Tag Archives: mining

Weekly News Check-In 1/7/22

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Welcome back.

Let’s kick it off with a conversation with Holly Jean Buck, author of “Ending Fossil Fuels / Why Net Zero Is Not Enough”. Ms. Buck cuts through industry fog to illuminate false solutions like “low carbon” fuels and carbon capture, and guides us across the slippery terrain of “net zero” world toward a future with very low total emissions.

Also cutting through the fog – and now with a supportive court decision – are journalists investigating Energy Transfer’s use of private security firm TigerSwan in 2016 to counter the Indigenous-led movement against construction of the Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock.

Changes are coming as we green the economy, and the California port of Humboldt is working hard to transform itself into a 21st century hub for offshore wind power. Also changing: the ubiquitous American gas station.

As snow falls in the Berkshires and with a sub-zero chill on the way, let’s recalibrate with a study published in the journal Climate that shows New England warming faster than anywhere else on the planet. The region has already surpassed the Paris Climate Agreement threshold of 1.5°C, and we should expect significant ecological and economic challenges as a result.

Massachusetts recently experienced a couple big setbacks to its clean energy plans, and the Baker administration just finalized new solar and electric truck initiatives intended to help get the state back on track. Meanwhile, Vermont is attempting to increase its rate of home weatherization projects over the next decade, and is coordinating with existing training programs to ensure a supply of skilled workers.

In the near future, your electric vehicle may double as your home’s battery storage for emergency backup power and demand management, so a new generation of chargers is arriving to manage all those electrons flowing between solar panels, your vehicle, your home, and the grid. Meanwhile, smart meters are helping to modernize that grid, allowing for increased efficiencies and time-of-use billing.

Everyone who’s paying attention understands that the transition to green energy presents substantial environmental risks along with the obvious benefits. Mining probably represents the greatest negative impact, so it’s good to start seeing articles that indicate a growing awareness of the need for better planning and stronger regulations. Meanwhile, the world continues to stumble toward a truly frightening precipice that marks the onset of deep-seabed mining.

We’ll wrap up with two stories: news that Nova Scotia appears to have pulled away the welcome mat from a number of large fossil fuel projects, followed by a detailed report on how Europe’s continued reliance on biomass is devastating forests in the U.S. Southeast.

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

— The NFGiM Team

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Holly Jean Buck
‘Net-zero is not enough’: A new book explains how to end fossil fuels
Sociologist Holly Buck wants you to know that fossil fuel phaseout isn’t a “fringe” idea.
By Emily Pontecorvo, Grist
December 22, 2021

In just a couple of years, “net-zero” pledges have become the gold standard of climate action. According to one online tracker, more than 4,000 governments and companies around the world have pledged to go net-zero. But as the concept has caught on, it has invited fierce backlash from climate advocates who worry that it is malleable to the point of meaninglessness.

In her new book, Ending Fossil Fuels: Why Net Zero is Not Enough, sociologist Holly Jean Buck explains how striving for net-zero emissions opens up a wide range of possible futures, some of which could include lots of oil and gas. Buck argues that in addition to focusing on emissions, climate policy should be directed at phasing out fossil fuels.

A net-zero pledge is a promise to achieve a state of equilibrium. It implies that any planet-warming emissions you dump into the atmosphere will be offset by actions to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. In theory, if the whole world achieved this balance, the planet would stop heating up. But Buck writes that the phrase creates ambiguity that can be exploited by policymakers and corporate interests.

Focusing on net-zero could lead us toward a “near-zero emissions” world powered by renewable energy, or it could also lead us toward a “cleaner fossil world” where we continue burning oil and gas and build a vast network of infrastructure to capture the resulting carbon and bury or reuse it. Indeed, companies and policymakers are already promising to produce “lower carbon” fossil fuels. The U.S. Department of Energy has a new Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management focused entirely on meeting climate goals while minimizing the environmental impacts of fossil fuels.

