Tag Archives: methane emissions

Weekly News Check-In 12/18/20

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Welcome back.

The Boston Globe published an excellent post mortem this week on the six year fight to stop the Weymouth compressor station. This is an important record of a profound and unfair imbalance of power that resulted in a Enbridge’s dangerous and toxic facility being inappropriately sited in a congested and environmentally burdened neighborhood. It describes a failure of government and its regulators to stand up to industry, even when doing so would protect a vulnerable community and help meet legally binding climate commitments.

Protests and actions are ramping up against Enbridge’s next environmental and cultural assault – the Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline through sensitive northern Minnesota lake country. This threatens critical freshwater resources of indigenous groups, who are now being arrested for putting their bodies in the path of bulldozers.

Meanwhile, Princeton University is in the news for an exhaustive climate plan that offers five very detailed pathways to achieve net zero by 2050. No matter the chosen route, start time is immediate, effort is intense, and significant milestones must be met by 2030.

In a counter-intuitive move, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center is allowing its highly successful solar loan program to sunset as planned on December 31, seeing no need to renew it now that banks have shown a willingness to finance solar PV installations. However, of 5,700 loans made through the program since its inception, 3,000 of them were to borrowers taking advantage of provisions for low-income customers. That’s more than half of the program’s success stories, and banks do not tend to serve these people.

[Also in this clean energy section is a great technical article on the emissions hazards posed by hydrogen – even “green” hydrogen. It’s the first discussion we’ve seen about high NOx emissions resulting from hydrogen combustion – and the lack of current available technology to deal with this powerful greenhouse gas and health hazard. Keep this in mind as industry floods us with happy images of a green hydrogen future.]

The expiring solar loan program is just one example of Massachusetts resting on its green energy laurels and letting programs slip while other states – particularly California – quicken their pace. Governor Baker, you don’t get to crow about your state’s top national energy efficiency status this year. After a nine year run, bragging rights belong to California’s Governor Newsom.

Toyota is teasing us with the prospect of solid state EV batteries in prototypes within the next year, and in our driveways by around 2025. While the prospect of long range and 10 minute charge time is wildly appealing, we couldn’t help wondering why the company’s president was recently talking down electric vehicle market penetration in a Wall Street Journal interview. Could be he’s hedging a bet on hydrogen fuel cells.

The Environmental Protection Agency, among others, has some serious post-Trump rehabilitation ahead of it, and President-elect Biden has selected environmental lawyer Brenda Mallory to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality. She will be tasked with revamping Trump-era regulations and ensuring that federal agencies stay out of legal trouble by properly studying the full impacts of their decisions. Climate impacts of pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure are expected to receive high priority.

In a weird twist, our fossil fuel industry news this week is all about coal. This is a good time to remember that even when a sector is written off as dying, it can still cause massive environmental damage and throw a lot of political weight around. And in the unintended consequences department, the US liquefied natural gas export market could get a boost from stricter methane emissions rules expected from the incoming Biden administration.

We close with the 2020 award for top plastic polluters, with Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé sharing the victory dumpster for the third year in a row.

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

 

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

no more toxinsIn Weymouth, a brute lesson in power politics
A Globe investigation finds residents who fought a six-year battle with an energy giant over a controversial gas compressor never had much of a chance, with both the federal and state governments consistently ruling against them
By Mike Stanton, Boston Globe
December 12, 2020

Dr. Regina LaRocque has studied health risks in the Fore River Basin for Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility. She hoped the state’s review would conclude the area was already too unhealthy and polluted to approve a compressor there. Since most compressor stations are in rural areas, state officials said in their final report, they could not find data on compressors “in similarly urban locations.”

So LaRocque, a doctor at Massachusetts General and Harvard Medical School, was “gobsmacked” when the report was released in January 2019 and concluded that emissions from the compressor “are not likely to cause health effects.”

She said the conclusion overlooked data showing the compressor would emit particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and toxics like benzene and formaldehyde linked to cancer and respiratory, cardiovascular, and neurological diseases. And it ignored the fact that area residents suffer higher rates than normal in Massachusetts of cancer and childhood asthma and were hospitalized more for heart attacks and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

”It was a whitewash,” says LaRocque. “It presented data that was highly concerning then did somersaults to say there would be no health impact.”

Seven days later, Governor Baker approved the air permit.

“It’s probably the most comprehensive analysis within that framework that anybody’s done anywhere around one of these permits, and it passed,” Baker told reporters.

However, earlier drafts of the report, obtained by the Globe through a public records request, urged the state to look more closely at “public health implications.” That was deleted, along with a passage mentioning the potential risk to two poor and minority neighborhoods in Quincy, Germantown and Quincy Point.
» Blog editor’s note: this is a long, comprehensive article, and well worth the time to read the whole thing.
» Read article            
» Read the Physicians for Social Responsibility Report             
» Read the MAPC Health Impact Assessment          

» More about the Weymouth compressor station             

 

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

22 arrested on Line 3
22 protesters arrested at Enbridge pipeline construction site
Construction began two weeks ago on the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline.
By Brooks Johnson, Star Tribune
December 15, 2020

Nearly two dozen protesters were arrested at an Enbridge Line 3 pipeline construction site in Aitkin County near the Mississippi River on Monday after they blocked equipment and refused orders to disperse, Sheriff Dan Guida said.

Indigenous and environmental activists, who have been holding daily protests north of Palisade, Minn., prevented the extraction of a protester who had been camped in a tree for 10 days. Guida said a rope had been tied from the tree across the recently cleared pipeline route and created “an extremely dangerous situation.”

“We got a bucket truck and moved in, and people blocked it,” he said. “We don’t really have a choice. We have to enforce those laws.”

There were 22 arrests made, Guida said, most for misdemeanor trespassing on a posted construction site.

Activists vowed to continue to stand in the way of pipeline construction, which started two weeks ago.

“That Minnesotans are willing to risk arrest shows they’re fighting to protect what they love,” said Brett Benson, spokesman for environmental justice group MN350. “They’re standing up to say it’s time the state actually listen to Indigenous voices and start protecting our climate instead of caving to the interests of a Canadian oil giant.”
» Read article            


line 3 meets water protectors
Opponents of Enbridge’s Line 3 construction make last-ditch effort at river’s edge
While legal challenges continue, protesters aim to stand in the way.
By Brooks Johnson, Star Tribune
December 10, 2020

PALISADE, MINN. – Drumming and singing rose from the snowy banks of the Mississippi River on Wednesday morning while heavy machinery beeped and revved in the distance. A dozen protesters prayed by the river as the state’s largest construction project, the $2.6 billion Enbridge oil pipeline, continued its early stages in rural Aitkin County.

Not far from the road where self-described water protectors have been gathering daily, two protesters remained camped atop trees. They have been there since Friday trying to stay in the way of construction that started last week after Enbridge received the last permit it needed following six years of regulatory review.

Trees have been cleared all around the pair as preparations to lay the 340-mile pipeline continue across northern Minnesota.

“As a company, we recognize the rights of individuals and groups to express their views legally and peacefully. We expect our workers on Line 3 to do the same,” Enbridge said in a statement. “As part of their onboarding, each Line 3 worker goes through extensive training, including cultural awareness.”

Already, about 2,000 workers are expected at job sites along the route this week. More than 4,000 are expected to be working by the end of the month, unions say.

While the specter of the massive Standing Rock protests hangs over the Line 3 project, the crowd along the river north of McGregor has remained small so far. Pipeline opponents are still hoping to stop construction through lawsuits.

A request to have the Minnesota Court of Appeals halt construction while permit challenges are ongoing is expected to be filed in the next week after state regulators declined to grant a stay.

In the meantime, protesters will continue putting their bodies in the way and raising their voices.

“People are doing what they can to prevent what’s going on,” Aubid said. “I do what I need to do in order to protect the waters.”
» Read article             

needs a comb
New Youth Climate Lawsuit Launched Against UK Government on Five Year Anniversary of Paris Agreement
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
December 12, 2020

Three young British citizens and the climate litigation charity Plan B today announced they are taking legal action against the UK government for failing to sufficiently address the climate crisis.

The announcement comes on the five year anniversary of the landmark Paris Agreement — the international accord intended to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius — and the lawsuit is the latest in a cascade of litigation around the world aimed at holding governments and polluters accountable for fuelling climate change.

Today’s action involves serving a formal letter upon British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak as the first step in the litigation process, with a court filing to come likely in early 2021.

The legal action asserts that the UK — the historic birthplace of the fossil-fueled Industrial Revolution — is continuing to finance the climate crisis and has failed to develop an emergency plan to comprehensively and aggressively tackle the crisis. The case alleges violations of human rights protected under British and international law, specifically rights to life and to private and family life. And the case alleges the government has not met its legal obligations to tackle climate change under the UK Climate Change Act of 2008 and the Paris Agreement.

Plan B says that given the UK government’s self-proclaimed position as a “climate leader” and position as host of the international United Nations climate summit (COP26) next year in Glasgow, the failure to develop an emergency plan on climate is an abdication of its duties to its people and the international community. The goal of the lawsuit is a court order forcing the government to develop an emergency plan in accordance with its legal obligations.

“The Government claims to be showing leadership on the basis of an inadequate net zero [emissions] target it is failing to meet,” Plan B said in a press release. “Yet, it has failed to prepare even for the minimum level of climate impact and plans to cut financial support for the most vulnerable communities around the world. It knows the City of London is financing levels of warming that would devastate our society.”
» Read article            
» Read the Plan B press release      

» More about protests and actions       

 

CLIMATE

electric trolley SF
New Report Details How U.S. Can Achieve Net-Zero Emissions by 2050

By Climate Nexus, in EcoWatch
December 16, 2020

A new report from Princeton University released yesterday details five pathways for achieving net zero emissions in the U.S. by 2050, with “priority actions” the U.S. should take before 2030.

A highlight across all pathways is total or near total electrification of energy use across the U.S. economy.

Additional recommendations include building a significant amount of new energy infrastructure, increasing wind and solar generating capacity, expanding the nation’s electric grid, and transitioning homes off natural gas.

The research puts the price tag of this near-term action at $2.5 trillion, but calculates it will create at least half a million jobs and save tens of thousands of lives.

The report also identifies several pitfalls the transition could face, including local opposition to land-use for renewable infrastructure and a lack of public support for electric cars and homes.

“The costs are affordable, the tool kit is there, but the scale of transformation across the country is significant,” said Jesse Jenkins, a Princeton professor and lead author of the report.
» Read article            
» Related articles: New York Times, Washington Post, Axios, Bloomberg
» Read the Princeton University study, Net Zero America             
» Read the October U.N. report, America’s Zero Carbon Action Plan           

worldward
What if net-zero isn’t enough? Inside the push to ‘restore’ the climate.
By Emily Pontecorvo, Grist
December 11, 2020

Disagreements about how to tackle the climate crisis abound, but in 2020, it seemed much of the world finally reached consensus about at least one thing: getting to net-zero by 2050, or sooner. Net-zero is a state where greenhouse gases are no longer accumulating in the atmosphere — any emissions must be counterbalanced by sucking some carbon out of the air — and this year, a tidal wave of governments, businesses, and financial institutions pledged to reach it.

But for a new movement of young activists, the net-zero rhetoric is worrisome. “Hitting net-zero is not enough,” they wrote in a letter published in the Guardian last month. Instead, the group behind the letter, a youth-led organization called Worldward, urges the world to rally around a different goal, one they call “climate restoration.” The letter was co-signed by prominent climate scientists James Hansen and Michael Mann, in addition to writers, artists, and other activists.

“The climate today is not safe,” said Gideon Futerman, the 17-year-old founder and president of Worldward, who lives in a suburb north of London. “Millions of people are suffering and millions more will.” By the time net-zero is achieved, he said, the climate will be considerably more dangerous.
» Read article            

» More about climate               

 

CLEAN ENERGY

solar loan sunset
Massachusetts solar loans program leaves banks with confidence to lend
As the program ends, private solar lending will continue but low-income homeowners may be left behind.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
Photo By Staff Sgt. Aaron Breeden / U.S. Air Force
December 17, 2020

Massachusetts’ lauded solar loan program is drawing to a close this month, leaving behind a more robust solar financing market but also taking away a tool that lenders and installers say has been invaluable in bringing the benefits of solar power to underserved households. 

“It has allowed us to bring solar to people who might not have access to it otherwise,” said Richard Bonney, project developer for solar installer RevoluSun, which completed 141 projects through the program. “That is the biggest area of concern on our end.”

The Mass Solar Loan program was launched in 2015 with two goals: jumpstarting the market for residential solar financing and expanding access to solar for lower-income households.

The clean energy center plans to sunset the program on Dec. 31, as originally authorized.

Without the income-based support of the state program, however, market-based lending programs are unlikely to reach lower-income households on anything like the scale of the Mass Solar Loan. Of 5,700 loans made through the program, 3,000 of them were to borrowers taking advantage of provisions for low-income customers. 

Even as banks and credit unions seem to be stepping up their solar lending, they will not be able to fill all the gaps left by the state program. Nearly 30% of the program’s loans went to applicants with credit scores lower than 720, a level lenders generally consider quite risky. 

And while many homeowners are expected to use home equity loans to finance a solar installation, borrowers who put down smaller down payments or haven’t owned their homes for long might not have enough equity to support a loan. 

Massachusetts’ solar incentive program has provisions targeting low-income households, but does [not] have any tools for helping homeowners get over the initial hurdle of the upfront cost to install a system. 

There is nothing on the horizon to fill that gap, and the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker does not seem to see the value in funding more solar incentives for low-income residents, [Ben Mayer, vice president of marketing and residential sales for SunBug Solar] said.

“It would be funny if it weren’t so aggravating,” he said. “If anything, you should be figuring out how to increase the investment.”
» Read article                     

Intermountain Power project
Hydrogen Hype in the Air
By Lew Milford, Seth Mullendore, and Abbe Ramanan, Clean Energy Group
December 14, 2020

Here’s an energy quiz. Question: do you think this statement is true?

“Unlike fossil fuels, which emit planet-warming carbon dioxide when they’re burned, hydrogen mostly produces water.”

Answer: false.

That statement appeared in a Bloomberg Green article a week or so ago. It reported on future European plans to use hydrogen (H2) as a fuel “in modified gas turbines” to power airplanes. Similar reports have appeared in other reputable energy articles about how hydrogen is the optimal climate solution because its use will not create any air emissions.

What is true is that renewable power like solar or wind can split water into H2 to produce what the reporters claimed – “emissions free” energy. But that requires a complicated and expensive electrolysis process to make H2. That renewably generated “green hydrogen” would then be run through a fuel cell to make electricity. Fuel cells do not produce carbon dioxide (CO2) or other harmful emissions. There are many smart applications for fuel cell-derived power, in cars and heavy vehicles, and in various industrial applications – what an intelligent hydrogen economy might look like in the years to come.

