A spill would cause “devastating damage” to Lake Huron and Lake Michigan’s shorelines, compromising drinking water, fisheries, businesses and homes, said Woodhouse.
» Read article            

» More about pipelines           

 

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

first circuit DC
DC Circuit orders FERC to analyze climate, environmental justice more thoroughly
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
August 4, 2021

Critics have long accused FERC of “rubber stamping” projects, a criticism Glick has often agreed with. In his dissent on the commission’s 2019 approval of the Rio Grande and Texas LNG projects, he argued that FERC was not allowed under federal law to “assume away” the impacts of these projects, and that their assessment at the time was inadequate.

The Tuesday decision “clearly demonstrates that the Commission has the authority and obligation to meaningfully analyze and consider the impacts from GHG emissions and impacts to Environmental Justice communities,” Glick said in a statement. “Moreover, failure to do so puts the Commission’s decisions – and the investments made in reliance on those decisions – in legal peril.”

In the commission’s environmental analysis of the projects, it found that it could not determine what the facilities’ impacts on the climate crisis would be, because there is no universal methodology for calculating those impacts. But petitioners argued FERC could use the social cost of carbon or some other generally accepted metric to make that evaluation. Ultimately, the court agreed that the commission could have tried harder in 2019 to make this assessment.

“This court is saying you really do actually need to try to evaluate impacts based on whatever information is either out there in the real world, or that is based on academic or other research,” said John Moore, director of the Sustainable FERC Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Before you say you can’t do it, you need to try a lot harder.”
» Read article            

» More about FERC           

 

GREENING THE ECONOMY

equity in the wind
Massachusetts grants focus on equity in offshore wind workforce development

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center has awarded $1.6 million in grants to eight offshore wind workforce training programs aimed at reducing specific obstacles for people of color and low-income people.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
August 3, 2021

A Massachusetts clean energy agency has awarded $1.6 million in grants to eight offshore wind workforce training programs, each of which targets a specific obstacle that might prevent people of color and low-income people from pursuing jobs in the burgeoning industry. 

“We wanted to up the game a little bit,” said Bruce Carlisle, managing director for offshore wind at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the organization that awarded the grants. “We made a conscious effort in 2021 that we were going to focus exclusively on this issue.”

The 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind project, which is slated to become the country’s first utility-scale offshore wind installation, received its last major federal approval in May, effectively jumpstarting an industry that is expected to be a major employer and economic driver in years to come. 

The offshore wind industry could produce as many as 83,000 jobs in the United States and pump an annual $25 billion into the economy by 2030, according to an analysis by the American Wind Energy Association. With some of the country’s most wind-rich waters located off the New England coast, the region stands to reap significant financial benefits. 

In the face of this opportunity, many community and environmental groups have been pushing to ensure that people of color, low-income communities, and other marginalized groups have an equal chance to participate in the benefits of a promising new sector. The existing energy system has overburdened communities of color, who often face more pollution and higher rates of respiratory illness, said Susannah Hatch, clean energy coalition director for the Environmental League of Massachusetts. A diverse, inclusive workforce could help redress some of this damage, she said. 

“As we are looking to a decarbonized world, we have to figure out how this new system can be equitable and not repeat the sins of the past,” Hatch said.
» Read article            

geothermal boom
A Geothermal Energy Boom May Be Coming, and Ex-Oil Workers Are Leading the Way
Start-ups see a vast opportunity to utilize heat from beneath the Earth’s surface.
By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News
July 29, 2021

A conference last week got into a subject that is deep and superhot.

Some of the leaders in geothermal energy and energy policy gathered virtually to talk about a form of clean energy that they said is getting close to a technological leap forward.

Geothermal energy comes from harnessing heat from beneath the Earth’s surface, which can be used to run power plants, heat buildings and provide heat for industry. Some form of geothermal has been used for decades, with power plants in the West and Mountain West, and even older geothermal heating systems in cities like Boise, Idaho.

The opportunity ahead is for researchers and entrepreneurs to develop ways to affordably use geothermal energy at a larger scale and in many more places.

“One of the things that really excites me about geothermal is that every building is already sitting on this vast reservoir of renewable energy right there for the taking,” said Kathy Hannun, president and co-founder of Dandelion Energy, a company developing affordable geothermal heating and cooling systems for houses.

Her comments were part of Pivot 2021, a conference organized by the Geothermal Entrepreneurship Organization at the University of Texas at Austin, with support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

One of the recurring themes across days of panels was the opportunity for the United States to build on the drilling technology and methods developed by the oil and gas industry and to shift people from the industry’s current workforce to work in geothermal energy.
» Read article            

» More about greening the economy               

 

CLIMATE

net zero faster
Net zero target for 2050 is too slow, and a strategy for climate failure
By Michael Mazengarb & Giles Parkinson, Renew Economy
August 4, 2021

A major new research paper argues that setting “net zero by 2050” targets will fail to prompt urgent action on climate change, and won’t achieve the speed of emission reductions needed to avoid the worsening impacts of global warming.