Buck concedes that this cleaner fossil fuel future is technically possible but argues that ending fossil fuels is more desirable, with benefits for human health and the potential to rebalance power, restore democracy, and end corruption. The book is a guide for anyone who agrees and wants to fight for this version of the future.
» Read article               

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

veterans confront policeJudge Rules Against Pipeline Company Trying to Keep “Counterinsurgency” Records Secret
In a legal fight over public records, press advocates say that Dakota Access pipeline company Energy Transfer engaged in “abusive litigation tactics.”
By Alleen Brown, The Intercept
January 6, 2022

Last week, a North Dakota court ruled against a bid by the oil company Energy Transfer to keep documents about its security contractor’s operations against anti-pipeline activism secret. The court thwarted the pipeline giant’s attempt to narrow the definition of a public record and withhold thousands of documents from the press. Judge Cynthia Feland ruled that Energy Transfer’s contract with the security firm TigerSwan cannot prevent the state’s private security licensing board from sharing these records with The Intercept, refusing to accept the company’s attempt to exempt the records from open government laws.

“This is the first opinion that I’ve been aware of that’s made it clear that when you give records to a public entity like this private investigation board, they become public records,” said Jack McDonald, attorney for the North Dakota Newspaper Association. “What relationship there was between Energy Transfer and TigerSwan — that doesn’t affect the records.”

The North Dakota case revolves around 16,000 documents that an administrative law judge forced TigerSwan to hand over to the state’s Private Investigation and Security Board in the summer of 2020 as part of discovery in a lawsuit accusing the company of operating without a security license. TigerSwan was hired by Energy Transfer in September 2016 to lead its security response to the Indigenous-led movement to stop construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, or DAPL, at the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
» Read article               

» More about protests and actions

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Humboldt vision
As the Biden Administration Eyes Wind Leases Off California’s Coast, the Port of Humboldt Sees Opportunity
The administration wants to sell its first lease in 2022, and a new bill in California requires a plan. Some in Humboldt have been waiting years for this moment to arrive.
By Emma Foehringer Merchant, Inside Climate News
January 5, 2022

In the early 20th century, the U.S. Census Bureau declared Humboldt County, California—now famous for its redwoods—the “principal center” of the state’s lumber industry. In 1900, the product accounted for nearly 60 percent of the region’s exports.

But now, though lumber yards and wood suppliers still line Humboldt Bay, the industry is a shadow of its former self.

“You look at old photographs of Humboldt Bay from back then and there’s mills everywhere, pulp mills and ships and docks,” said Matthew Marshall, executive director of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority. “As that retracted there’s a lot of available land and waterfront …. So, there’s a big opportunity.”

The Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA)—a power organization formed by the County of Humboldt and Northern Californian cities such as Trinidad and Eureka—has been working for years to prepare for that opportunity. In 2018, RCEA submitted an unsolicited application to the U.S. Department of the Interior in hopes of building wind energy in waters just west of Humboldt Bay.

That bid helped gain the attention of offshore wind players across the world. Many drew up plans to build off California’s coast. The U.S. government floated several places where wind projects could work. So far, progress in the state has been halting. Meanwhile, the East Coast built pilot projects, crafted designs for offshore wind hubs, and started to build out its ports.
» Read article               

out of service
What Does the Future Hold for the American Gas Station?
The end of the gas car will eventually leave 100,000 stations behind.
By Dan Farber, Legal Planet | Blog
January 3, 2022

Gas stations have been fixtures in our world for a century or more. There are even books of photos of picturesque gas stations, some futuristic, others quaint. We’re transitioning into a world dominated by electric vehicles. What does the future hold for these icons of the fossil fuel era?

There are now about a hundred thousand  gas stations in the U.S. A majority are owned by operators with only one station, making them quintessential small businesses. They don’t actually make a lot of money selling gas. The margin over wholesale prices is about twenty cents a gallon, but the actual profit is only a fraction of that. The real money is in the convenience store inside the gas station. In other words, selling gas is in large part just a way of getting people into the store.