Clean Energy Group (CEG) has been a fervent supporter of green hydrogen and its use in fuel cells. We worked on hydrogen and fuel cells 15 years ago, when they were one of the few cleaner energy options. Then, we did not have the cheaper and more practical alternatives to fossil fuel plants such as renewables and battery storage that we have today.

Back in 2006, CEG wrote that “[h]ydrogen is most efficiently used in fuel cells where it is converted to electricity “electro-chemically” (i.e., without combustion), with only water and oxygen depleted air as exhaust products.”

This is because combustion is where hydrogen goes from “emissions-free” to polluting, the critical distinction seemingly lost in this new debate about using H2 to address climate change.

What happens when H2 is combusted?

Burning H2 does not produce carbon dioxide (CO2)  emissions. That is good news for the climate.

However, hydrogen combustion produces other air emissions. And that scientific fact is the untold story in this aggressive industry plan, one that could turn green H2 into ghastly H2.

The bad news is that H2 combustion can produce dangerously high levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx). Two European studies have found that burning hydrogen-enriched natural gas in an industrial setting can lead to NOx emissions up to six times that of methane (the most common element in natural gas mixes). There are numerous other studies in the scientific literature about the difficulties of controlling NOx emissions from H2 combustion in various industrial applications.
Blog editor’s note: this is an important article, worth the time to read in its entirety. In addition to the documented serious health effects associated with NOx emissions, the pollutants are powerful greenhouse gases – packing approximately 300 times the global warming potential as carbon dioxide.
» Read article            
» Read about the natural gas industry’s hydrogen PR campaign     

» More about clean energy               

 

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

number twoMass. no longer most energy-efficient state
California, with numerous policy initiatives, moves into top spot
By Colin A. Young, Statehouse News Service, in CommonWealth Magazine
December 18, 2020

After nine years at the top of a list that state officials regularly tout, Massachusetts is no longer considered to be the most energy-efficient state in the nation.

California now sits atop the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) rankings and bumped Massachusetts down to second place thanks to the passage of millions of dollars in incentives for high-efficiency heat pump water heaters and an executive order to phase out new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035.

“In a year dramatically impacted by a global pandemic and associated recession, efforts to advance clean energy goals struggled to maintain momentum amid the loss of 400,000 energy efficiency jobs by the summer and disruptions to countless lives. Despite these challenges, some states continued to successfully prioritize energy efficiency as an important resource to help reduce household and business energy bills, create jobs, and reduce emissions,” the ACEEE wrote in its annual report and scorecard. “First place goes to California, which sets the pace in saving energy on multiple fronts with adoption of net-zero energy building codes, stringent vehicle emissions standards, and industry-leading appliance standards.”

Massachusetts has had at least a share of first place in the ACEEE rankings for the last nine years (California had tied with Massachusetts for number one as recently as 2016) and has been in the top 10 all 14 years that the ACEEE has published its annual state scorecard.

“Generally speaking, the highest-ranking states have all made broad, long-term commitments to energy efficiency, indicated by their staying power at the top of the State Scorecard over the past decade,” lead report author Weston Berg said. “However, it is important to note that retaining one’s spot in the lead pack is no easy task; all of these states must embrace new, cutting-edge strategies and programs to remain at the top.”

Every year since 2015, the Baker administration has celebrated the top billing with a press release, featuring quotes from the governor, lieutenant governor, Energy and Environmental Affairs secretary, Department of Energy Resources commissioners, House speaker, Senate president, House minority leader, Senate minority leader and a House committee chairman.

This year, there was no administration press release, and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and Department of Energy Resources declined to make anyone available to discuss the rankings with the News Service on Wednesday.
» Blog editor’s note: you can earn top-dog status on the energy efficiency list, or you can coddle the natural gas industry – but you can’t do both.
» Read article            

» More about energy efficiency          

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

solid state Toyota
Toyota EV with solid-state batteries: 10-minute full charge, prototype reportedly due in 2021
By Stephen Edelstein, Green Car Reports
December 13, 2020

 

Toyota hopes to be the first automaker to launch an electric car with solid-state batteries, aiming to unveil a prototype next year, ahead of a production launch relatively soon after that, Nikkei Asia reported Thursday.

The automaker expects electric cars powered by solid-state batteries to have more than twice the range of vehicles using current lithium-ion battery chemistry, with the ability to fully recharge in just 10 minutes, according to the report, which also said Toyota has over 1,000 patents related to solid-state batteries.

While Toyota seems fairly far ahead of other Japanese automakers (Nissan doesn’t plan to start real-world testing of solid-state batteries until 2028, the report said), the country’s automotive suppliers appear to be gearing up for production.

Mitsui Mining and Smelting (also known as Mitsui Kinzoku) will build a pilot facility to make electrolyte for solid-state batteries, the report said. Located at an existing research and development center in Japan’s Saitama Prefecture, the facility will be able to produce “dozens of tons” of solid electrolyte starting next year, enough to fulfill demand for prototypes, according to the report.

The timetable discussed in the report is accelerated from what a top Toyota executive suggested just this summer. In an interview with Automotive News in July, Keiji Kaita, executive vice president of Toyota’s powertrain division, said limited production of solid-state batteries would start in 2025.

This report also suggests that solid-state battery cells could have much-improved energy density. That echoes a Samsung statement from earlier this year, suggesting its solid-state tech could double energy density.
» Blog editor’s note: Is Toyota all in? Read a December 17, 2020 report from Oil Price in which Toyota’s President Akio Toyoda talks down electric vehicles.
» Read article             

» More about clean transportation        

 

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

Brenda Mallory
Biden Pick to Bolster Legal Odds with Added Climate Review
By Ellen M. Gilmer and Stephen Lee, Bloomberg Law
December 17, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden’s selection of environmental lawyer Brenda Mallory for a top spot in the new administration could help federal agencies improve their litigation record on climate change.

The presumptive nominee to lead the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality will be tasked with revamping Trump-era regulations and ensuring that federal agencies stay out of legal trouble by properly studying the full impacts of their decisions.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mallory will take the helm of CEQ at a time when judges have increasingly faulted federal officials under both the Obama and Trump administrations for failing to fully consider greenhouse gas emissions in their National Environmental Policy Act reviews. NEPA requires agencies to analyze and disclose the impacts of their actions, including approvals of highways, pipelines, and other projects.

CEQ, which oversees NEPA implementation, aimed to sidestep those losses in July by issuing a rule that eliminated a longstanding requirement that officials consider the cumulative impacts of their actions—a part of NEPA reviews that often touches on climate change. The Biden administration is expected to reconsider that move and quickly direct agencies to strengthen their climate analyses.

“Reversing the Trump-era NEPA rollbacks is going to be priority No. 1,” said Western Environmental Law Center lawyer Kyle Tisdel, a frequent foe of federal agencies in NEPA cases.

Next on the list, he said, will be issuing new guidance for how agencies should incorporate climate analysis into their reviews.

The result will be better outcomes in NEPA litigation during the Biden administration, legal experts say.

Agencies and project backers “should already realize that their environmental reviews are more likely to survive judicial scrutiny if they include cumulative impact review and lifecycle greenhouse gas analysis where appropriate,” said Columbia Law School professor Michael Gerrard, who directs the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.
» Read article           

» More about the EPA           

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Hay Point Coal TerminalChina Battles the World’s Biggest Coal Exporter, and Coal Is Losing
China has officially blocked coal imports from Australia after months of vague restrictions. For Australia, the world’s largest coal exporter, the decision is a gut punch.
By Damien Cave, New York Times
December 16, 2020

SYDNEY, Australia — China is forcing Australia to confront what many countries are concluding: The coal era is coming to an end.

China has now officially blocked coal imports from Australia after months of vague restrictions that dramatically slowed trade and stranded huge ships at sea.

For Australia, the world’s largest coal exporter, the decision is a gut punch that eliminates its second-biggest market at a time when many countries are already rethinking their dependence on a filthy fossil fuel that accelerates the devastation of climate change.

While Beijing’s motives are difficult to divine, there are hints of mercantilist protection for local producers and the desire to punish Australia for perceived sins that include demanding an inquiry into the source of the coronavirus. China’s commitment to cut emissions may also allow it to be marginally more selective with its vast purchases.

Whatever the reasoning, the impact is shaping up to be profound for a country that has tied its fate to coal for more than 200 years. Mining policy can still decide elections in Australia and the current conservative government is determined to do the bare minimum on climate change, which has made China’s coal cutback a symbolic, cultural and economic shock.

“A transition has been forced upon us,” said Richie Merzian, the climate and energy program director at the Australia Institute, an independent think tank. “It’s hard to see how things will really pick up from here.”

The realization, if it holds, may take time to sink in.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ridden Australia’s traditional reliance on fossil fuels into power. He famously held up a hunk of coal in Parliament in 2017, declaring “don’t be scared,” and first became prime minister in an intraparty coup after his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, tried to pursue a more aggressive approach to combating climate change.

“Coal-Mo,” as some of his critics call him, dismissed concerns on Wednesday about China’s ban, arguing that there are many other countries still lining up for the product.
» Read article             

Alberta sinking
As oil prices languish, Alberta sees its future in a ‘coal rush’
At least six new or expanded mines could be built as a new conservative provincial government aims to increase coal production for export
By Jeff Gailus, The Guardian
December 15, 2020

With the price of Western Canadian oil languishing around $35 a barrel and Canadian oil sands companies hemorrhaging both workers and money, the province of Alberta sees its future in another fossil fuel: coal.

A “coal rush” in the province could see at least six new or expanded open-pit coal mines built up and down the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, mostly by Australian companies. Together, these projects could industrialize as much as 1,000 sq km of forests, waterways and grasslands.

Alberta has eight operating coal mines and more than 91bn tonnes of mineable coal, but until recently, Alberta had a restrictive coal-mining policy that’s been in place for 44 years to protect drinking water for millions of people. In 2015 the previous Alberta government announced a plan to eliminate coal-fired electricity by 2030, a goal Canada’s federal government embraced three years later to help fulfill Canada’s greenhouse-gas-reduction commitments to the Paris Agreement.

Canada, along with the United Kingdom, also launched the Powering Past Coal Alliance at the 2017 UN Climate Change Conference to accelerate the phase-out of coal-fired power plants worldwide.

Yet despite the commitment to eliminate coal-fired electricity, the new conservative provincial government has pulled out all the stops to increase coal production for export.

It rescinded the 1976 coal mining policy without public consultation, after spending months wooing Australian coal companies. It also reduced the corporate tax rate from 10 to 8%, axed provincial parks in coal-rich areas, offered 1% royalties (Australia’s is a minimum of seven), and passed legislation to fast-track project approvals.
» Read article             

» More about fossil fuels              

 

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

Biden and gas exportsHow Biden may save U.S. gas exports to Europe
Cleaning up fuel producers’ climate pollution at home could help the industry avoid “a trans-Atlantic green gas war.”
By BEN LEFEBVRE, Politico
Photo: Flared natural gas is burned off Feb. 5, 2015 at the Deadwood natural gas plant in Garden City, Texas. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images
November 27, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to crack down on the energy industry’s greenhouse gas pollution could offer a boon for U.S. natural gas producers who want to keep exporting to an increasingly climate-minded Europe.

U.S. gas shipments to Europe have soared since 2016, driven by the American fracking boom and efforts to help the Continent lessen its reliance on Russia. But pressure on European countries to reduce their impact on the climate is threatening to close off opportunities for the U.S. because of the heavy amounts of planet-warming methane released when the gas is produced.

Now, Biden’s promise to reduce those methane emissions could make U.S. gas shipments more palatable to Europe.

Such an outcome would contradict one of President Donald Trump’s closing campaign themes: that electing the former vice president would spell doom for U.S. fossil fuel producers. But it could rankle progressive climate activists who are pushing for Biden to end fracking and stop all U.S. fossil fuel exports.
» Read article             

» More about LNG           

 

PLASTICS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

Coke eco claims prooved fishy
Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé Are Worst Plastic Polluters of 2020, Have Made ‘Zero Progress,’ New Report Finds
By Tiffany Duong, EcoWatch
December 11, 2020

The top plastic polluters of 2020 have been announced, and Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé top the list for the third year in a row.

In a new report demanding corporate responsibility for plastic pollution, Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) named the repeat offenders and called them out for what appeared to be negligible progress in curbing the amount of plastic trash they produce despite corporate claims otherwise.

“The title of Top Global Polluters describes the parent companies whose brands were recorded polluting the most places around the world with the greatest amount of plastic waste,” the report’s executive summary noted. “Our 2020 Top Global Polluters remain remarkably consistent with our previous brand audit reports, demonstrating that the same corporations are continuing to pollute the most places with the most single-use plastic.”

The report employs brand audits and global cleanups to collect and count plastic debris from around the world. This year, nearly 15,000 volunteers collected 346,494 pieces of plastic in 55 countries to contribute to the report, a BFFP press release said.

Over 5,000 brands were cataloged this year, but Coca-Cola quickly emerged as the world’s number one plastic polluter. Its beverage bottles were found most frequently, discarded on beaches, rivers, parks and other litter sites in 51 of the 55 nations surveyed, The Guardian reported. The brand was worse than PepsiCo and Nestlé, the next two top offenders, combined.

Plastic pollution is one of the leading environmental problems of the modern-day. Plastics do not disintegrate or disappear, but instead break up into microplastics that get consumed by the tiniest organisms. These toxins bioaccumulate and move their way up the food chain and into our air, food and water.

“The world’s top polluting corporations claim to be working hard to solve plastic pollution, but instead they are continuing to pump out harmful single-use plastic packaging,” Emma Priestland, Break Free From Plastic’s global campaign coordinator, told The Guardian.
» Read article            
» Read related Guardian article 

» More about plastics in the environment            

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Weekly News Check-In 7/17/20

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Welcome back.

Last week’s news was all about pipeline projects scuttled by fierce popular resistance, smart litigation, and economic reality. This week, proponents of big gas/oil and business-as-usual struck back by further slashing environmental regulations in the hope of greasing the skids for future projects. And with the Dakota Access Pipeline held up indefinitely, a lot more volatile crude may soon be moving by rail on trains and track near you – having never effectively addressed all those “bomb train” safety issues.

Some of the biggest banks financing fossil fuel projects are prime targets of the divestment movement. Many are also backing Rocky Mountain Institute’s new Center for Climate-Aligned Finance. The Center’s mission is to guide banks operating in carbon-heavy sectors, with the goal of achieving global net-zero emissions by 2050. Conflict of interest? Environmental organizations will be watching closely.

The Biden campaign released an ambitious plan that aims to green the economy while rescuing it from the Covid-19 collapse. And while the climate reels from unchecked methane emissions – posting another record – scientists are launching a new satellite system supported by artificial intelligence and machine learning to pinpoint and track global carbon emissions in real time. This will allow direct measurement for the first time – and presents an opportunity for effective management and stronger international agreements.

Some good news in clean energy involves the rescue of rooftop solar net metering from an attempt by the shadowy New England Ratepayers Association (NERA) to move policy decisions from State to Federal jurisdiction. And now that natural gas is no longer seriously considered a clean bridge fuel, we’re facing the tricky question of how best to trim back its role in generating power and heating buildings. Massachusetts, New York, and California are leading the way.