The paper, released by the Australian-based Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration, says shorter-term emission reduction targets are needed to compel action to cut fossil fuel use, including setting a more ambitious target to reach zero emissions as early as 2030.

“[Net zero by 2050] scenarios are based on models and carbon budgets generally associated with a 50 or 66 per cent chance of staying below the target, that is, a one-in-two, or one-in-three, chance of failure,” the paper says.

“We would never accept those risks of failures in our own lives. Why accept them for impacts which may destroy civilisation as we know it?”

The paper is significant because Australia’s mainstream political debate is currently dominated by Labor’s demand for a net zero target by 2050, and the federal Coalition’s commitment that net zero is nice, but it will only get there as soon as it can, or some time this century.

The Breakthrough paper is by no means the first that highlights that the Paris climate goals require much more urgent action, and that decisive action in the next 10 years is required to avoid depleting the “carbon budget.”

Last week, the Australian Energy Market Operator released a set of scenarios that observed that the only one that met the Paris stretch goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C was to reach net zero emissions, at least in the electricity supply, by 2035.
» Read article            
» Read the report: “Net zero 2050”: A dangerous illusion            

seeking early retirement
Earlier Coal Shutdowns on the Agenda as Finance Giants Develop Buyout Plan
By The Energy Mix
August 3, 2021

Some of the world’s biggest financial and investment firms are hatching a plan to speed up coal power plant closures in Asia, according to an exclusive report published yesterday by the Reuters news agency.

“The novel proposal, which is being driven by the Asian Development Bank, offers a potentially workable model, and early talks with Asian governments and multilateral banks are promising,” Reuters writes, citing five sources with knowledge of the discussions. Participating companies include BlackRock Real Assets, the Prudential insurance company, and Citi and HSBC banks.

“The group plans to create public-private partnerships to buy out the plants and wind them down within 15 years, far sooner than their usual life, giving workers time to retire or find new jobs and allowing countries to shift to renewable energy sources,” the news agency adds. “The initiative comes as commercial and development banks, under pressure from large investors, pull back from financing new power plants in order to meet climate targets.”

The group hopes to have its plan ready by the time this year’s United Nations climate conference convenes in Glasgow in early November.

“If you can come up with an orderly way to replace those plants sooner and retire them sooner, but not overnight, that opens up a more predictable, massively bigger space for renewables,” said Donald Kanak, chair of insurance growth markets at Prudential, who Reuters credits with coming up with the idea.

But the stakes couldn’t be higher, he told the BBC. “The world cannot possibly hit the Paris climate targets unless we accelerate the retirement and replacement of existing coal fired electricity, opening up much larger room in the near term for renewables and storage,” he said. “This is especially true in Asia, where existing coal fleets are big and young and will otherwise operate for decades.”

“The private sector has great ideas on how to address climate change and we are bridging the gap between them and the official-sector actors,” added ADB Vice President Ahmed M. Saeed.
» Read article            

» More about climate                 

 

CLEAN ENERGY

Morro Bay storage
California speeds up energy transition to face immediate energy crisis and long-term climate goals
By Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
August 4, 2021

California’s government has issued a roadmap for the US state to achieve its long-term goal of 100% clean energy, while an immediate State of Emergency has been declared over concerns the electric system will struggle under heat waves this summer.

Energy storage, renewables and demand response are at the heart of measures to address both. The long-term roadmap also recognises the important role long-duration energy storage will play in California’s clean energy future, putting it as one of five pillars the state’s energy system will rely on in decarbonising while delivering reliable and secure service.

Governor Gavin Newsom issued the proclamation of a State of Emergency last week, stating that it is “necessary to take immediate action to reduce the strain on the energy infrastructure, increase energy capacity, and make energy supply more resilient this year to protect the health and safety of Californians”.

The state’s residents are being put into the frontline of the climate crisis, with droughts in 50 counties, wildfires, heat waves, floods, mudslides and more affecting them directly. Hydroelectric power plants have lost nearly 1,000MW of generation capacity through droughts. Record-breaking heat waves are causing strain on the electric grid, the massive Bootleg wildfire in Oregon has reduced the amount of electricity that can be delivered by an interconnector into California by nearly 4,000MW and transmission lines in high fire threat areas within the state are vulnerable.