It’s going to take time to phase out gas powered cars even after EVs take over the new car market, which means the business of selling gas isn’t going to disappear overnight. Replacing diesel for heavy trucks may take even longer, especially on long-haul routes. That means that the gas business won’t disappear overnight, but obviously there’s going to be sharply declining demand.

All that means that the future of current gas stations is likely to be as convenience stores.  Older stations are often on small lots that will need to be expanded for  profitable stores. However, stations often sit on corner lots at major intersections, making them prime retail spots.

Still, reuse is going to be a major issue. In Canada, for instance, there are said to be thousands of former gas stations that haven’t been redeveloped because of clean-up costs. We may be able to learn from efforts there and in Norway, which is banning new fossil-fuel cars only a few years from now.

There are lessons to be drawn from the gas station example. One is about the need to deal with the leftover damage of the fossil fuel era — not just contaminated soil at gas stations, but emissions from old wells, refineries, and storage sites. We’re likely to be dealing with those problems for years after gasoline motors are gone.
» Read article               

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

MA coastline - ISS view
New England is warming faster than the rest of the planet, new study finds
By David Abel, Boston Globe
December 30, 2021

New England is warming significantly faster than global average temperatures, and that rate is expected to accelerate as more greenhouse gases are pumped into the atmosphere and dangerous cycles of warming exacerbate climate change, according to a new study.

The authors of the scientific paper, which was published in the most recent edition of the journal Climate, analyzed temperature data over more than a century across the six New England states and documented how winters are becoming shorter and summers longer, jeopardizing much of the region’s unique ecology, economy, and cultural heritage.

The warming in the region already has exceeded a threshold set by the Paris Climate Accord, in which nearly 200 nations agreed to cut their emissions in an effort to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. If global temperatures exceed that amount, the damage from intensifying storms, rising sea levels, droughts, forest fires, and other natural disasters is likely to be catastrophic, scientists say.

With New England’s annual temperatures expected to rise sharply in the coming decades, the authors of the study said the region should expect major disruptions to its economy, including coastal waters that will become increasingly inhospitable to iconic species such as cod and lobster; fewer days when skiing and other winter recreation will be possible; less maple syrup and other agricultural products produced; and a range of other consequences.
» Read article               
» Read the study

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

blue array
Baker approves solar, truck emission initiatives
Moves follow setbacks on transportation, hydroelectricity
By Matt Murphy and Colin A. Young, Statehouse News Service, in CommonWealth Magazine
January 3, 2022

With two of its key climate change policies dead or near-dead, the Baker administration approved two initiatives last week to incentivize the development of solar power and expand the use of zero emission vehicles.

The Department of Public Utilities finalized on Thursday a long-delayed regulatory process for a solar incentive program expected to yield 3,200 megawatts of power, double the size of the existing program. And on the same day the Department of Environmental Protection adopted California regulations requiring a faster adoption rate for zero emission light and heavy-duty trucks.

Both initiatives come after the administration’s Transportation Climate Initiative was declared dead after it failed to gain traction with states in the northeast and a Massachusetts-financed power line bringing hydroelectricity from Quebec was shot down by voters in Maine.

The DEP estimates the total cost of the solar expansion to be $3.6 billion over the next 25 years, which is considerably less per megawatt hour than previous solar incentive programs.

Under the order issued by the Department of Public Utilities, the state’s three private utilities — Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil — have until January 14 to submit proposals for how the newly approved funding for the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target, or SMART, program will be recovered from ratepayers.

Solar advocates hailed the decision, but said the long delay in moving ahead set the industry back. The SMART program launched in 2018 and was expanded to 3,200 megawatts in 2020, but final approval bogged down amid negotiations with the utilities over tariff rates.