Energy storage and clean transportation are increasingly synergistic. Expect to see robust growth in both sectors, with topped-up EVs providing storage services to the grid, and retired EV batteries finding their way into stationary storage installations – especially now that a new generation of lithium-ion batteries is expected to last much longer than a typical vehicle’s life on the road.

The fossil fuel industry is promoting “renewable” natural gas, derived from non-fossil methane sources. We offer an analysis of this niche fuel, and how it’s being used as cover for the continued use of fossil methane. Also a must-read article from the Times, discussing the huge and growing problem of methane leaks from abandoned oil and gas wells, at a time when fracking companies are failing and leaving cleanup costs to taxpayers.

The wood pellet industry is booming, thanks to policies in both Europe and the U.S. that treat woody biomass as a carbon neutral fuel. A new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency may make the problem worse, and that’s bad news for the climate and forests.

We reported last week that plastics industry lobbyists had pounced on the opportunity presented by uncertainty around modes of disease transmission in the early days of the Covid-19 crisis – convincing states to roll back municipal plastic bag bans in the interest of public safety. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has now reinstated those bans, since we now understand that Covid-19 transmission from surfaces is a low risk. We close with a report on plastics in the environment – everywhere.

— The NFGiM Team

OTHER PIPELINES

orange is the new stupid
President Trump just made it harder to stop new pipelines
Trump moved to speed up the permitting process for major infrastructure projects
By Justine Calma, The Verge
July 15, 2020

President Trump today gutted the National Environmental Policy Act, a move that many environmental advocates worry will make it harder for people to have a say in how major infrastructure projects would affect them. The new rules speed up permitting for large infrastructure projects like pipelines and highways by truncating the environmental review process.

Environmental reviews are designed to figure out if a project will significantly change the environment around the project in some way. The process can take years and involves scientific studies, intense analysis, and time for the public to comment on the proposals. The new rules, first proposed in January, limit the timeline for environmental reviews to two years — even though the process frequently takes twice as long. The changes would also allow projects that aren’t primarily federally funded to bypass the environmental reviews entirely. The revised rules also permit federal agencies to ignore climate change when making their assessments.

NEPA helped Native American tribes and pipeline opponents secure recent victories. A federal judge decided in March that the US Army Corps of Engineers violated NEPA in granting a permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline, and earlier this month ordered the pipeline to shut down pending an environmental review. Pipeline opponents successfully asserted in 2018 that developers of the Keystone XL pipeline violated NEPA.

While today’s changes won’t affect pipeline decisions that have already been made, environmental advocates and attorneys argue that it will become harder for people to contest a major new infrastructure project in the future.
» Read article          

Return of the Bomb Trains
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
July 12, 2020

On July 6th Reuters published an article on the potential for a resurgence of moving crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota across the country by rail, due to a judge’s decision to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline over permit issues.

July 6th also was the 7th anniversary of the disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec when a train full of Bakken oil from North Dakota derailed and exploded — resulting in 47 fatalities and the destruction of much of downtown Lac-Mégantic.

And while the timing was just coincidence, it is a stark reminder of the dangers of moving Bakken crude (and Canadian crude) oil by rail and the risks that a resurgence of this industry poses to the 25 million people living along the tracks these oil trains traverse.

After the Lac-Mégantic disaster, regulators in Canada and the U.S. worked to put in place new safety regulations to prevent another such disaster from happening. However, as we have documented here on DeSmog and in my book Bomb Trains: How Industry Greed and Regulatory Failure Put the Public at Risk, the oil and rail industries have effectively blocked or forced the repeal of any meaningful safety regulations.

Regulations for modern electronically controlled pneumatic brakes were repealed by the Trump administration. State regulations to require the volatile Bakken oil to be stabilized to remove the natural gas liquids in the crude oil that make it so dangerous were overruled by the Trump administration.

There still are no regulations about rail track wear and replacement even though track failure is a leading cause of train derailments and is suspected of causing the two most recent oil train derailments that resulted in large spills and fires. There still are no regulations on the length of the trains, even though longer trains derail more often and train operators — the men and women driving the trains — say that longer trains are harder to operate.

And the new tank cars that were supposed to be safer have failed in every major oil and ethanol train derailment they have been involved in to date.
» Read article          

» More about pipelines              

DIVESTMENT

RMI bedfellows
JPMorgan, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs back launch of climate finance center
By Dan Ennis, Utility Dive
July 15, 2020

The Rocky Mountain Institute, a clean energy nonprofit, launched the Center for Climate-Aligned Finance on Thursday with financial backing from JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs.

With the goal of cutting carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, the center aims to collaborate with banks to design guidance for working with carbon-heavy sectors such as steel or utilities, and to help banks determine which climate benchmarks and data to follow.

Banks are increasingly seeing the value — not just in optics but in revenue — of environmentally responsible investment.

Paul Bodnar, chair of the center and managing director of the institute, said the Poseidon Principles, which encourage financing of more environmentally friendly shipping vehicles, influenced the center’s creation.

“One sector provides the lifeblood that powers all the others, and that is finance,” he told American Banker.

Climate activists indicated the center is an initiative to watch.

“It could drive real steps toward banks aligning with 1.5°C,” Jason Opeña Disterhoft, senior climate and energy campaigner at Rainforest Action Network, said in a statement emailed to Banking Dive, referring to a goal of limiting global temperature increase. “But it could also be used as an excuse for banks to keep supporting the world’s worst climate polluters.

“The four founding partner banks include three of the top four fossil banks in the world, and together are responsible for more than $700 billion in fossil financing since Paris,” he added. “The four of them bank a clear majority of the companies doing the most to expand oil, gas and coal.”
» Read article           https://www.utilitydive.com/news/jpmorgan-bank-of-america-wells-fargo-goldman-sachs-back-launch-of-climat/581599/

» More about divestment      

GREENING THE ECONOMY

build back better
Biden’s $2 Trillion Climate Plan Promotes Union Jobs, Electric Cars and Carbon-Free Power
The former vice president linked a new green economy with America’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, saying the nation needs to “Build Back Better.”
By Marianne Lavelle, James Bruggers, Ilana Cohen, Judy Fahys, and Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
July 15, 2020

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden unveiled a $2 trillion clean economy jobs program Tuesday that marked a significant expansion in his plan for tackling climate change, with jobs-creation and environmental justice as its pillars.

With a blue “Build Back Better” placard on his lectern, the former vice president sought to signal that the coronavirus crisis will not displace the imperative to act on climate. Instead, he framed the immediate and long-term crises as linked, requiring the same sort of government intervention: a massive program to ramp up electric vehicles, carbon-free power and energy efficiency throughout the economy.
» Read article          

» More about greening the economy            

CLIMATE

TRACE by COP-26
The entire world’s carbon emissions will finally be trackable in real time
The new Climate TRACE Coalition is assembling the data and running the AI.
By David Roberts, Vox
July 16, 2020

There’s an old truism in the business world: what gets measured gets managed. One of the challenges in managing the greenhouse gas emissions warming the atmosphere is that they aren’t measured very well.

“Currently, most countries do not know where most of their emissions come from,” says Kelly Sims Gallagher, a professor of energy and environmental policy at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. “Even in advanced economies like the United States, emissions are estimated for many sectors.” Without this information “you cannot devise smart and effective policies to mitigate emissions,” she says, and “you cannot track them to see if you are making progress against your goals.”

The lack of good data also complicates international climate negotiations. “It’s frustrating that nearly three decades after countries committed under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to publish national GHG emissions inventories, we still don’t have recent, comprehensive, and consistent inventories for all countries,” says Taryn Fransen of the World Resources Institute.

The ultimate solution to this problem — the killer app, as it were — would be real-time tracking of all global greenhouse gases, verified by objective third parties, and available for free to the public.

When countries began meeting under the UNFCCC in the mid-1990s, that vision was speculative science fiction. It was basically regarded as science fiction when the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015. But science moves quickly — in particular, artificial intelligence, the ability to rapidly integrate multiple data sources, has advanced rapidly in recent years.

Now, a new alliance of climate research groups called the Climate TRACE (Tracking Real-Time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions) Coalition has launched an effort to make the vision a reality, and they’re aiming to have it ready for COP26, the climate meetings in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021 (postponed from November 2020). If they pull it off, it could completely change the tenor and direction of international climate talks.
» Read article          

no peak for methane
Global Methane Emissions Reach a Record High
Scientists expect emissions, driven by fossil fuels and agriculture, to continue rising rapidly.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
July 14, 2020

Global emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, soared to a record high in 2017, the most recent year for which worldwide data are available, researchers said Tuesday.

And they warned that the rise — driven by fossil fuel leaks and agriculture — would most certainly continue despite the economic slowdown from the coronavirus crisis, which is bad news for efforts to limit global warming and its grave effects.

The latest findings, published on Tuesday in two scientific journals, underscore how methane presents a growing threat, even as the world finds some success in reining in carbon dioxide emissions, the most abundant greenhouse gas and the main cause of global warning.

“There’s a hint that we might be able to reach peak carbon dioxide emissions very soon. But we don’t appear to be even close to peak methane,” said Rob Jackson, an earth scientist at Stanford University who heads the Global Carbon Project, which conducted the research. “It isn’t going down in agriculture, it isn’t going down with fossil fuel use.”
» Read article          

number cooker
G.A.O.: Trump Boosts Deregulation by Undervaluing Cost of Climate Change
The Government Accountability Office has found that the Trump administration is undervaluing the cost of climate change to boost its deregulatory efforts.
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
July 14, 2020

A federal report released on Tuesday found the Trump administration set a rock-bottom price on the damages done by greenhouse gas emissions, enabling the government to justify the costs of repealing or weakening dozens of climate change regulations.

The report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s nonpartisan investigative arm, said the Trump administration estimated the harm that global warming will cause future generations to be seven times lower than previous federal estimates. Reducing that metric, known as the “social cost of carbon,” has helped the administration massage cost-benefit analyses, particularly for rules that allow power plants and automobiles to emit more planet-warming carbon dioxide.
» Read article          
» Obtain GAO report          

Maureen Raymo
She’s an Authority on Earth’s Past. Now, Her Focus Is the Planet’s Future.
The climate scientist Maureen Raymo is leading the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia. She has big plans for science, and diversity, too.
By John Schwartz, New York Times
July 10, 2020

Columbia University is taking new steps to make climate change, which has been studied there for decades, an even more prominent part of the school’s mission. And Maureen Raymo is a big part of that.

On July 1, Dr. Raymo, one of the world’s leading oceanographers and climate scientists, became interim director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Founded in 1949 and perched on hills overlooking the Hudson River 18 miles north of Manhattan, the observatory has been one of the world’s leading centers of scientific exploration into earth sciences and climate change. It was a Lamont researcher, Wallace Broecker, who brought the term “global warming” to public attention in a landmark 1975 paper.

And while there are more women represented at Lamont today than when Dr. Raymo was a graduate student there in the 1980s, she comes to her leadership position at a time when addressing other issues of diversity and equity in the field, and within the institution, is overdue.

Having experienced discrimination in her own career, she said an important way to address it is to “get into a position where you can change things.” She has dedicated fans among Lamont students, who value not just her scientific prowess but also her attention to social justice issues.
» Read article          

rescue debate
A Rescue Plan for the Planet? Watch Our Debate Here.
A virtual event with eight speakers and one question: Has Covid-19 created a blueprint for combating climate change?
By The New York Times
July 10, 2020

The devastation of Covid-19 has forced swift and startling change around the globe. To combat the coronavirus, governments poured money into rescue programs, companies adapted their goals and production, central banks permitted exceptional stimulus packages and many societies mobilized to shield the most vulnerable.

The New York Times hosted a debate on July 9, 2020, to explore the hard-earned lessons of Covid-19 and how to apply them to climate change. Have these dramatic actions against the coronavirus given us a blueprint for mobilization against climate change? Is this an opportunity for a new path forward that puts accelerated climate solutions at its center?
» Watch debate          

» More about climate               

CLEAN ENERGY

NERA path still open
FERC shuts down petition to upend net metering, McNamee signals issue could return
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
July 17, 2020

The New England Ratepayers Association’s (NERA) petition was opposed by a wide swath of industry leaders, environmentalists, bipartisan government officials, legal experts and others. In total, almost 50,000 groups and individuals issued comments in opposition, while just 21 supported it.

“NERA’s petition to attack rooftop solar investments and gut energy savings during a health and financial crisis was ill-conceived,” Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar, said in a statement. Vote Solar and Solar United Neighbors drove over 20,000 comments in opposition to the petition by the filing deadline.

FERC dismissed the NERA petition on the grounds that the group was unable to point to a particular harm.

Instead, NERA “asked the commission to make certain jurisdictional determinations regarding energy sales from rooftop solar facilities, and other distributed generation located on the customer side of the retail meter,” said Chatterjee. “Declaratory orders to terminate a controversy, or remove uncertainty, are discretionary. We exercise that discretion today and find that the issues presented in the petition do not warrant a generic statement from the commission at this time.”

But NERA saw the commission’s order and the two commissioner’s concurrence statements as a sign the issue could be raised again.

“While we are disappointed by FERC’s decision to dismiss our [p]etition on procedural grounds this issue is far from resolved,” Marc Brown, president of NERA, said in a statement. “FERC demonstrably leaves the door open for NERA to address the concerns raised by the Commissioners in its order.”
» Read article          

scripting the endgameThe Natural Gas Divide
States are confronting the future of gas in buildings — and facing a set of high-stakes questions.
By Emily Pontecorvo, Grist
July 15, 2020

In early June, the attorney general of Massachusetts, Maura Healey, filed a petition with state utility regulators advising them to investigate the future of natural gas in the Commonwealth. Healey described the urgent need to figure out how the gas industry, which helps heat millions of homes throughout freezing Northeastern winters, fits into the state’s plan to zero-out its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 — especially considering the fuels burned for indoor heating and hot water are responsible for about a third of the state’s carbon footprint.

Eliminating emissions from this sector means venturing into uncharted waters. While many states are rapidly developing wind and solar farms to cut carbon from their electric grids, few are tackling the thornier challenge of reducing the gas burned in buildings. Officials in California and New York, which both have binding economy-wide net-zero emissions laws, have recently come to the same conclusion as Healey: Meeting state climate goals is going to require changes to the way gas utilities are regulated. Earlier this year, both states opened up precisely the kind of investigation that Healey is requesting in Massachusetts.

Natural gas, a fossil fuel, has long been called a “bridge” to a cleaner energy future because burning it has a much lower carbon footprint than burning coal or oil. But research has called that narrative into question by showing that methane leaking across the natural gas supply chain raises its climate impact significantly. Recent developments have called the economics of natural gas into question, too: In early July, the developers of the high-profile Atlantic Coast Pipeline decided to abandon the project after an onslaught of lawsuits made the pipeline too expensive to build.