The state could face an energy shortfall of up to 3,500MW this summer and 5,000MW by the summer of 2022. While Newsom’s proclamation acknowledged that there is insufficient time to install enough capacity of renewables and energy storage this summer, it set out some actions that will be taken immediately such as incentivising lower energy demand from industrial customers of utility companies, as well as measures to expedite clean energy projects to give California a better opportunity to meet its 2022 challenges head-on.
» Read article            

» More about clean energy            

 

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

SF smoke
The Fight to Change US Building Codes
In cities and states around the country, conflicts over climate-friendly standards for buildings are heating up.
By Emma Foehringer Merchant, Inside Climate News
August 2, 2021

To date, more than 40 California jurisdictions have established policies that either entirely ban natural gas in new construction or encourage electrification. And in the months since San Francisco’s sky glowed orange, the California Energy Commission has proposed state building standards that require “electric ready” equipment and encourage electric heating rather than the use of natural gas.

Last year, California became the first state to enact standards that encourage the installation of rooftop solar on most new homes. If regulators approve the “electric ready” code, it will be another first-in-the-nation state standard, and California will have accomplished both policies through an often-overlooked mechanism: codes that govern the design and construction of new buildings.

Though California is often seen as a trailblazer in climate policy, similar efforts are increasingly cropping up around the country. Advocates and progressive code officials are trying to push forward building codes that help drive decarbonization.

Energy consumed in buildings produced more than 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, making them a key part of the climate challenge. And the window to decarbonize them is narrowing: Analysts at organizations such as the International Energy Agency have said that new construction worldwide will need to start switching to all-electric around 2025, if nations are to limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) in this century.

“The place that we are working right now is to get a better code on paper,” said Kim Cheslak, director of codes at the New Buildings Institute, a nonprofit that works with utilities and governments on energy efficient codes. “The place we need to work after that is to make sure that cities, states and building departments have the resources to enforce full compliance.”
» Read article            

Colorado leading
Social cost of methane changes the equation for Colorado utility policy

Colorado is believed to be the first state in the nation to apply the social cost of methane to a broad range of regulatory decisions. A batch of new laws are expected to dramatically improve the case for building energy conservation.
By Allen Best, Energy News Network
August 2, 2021

As a growing list of states pass laws aimed at curbing carbon emissions, Colorado has widened its scope, taking the groundbreaking step of requiring state officials to consider the social cost of methane in regulatory decisions.

Methane, the primary constituent of natural gas, has powerful heat-trapping properties before it breaks down into water vapor and carbon dioxide after 12 years. It is 84 to 87 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20-year span, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

“By focusing on methane reduction now, it has the greatest potential to bend the curve on fighting climate change,” said state Rep. Tracey Bernett, a Democrat from Boulder County and a prime sponsor or co-sponsor of several bills passed this year that instruct state utility regulators to use the social of cost of methane when evaluating proposals. 

Other successful bills seek to reduce natural gas in buildings and other applications, and to stanch leaks in the supply chain of natural gas. Most natural gas is extracted from geological deposits by drilling.

Legislative and environmental advocates say the new laws have made Colorado the national leader in tackling emissions from buildings.
» Read article            

» More about energy efficiency           

 

BUILDING MATERIALS

climate needs you
Investors call for urgent action by steelmakers on carbon emissions
By Simon Jessop, Reuters
August 4, 2021

LONDON – Steelmakers need to take urgent action on producing less carbon in order to meet the Paris Agreement on climate change, investors managing $55 trillion in assets said on Wednesday.

Emissions from steel production account for 9% of the global total and must fall 29% by 2030 and 91% by 2050 to meet the net zero scenario laid out by the International Energy Agency in May, the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change said.

The IIGCC, as part of the Climate Action 100+ initiative, said in a statement that while it was technically feasible to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century, the steel industry was being too slow to act.

Steel firms needed to set short, mid and long-term targets in line with the IEA report, and align their capital expenditure plans with net zero, including not investing in new, unabated production capacity, the IIGCC added.

They also needed to demonstrate that emerging technology can work and produce reports by the end of 2022 on how carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen-based processes can be used.

In addition, they needed to be transparent about the public policy positions they will take to accelerate their transition, for example on carbon pricing and research and development.
» Read article            

» More about building materials              

 

ENERGY STORAGE

Form Energy iron-air
Is this a green-energy breakthrough, or just hype?
BY DAVID VON DREHLE, Berkshire Eagle | Opinion
August 2, 2021

The most important news story of 1903 received modest coverage, and it wasn’t very accurate.

Two brothers from Dayton, Ohio, conducted four machine- powered, heavier-than-air flights under human control on a single day in December. The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk, not far from the Kitty Hawk, N.C., testing ground, ran an exaggerated account of the Wright Brothers’ triumph — but in Dayton, a hometown paper, refused to mention it. “Man will never fly,” a local editor harrumphed (perhaps apocryphally). “And if he does, he won’t be from Dayton.”