Also on Thursday, the Department of Environmental Protection filed emergency regulations and amendments to immediately adopt California’s Advanced Clean Trucks policy, which requires an increasing percentage of trucks sold between model year 2025 and model year 2035 to be zero-emissions vehicles.
» Read article               

mislabeled
Fury as EU moves ahead with plans to label gas and nuclear as ‘green’
Brussels faces backlash and charges of greenwashing after publishing draft proposals on New Year’s Eve
By Jennifer Rankin, The Guardian
January 3, 2022

The European Commission is facing a furious backlash over plans to allow gas and nuclear to be labelled as “green” investments, as Germany’s economy minister led the charge against “greenwashing”.

The EU executive was accused of trying to bury the proposals by releasing long-delayed technical rules on its green investment guidebook to diplomats on New Year’s Eve, hours before a deadline expired.

The draft proposals seen by the Guardian would allow gas and nuclear to be included in the EU “taxonomy of environmentally sustainable economic activities”, subject to certain conditions.

The taxonomy is a classification system intended to direct billions to clean-energy projects to meet the EU goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

Robert Habeck, who became the economy and climate action minister last month as part of a traffic-light coalition of Social Democrats, business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) and Greens, said the plans “water down the good label for sustainability”. Habeck, a co-leader of the Greens, also told the German press agency dpa it was “questionable whether this greenwashing will even find acceptance on the financial market”.

Austria’s government repeated its threat to sue the commission if the plans go ahead. Leonore Gewessler, the country’s climate action minister, said neither gas nor nuclear belonged in the taxonomy “because they are harmful to the climate and the environment and destroy the future of our children”.
» Read article               

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

worker drills holes
Vermont aims to weatherize 90,000 homes this decade. Can it find enough workers to finish the job?
A new initiative aims to boost and coordinate existing workforce training programs in hopes of preparing thousands of workers in the coming years to meet the state’s mandatory climate targets.
By David Thill, Energy News Network
January 6, 2022

A group of lawmakers, advocates and nonprofit leaders hopes to hash out a plan in the coming months to help Vermont build the workforce it needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years.

The initiative, one of the winning pitches at a recent competition hosted by the nonprofit Energy Action Network, aims to reduce barriers to creating Vermont’s “climate workforce,” covering the clean energy and conservation sectors. This could include coordinating training programs and aligning them more directly with employment opportunities, as well as launching a marketing campaign to build interest in working in the clean energy sector.

Vermont’s climate targets, which are legally binding under the 2020 Global Warming Solutions Act, include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26% from 2005 levels by 2025 and by 40% from 1990 levels by 2030.

Like other states, progress in Vermont will largely depend on electrifying the transportation and building sectors and weatherizing homes so they use less energy for heating. The state’s recently released Climate Plan — commissioned as part of the 2020 law — calls for another 90,000 homes to be weatherized in Vermont by 2030, in addition to the roughly 30,000 that have been weatherized in recent decades.

“That takes people,” said Gabrielle Stebbins, a state representative and senior consultant at Energy Futures Group, and one of two co-chairs on the new initiative. “And that takes people being trained in the near term so that we can get those folks out and working in the near term” to meet emissions targets.
» Read article               

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

wallbox
American households might use EVs as backup power with this bidirectional charger

By Stephen Edelstein, Clean Car Reports
January 5, 2022

At the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Wallbox Industries will unveil its second-generation bidirectional home charging station for the North American market.

Like its predecessor, the Wallbox Quasar 2 can draw power from an EV’s battery pack, allowing the car to serve as an emergency backup power source for homes. Bidirectional charging effectively turns electric cars into energy-storage units, giving homeowners more flexibility in energy use, Wallbox said in a press release.

Homeowners can also schedule charging sessions when electricity rates are low, store that power in their EV, and discharge it to power their homes when electricity rates are higher. Those with home solar installations can also store excess energy in an EV and use it during peak-rate periods, the company claims.

The Quasar 2 provides up to 11.5 kilowatts of power, and is compatible with the Combined Charging Standard (CCS) used by most new EVs. It connects to a dedicated app via WiFi, Bluetooth, a 4G data connection, or Ethernet.