California, Massachusetts, and New York haven’t decided whether — or to what extent — natural gas can remain in their energy mixes. But the point of these investigations is much larger than those questions. There’s no established roadmap for managing the transition to zero-emissions buildings, and there are serious consequences to getting it wrong — huge cost burdens on residents, mass layoffs and bankruptcies at utilities, and of course, climate disaster.
» Read article          

pushing 2836
Massachusetts lawmakers face pressure to pass 100% renewable bill this session
Gov. Charlie Baker supports a goal of net-zero by 2050, but a growing list of stakeholders say that’s not good enough.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
Photo By Timothy Vollmer, Flickr / Creative Commons
July 15, 2020

As the end of Massachusetts’ state legislative session draws near, activists, municipal officials, businesses, and civic organizations are urging lawmakers to take action on a bill that would require a 100% renewable electricity transition by 2045 — and making plans for next steps if the measure is not passed this year.

“We want to make sure that this year does not go by without strong and decisive action on clean energy at the Statehouse,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker in January committed to a goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Many, however, argue that this target will be impossible to hit without stronger measures to accelerate the switch to renewable energy. If current standards are not changed, the transition to clean energy would not be complete until the turn of the next century.

To address this disparity, state Rep. Marjorie Decker and state Rep. Sean Garballey sponsored a bill (H.2836) that calls for all the state’s electricity to be renewably sourced by 2035, and all energy used for transportation and heating to be renewable by 2045.
» Read article          
» Read Bill H.2836

» More about clean energy               

ENERGY STORAGE

energy storage second life
California Awards $10.8M to Reuse EV Batteries in Solar & Microgrid Projects
By Elisa Wood, Microgrid Knowledge
July 15, 2020

The California Energy Commission (CEC) awarded $10.8 million to four projects that will explore repurposing used batteries from electric vehicles (EV), partly to support microgrids.

The awards approved in meetings in June and July stemmed from a solicitation for research and development projects showing how used batteries could cost-effectively integrate solar at small-to-medium commercial buildings.

With a goal of having 5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030, the commission is looking for ways to give degraded car batteries a second life. Typically, EV batteries are retired when they lose 70 percent to 80 percent of their capacity. However, they can be used for other applications like energy storage.
» Read article          

841 upheld
‘Enormous Step’ for Energy Storage as Court Upholds FERC Order 841, Opening Wholesale Markets
Federal regulators — not utilities and states — get to decide how batteries engage in transmission-scale power markets, the appeals court rules.
By Jeff St. John, GreenTech Media
July 10, 2020

In a victory for the energy storage industry, a federal appeals court has upheld the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Order 841, clearing the way for transmission grid operators across the country to open their markets to energy storage, including aggregated batteries connected at the distribution grid or behind customers’ meters.

Friday’s court opinion (PDF) declared that FERC has jurisdiction over how energy storage interacts with the interstate transmission markets it regulates, even if those systems are interconnected to the grid under regulations set by the states.

The court also rejected arguments by utility groups and state utility regulators seeking to opt out of allowing energy storage resources (ESRs) to participate under Order 841, which allows for units as small as 100 kilowatts to access wholesale markets.

Instead, the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with FERC’s contention that “[k]eeping the gates open to all types of ESRs — regardless of their interconnection points in the electric energy systems — ensures that technological advances in energy storage are fully realized in the marketplace, and efficient energy storage leads to greater competition, thereby reducing wholesale rates.”
» Read article          
» Read the Circuit Court opinion

» More about energy storage             

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

dig this
Next Up for Electrification: Heavy-Duty Trucks and Construction Machinery
Electrified transport is not just about cars anymore, as California’s landmark Advanced Clean Trucks regulation shows.
By Justin Gerdes, GreenTech Media
July 13, 2020

Electric models of work trucks, commercial vehicles, and construction machinery are hitting the market in greater numbers than ever before, and policymakers are growing increasingly optimistic about the sector. The California Air Resources Board (CARB), the state’s powerful air quality regulator, voted last month to require that every new truck sold in the state by 2045 be zero-emission, with truck makers forced to begin the transition in 2024.

Part of the challenge in electrifying transportation is simply getting enough good models on the market to attract customers and foster competition. In that realm, things are advancing: By 2023, there will be 19 all-electric or hydrogen fuel cell versions of heavy-duty trucks in production in North America, up from five Class 8 models available today, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute.

In Europe, meanwhile, there are early signs of progress on electrifying off-road construction equipment, with electric versions of excavators, loads and dumpers now available from a range of manufacturers including Hitachi, Komatsu and Volvo. Oslo launched the world’s first zero-emission construction site last year, and Norway’s capital city has mandated that by 2025 all public construction sites will operate only zero-emission construction machinery.
» Read article        

» More about clean transportation             

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

greenwashing RNG
Report: Push for Renewable Natural Gas Is More Gas Industry ‘Greenwashing’
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
July 14, 2020

“Renewable natural gas,” or RNG, is an alternative gas fuel that comes from landfills, manure, or synthetic processes. That’s opposed to the fossil gas that drillers traditionally pump out of underground reserves in oil and gas fields.

With “renewable” in the name, it may sound like a promising alternative to the fossil-based “natural” gas commonly used for heating and cooking in buildings. According to a new report from Earthjustice and Sierra Club, however, these fuels pitched as “renewable ” and environmentally friendly alternatives to fossil gas amount to a PR campaign meant to distract from efforts to convert the building sector to all electric power.

The report, published July 14, argues that RNG is an example of fossil fuel industry greenwashing and is not a viable solution for simply replacing fossil gas in buildings. According to the report, RNG is touted by gas utilities for the purpose of countering building electrification policies that restrict the use of gas in buildings for uses like heating, hot water, and cooking. Converting buildings to all-electric usage is recognized as a key climate strategy to shift away from fossil fuels, because electricity can be generated from a variety of sources that do not produce globe-warming emissions.
» Read article          
» Read the report

MDC methane leak
Fracking Firms Fail, Rewarding Executives and Raising Climate Fears
Oil and gas companies are hurtling toward bankruptcy, raising fears that wells will be left leaking planet-warming pollutants, with cleanup cost left to taxpayers.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
July 12, 2020

Oil and gas companies in the United States are hurtling toward bankruptcy at a pace not seen in years, driven under by a global price war and a pandemic that has slashed demand. And in the wake of this economic carnage is a potential environmental disaster — unprofitable wells that will be abandoned or left untended, even as they continue leaking planet-warming pollutants, and a costly bill for taxpayers to clean it all up.

Still, as these businesses collapse, millions of dollars have flowed to executive compensation.

The industry’s decline may be just beginning. Almost 250 oil and gas companies could file for bankruptcy protection by the end of next year, more than the previous five years combined, according to Rystad Energy, an analytics company. Rystad analysts now expect oil demand will begin falling permanently by decade’s end as renewable energy costs decline, energy efficiency improves, and efforts to fight climate change diminish an industry that has spent the past decade drilling thousands of wells, transforming the United States into the biggest oil producer in the world.

The environmental consequences of the industry’s collapse would be severe.
» Read article          

» More about fossil fuels                   

BIOMASS

pellet boom
The Wood Pellet Business is Booming. Scientists Say That’s Not Good for the Climate.
Trump’s EPA is expected to propose a new rule declaring burning biomass to be carbon neutral, as industry looks to expand its domestic markets.
By James Bruggers, InsideClimate News
July 13, 2020

In rural Southern towns from Virginia to Texas, mill workers are churning out wood pellets from nearby forests as fast as European power plants, thousands of miles away, can burn them.

On this side of the Atlantic, new pellet plants are being proposed in South Carolina, Arkansas and other southern states. And Southern coastal shipping ports are expanding along with the pellet industry, vying to increase deliveries to Asia.

While the United States has fallen into a coronavirus-induced recession that dealt a blow to oil, gas, and petrochemical companies, for biomass production across the South, it’s still boom time.

The industry has exploded, driven largely by European climate policies and subsidies that reward burning wood, even as an increasing number of scientists call out what they see as a dangerous carbon accounting loophole that threatens the 2050 goals of the Paris climate agreement.

This month, the Environmental Protection Agency, acting at the direction of the U.S. Congress, is expected to propose securing that loophole with a new rule that details how burning biomass from forests can be considered carbon neutral, at least in the United States.

The industry wants to see regulations that will keep their businesses growing, including expanding U.S. energy markets that now barely exist. But some scientists and environmental groups argue that new EPA rules that are favorable to the industry would put the climate at further risk, along with forest ecosystems across biologically rich landscapes.
» Read article        

» More about biomass              

PLASTIC BAG BANS

reusable bags OK again in MA
Environmental groups hail Baker’s lift on reusable bags, and plastic bag ban suspension
By Heather Bellow, Berkshire Eagle
July 11, 2020

Shoppers once again can bring their own reusable bags to grocery stores and pharmacies and no longer will have the option to use single-use plastic bags in places with municipal bans on them.

Environmental groups are thrilled. They have been wary of what they say is an opportunistic plastics industry that, early on, used the coronavirus pandemic to stoke fear about the safety of reusable bags in an attempt to kill plastic bag bans.

Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday rescinded his March 10 emergency order that temporarily lifted the ban on plastic bags supplied in stores to protect the public and essential workers from infection with the coronavirus, back when there was less certainty about the risk of catching the virus from touching surfaces.
» Read article       

» More about plastic bans             

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND ENVIRONMENT

serious situation
‘Our life is plasticized’: New research shows microplastics in our food, water, air
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts, Mongabay
July 15, 2020

In 1997, Charles Moore was sailing a catamaran from Hawaii to California when he and his crew got stuck in windless waters in the North Pacific Ocean. As they motored along, searching for a breeze to fill their sails, Moore noticed that the ocean was speckled with “odd bits and flakes,” as he describes it in his book, Plastic Ocean. It was plastic: drinking bottles, fishing nets, and countless pieces of broken-down objects.

“It wasn’t an eureka moment … I didn’t come across a mountain of trash,” Moore told Mongabay. “But there was this feeling of unease that this material had got [as] far from human civilization as it possibly could.”

Moore, credited as the person who discovered what’s now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, returned to the same spot two years later on a citizen science mission. When he and his crew collected water samples, they found that, along with larger “macroplastics,” the seawater was swirling with tiny plastic particles: microplastics, which are defined as anything smaller than 5 millimeters but bigger than 1 micron, which is 1/1000th of a millimeter. Microplastics can form when larger pieces of plastics break down into small particles, or when tiny, microscopic fibers detach from polyester clothing or synthetic fishing gear. Other microplastics are deliberately manufactured, such as the tiny plastic beads in exfoliating cleaners.

“That’s when we really had the eureka moment,” Moore said. “When we pulled in that first trawl, which was outside of what we thought was going to be the center [of the gyre], and found it was full of plastic. Then we realized, ‘Wow, this is a serious situation.’”

Plastic waste isn’t just leaking into the ocean; it’s also polluting freshwater systems and even raining or snowing down from the sky after getting absorbed into the atmosphere, according to another study led by Steve and Deonie Allen. With microplastics being so ubiquitous, it should come as no surprise that they are also present in the food and water we drink.
» Read article       

» More about plastics in the environment      

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Weekly News Check-In 5/1/20

WNCI-5

Welcome back.

Construction on the Keystone XL and other major gas pipelines is currently on hold due to legal problems with a blanket nationwide permit administered by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Persistence by students spearheading the divestment movement has carried the day, with the University of Oxford announcing the greening of its portfolio. A couple of other prominent universities announced their own fossil fuel divestment shortly afterward.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), is being grilled by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in D.C. regarding its use of tolling orders, which effectively delay landowner legal action against pipelines, even while construction is allowed to proceed on their seized land.

An awful lot of climate-related reporting this week concerns Michael Moore’s documentary “Planet of the Humans”, released on Earth Day and viewed on YouTube over four million times by now. The overwhelming response from the environmental community is one of disappointment. We offer several articles that critique the film on its merits.

The economic and human devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has opened up a lively conversation in the media about greening the economy – imagining how we might leverage this singular moment to fundamentally change the contract between us and Earth. We’ve started collecting those stories in a new section.

Clean energy and clean transportation, while hampered by the Trump administration, are still moving ahead. We found articles that explain community solar and community choice aggregation of electricity supply. Also, the challenge of owning an electric car if you live in a city and don’t have a garage to charge it in.

Our fossil fuel industry section has another report on its crumbling finances. Also, there’s new satellite evidence of what ground-based investigations had already shown: the Permian Basin is emitting massive plumes of methane.

We keep an eye on developments in the biomass-to-energy industry. This week we found encouraging news from Virginia and North Carolina – two states that recently closed the door on further biomass development and debunked the idea that it’s a “clean” form of renewable energy. Meanwhile, an investigation in Vancouver, B.C. revealed that woody biomass suppliers are converting whole trees to pellets – not merely using the waste bits as promised.

We close with some good reporting on microplastics in the oceans and on the search for chemical methods of plastics recycling.

— The NFGiM Team

PIPELINES

NWP found illegal
After Keystone Ruling, Corps of Engineers Suspends Key U.S. Project Permit
By Mary B. Powers, Engineering News-Record
April 26, 2020

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has now temporarily halted permit approvals under its blanket process to allow energy, power and possibly other project construction that crosses streams and wetlands, after a federal judge on April 15 called the nationwide permitting method illegal and overturned the permit issued for the Keystone XL pipeline now under way in Montana.

The delay, of unspecified duration, was confirmed by the Corps to the Associated Press, it reported on April 23. The agency said notifications approving permits for at least 360 projects under the so-called Nationwide Permit-12 program are affected as it reviews new legal issues.
» Read article     

Keystone XL Pipeline Ruling Could Hamper U.S. Energy Project Permits
Federal judge vacates Army Corps Nationwide Permit 12
By Pam Radtke Russell, Engineering News-Record
April 17, 2020

A federal court ruling on April 15 halting construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline over U.S. water bodies could have far-reaching implications for all utility-related projects that need to quickly obtain a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ blanket permit—known as Nationwide Permit 12—to take construction across water.

“It has nationwide impacts. NWP 12 cannot be used going forward in expedited approval,” says Larry Liebesman, a senior adviser at Washington, D.C.-based water resources consulting firm Dawson & Associates.
» Read article     

» More about pipelines      

DIVESTMENT

Oxford divests
Oxford University bans investment in fossil fuels after student campaigns
Decision comes after high-profile protests that saw campaigners occupy St John’s College
By Samuel Lovett, Independent
April 22, 2020

The University of Oxford has agreed to divest from fossil fuels and commit to a net-zero investment strategy following extensive student-led campaigns and protests.

In a motion passed by Oxford’s governing body, the Congregation, which is made up of 5,500 academic and administrative members, the university is now required to cut all ties with fossil fuel firms and end future investment in these companies.