Another possible milestone of technology passed quietly not long ago. It might be the beginning of the end for fossil fuels and the key to reaching the goal of a green power grid. If so, it will certainly be among the most important stories of the year — bigger than space tourism, bigger than the Arizona election audit, bigger than the discovery that amazing Simone Biles is human, not a god.

One caveat: Very few engineering breakthroughs change the world. Most end up being less than meets the eye. That said, let’s have a look.

A Boston-area company, Form Energy, announced recently that it has created a battery prototype that stores large amounts of power and releases it not over hours, but over more than four days. And that isn’t the best part. The battery’s main ingredients are iron and oxygen, both incredibly plentiful here on God’s green Earth — and therefore reliably cheap.

Put the two facts together, and you arrive at a sort of tipping point for green energy: reliable power from renewable sources at less than $20 per kilowatt-hour.
» Read article            

Greelong blaze
Crews battle Tesla battery fire at Moorabool, near Geelong

By Leanne Wong, ABC News, AU
July 30, 2021

A toxic blaze at the site of Australia’s largest Tesla battery project is set to burn throughout the night.

The fire broke out during testing of a Tesla megapack at the Victorian Big Battery site near Geelong.

A 13-tonne lithium battery was engulfed in flames, which then spread to an adjacent battery bank.

More than 150 people from Fire Rescue Victoria and the Country Fire Authority responded to the blaze, which has been contained and will be closely monitored until it burns itself out.

“If we try and cool them down it just prolongs the process,” the CFA’s Assistant Chief Fire Officer Ian Beswicke said.

“But we could be here anywhere from 8 to 24 hours while we wait for it to burn down.”

The Tesla battery is expected to become the largest battery in the southern hemisphere as part of a Victorian Government push to transition to renewable energy.
» Read article            

» More about energy storage                

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Detroit Electric
The lost history of the electric car – and what it tells us about the future of transport
To every age dogged with pollution, accidents and congestion, the transport solution for the next generation seems obvious – but the same problems keep coming back
By Tom Standage, The Guardian
August 3, 2021

Much of the early enthusiasm for the automobile stemmed from its promise to solve the problems associated with horse-drawn vehicles, including noise, traffic congestion and accidents. That cars failed on each of these counts was tolerated because they offered so many other benefits, including eliminating the pollution – most notably, horse manure – that had dogged urban thoroughfares for centuries.

But in doing away with one set of environmental problems, cars introduced a whole set of new ones. The pollutants they emit are harder to see than horse manure, but are no less problematic. These include particulate matter, such as the soot in vehicle exhaust, which can penetrate deep into the lungs; volatile organic compounds that irritate the respiratory system and have been linked to several kinds of cancer; nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide; and greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, that contribute to climate change. Cars, trucks and buses collectively produce around 17% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Reliance on fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel has also had far-reaching geopolitical ramifications, as much of the world became dependent on oil from the Middle East during the 20th century.

None of this could have been foreseen at the dawn of the automobile age. Or could it? Some people did raise concerns about the sustainability of powering cars using non-renewable fossil fuels, and the reliability of access to such fuels. Today, electric cars, charged using renewable energy, are seen as the logical way to address these concerns. But the debate about the merits of electric cars turns out to be as old as the automobile itself.

In 1897, the bestselling car in the US was an electric vehicle: the Pope Manufacturing Company’s Columbia Motor Carriage. Electric models were outselling steam- and petrol-powered ones. By 1900, sales of steam vehicles had taken a narrow lead: that year, 1,681 steam vehicles, 1,575 electric vehicles and 936 petrol-powered vehicles were sold. Only with the launch of the Olds Motor Works’ Curved Dash Oldsmobile in 1903 did petrol-powered vehicles take the lead for the first time.

Perhaps the most remarkable example, to modern eyes, of how things might have worked out differently for electric vehicles is the story of the Electrobat, an electric taxicab that briefly flourished in the late 1890s. The Electrobat had been created in Philadelphia in 1894 by Pedro Salom and Henry Morris, two scientist-inventors who were enthusiastic proponents of electric vehicles. In a speech in 1895, Salom derided “the marvelously complicated driving gear of a gasoline vehicle, with its innumerable chains, belts, pulleys, pipes, valves and stopcocks … Is it not reasonable to suppose, with so many things to get out of order, that one or another of them will always be out of order?”