Several automakers have announced bidirectional charging as a built-in feature for new EVs.
» Read article               

» More about energy storage

MODERNIZING THE GRID

foundational AMI
US smart meter penetration hits 65%, expanding utility demand response resources: analysts
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
December 21, 2021

As of 2020, about 65% of electricity meters across the United States had “smart” capabilities including integrated data processing and two-way communications, according to Guidehouse Senior Research Analyst Michael Kelly. The penetration of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) has been steadily growing by about 4-5% annually since 2016, he said.

Utilities are headed towards about 90% AMI uptake by the end of the decade, though penetration varies by type, according to Guidehouse data. Cooperative utilities have about 78% smart meters on their systems, while investor-owned utilities sit around 65% and public power companies at 55%.

Smart meters are a foundational part of the energy transition and can help transform electric vehicle (EV) and building electrification efforts into flexible grid resources. Tens of millions of older meters remain on the grid, and the full transition will take more than a decade, but Kelly said progress on replacing them has been steady for years.

“The only kind of barrier would be on the regulatory side,” said Kelly. And increasingly, regulators are seeing the value of AMI, he added.
» Read article               

» More about modernizing the grid

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLES

Hells Kitchen Lithium2021 was the year clean energy finally faced its mining problem
A clean energy revolution will hinge on getting mining right
By Justine Calma, The Verge
December 29, 2021

This year, the clean energy sector finally started grappling in earnest with one of its biggest challenges: how to get enough minerals to build solar panels, wind turbines, and big batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage. Figuring that out will be critical for escaping fossil-fueled ecological disaster. It’ll also be crucial for policymakers and industry to move forward without throwing certain communities under the bus in the transition to clean energy.

Instead of cutting through landscapes with oil and gas wells and pipelines, clean energy industries and their suppliers will open up the Earth to hunt for critical minerals like lithium, cobalt, and copper. Compared to a gas-fired power plant, an onshore wind turbine requires nine times more mineral resources, according to the International Energy Agency. Building an EV requires six times more minerals than a gas-powered car.

It’s about time to scrutinize what that hunger for minerals might cause, given the recent boom in pledges from countries and companies alike to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions. Digging up the necessary minerals is already proving to be a minefield. Protests are popping up at proposed mines that no one really wants in their backyard. The conflicts that cropped up in 2021 are just the beginning of a challenging road ahead.
» Read article               

» More about siting impacts of renewables

CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE

CCS vapor
Plans to capture CO2 from coal plants wasted federal dollars, watchdog says
The DOE funded projects that never came to fruition
By Justine Calma, The Verge
December 30, 2021

The Biden administration wants to shove more money into projects that are supposed to capture CO2 emissions from power plants and industrial facilities before they can escape and heat up the planet. But carbon capture technologies that the Department of Energy has already supported in the name of tackling climate change have mostly fallen flat, according to a recent report by the watchdog Government Accountability Office.

About $1.1 billion has flowed from the Department of Energy to carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration projects since 2009. Had they panned out, nine coal plants and industrial facilities would have been outfitted with devices that scrub most of the CO2 out of their emissions. Once captured, the CO2 can be sent via pipelines to underground storage in geologic formations.

That’s not what happened. The DOE doled out $684 million to coal six coal plants, but only one of them actually got built and started operating before shuttering in 2020. Of the three separate industrial facilities that received $438 million, just two got off the ground. Without more accountability, “DOE may risk expending significant taxpayer funds on CCS demonstrations that have little likelihood of success,” the GAO says.
» Read article               
» Read the GAO report

» More about carbon capture and storage

DEEP-SEABED MINING

driving blind
Mining the Bottom of the Sea
The future of the largest, still mostly untouched ecosystem in the world is at risk.
By Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker
December 26, 2021

It’s rare that a tiny country like Nauru gets to determine the course of world events. But, for tangled reasons, this rare event is playing out right now. If Nauru has its way, enormous bulldozers could descend on the largest, still mostly untouched ecosystem in the world—the seafloor—sometime within the next few years. Hundreds of marine scientists have signed a statement warning that this would be an ecological disaster resulting in damage “irreversible on multi-­generational timescales.”