The resolution also dictates that managers of the university’s endowment, which amounts to £3bn, must acquire evidence of “net-zero business plans” from companies within Oxford’s portfolio of investments.
Note from Bill McKibben’s The Climate Crisis newsletter for New Yorker magazine: “Oxford’s action was followed, within twenty-four hours, by similar steps from American University, in Washington, D.C., and by the University of Guelph, in Ontario. In all three cases, several generations of students had pushed for the action, been rejected, and come back again.”
» Read article     

» More about divestment       

FERC

tolling orders in the dock
DC Circuit grills FERC on use of tolling orders on Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, other natural gas projects
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
April 28, 2020

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held an en banc hearing on Monday to examine federal energy regulators’ use of tolling orders, particularly regarding the approval of the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline.

Tolling orders are an accessible tool for FERC to delay judgement on rehearing requests when more time is needed to consider arguments regarding the legality of the commission’s actions. FERC attorney Robert Kennedy said tolling orders are “generally entered almost as a matter of routine.”

Petitioners argued that pipeline projects have been completed while opponents were unable to litigate because a tolling order was in place.

“This case is exceptionally important because it brings to light a habitual practice by [FERC] that raises serious questions of fairness, due process and legality. And the commission’s defense in no way addressed how [a FERC order] can be final for some but not for others,” NRDC’s Giannetti told Utility Dive.
» Merriam-Webster: en banc – in full court : with full judiciary authority (An en banc hearing is a kind of appeal in which a much larger group of judges hears a case.)
» Read article     

pipeline markers
Chatterjee defends how FERC treats protesting landowners
By Mike Soraghan, E&E News
April 28, 2020

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee says his agency has been doing a “great job” in speeding up the process for complaints from landowners in the path of pipelines.

But the agency won’t provide numbers to back that up, and an E&E News analysis of recent protests found many still move slowly. And landowner advocates say Chatterjee’s attempt at accelerating cases doesn’t get at the real problem.

Long-standing FERC practice allows the agency to stall the protests of landowners while allowing pipeline companies to seize their land for construction. But that practice has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months.

A House committee is investigating FERC’s treatment of landowners. And a federal appellate judge last August called the legal limbo created by the agency “Kafkaesque.”
» Read article     

» More about FERC     

CLIMATE

planet of the ecofascists
Planet of the Ecofascists
Almost everything in Michael Moore’s supposed documentary Planet of the Humans is out of date, which undermines any potential the film had to bring important critiques of technological solutions to climate change to light.
By Amy Westervelt, Drilled News
April 29, 2020

As of this writing, Planet of the Humans has been viewed more than four million times. Now that I’ve watched it myself, let me say up front that there are kernels of truth here that would have made for an important and interesting documentary, if Moore and director Jeff Gibbs had brought more intellectual honesty to bear on the project.

Good documentary filmmaking hews closely to the ethics of journalism. Sure, you’re looking for a narrative thread that keeps audiences engaged. But you don’t cherry-pick the facts to include only those people and data that prove the pre-determined point you want to make — unless you’re Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs, apparently. To justify their main argument, which is that the only way to address climate change is via population control, they veer sharply away from documentary and into commentary, leaning on wildly outdated information, often inaccurate data points and a bizarre obsession with Big Green as the real problem blocking action on climate. Let’s explore these issues in detail:
» Read article     

not even a documentary
Michael Moore produced a film about climate change that’s a gift to Big Oil
Planet of the Humans deceives viewers about clean energy and climate activists.
By Leah C. Stokes, Vox
Apr 28, 2020

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. To celebrate the occasion, filmmaker Michael Moore dropped a new movie he produced, Planet of the Humans. In less than a week, it has racked up over 3 million views on YouTube.

But the film, directed by Jeff Gibbs, a long-time Moore collaborator, is not the climate message we’ve all been waiting for — it’s a nihilistic take, riddled with errors about clean energy and climate activism. With very little evidence, it claims that renewables are disastrous and that environmental groups are corrupt.

What’s more, it has nothing to say about fossil fuel corporations, who have pushed climate denial and blocked progress on climate policy for decades. Given the film’s loose relationship to facts, I’m not even sure it should be classified as a documentary.
» Read article     

new low for MM
Climate experts call for ‘dangerous’ Michael Moore film to be taken down
Planet of the Humans, which takes aim at the green movement, is ‘full of misinformation’ says one distributor
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
April 28, 2020

A new Michael Moore-produced documentary that takes aim at the supposed hypocrisy of the green movement is “dangerous, misleading and destructive” and should be removed from public viewing, according to an assortment of climate scientists and environmental campaigners.

The film, Planet of the Humans, was released on the eve of Earth Day last week by its producer, Michael Moore, the baseball cap-wearing documentarian known for Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine. Describing itself as a “full-frontal assault on our sacred cows”, the film argues that electric cars and solar energy are unreliable and rely upon fossil fuels to function. It also attacks figures including Al Gore for bolstering corporations that push flawed technologies over real solutions to the climate crisis.

A letter written by Josh Fox, who made the documentary Gasland, and signed by various scientists and activists, has urged the removal of “shockingly misleading and absurd” film for making false claims about renewable energy. Planet of the Humans “trades in debunked fossil fuel industry talking points” that question the affordability and reliability of solar and wind energy, the letter states, pointing out that these alternatives are now cheaper to run than fossil fuels such as coal.

Michael Mann, a climate scientist and signatory to Fox’s letter, said the film includes “various distortions, half-truths and lies” and that the filmmakers “have done a grave disservice to us and the planet by promoting climate change inactivist tropes and talking points.” The film’s makers did not respond to questions over whether it will be pulled down.
» Read article     
» Read Josh Fox’s letter

stressed-out trees
‘We Need to Hear These Poor Trees Scream’: Unchecked Global Warming Means Big Trouble for Forests
New studies show drought and heat waves will cause massive die-offs, killing most trees alive today.
By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
Apr 25, 2020

“It’s our choice of how much worse we want it to get. Every little bit of reduction of warming can have a positive effect. We can reduce the tree die-off. Are we going to make the choices to try and minimize that?”

Breshears has used tree mortality data to try and make near real-time projections for tree die-offs in the Southwest. This would help adapt forest management, including firefighting, to rapidly changing conditions in a region where an emerging megadrought has already weakened and killed hundreds of millions of trees, including Rocky Mountain lodgepole and piñon pines, as well as aspens.

Elsewhere, African cedars and acacias are dying, South America’s Amazon rainforest is struggling, and junipers are declining in the Middle East. In Spain and Greece, global warming is shriveling oaks, and even in moist, temperate northern Europe, unusual droughts have stressed vast stands of beech forests.

At the current pace of warming, much of the world will be inhospitable to forests as we know them within decades. The extinction of some tree species by direct or indirect action of drought and high temperatures is certain. And some recent research suggests that, in 40 years, none of the trees alive today will be able to survive the projected climate, Brodribb said.
» Read article     

» More about climate       

GREENING THE ECONOMY

co-ops dah
Want to Rebuild the Economy with Clean Energy? Germany Offers 20 Years of Lessons
Hundreds of wind and solar co-ops have taken on big utilities and shown they can reliably power the grid—and hugely reduce emissions.
By Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
April 30, 2020

BERLIN—Twenty years ago, before climate change was as widely seen as the existential threat it is today, Germany embarked on an ambitious program to transform the way it produced electric power.

Over the next two decades, it became a model for countries around the world, showing how renewable energy could replace fossil fuels in a way that drew wide public buy-in by passing on the benefits—and much of the control—to local communities.

The steps Germany took on this journey, and the missteps it made along the way, provide critical lessons for other countries seeking to fight climate change.
» Read article     

Megalopolis coal smog
Emissions Declines Will Set Records This Year. But It’s Not Good News.
An “unprecedented” fall in fossil fuel use, driven by the Covid-19 crisis, is likely to lead to a nearly 8 percent drop, according to new research.
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
April 30, 2020

WASHINGTON — Global greenhouse gas emissions are on track to plunge nearly 8 percent this year, the largest drop ever recorded, as worldwide lockdowns to fight the coronavirus have triggered an “unprecedented” decline in the use of fossil fuels, the International Energy Agency said in a new report on Thursday.

But experts cautioned that the drop should not be seen as good news for efforts to tackle climate change. When the pandemic subsides and nations take steps to restart their economies, emissions could easily soar again unless governments make concerted efforts to shift to cleaner energy as part of their recovery efforts.

“This historic decline in emissions is happening for all the wrong reasons,” said Fatih Birol, the agency’s executive director. “People are dying and countries are suffering enormous economic trauma right now. The only way to sustainably reduce emissions is not through painful lockdowns, but by putting the right energy and climate policies in place.”
» Read article     

Merkel wants green recovery
Germany’s Merkel wants green recovery from coronavirus crisis
By Michael Nienaber, Markus Wacket, Reuters
April 28, 2020

BERLIN (Reuters) – Governments should focus on climate protection when considering fiscal stimulus packages to support an economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday.

Her comments are the clearest sign yet that Merkel wants to combine the task of helping companies recover from the pandemic with the challenge of setting more incentives for reducing carbon emissions.

Speaking at a virtual climate summit known as the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, Merkel said she expected difficult discussions about how to design post-crisis stimulus measures and about which business sectors need more help than others.

“It will be all the more important that if we set up economic stimulus programmes, we must always keep a close eye on climate protection,” Merkel said, adding the focus should be laid on supporting modern technologies and renewable energies.
» Read article     

climate-positive plan
A Time to Save the Sick and Rescue the Planet
With closer cooperation among nations, the head of the United Nations argues, we could stop a pandemic faster and slow climate change.
By António Guterres, New York Times Opinion
Mr. Guterres is the secretary general of the United Nations. Before that, he was the United Nations high commissioner for refugees.
April 28, 2020

Addressing climate change and Covid-19 simultaneously and at enough scale requires a response stronger than any seen before to safeguard lives and livelihoods. A recovery from the coronavirus crisis must not take us just back to where we were last summer. It is an opportunity to build more sustainable and inclusive economies and societies — a more resilient and prosperous world. Recently the International Renewable Energy Agency released data showing that transforming energy systems could boost global G.D.P. by $98 trillion by 2050, delivering 2.4 percent more G.D.P. growth than current plans. Boosting investments in renewable energy alone would add 42 million jobs globally, create health care savings eight times the cost of the investment, and prevent a future crisis.

I am proposing six climate-positive actions for governments to consider once they go about building back their economies, societies and communities.
» Read article     

Wellington cable car
New Zealand calls for thousands of new ‘green’ jobs in bold comeback plan
By Christian Cotroneo, Mother Nature Network
April 27, 2020

There’s plenty of speculation over the origins of the pandemic that has ground much of the world to a halt. But there’s little doubt about who caused it. As a panel of international scientists noted in a release issued this week, “There is a single species that is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic — us.”

The statement — authored by professors Josef Settele, Sandra Díaz, Eduardo Brondizio and zoologist Peter Daszak — goes on to point the finger squarely at our obsession with “economic growth at any cost.”

“Rampant deforestation, uncontrolled expansion of agriculture, intensive farming, mining and infrastructure development, as well as the exploitation of wild species have created a ‘perfect storm’ for the spillover of diseases from wildlife to people.”

Now, the real question is how do we make things right in the world, while avoiding the mistakes that brought us here in the first place? At least one major political party thinks it has the answer.
» Read article     
» Read the statement by Settele, et al.

» More about greening the economy  

CLEAN ENERGY

Dirty Energy Dan
Billions in Clean Energy Loans Go Unused as Coronavirus Ravages Economy
As Congress rushes out trillions of dollars to prop up businesses, the Energy Department is holding on to tens of billions in clean energy loans.
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
April 30, 2020

WASHINGTON — As the government struggles to keep businesses afloat through the pandemic, the Trump administration is sitting on about $43 billion in low-interest loans for clean energy projects, and critics are accusing the Energy Department of partisan opposition to disbursing the funds.

The loans — which would aid renewable power, nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage technology — had some bipartisan support even before the coronavirus pushed 30 million people onto the unemployment rolls. But some supporters of the program said it was being held back by a president who has falsely claimed wind power causes cancer and consistently sought deep cuts to renewable energy spending, including the loan program.
» Read article     

community solar explained
So, What Exactly Is Community Solar?
Not everyone can have solar on their own roof. A new GTM series helps explain the weird and wonderful world of clean energy.
By Emma Foehringer Merchant, GreenTech Media
April 30, 2020

Residential solar has grown by leaps and bounds in the U.S. over the past two decades, but let’s face it: Not everyone can have solar on their own roof.

As many as three-quarters of American households are unable to access rooftop solar — because they rent, or live in an apartment building, or a rooftop system is not affordable for them.

Enter community solar: a simple, even elegant concept. Neighbors who are unable to build their own solar systems can join together, build a larger and more cost-efficient solar array nearby, and use the energy it provides to power their homes. Like many simple concepts, however, the details can quickly become overwhelming.

In the first of a new series of explanatory articles, GTM will help you understand what community solar is and how it works.
» Read article

CCA trending
Community Choice Aggregation: A Local, Viable Option for Renewable Energy
By The Climate Reality Project, EcoWatch
April 25, 2020

Cities and counties across the country are choosing to create community choice aggregation (CCA) programs, sometimes known as community choice energy or municipal aggregation.

In this alternative system, municipalities can secure the electricity supply and determine the electricity portfolio on behalf of their customers, while still relying on existing infrastructure to deliver the electricity. By aggregating the demand for electricity, local communities can negotiate rates and increase their use of renewables. CCAs allow for communities to have more control over their electricity sources, lessening the control investor-owned utilities can exert on a community.
» Read article     

» More about clean energy     

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

charger desert
‘Charger Desert’ in Big Cities Keeps Electric Cars From Mainstream
For city dwellers who would love an E.V., the biggest hurdle might be keeping it juiced up without a garage or other convenient charging stations.
By Lawrence Ulrich, New York Times
April 16, 2020

There are people across America who would buy an electric car tomorrow — if only they had someplace to plug it in. Forget oft-cited “range anxiety,” many experts say: The real deal-killer, especially for city and apartment dwellers, is a dearth of chargers where they park their cars.

Call it the Great Disconnect. In townhomes, apartments and condos, in dense cities and still-snug suburbs, plenty of people, worried about climate change, would make for a potentially receptive audience for E.V.s. But without a garage, they often feel locked out of the game.
» Read article     

Transportation Electrification Partnership proposes $150B federal stimulus package
By Cailin Crowe, Utility Dive
April 27, 2020

The public-private Transportation Electrification Partnership (TEP), led by the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), wrote a $150 billion federal stimulus proposal to create jobs, reduce air pollution and build climate resilience in Los Angeles County and beyond, amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The proposal includes a call for a $10 billion investment in EV charging infrastructure for light duty vehicles. According to the proposal, 84,000 public and workplace chargers in LA County are needed by 2028 to support air pollution reduction and climate resilience. It suggests investing in initiatives like installing curbside charging infrastructure on streetlights for drivers who don’t have access to charging at home — an initiative the City of Los Angeles has already successfully put to use.
» Read article     

» More about clean transportation    

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Permian methane flare
New Satellite Data Reveals Dangerous Methane Emissions in Permian Region
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
April 25, 2020

New research based on satellite data confirms that the oil and gas industry in the Permian region of Texas and New Mexico is leaking record amounts of methane. The new research published in the journal Science Advances found that methane emissions in the Permian Basin were equivalent to 3.7 percent of the total methane produced by the oil and gas industry there.