The two men steadily refined their initial design, eventually producing a carriage-like vehicle that could be controlled by a driver on a high seat at the back, with a wider seat for passengers in the front. In 1897 Morris and Salom launched a taxi service in Manhattan with a dozen vehicles, serving 1,000 passengers in their first month of operation. But the cabs had limited range and their batteries took hours to recharge. So Morris and Salom merged with another firm, the Electric Battery Company. Its engineers had devised a clever battery-swapping system, based at a depot at 1684 Broadway, that could replace an empty battery with a fully charged one in seconds, allowing the Electrobats to operate all day.
» Read article            

» More about clean transportation            

 

CARBON OFFSETS AND REFORESTATION

fire in the poolUS Forest Fires Threaten Carbon Offsets as Company-Linked Trees Burn
At least two forestry projects used by businesses including BP and Microsoft to compensate for their greenhouse gas emissions are burning in Oregon and Washington.
By Camilla Hodgson, Financial Times, in Inside Climate News
August 4, 2021

Forests in the United States that generate the carbon offsets bought by companies including BP and Microsoft are on fire as summer blazes rage in North America.

Corporate net-zero emission pledges rely on such projects to compensate for the carbon dioxide generated by companies that are unable to make sufficient cuts to their actual emissions.

In principle each offset represents a ton of carbon that has been permanently removed from the atmosphere or avoided. Offsets generated by projects that plant or protect trees, which absorb carbon, are among the most popular.

But forestry projects are vulnerable to wildfires, drought and disease—permanent threats that are being exacerbated by global warming.

“We’ve bought forest offsets that are now burning,” Elizabeth Willmott, Microsoft’s carbon program manager, told attendees at an event hosted by Carbon180, a non-profit organization that focuses on carbon removal.

In Washington and Oregon, at least two forestry projects used by companies including BP and Microsoft are ablaze.

Given the risks from fire and drought, forestry offsetting schemes contributed about 10 to 20 percent of the credits they generate to the “buffer pool.”

Critics of the unregulated offsetting system have warned that buffer pools may be too small to compensate for the damage done by major fires.

“The concern is that the pool is not large enough to cover the increased risk of [the carbon benefits being reversed] with climate change over the full set of participating projects,” said Barbara Haya, research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley.
» Read article            

Sand Martin Wood
Reforestation hopes threaten global food security, Oxfam warns
Over-reliance on tree-planting to offset carbon emissions could push food prices up 80% by 2050
By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
August 3, 2021

Governments and businesses hoping to plant trees and restore forests in order to reach net-zero emissions must sharply limit such efforts to avoid driving up food prices in the developing world, the charity Oxfam has warned.

Planting trees has been [presented] as one of the key ways of tackling the climate crisis, but the amount of land needed for such forests would be vast, and planting even a fraction of the area needed to offset global greenhouse gas emissions would encroach on the land needed for crops to feed a growing population, according to a report entitled Tightening the net: Net zero climate targets implications for land and food equity.

At least 1.6bn hectares – an area five times the size of India, equivalent to all the land now farmed on the planet – would be required to reach net zero for the planet by 2050 via tree-planting alone. While no one is suggesting planting trees to that extent, the report’s authors said it gave an idea of the scale of planting required, and how limited offsetting should be if food price rises are to be avoided.

Nafkote Dabi, climate policy lead at Oxfam and co-author of the report, explained: “It is difficult to tell how much land would be required, as governments have not been transparent about how they plan to meet their net-zero commitments. But many countries and companies are talking about afforestation and reforestation, and the first question is: where is this land going to come from?”

Food prices could rise by 80% by 2050, according to some estimates, if offsetting emissions through forestry is over-used. About 350m hectares of land – an area roughly the size of India – could be used for offsetting without disrupting agriculture around the world, but taken together the plans for offsetting from countries and companies around the world could soon exceed this.
» Read article            
» Read the Oxfam report            

» More about carbon offsets and reforestation               

 

CARBON CAPTURE & SEQUESTRATION

new pipelinesThe infrastructure deal could create pipelines for captured CO2
The bipartisan infrastructure package gives billions to carbon capture and removal
By Justine Calma, The Verge
August 3, 2021

A new generation of pipelines could be born out of the bipartisan infrastructure deal making its way through Congress. But instead of hauling oil and gas, the pipelines would carry planet-heating carbon dioxide. The massive bill would allocate funding for new infrastructure devoted to capturing carbon dioxide, and transporting it to places where it can be buried underground or used in products like carbonated soda.

Carbon capture technology aims to scrub CO2 directly at the source of emissions — but it’s remained controversial among climate activists, with many seeing it as a false solution that distracts from emission reduction goals. But Congress’ new bipartisan infrastructure plan would invest billions of dollars into the idea, committing the US to ambitious carbon capture and removal schemes that have never been attempted at this large scale.

“The infrastructure bill has opened the floodgates for carbon capture piping. Watch out,” tweeted Alan Ramo, professor emeritus at Golden Gate University School of Law.