In December DeSmog reported on the work of Robert Howarth, a biogeochemist at Cornell University, who has been studying the methane emissions of the oil and gas industry. Howarth’s latest research estimated that 3.4 percent of all natural gas produced from shale in the U.S. is leaked throughout the production cycle, which appears to be confirmed by this new research.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and makes up approximately 90 percent of what is known as natural gas. It’s a major contributor to global warming.

The oil and gas industry has long tried to sell the idea of natural gas, which is, again, primarily methane, as a clean energy climate solution. However, with a leakage rate of 3.7 percent, natural gas is actually worse for the climate than coal.
» Read article     
» Read the research paper

As BP’s profits plunge, analysts say we are entering the “end-game” for oil
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
April 29, 2020

Sometimes hyperbole is overused, but more and more commentators are saying that the COVID-19 pandemic is going to fundamentally redefine the global oil industry, with many companies not surviving the pandemic at all.

Investors are going to lose billions of dollars, which could be much better and wiser spent on investing in a just clean transition. But will they listen before the lose?

The warning signs are growing.
» Read article     

» More about fossil fuels         

BIOMASS

whole trees to pellets
Trees harvested for biomass energy under scrutiny
Environmental groups say wood pellet makers now using live, whole trees
By Nelson Bennett, BIV
April 26, 2020

One of the more contentious sources of renewable energy is biomass – i.e. burning wood pellets instead of coal or natural gas to generate heat or electricity.

The controversy could grow in B.C, as wood pellet producers appear to be resorting to using more live whole trees to produce wood pellets for export, as opposed to just wood waste.

Two B.C. wood pellet producers – Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. (TSX:PL) and Pacific BioEnergy – are being singled out by Stand.earth in a new report that suggests that the companies are now using what appears to be live, whole trees.

“Wood pellets are obviously the worst and lowest use of our last primary forests in the interior,said Michelle Connolly, director of Conservation North, which has documented the use of whole trees at B.C. pellet plants.

“The B.C. government assured us that green trees would not be used in pellet plants, and clearly that’s not true.”
» Read article     
» Read report

Virginia and North Carolina Show Biomass the Exits
By Sami Yassa, Natural Resources Defense Council / Expert Blog
April 26, 2020


Over the past 6 months, two southeastern states, Virginia and North Carolina, have taken landmark actions to ensure that dirty, destructive forest biomass for electricity has no place in the clean energy future of the region. In March, the Virginia legislature passed its landmark Clean Economy Act, which was signed into law by Governor Northam. Prior to that, North Carolina issued its final Clean Energy Plan under Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 80. In both cases, bold state action rejected biomass for electricity as a clean energy source and articulated compelling rationales to limit and restrict any future growth of the industry.

These back-to-back actions by neighboring states have created a long-overdue policy rejection of forest biomass for electricity driven by a groundswell of objection from concerned citizens. The actions send a clear signal that leaders in the region have no appetite for the unfounded subsidies and warped policies in the EU and UK. These subsidies drive the ecological destruction of the region’s forests, threaten their most vulnerable communities with disproportionate impacts, and accelerate climate change.
» Read article     
» Read VA’s Clean Economy Act
» Read NC’s Clean Energy Plan

» More about biomass     

PLASTICS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

microplastics on sea floorScientists Discover Highest Concentration of Deep-Sea Microplastics to Date
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
May 1, 2020

Scientists have discovered the highest concentration of microplastics ever recorded on the seafloor—1.9 million pieces in one square meter (approximately 11 square feet) of the Mediterranean.

But the finding, published in Science Thursday, suggests a much broader problem as deep-sea currents carry plastics to microplastic “hotspots” that may also be deep-sea ecosystems rich in biodiversity. For study coauthor professor Elda Miramontes of the University of Bremen, Germany, the results were a call to action.

Of the more than ten million tons of plastic that enter the world’s oceans every year, less than one percent of it stays on the surface. Researchers at the University of Bremen, IFREMER in France, the universities of Manchester and Durham and the National Oceanography Centre in the UK set out to discover what happens to the remaining 99 percent, a University of Manchester press release explained.

They determined that it doesn’t settle on the bottom evenly, but is instead pushed together with other sediments by deep-sea currents.
» Read article     

» More about plastics, health, and the environment      

PLASTICS RECYCLING

exploring chem recycling
Plastic pollution: why chemical recycling could provide a solution
By Alvin Orbaek White, The Conversation
April 21, 2020

The world is drowning in plastic. About 60% of the more than 8,700 million metric tonnes of plastic ever made is no longer in use, instead sat mostly in landfill or released to the environment. That equals over 400kg of plastic waste for every one of the 7.6 billion people on the planet.

One reason for this is that many plastics are not recyclable in our current system. And even those that are recyclable still go to landfill eventually.

Plastics cannot be recycled infinitely, at least not using traditional techniques. Most are only given one new lease of life before they end up in the earth, the ocean or an incinerator. But there is hope in a different form of recycling known as chemical recycling.
» Read article     

» More about plastics recycling    

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Weekly News Check-In 4/24/20

WNCI-4

Welcome back.

We lead with wonderful and informative conversation between Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and Alice Arena, Director of FRRACS, about efforts to stop construction of the Weymouth compressor station. Watch the Youtube video, and then please sign the Sierra Club petition asking the Baker administration to take action.

Earth day week happened mostly online. Bill McKibben wrote a remembrance of the original event, and described how to cut the money pipeline to industries that stand between people and a sustainable future.

Our climate section considers how best to move on from the current crisis. We include a seven-part overview of climate change itself, a profile of Earth Day’s visionary first organizer Denis Hayes, and articles about methane emissions and Antarctic ice melt.

The message from our clean energy section is one of abundant opportunity for post-pandemic economic recovery, coupled with warnings that “green” energy isn’t benign. We need to proceed carefully in its development while simultaneously reducing overall energy consumption through significantly increased efficiency in all sectors.

Some of that increased efficiency can be gained in transportation simply by providing infrastructure that allows for less travel. To this end, we offer a story on the need for universal broadband internet access across western Massachusetts. Among other things, this would allow many more people to work or study from home.

The fossil fuel industry is a mess. We found some great articles about what happens when you mix fracked-up finances, low-to-negative oil prices, and government bailout money. Recall that the industry’s troubles predate the coronavirus pandemic. It is time to consider how to wind this industry down.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) collected a couple more lawsuits challenging its preferential treatment of fossil fuel projects. This includes a potentially important action from Food & Water Watch in partnership with our own Berkshire Environmental Action Team. If successful, it will finally force FERC to consider the upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions associated with gas and oil pipeline projects.

Keeping with the theme of organizations behaving badly, we close with an article describing how Eversource is refusing to discuss its current rate hike plan with the Office of the Consumer Advocate in New Hampshire.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION


Earth Day conversation with Senator Ed Markey and FRRACS president Alice Arena
Youtube
April 22, 2020

The Weymouth compressor station is a public health hazard. Join me and Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station President Alice Arena for an EarthDay conversation about how we can stop the compressor station and hold Enbridge accountable.
» Sign Sierra Club’s petition, calling for Baker to bar construction on the compressor station
» Watch recorded video

Weymouth COVID plan
Markey, Warren seek Weymouth compressor station’s coronavirus plan
By Joe DiFazio, The Patriot Ledger
April 19, 2020

WEYMOUTH — The state’s two U.S. senators are asking Enbridge, the company currently building a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, what steps it is taking to mitigate potential risks to workers and the community as construction continues through the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter sent to the company on Friday, Democrats Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, are asking the company for “information about the measures that Enbridge is taking to protect workers and prevent the transmission of the coronavirus at the Weymouth construction site.”

“Given the highly contagious nature of this disease, public health experts have recommended social distancing measures that keep physical interactions to a minimum — a near-impossibility on a construction site,” the letter said. “Although compressor stations have been deemed essential services, thus allowing construction to continue, it is still important to take all possible steps to protect the workers and surrounding community members.”

The senators said they wanted a copy of a pandemic plan from Enbridge and all on-site contractors by April 25, detailing steps taken to protect workers and the surrounding communities, and how Enbridge would monitor and ensure compliance for the measures.
» Read article

» More about the Weymouth compressor station           

DIVESTMENT

Earth Day stop the money pipeline
This Earth Day, Stop the Money Pipeline
By Bill McKibben, DeSmog Blog
April 21, 2020

It’s no wonder that people mobilized: 20 million Americans took to the streets for the first Earth Day in 1970 — 10 percent of America’s population at the time, perhaps the single greatest day of political protest in the country’s history. And it worked. Worked politically because Congress quickly passed the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act and scientifically because those laws had the desired effect. In essence, they stuck enough filters on smokestacks, car exhausts, and factory effluent pipes that, before long, the air and water were unmistakably cleaner. The nascent Environmental Protection Agency commissioned a series of photos that showed just how filthy things were. Even for those of us who were alive then, it’s hard to imagine that we tolerated this.

And so we are. Stop the Money Pipeline, a coalition of environmental and climate justice groups running from the small and specialized to the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, formed last fall to try to tackle the biggest money on earth. Banks like Chase — the planet’s largest by market capitalization — which has funneled a quarter-trillion dollars to the fossil fuel industry since the Paris Agreement of 2015. Insurers like Liberty Mutual, still insuring tar sands projects even as pipeline builders endanger Native communities by trying to build the Keystone XL during a pandemic.
» Read article     

» More about divestment       

CLIMATE

normal was a crisis
Earth Day Message to Leaders: After Coronavirus, Rebuild Wisely
Activists and scientists called on world leaders to shift the global economy onto a healthier, more sustainable track.
By Somini Sengupta, New York Times
April 22, 2020

Activists and scientists worldwide, mostly prevented from demonstrating publicly because of the coronavirus pandemic, marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with online events on Wednesday, and their message was largely one of warning: When this health crisis passes, world leaders must rebuild the global economy on a healthier, more sustainable track.

That was highlighted by an influential scientific body, the World Meteorological Organization, which forecast that the pandemic would drive down global greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent this year, the biggest yearly decline in planet-warming carbon dioxide since the Second World War. But the group said that would be nowhere near the reductions needed to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change.

The agency went on to caution that, while the short-term reductions are largely a result of the sharp decline in transportation and industrial energy production, emissions are likely to rise in the coming years unless world leaders take swift action to address climate change.
» Read article     

Permian twice estimated
Super-Polluting Methane Emissions Twice Federal Estimates in Permian Basin, Study Finds
The methane is a byproduct of fracking for oil, often burned off at well heads or emitted into the atmosphere instead of being captured for use as fuel.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
April 22, 2020

Methane emissions from the Permian basin of West Texas and southeastern New Mexico, one of the largest oil-producing regions in the world, are more than two times higher than federal estimates, a new study suggests.

Using hydraulic fracturing, energy companies have increased oil production to unprecedented levels in the Permian basin in recent years.

Methane, or natural gas, has historically been viewed as an unwanted byproduct to be flared, a practice in which methane is burned instead of emitted into the atmosphere, or vented by oil producers in the region. While new natural gas pipelines are being built to bring the gas to market, pipeline capacity and the low price of natural gas has created little incentive to reduce methane emissions.

Daniel Jacob, a professor of atmospheric chemistry and environmental engineering at Harvard University and a co-author of the study, said methane emissions in the Permian are “the largest source ever observed in an oil and gas field.”
» Read article     
» Read report

climate crash course
A crash course on climate change, 50 years after the first Earth Day
The science is clear: The world is warming dangerously, humans are the cause of it, and a failure to act today will deeply affect the future of the Earth.
By Henry Fountain, Kendra Pierre-Louis, Hiroko Tabuchi, Brad Plumer, Lisa Friedman, Christopher Flavelle, and Somini Sengupta, New York Times
April 20, 2020

This is a seven-day New York Times crash course on climate change, in which reporters from the Times’s Climate desk address the big questions:
1.How bad is climate change now?
2.How do scientists know what they know?
3.Who is influencing key decisions?
4.How do we stop fossil fuel emissions?
5.Do environmental rules matter?
6.Can insurance protect us?
7.Is what I do important?
» Read article     

Denis Hayes
The ‘Profoundly Radical’ Message of Earth Day’s First Organizer
By John Schwartz, New York Times
April 20, 2020

In recent days, Mr. Hayes has drawn a connection between the coronavirus and climate change, and the failure of the federal government to effectively deal with either one. In an essay in the Seattle Times, he wrote that “Covid-19 robbed us of Earth Day this year. So let’s make Election Day Earth Day.” He urged his readers to get involved in politics and set aside national division. “This November 3,” he wrote, “vote for the Earth.”
» Read article
» Read Seattle Times essay

doomsday glacier
The Doomsday Glacier
In the farthest reaches of Antarctica, a nightmare scenario of crumbling ice – and rapidly rising seas – could spell disaster for a warming planet.
By Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone
May 9, 2017

With 10 to 13 feet of sea-level rise, most of South Florida is an underwater theme park, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s winter White House in West Palm Beach. In downtown Boston, about the only thing that’s not underwater are those nice old houses up on Beacon Hill. In the Bay Area, everything below Highway 101 is gone, including the Googleplex; the Oakland and San Francisco airports are submerged, as is much of downtown below Montgomery Street and the Marina District. Even places that don’t seem like they would be in trouble, such as Sacramento, smack in the middle of California, will be partially flooded by the Pacific Ocean swelling up into the Sacramento River. Galveston, Texas; Norfolk, Virginia; and New Orleans will be lost. In Washington, D.C., the shoreline will be just a few hundred yards from the White House.

And that’s just the picture in the U.S. The rest of the world will be in as much trouble: Large parts of Shanghai, Bangkok, Jakarta, Lagos and London will be submerged. Egypt’s Nile River Delta and much of southern Bangladesh will be underwater. The Marshall Islands and the Maldives will be coral reefs.
» Blog editor’s note: This article is three years old, but is worth another look. We have not changed our emissions trajectory, nor has the Trump administration altered its pro-fossil fuel position.
» Read article     

» More about climate       

CLEAN ENERGY

oldstyle rooftop wind
Rooftop Wind Power Might Take Off by Using Key Principle of Flight
By Scientific American, in EcoWatch
April 22, 2020

Past efforts to scale down the towering turbines that generate wind power to something that might sit on a home have been plagued by too many technical problems to make such devices practical. Now, however, a new design could circumvent those issues by harnessing the same principle that creates lift for airplane wings.