The new provisions focus mostly on using carbon capture and removal to tackle industrial emissions, rather than emissions from the power sector. The Biden Administration has particularly encouraged carbon capture for industries like cement and steel, which are difficult to electrify and decarbonize. (Cement alone is responsible for 8 percent of global CO2 emissions.) Focusing on those industries might keep carbon capture from being used as a way to extend the life of coal plants or other heavy-emitting power sources, a problem that’s come up with carbon capture technologies used in the power sector.
» Blog editor’s note: Adapted from BOC (Industrial Gases)…CO2 is a toxic gas. It is heavier than air and, if there is a leak from a CO2 [pipeline], it tends to accumulate [in low terrain] and pushes the oxygen-rich air upwards…. Air normally contains about 0.03% carbon dioxide, but breathing air with increased concentrations of the gas can lead to effects ranging from heavy breathing and a feeling of suffocation through loss of consciousness to asphyxiation.
» Read article             

» More about CC&S                

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

documents wheeled
Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Includes $25 Billion in Potential New Subsidies for Fossil Fuels
Instead of reducing the role of fossil fuels in the economy, critics say, the bill subsidizes industry “greenwashing.”
By Alleen Brown, The Intercept
August 3, 2021

The Senate’s new bipartisan infrastructure bill is being sold as a down payment on addressing the climate crisis. But environmental advocates and academics are warning the proposed spending bill is full of new fossil fuel industry subsidies masked as climate solutions. The latest draft bill would make fossil fuel companies eligible for at least $25 billion in new subsidies, according to an analysis by the Center for International Environmental Law.

“This is billions upon billions of dollars in additional fossil fuel industry subsidies in addition to the $15 billion that we already hand out to this industry to support and fund this industry,” said Jim Walsh, Food and Water Watch’s senior policy analyst. Scientists say that to meet the goals of the international Paris climate accord, the U.S would need to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 — and be well on the way there by 2030. With subsidies that keep fossil fuel industries going, Walsh said, “We will never be able to meet the Paris agreement if we fund these kind of programs.”

Just as concerning is the new economy the subsidies could entrench, said Walsh, through the creation of new fossil fuel infrastructure. “This would support the development of four petrochemical hubs that would create profit incentives for greenhouse gas emission production and would be focused on finding new ways of integrating fossil fuels into our economy for transportation, energy, petrochemical development, and plastics.”

In short, he added, “This deal envisions a world where we will use fossil fuels into perpetuity.”

The subsidies would go toward technologies sold as dream fixes for ending the nightmare of the climate crisis without the colossal political hurdle of dislodging the fossil fuel industry from the U.S. economy. Such technologies include carbon capture and decarbonized hydrogen fuel. Both purported solutions in practice help fossil fuel companies mask the continued release of climate-warming gases. Neither of the technologies are currently commercially viable at a large scale, so the energy industry requires government help to carry out what critics see as a public relations scheme.
» Read article            

Facebook fossil influence
Facebook let fossil-fuel industry push climate misinformation, report finds
Thinktank InfluenceMap accuses petroleum giants of gaming Facebook to promote oil and gas as part of climate-crisis solution
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian
August 5, 2021

Facebook failed to enforce its own rules to curb an oil and gas industry misinformation campaign over the climate crisis during last year’s presidential election, according to a new analysis released on Thursday.

The report, by the London-based thinktank InfluenceMap, identified an increase in advertising on the social media site by ExxonMobil and other fossil-fuel companies aimed at shaping the political debate about policies to address global heating.

InfluenceMap said its research shows the fossil-fuel industry has moved away from outright denying the climate crisis, and is now using social media to promote oil and gas as part of the solution. The report also exposed what it said was Facebook’s role in facilitating the dissemination of false claims about global heating by failing to consistently apply its own policies to stop erroneous advertising.

“Despite Facebook’s public support for climate action, it continues to allow its platform to be used to spread fossil-fuel propaganda,” the report said. “Not only is Facebook inadequately enforcing its existing advertising policies, it’s clear that these policies are not keeping pace with the critical need for urgent climate action.”

The report found that 25 oil and gas industry organisations spent at least $9.5m to place more than 25,000 ads on Facebook’s US platforms last year, which were viewed more than 431m times. Exxon alone spent $5m.

“The industry is using a range of messaging tactics that are far more nuanced than outright statements of climate denial. Some of the most significant tactics found included tying the use of oil and gas to maintaining a high quality of life, promoting fossil gas as green, and publicizing the voluntary actions taken by the industry on climate change,” the report said.
» Read article            
» Read the InfluenceMap report          

» More about fossil fuels                  

 

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

Quebec declines LNG terminal
Quebec Rejects $14-Billion LNG Terminal
By The Energy Mix staff
August 1, 2021

Quebec has rejected GNL Québec’s application to build a C$14-billion liquefied natural gas terminal in the Saguenay region, capping years of opposition by Indigenous communities, climate campaigners, scientists, and health professionals.

The announcement comes just a week after three Innu First Nations in Quebec declared a pipeline to the Énergie Saguenay project from Western Canada would not be allowed to cross their ancestral lands. “We listened, we did our own research on the project, and following the conclusions of the BAPE report, it is clear that our position will remain the same,” said Charles-Edouard Verreault, vice-chief of Mashteuiatsh First Nation and spokesperson for the three nations. “This project won’t be happening on our territories.”

“Relief!” headlined Coalition Fjord, a campaign group that waged a three-year fight against the project.

“The end of the GNL project and pipeline is an encouraging sign for citizen mobilization,” the group said in a release. “It’s a relief for the climate, after the science was finally heard”, so that the province will dodge an increase in its greenhouse gas emissions.

“Locally, it’s a massive relief for biodiversity,” including beluga whale populations that were threatened by the project. And “above all, it’s a relief to see the end of division and the beginning of a constructive dialogue,” the coalition said. “To many people, this project looked like a chance to create jobs and boost the local economy, but that was just a mirage” that masked the project’s “irreversible negative impacts”. 

Previously, Quebec’s Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) had issued a 500-page report concluding that the risks from the 750-kilometre-long gas pipeline would “far outweigh” the benefits. The project drew the widest response ever to a BAPE review with more than 2,500 briefs presented, 91% of them opposing the development.
» Read article            

no smoking LNG
DC Circuit faults FERC’s environmental analysis in two LNG project orders
By Maya Weber, S&P Global
August 3, 2021


The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has found fault with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s climate and environmental justice reviews for the Rio Grande LNG and Texas LNG projects, planned in the Brownsville, Texas, area, and has remanded to FERC the orders authorizing the projects.

The Aug. 3 decision, marking the second blow the court delivered to FERC’s gas project orders, could have broader implications going forward for the commission’s approach to considering climate impacts. It arrives as FERC has remained split on the extent of its legal requirements to assess climate impacts of projects.

The orders remanded by the court Aug. 3 include applications for the 7 million mt/year Rio Grande project and the 4 million mt/year Texas LNG project. FERC first approved the projects in 2019, with rehearing orders issued in early 2020.

In one benefit for the projects, the court agreed not to vacate the FERC authorizations, acknowledging the LNG developers’ concerns that such a remedy could “imperil the intervenors’ ability to obtained funding necessary to complete the projects in a timely fashion.”

The three-judge panel of the DC Circuit agreed with petitioners that FERC failed to adequately assess the impact of the projects’ greenhouse gas emissions because it neglected to respond to the argument that it was required to use the social cost of carbon or some other generally accepted method to assess the GHG emissions’ effects.

FERC did not discuss or even cite the relevant Council on Environmental Quality regulation in its rehearing order that would have seemed to require it to evaluate the impacts based on theoretical approaches or research methods generally accepted by the scientific community, said the ruling Judge Robert Wilkins filed.

While the court did not rule on what method FERC should have applied on GHGs, it held that FERC was required to address the petitioners’ argument concerning the significance of a CEQ regulation and that its failure to do so rendered its analysis of the projects’ GHG emissions deficient.

The panel also found FERC’s environmental justice analysis for the two projects to be flawed. It agreed with petitioners that the decision to analyze the impact on environmental justice communities only in census blocks within two miles of the projects was arbitrary, given FERC’s determination that environmental effects would extend well beyond two miles. FERC determined air quality impacts could occur within 31 miles, the court said.

“The commission has offered no explanation as to why, in light of that finding, it chose to delineate the area potentially affected by the projects to include only those census blocks within two miles of the project sites for the purposes of its environmental justice analyses,” it said.

In deciding to remand, rather than vacate, the FERC orders, the decision called it “reasonably likely” that, on remand, FERC could address its failures to explain its approach on climate change and environmental justice while reaching the same result. [emphasis added]
» Blog editor’s note: once FERC performs the required climate impact and environmental justice studies, their rigor and validity can be scrutinized by environmental and legal experts. Should FERC reach the “same result” based on shoddy or flawed analysis, we expect further litigation to follow.
» Read article                    

» More about liquefied natural gas      

 

BIOMASS

smoke and pollutants
Environmental justice designation coming under scrutiny
Is Lexington really environmentally overburdened?
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
August 3, 2021

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE communities, marginalized areas of the state overburdened with pollution from power plants, industrial facilities, and highways, are turning out to be more commonplace in Massachusetts than you might think.

Earlier this year, when the Legislature passed a sweeping climate change bill containing language defining an environmental justice, or EJ community, advocates said the measure was needed to protect areas of the state with high populations of people of color, low-income residents, and other marginalized groups that face disproportionate environmental burdens.

But as the definition is being applied, the number of EJ communities is turning out to be larger than expected. According to a state analysis of Census data, close to 200 of the state’s 351 cities and towns contain some EJ neighborhoods. 