Houchens and his colleagues think they have engineered a solution that overcomes these obstacles by borrowing from a fundamental principle of air flight. The curved shape of an airplane wing—called an airfoil—alters the air pressure on either side of it and ultimately produces lift. Houchens’ colleague Carsten Westergaard, president of Westergaard Solutions and a mechanical engineer at Texas Tech University, says he hitched two airfoils together so that “the flow from one airfoil will amplify the other airfoil, and they become more powerful.” Oriented like two airplane wings standing upright on their side, the pair of airfoils directly face the wind. As the wind moves through, low pressure builds up between the foils and sucks air in through slits in their partly hollow bodies. That movement of air turns a small turbine housed in a tube and generates electricity.
» Read article     

green NRG eco-boost
Green energy could drive Covid-19 recovery with $100tn boost
Speeding up investment could deliver huge gains to global GDP by 2050 while tackling climate emergency, says report
Jillian Ambrose, the Guardian
April 20, 2020

Renewable energy could power an economic recovery from Covid-19 by spurring global GDP gains of almost $100tn (£80tn) between now and 2050, according to a report.

The International Renewable Energy Agency found that accelerating investment in renewable energy could generate huge economic benefits while helping to tackle the global climate emergency.

The agency’s director general, Francesco La Camera, said the global crisis ignited by the coronavirus outbreak exposed “the deep vulnerabilities of the current system” and urged governments to invest in renewable energy to kickstart economic growth and help meet climate targets.
» Read article     
» Read IRENA report: Global Renewables Outlook: Energy Transformation 2050

threat to net metering
Solar Net Metering Under Threat as Shadowy Group Demands Intervention in State Policies
A fast-tracked FERC petition during a pandemic could “end net metering as we know it,” one legal expert warns.
Jeff St. John, GreenTech Media
April 20, 2020

Solar net metering, the backbone of the U.S. rooftop solar market for the past two decades, may be facing its most important legal challenge in years — and it’s coming at a time when the industry is already reeling from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

A nonprofit group that’s spent years fighting clean-energy legislation in New England is pressing federal regulators to approve a legal argument that could lay the groundwork for challenges to the solar net metering policies now in place in 41 states.

Last week, the New England Ratepayers Association (NERA) filed a petition with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, asking it to declare “exclusive federal jurisdiction over wholesale energy sales from generation sources located on the customer side of the retail meter.” In other words, NERA is asking FERC to assert control over all state net-metering programs, which pay customers for the energy they don’t consume on-site but instead feed back to the power grid.

The day after NERA’s filing, FERC set a May 14 deadline for parties that might oppose or support it to file comments that could influence its decision.
» Read article     

magical NRG thinking
The Limits of Clean Energy
If the world isn’t careful, renewable energy could become as destructive as fossil fuels.
By Jason Hickel, Pocket
April 18, 2020

The phrase “clean energy” normally conjures up happy, innocent images of warm sunshine and fresh wind. But while sunshine and wind is obviously clean, the infrastructure we need to capture it is not. Far from it. The transition to renewables is going to require a dramatic increase in the extraction of metals and rare-earth minerals, with real ecological and social costs.

We need a rapid transition to renewables, yes—but scientists warn that we can’t keep growing energy use at existing rates. No energy is innocent. The only truly clean energy is less energy.

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t pursue a rapid transition to renewable energy. We absolutely must and urgently. But if we’re after a greener, more sustainable economy, we need to disabuse ourselves of the fantasy that we can carry on growing energy demand at existing rates.
» Read article     

» More about clean energy       

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

internet for a green planet
Internet Seen as Helping Save Planet, but Many in Mass Still Miss Out
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires
April 22, 2020

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — When the Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires last week hosted a virtual town hall with Berkshire County’s legislative delegation, the area’s elected officials got a little face time with their constituents to talk about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All but one. State Rep. Paul Mark, of  Peru, was an audio-only participant in the hourlong webinar. That is because Mark is among the many Massachusetts residents who are underserved by internet access.

It is a problem that local officials have been talking about for years. The deficiencies have never been more stark than during the “stay at home” guidelines instituted in Boston last month in response to the pandemic.

And on Wednesday’s 50th anniversary of Earth Day, one local climate change activist was thinking about the digital divide as an environmental issue.

“I knew it was a social issue and an important one but it was not one I was going to spend a lot of time on because I didn’t think it was a climate issue. And I take all of that back.

Where climate change comes in: All those Americans working from home are skipping their daily commutes, keeping cars in the garage and pollutants out of the air.
» Blog editor’s note: The greenest travel is to remain in place. Without broadband internet access, many people are forced to travel or commute to perform tasks that could be accomplished online.
» Read article     

» More about clean transportation      

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

no ff bailout
As Oil Prices Fall Below $0 Per Barrel, Climate Advocates Urge Against Fossil Fuel Industry Bailout
“The oil price collapse creates a historic opening: a public buyout of the fossil fuel sector to enact a managed decline of extraction and ensure a just transition for workers and communities.”
By Julia Conley, Common Dreams
April 20, 2020

The plummeting of oil markets on Monday, the last day oil producers can trade barrels for next month, solidified a trend which has been evident since the coronavirus pandemic brought economies around the world to a halt last month.

Critics urged U.S. policymakers not to approach the collapsing markets as a problem that can be solved by propping up the oil industry. As David Roberts wrote at Vox Monday, the sector has been in decline for years and any taxpayer funds which go to propping it up further would be “wasted.”

“First, fracking was a financial wreck long before COVID-19 hit. U.S. fracking operations have been losing money for a decade, to the tune of around $280 billion. Overproduction has produced a supply glut, low prices, and an accumulating surplus in storage.

Both oil and gas prices were persistently low leading into 2019. Due to oversupply and mild winters in the U.S. and Europe, there is a glut of both natural gas and oil, such that the entire world’s spare oil storage is in danger of being filled.”
» Read article     

negative future
What the Negative Price of Oil Is Telling Us
We’re in a deflationary moment that surpasses anything seen in most people’s lifetimes.
By Neil Irwin, New York Times
April 21, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a series of mind-bending distortions across world financial markets, but Monday featured the most bizarre one yet: The benchmark price for crude oil in the United States fell to negative $37.63.

That means that if you happened to be in a position to take delivery of 1,000 barrels of oil in Cushing, Okla., in the month of May — the quantity quoted in the relevant futures contract — you could have been paid a cool $37,630 to do so. (That is about five tanker trucks’ worth, so any joke about storing the oil in your basement will have to remain just that.)

In the oil market, even assuming the negative prices for the May futures contract can be viewed as a bizarre aberration, there is a deeper lesson. A steep rise in American energy production over the last decade has outpaced the world’s need for energy, especially if many of the changes resulting from the pandemic, like less air travel, persist for months or years.
» Read article

done with fossils
Coronavirus stimulus money will be wasted on fossil fuels
Oil and gas companies were already facing structural problems before Covid-19 and are in long-term decline.
By David Roberts, Vox.com
April 20, 2020

In this post, I want to take a look at why it is equally shortsighted for President Trump and congressional Republicans to remain so devoted to the fossil fuel industry.

The dominant narrative is still that fossil fuels are a pillar of the US economy, with giant companies like Exxon Mobil producing revenue and jobs that the US can’t afford to do without. Even among those eager to address climate change by moving past fossil fuels to clean energy — a class that includes a majority of Americans — there is a lingering mythology that US fossil fuels are, to use the familiar phrase, too big to fail.

But the position of fossil fuels in the US economy is less secure than it might appear. In fact, the fossil fuel industry is facing substantial structural challenges that will be exacerbated by, but will not end with, the Covid-19 crisis. For years, the industry has been shedding value, taking on debt, losing favor among financial institutions and investors, and turning more and more to lobbying governments to survive.

It is, in short, a turkey. CNBC financial analyst Jim Cramer put it best, back in late January, before Covid-19 had even become a crisis in the US: “I’m done with fossil fuels. They’re done. They’re just done.”
» Read article     

disconnected from reality
Demand For Oil Has Plummeted, But Industry Keeps Building New Infrastructure Anyway
Oil and gas companies are constructing pipelines and wells amid the pandemic, risking workers’ lives and depleting personal protective gear.
By Alexander C. Kaufman and Chris D’Angelo, Huffington Post
April 20, 2020

In February, CNBC anchor Jim Cramer took aim at the heart of the debate over fossil fuels with a bold declaration on his investment advice show: “I’m done with fossil fuels. They’re done. … We are in the death knell phase.”

That was before the coronavirus pandemic and a price war sent oil prices into a tailspin.

In one sense, the pandemic couldn’t have come at a better time for the oil industry. It was already deep in debt and facing its best-organized opposition in more than a decade as President Donald Trump’s brand of petro-state nationalism spurred an international movement for a Green New Deal. Then the coronavirus struck. Since the start of 2020, leading oil and gas companies have lost on average 45% of their value, according to a report published Thursday by the nonpartisan Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), which concludes that U.S. and overseas producers are “exploiting” the COVID-19 crisis to demand bailouts, regulatory relief and more in hopes of recovering from financial troubles that predate the pandemic.
» Read article     
» Read CIEL report

buy them out
Public Ownership of Fossil Fuels a Potential Solution to Multiple Crises, Says New Report
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
April 17, 2020

With each passing week, the U.S. oil and gas industry and its allies in Washington have used the COVID-19 pandemic and the unfolding economic crisis to gut important environmental protections and lobby for handouts.

Each newfangled idea is more brazen than the previous. On April 16, for instance, the Trump administration finalized rules to allow more toxic mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. Drilled News has a running tally of all the different ways the industry is trying to capitalize off of the coronavirus crisis, a list that has totaled about 60 different environmental rollback measures as of mid-April.

But one of the more outlandish ideas the administration has conjured up is to pay fracking companies to do nothing. Bloomberg reported that the Department of Energy was considering a plan to pay drillers to cut back on drilling, a sort of debauched version of “keep it in the ground.”

“That is actually an interesting step forward” in the sense that the government sets up a framework to keep oil and gas from being extracted in the first place, Johanna Bozuwa, co-manager of the Climate and Energy Program at the Democracy Collaborative, told DeSmog in an interview. She authored a new report called “The Case for Public Ownership of the Fossil Fuel Industry,” which was published jointly with Oil Change International.
» Read article     

» More about fossil fuels       

FERC

FERC HQ
Groups launch new legal attack on FERC climate policy
By Niina H. Farah, E&E News
April 22, 2020

Environmental groups yesterday asked a federal appeals court to take a fresh look at energy regulators’ duty to expand their consideration of climate change impacts from the projects they authorize.

Food & Water Watch and the Berkshire Environmental Action Team sued the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over its approval of a Massachusetts infrastructure upgrade that involves construction of 2 miles of new pipeline and a compressor station.

The challengers suggested a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in their favor could force FERC to broaden its climate analysis to include upstream and downstream climate effects for energy projects beyond the 261 Upgrade Project near Springfield, Mass.
» Blog editor’s note: Emphasis added above. This suite could have enormous implications for the country’s ability to reduce carbon emissions in line with international climate goals.
» Read BEAT’s announcement         
» Read article     
» Read petition

FREC Yes
Broad array of groups sue FERC over PJM MOPR decision as Chatterjee rejects cost, renewable concerns
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
April 22, 2020

A flurry of lawsuits hit the courts on Monday as industry and environmental groups reacted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Thursday decision to uphold a controversial December ruling.

Several groups had filed a request for rehearing with FERC following the commission’s Dec. 16 order that would effectively raise the floor price for all new resources receiving a state subsidy in the PJM Interconnection wholesale power market.

Illinois regulators, the American Public Power Association (APPA), American Municipal Power and several environmental groups were among the parties who filed against FERC for its decision. Concerns largely surround long-term costs to customers and what is seen as unfair discrimination against new clean energy.
» Read article     

» More about FERC    

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

Eversource Slams the Virtual Door
By D. Maurice Kreis, NH Consumer Advocate, InDepthNH.org
April 17, 2020

We – the Office of the Consumer Advocate (OCA), representing residential utility customers, and the PUC Staff, which provides analytical and policy support to the three PUC commissioners – approached Eversource to talk about settling the big rate case that Eversource filed last summer.  The state’s largest electric utility asked for a nearly $70 million rate increase – a whopping 20 percent price hike for the monopoly provider of electric distribution service to 70 percent of the state.

The dark heart of any utility rate case is always the company’s request for an allowed return on equity (ROE) – basically, the profit guaranteed to the utility’s shareholders after the company covers its operating costs and pays back lenders with interest.  Eversource thinks its shareholders deserve an ROE of 10.4 percent.

Profits of ten point four percent!  At the start of a global economic depression, triggered by a planetary pandemic, that has left thousands of Eversource customers in New Hampshire wondering how they’ll cover the mortgage payments and buy groceries!
» Read article     

» More about electric utilities      

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Weekly News Check-In 3/20/20

WNCI-7

Welcome back.

Construction at the Weymouth compressor station site doesn’t accommodate the social distancing required to address our COVID-19 health crisis, and opponents of the project are requesting a temporary halt to activities there. More Massachusetts news: Columbia Gas will be purchased by Eversourse. We found a thought-provoking editorial suggesting that ownership should pass to the public instead.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), continues to dig in as an increasingly partisan approval mill for fossil fuel projects. Three of the four commissioners are now Republican,  a clear break with past tradition of balanced representation.

Our climate section leads with an MIT study showing that significant amounts of ozone-depleting CFCs are leaking from old refrigeration equipment and insulating foam previously considered too inconsequential to remove and remediate. We now know that CFC leakage from these sources delays recovery of the ozone layer, and is a source of powerful greenhouse gases.

We found some differing opinions among experts regarding how the social and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the deployment of clean energy like wind and solar. That is currently a more powerful dynamic in the U.S. than the familiar tug-of-war between the pro-fossil Trump administration vs the combination of progressive state and municipal governments and advances in green technology. Take a look at our offerings in clean transportation and energy storage to see what’s happening along those old familiar story lines.

The fossil fuel industry lost a significant court battle when a federal district court decided in favor of Massachusetts, agreeing that the state has jurisdiction to sue Exxon in Suffolk County Superior Court, where the giant corporation stands accused of “hiding its early knowledge of climate change from the public and misleading investors about the future financial impact of global warming.” This is one of a string of similar cases, all agreeing that states have jurisdiction in these lawsuits.

We close with an article on plastics recycling, because a plastics-to-fuel plant is being proposed in Rhode Island. A feasibility study is considering using the pyrolysis process (gassification at high heat) to remove plastic from the waste stream by converting it to usable fuel. The benefits are presented by a representative from the American Chemistry Council, with arguments against this process being clearly articulated by Kevin Budris, a lawyer from Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) Rhode Island who heads up the Zero Waste Project.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

call for halt
Residents call for halt to compressor station construction
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
March 19, 2020

WEYMOUTH — Residents opposed to a natural gas compressor station being built on the banks of the Fore River want construction stopped amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought much of the country to a halt.

Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to suspend construction of the Weymouth compressor station, to help slow the spread of the virus.