There were municipalities containing EJ neighborhoods you would expect, including Chelsea, Everett, Lawrence, and Randolph, where the entire city was an EJ community. Others high on the list included Brockton, Fall River, Fitchburg, Holyoke, Lowell, Malden, New Bedford, North Adams, Quincy, Springfield, and Worcester.

But there were also cities and towns containing fairly high concentrations of EJ neighborhoods that one would hardly describe as environmentally overburdened, including Acton, Amherst, Arlington, Avon, Brookline, Lexington, Waltham, Watertown, and Westborough.

Last week, state environmental officials showed just how powerful the EJ designation could be. In setting regulations for the construction of wood-burning power plants, the officials said the facilities would not qualify for essential ratepayer subsidies if they were located in an EJ community or within five miles of one. That ruling meant that 89 percent of the state was essentially off-limits to biomass plants and someone looking to build such a facility in Massachusetts could only locate it in 35 of the state’s 351 cities and towns.
» Read article            

EJ-5
Biomass power rules leave 35 towns in industry ‘crosshairs’
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service, in Berkshire Eagle
July 31, 2021

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have let the Baker administration know that they are not happy with proposed regulations that would effectively protect environmental justice communities and surrounding areas from new wood-burning power generation facilities while singling out just 35 towns as possible plant hosts.

In April, the Baker administration announced that its proposed updates to the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard regulations would prohibit biomass projects from qualifying for the RPS program if they are located within an environmental justice community or within five miles of an environmental justice community.

The latest version of that plan got a hearing before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy on Friday, with Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Patrick Woodcock detailing the proposed changes for lawmakers.

The RPS governs the increasing amount of clean energy that utilities and municipal light plants must purchase each year. State law requires that DOER make biomass facilities eligible for the RPS program and rules that have been in place since 2012 make only efficient combined-heat-and-power biomass plants eligible to sell renewable energy credits into the RPS market.

But once each environmental justice community and its corresponding five-mile buffer was mapped out, about 90 percent of the state’s land area was excluded.

That leaves just 10 percent of the state — a stretch of communities west of the Connecticut River and along the Connecticut border, a strip of coastline that runs through Cohasset, Scituate and Marshfield, and small shreds of various other towns — where future biomass facilities could be located and be eligible for incentives under the Baker administration’s policy.

“It doesn’t matter where a facility is sited in Massachusetts or elsewhere, the science still says no,” Sen. Jo Comerford said, referring to the fact that biomass generation pollutes more than other sources like solar. “The logic here in these regulations is tortured. A biomass plant cited more than five miles away from the nearest environmental justice community is not any greener than a biomass plant in Springfield. The location of the facility has never been a factor in RPS class one eligibility. Class one should be reserved for the cleanest energy sources.”
» Read article            

biomass pretzel logic
Proposed biomass limits restrict new plants in 90 percent of state
Remaining 35 communities worried about pollution
By Shira Schoenberg, CommonWealth Magazine
July 30, 2021

MONTHS AFTER THE Baker administration pulled the plug on plans for a controversial new biomass plant in Springfield, state environmental officials proposed new regulations that would drastically limit where biomass plants can be located.

The rules promulgated by the Department of Energy Resources in April say new biomass plants located in or within five miles of an environmental justice community will not qualify as a renewable energy source under a state program, the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, or RPS, that requires energy producers to obtain a certain amount of energy from renewable sources. Financially, that would likely make it impossible for a company to locate a plant there. Environmental justice communities are generally poor communities of color that are disproportionately affected by pollution.

Practically, Massachusetts has adopted an expansive definition of environmental justice communities, which means that about 90 percent of the state is within five miles of one of these communities. Most of the remaining places where biomass would be eligible for the incentive are in rural Western Massachusetts.

The restrictions, which will be the subject of a legislative hearing on Friday, are angering representatives of the few communities that could still be targeted to host biomass plants.

 “If we’re going to regulate biomass out of 90 percent of the Commonwealth, we might as well make it ineligible for [incentive programs] across the entire Commonwealth,” said Sen. Adam Hinds, a Pittsfield Democrat who represents 17 towns where biomass would remain eligible. Hinds worries that the towns in his district will be aggressively pursued by biomass companies, and he worries about pollution.

Sen. Jo Comerford, a Northampton Democrat who represents three eligible communities, said she has long believed biomass should not be eligible as a renewable energy source because of the pollution it creates – which makes it less “green” than wind or solar power. Comerford said she agrees with DOER’s decision to keep biomass out of environmental justice communities. But she said retaining eligibility in 10 percent of the state puts DOER “in a pretzel-like argument.”

“It’s saying biomass in environmental justice communities is bad, but biomass in Leyden is good,” Comerford said.
» Read article          
» Watch TUE hearing video           

» More about biomass                

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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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