“This isn’t just about the compressor station, it’s about protecting the community and workers from an ongoing public health crisis,” the group said. “The construction site does not have access to proper sanitation stations, like soap and water, and workers can’t consistently work 6 feet apart.”
» Read article

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

COLUMBIA GAS

Should the public buy Columbia Gas?
Right now, Eversource is proposing to buy the utility for $1.1b
By Craig Altemose, CommonWealth Magazine – Opinion
March 15, 2020

Public utilities are entities entrusted to provide critical public services to the public. That trust means that they are supposed to receive heightened regulation by the government while being given the gift of a government-sanctioned monopoly (i.e. if you live in their territory, they are your exclusive provider). This arrangement is meant to serve the public good, and yet in just the past two years, our public utilities failed us in virtually every way imaginable.

We have recently experienced massive lapses in safety, long-term disruptions of service, the lock-out and denial of healthcare benefits to trained workers, and continued refusal to embrace critical values of public health and climate stability in the governance of our utilities. Indeed, these utilities have used ratepayer dollars to fund exorbitant executive packages (Eversource CEO Tom May makes close to $10 million a year to head a company whose customers broadly had the choice of either buying from his company or sitting in the cold and dark in the homes) and lobby against the public interest.

So this sale is coming at a time ripe for consideration of the idea of public ownership of our public gas and electric utilities.
» Read article     

» More about Columbia Gas

FERC / LNG / OTHER PIPELINES

fossil boosting FERC
Bad news about FERC & Jordan Cove
By Drew Hudson, 198 Methods
March 20, 2020

As we feared, and warned only yesterday, in the midst of the global pandemic the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) conditionally approved the Jordan Cove fracked gas export terminal and Pacific Connector pipeline today.

The approval is conditioned on Pembina, the Canadian fossil fuel corporation behind the project, qualifying for critical permits from the state of Oregon, three of which have already been denied or withdrawn. But it’s still an incredibly disappointing decision from a rogue, rubber stamp agency.

It was only last Thursday that Senate Republicans rammed through a vote on James Danly to be a new commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Danly is the first totally partisan nominee – traditionally one Democrat and one Republican are nominated together. While a handful of Senators commented on the unusual decision to stack a supposedly bi-partisan commission with three Republicans and one Democrat.
» Read article

Senate Confirms Third Republican to FERC, Breaking With Precedent
James Danly’s confirmation breaks bipartisan norms at the federal energy regulator that’s already under fire for aiding fossil fuels in key decisions.
By Jeff St. John, Green Tech Media
March 12, 2020

The U.S. Senate confirmed James Danly to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday, stacking a third Republican against the lone Democrat on the board of a federal agency that has increasingly been seen as using its authority over interstate energy markets to privilege fossil fuels over renewables.

Danly, who will fill the seat left vacant by the death of Chairman Kevin McIntyre, graduated from law school in 2013 and worked as a corporate energy lawyer before he was named general counsel at FERC in 2017. His lack of experience in the industries he will now regulate has drawn sharp criticism from Senate Democrats, and his nomination last year was initially rejected by the Senate in January, before being sent back by the Trump administration last month.
» Read article

» More about FERC / LNG / Other Pipelines    

CLIMATE

CFC banks
Emissions of several ozone-depleting chemicals are larger than expected
Recovering and safely destroying the sources of these chemicals could speed ozone recovery and reduce climate change.
By Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office
March 17, 2020

In 2016, scientists at MIT and elsewhere observed the first signs of healing in the Antarctic ozone layer. This environmental milestone was the result of decades of concerted effort by nearly every country in the world, which collectively signed on to the Montreal Protocol. These countries pledged to protect the ozone layer by phasing out production of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons, which are also potent greenhouse gases.

While the ozone layer is on a recovery path, scientists have found unexpectedly high emissions of CFC-11 and CFC-12, raising the possibility of production of the banned chemicals that could be in violation of the landmark global treaty. Emissions of CFC-11 even showed an uptick around 2013, which has been traced mainly to a source in eastern China. New data suggest that China has now tamped down on illegal production of the chemical, but emissions of CFC-11 and 12 emission are still larger than expected.

Now MIT researchers have found that much of the current emission of these gases likely stems from large CFC “banks” — old equipment such as building insulation foam, refrigerators and cooling systems, and foam insulation, that was manufactured before the global phaseout of CFCs and is still leaking the gases into the atmosphere. Based on earlier analyses, scientists concluded that CFC banks would be too small to contribute very much to ozone depletion, and so policymakers allowed the banks to remain.

It turns out there are oversized banks of both CFC-11 and CFC-12. The banks slowly leak these chemicals at concentrations that, if left unchecked, would delay the recovery of the ozone hole by six years and add the equivalent of 9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere — an amount that is similar to the current European Union pledge under the UN Paris Agreement to reduce climate change.
» Read article

Czech resistance
EU Green Deal Should Be Canceled Because of Coronavirus, Czech PM Says
Will COVID-19 be a reason to accelerate or slow Europe’s energy transition? The battle lines are already being drawn.
By John Parnell, Green Tech Media
March 17, 2020

The Czech Republic’s prime minister, Andrej Babiš, has said the European Union should abandon its Green Deal and focus on fighting the spread of the coronavirus in an early sign of policy battles ahead.

Announced in December, Europe’s Green New Deal seeks to invest €1 trillion ($1.1 trillion) on the road to making the EU economy net-zero carbon by 2050. This would include a huge offshore wind build-out, accelerated electrification of heat and transport, the development of large-scale carbon capture projects and hydrogen storage and infrastructure.

But from the start, the plan came under heavy scrutiny from the coal-heavy Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, and the COVID-19 crisis appears to have opened a new avenue for attack.

“Europe should forget about the Green Deal now and focus on the coronavirus instead,” Babiš told reporters on Monday.
» Read article

Exxon watching the hen house
Exxon Now Wants to Write the Rules for Regulating Methane Emissions
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
March 16, 2020

ExxonMobil is a company capable of contradictions. It has been lobbying against government efforts to address climate change while running ads touting its own efforts to do so.

And while the oil giant has been responsible for massive methane releases, Exxon has now proposed a new regulatory framework for cutting emissions of this powerful greenhouse gas that it hopes regulators and industry will adopt. As Exxon put it, the goal is to achieve “cost-effective and reasonable methane-emission regulations.”

“It is not target-based, it is not volume-based,” Exxon’s Norton said. “Again, it’s starting a conversation, saying these are things that you can look at.”

Robert Howarth, a biogeochemist at Cornell University whose work focuses on methane emissions in the oil and gas industry, drew attention to areas of Exxon’s framework he thought were lacking. For starters, he pointed out that the proposed framework does not mention emissions from “imperfect well casings and from abandoned wells,” which Howarth says “can be significant.” He also noted that the proposal does not describe “a methodology for characterizing any of these emissions;  there are techniques for doing so, but there is not much demonstrated use of these techniques by industry.”

Finally — and this is the real danger with any sort of industry self-regulation — Howarth said there must be some type of independent oversight to assess actual emissions instead of relying on the industry to self-report. XTO’s well blowout in Ohio is an excellent example of why this third-party verification is critical. Without oversight, the “system is ripe for abuse,” according to Howarth.
» Read article

Greta Not
Heartland Launches Website of Contrarian Climate Science Amid Struggles With Funding and Controversy
Dogged by layoffs, a problematic spokesperson and an investigation by European journalists, the climate skeptics’ institute returns to its old tactics.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, InsideClimate News
March 13, 2020

The conservative Heartland Institute, which made its name undercutting mainstream climate science, has launched a new effort to try to influence public discussion and political debate about global warming.

The move comes as the organization is reportedly struggling financially and has fallen into renewed controversy over its work in Europe promoting climate denial there. Last week it laid off staff just weeks after it announced the hiring of a teenage German climate skeptic to counter the global popularity of environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

The new website, called Climate at a Glance, includes brief explanations of key climate science and policy issues, many of which are either misleading or inaccurate.

In February, European journalists published an investigation about Heartland’s efforts to sow its climate denial in Europe. The journalists went undercover, posing as public relations consultants working for clients in the energy and auto industries. The report detailed Heartland’s methods for channeling donations through a third party, and “how disinformation is professionally scattered around society.”
» Read article       
» Read Published Investigation (English)

» More about climate           

CLEAN ENERGY

COVID-19 threatens renewables
For Wind and Solar Sectors, Biggest Coronavirus Risk May Be a Damaged Economy
It seemed that nothing could slow the global renewable-energy juggernaut. Nothing, that is, until COVID-19.
By Karl-Erik Stromsta, Green Tech Media
March 15, 2020

It seemed that nothing could slow the global renewable-energy juggernaut. Nothing, that is, until COVID-19.

From the solar factory floors of China’s Jiangsu province to wind farm country in West Texas, the clean-energy industries are struggling to gauge the potential damage that lies ahead — and it’s not a pretty picture.

Late last week, Bloomberg New Energy Finance lowered its 2020 global solar demand forecast to a range of 108 to 143 gigawatts — a drop of 9 percent at the low end compared to the market researcher’s prior estimate. That could mean the first down year for global solar installations since the 1980s.

Jenny Chase, BNEF’s head of solar, said the issue of equipment supply seems to be sorting itself out as China’s factories rumble back into production.

“We think there will be a recession,” Chase said on Friday, and the implications could spell trouble for solar manufacturers. “In general, this is a sector of companies that are heavily indebted and making slim margins.”

In the U.S., the world’s second-largest renewables market after China, the biggest immediate threat from COVID-19 is to the wind industry, which was otherwise on track for a record year of installations.

2020 is critical because it’s the last year for developers to complete projects that qualified for the full production tax credit (PTC), the industry’s main subsidy. As a result, the industry was already expected to be pushed beyond its limits this year. Wood Mackenzie previously warned of many U.S. wind projects “at risk” of missing the 2020 deadline, threatening their underlying economics.
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Could the Oil Price Collapse Drive More Investment Into Renewables?
Oil companies have long argued that renewables projects offer lower returns. “That argument no longer holds at $35 per barrel.”
By John Parnell Green Tech Media
March 13, 2020

Low oil prices will test the resolve of the majors’ energy transition plans, but analysts expect the companies’ long-term commitments to decarbonization and renewable energy to remain intact.

A dispute between Russia and Saudi Arabia has sent a flood of cheap oil and gas into global markets just as the COVID-19 pandemic is stifling demand.

This market dislocation comes at a time when European oil majors including Shell, Total, Repsol and BP are embarking seriously down a path toward emission reductions and the diversification of their businesses into renewables, e-mobility and other energy services.

Oil companies have been notoriously slow in pivoting their businesses toward cleaner energy sources. Will the current market storm change that? Might it even accelerate the transition?
» Read article

interconnection queue
Wind, solar and storage take up 95% of ISO-New England interconnection queue, marking ‘dramatic shift’
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
March 9, 2020

About 95% of nearly 21 GW of energy resources currently proposed for the New England region are grid-scale wind, solar and battery projects, according to the Independent System Operator of New England (ISO-NE).

The number “reflects a dramatic shift” in the grid operator’s interconnnection queue, ISO-NE president and CEO Gordon van Welie said in a press call on Friday. Five years ago, the majority of projects sought by developers were natural gas resources, he said.
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CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

three states boost EVsFlorida, Utah, Washington approve bills to boost EVs, including $50M Rocky Mountain Power charging plan
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
March 16, 2020

State lawmakers took significant steps last week to bolster adoption of emissions-free transportation, in moves that could result in millions of dollars in charging infrastructure investment and more electric vehicles on the road.

Emissions benefits would be “maximized” if PacifiCorp reduces its reliance on coal-fired power plants and adds more renewable energy, “so those electric vehicles could be charged on a clean electricity grid,” Aaron Kressig, Western Resource Advocates’ transportation electrification manager, said in a statement.

PacifiCorp last year announced a plan to add nearly 7,000 MW of renewable generation and storage capacity by 2025 and shut down 20 of its 24 coal-fired units by 2038.
» Read article

EV tax credit threat
Oil Industry Front Group Launches Latest Attack on Electric Vehicle Tax Credit in Senate Energy Bill
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
March 13, 202
0

As this week the U.S. Senate tries to advance stalled bipartisan energy legislation, the American Energy Alliance (AEA) last week announced its latest initiative opposing any tax credit extension for electric vehicles (EV) in that bill.

Through a series of digital ads, the group, which receives a substantial share of its donations from an oil refinery trade group, is calling on Senate Republicans to squash a proposed amendment expanding the number of vehicles eligible for the credit.
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» More about clean transportation      

ENERGY STORAGE

module-level micro-storage
Yotta Energy is putting batteries under solar modules — in the same spirit as microinverters and optimizers
Yotta has a potential solution for solar-plus-storage in the urban environment. Will the micro-storage startup become the next SolarEdge or Enphase? Or the next JLM energy? And whatever happened to SolPad?
By Eric Wesoff, PV Magazine
February 18, 2020

Ten years ago, the idea of putting a microinverter or optimizer behind a rooftop solar panel was a bit of a reliability stretch. Today, module-level panel electronics warrants its own acronym and enjoys an 80% percent market share in the U.S. residential solar market.

Yotta Energy believes batteries are headed in the same direction — to module-level micro-storage — and is deploying a 52-pound, 1 kW-hr lithium iron-phosphate battery on the same solar module racking gear that holds the ballast.
» Read article       

» More about energy storage    

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Exxon Loses Jurisdiction Fight in Massachusetts Climate Suit
By Erik Larson, Bloomberg Green
March 17, 2020

Exxon Mobil Corp. suffered a setback in a climate change case when a federal judge ruled that a consumer protection lawsuit filed by Massachusetts should go back to state court.

U.S. District Judge William G. Young in Boston on Tuesday ordered the litigation back to Suffolk County Superior Court, where Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey sued in October. The state accused the energy giant of hiding its early knowledge of climate change from the public and misleading investors about the future financial impact of global warming.
» Read article

» More about fossil fuels   

PLASTICS RECYCLING

gasification graphic
Is turning waste plastic into fuel the answer to our waste management and energy woes? Probably not…
By Steve Ahlquist, Uprise RI
March 13, 2020

The first meeting of the “Special Legislative Commission to Study the Merits and Feasibility of a Pyrolysis or Gasification Facility in the State of Rhode Island” took place at the Rhode Island State House on Wednesday.

Presenting at the first meeting was Craig Cookson, Senior Director Recycling and Recovery at the American Chemistry Council and Kevin Budris, a lawyer from Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) Rhode Island who heads up the Zero Waste Project.

Cookson’s presentation painted a very rosy picture of pyrolysis and gasification, Budris called into question or debunked nearly all of Cookson’s arguments.

Cookson argued that waste plastic, which is overwhelming our landfills, can best be dealt with by using pyrolysis to convert these plastics into liquid fuels, which can then be burned to power motor vehicles or satisfy other energy needs. Budris disagreed, saying that, “the best way to move away from waste plastics isn’t to find new, creative things to do with them once they become waste, it’s to just move away from them.”

Budris took issue with Cookson’s assertion that plastics are part of a “circular economy.”

“What we’re talking about here is producing fuels from plastics through gasification,” said Budris, countering Cookson. “Producing fuels from plastic is not a circular economy. That’s linear. You have plastic that moves through its life, it’s turned into fuel, and that fuel is burned. That is a one way street.
» Read article

» More about plastics recycling   

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