Nauru, which is home to ten thousand people and occupies an eight-square-mile island northeast of Papua New Guinea, acquired its outsized influence owing to an obscure clause of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS. Under ­UNCLOS, most of the seabed—an area of roughly a hundred million square miles—is considered the “common heritage of mankind.” This vast area is administered by a group called the International Seabed Authority, which is based in Kingston, Jamaica.

Large swaths of the seabed are covered with potentially mineable—and potentially extremely valuable—metals, in the form of blackened lumps called polymetallic nodules. For decades, companies have been trying to figure out how to mine these nodules; so far, though, they’ve been able to do only exploratory work. Permits for actual mining can’t be granted until the I.S.A. comes up with a set of regulations governing the process, a task it’s been working on for more than twenty years.

Marine scientists argue that the potential costs of deep-ocean mining outweigh the benefits. They point out that the ocean floor is so difficult to access that most of its inhabitants are probably still unknown, and their significance to the functioning of the oceans is ill-understood. In the meantime, seabed mining, which would take place in complete darkness, thousands of feet under water, will, they say, be almost impossible to monitor. In September, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which compiles the “red list” of endangered species, called for a global moratorium on deep-sea mining. The group issued a statement raising concerns that “bio­diversity loss will be inevitable if deep-sea mining is permitted to occur,” and “that the consequences for ocean ecosystem function are unknown.”
» Read article               

» More about deep-seabed mining

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

going bust
Why Nova Scotia’s fossil fuel energy megaprojects are going bust
Changing attitudes, financial hurdles posed challenges for troubled projects
By Frances Willick, CBC News
January 2, 2022

Several of Nova Scotia’s energy megaprojects have fizzled in recent months and years, and some say the societal shift toward renewables is the reason.

AltaGas, the company with a plan to store up to 10 billion cubic feet of natural gas in underground caverns, announced in October it was pulling the plug on the project due to the “repositioning of the business and the challenging nature of the storage project economics.”

In July, Pieridae Energy announced it would not proceed with its proposal to build a processing plant and export facility for liquefied natural gas in Goldboro, Guysborough County, citing cost pressures and time constraints.

The future of the Bear Head LNG project, a proposal to bring in natural gas to Port Hawkesbury from Western Canada or the U.S., and then export it to Europe, is uncertain after the company behind the project tried to sell it last year.

The province’s offshore oil and gas future looks less than rosy after a call for exploration bids this year yielded no interest.

Last year, the Donkin coal mine — which produced both thermal coal for electricity generation and metallurgical coal for steelmaking — closed permanently, with the company blaming geological conditions in the underground mine.

Jennifer Tuck, the CEO of the Maritimes Energy Association, said the industry’s transition away from fossil fuels is affecting the energy landscape in Nova Scotia.

“Focus on climate change, achieving global emissions reductions targets, all of those things, I think, make it challenging in the fossil fuel sector,” she said.

Tuck said investment funds have been pulling out of funding oil and gas projects, and federal policy changes are focusing more on clean energies and technologies.

Community and global resistance to fossil fuels also likely played a role in the demise of some of Nova Scotia’s energy megaprojects, said Noreen Mabiza, an energy co-ordinator at the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax.

“It is definitely a factor, not a factor to be ignored,” said Mabiza. “People have been on the ground for years saying they don’t want these sorts of projects.”
» Read article               

» More about fossil fuels

BIOMASS

SouthEast wood pellet plants
How Burning Wood Pellets in Europe Is Harming the U.S. South
A globe-trotting tale of questionable renewable standards, market-driven forest management, and shaky carbon accounting.
By Jake Dean, Slate
January 3, 2022

In November, world leaders arrived to the city of Glasgow, Scotland, in a fleet of carbon-emitting private jets for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly known as COP26. And while COP26 president Alok Sharma called the agreements reached there “historic” in an interview with NPR, many feel the achievements were woefully underwhelming.

Indigenous groups around the world lamented the bureaucracy and structural barriers minimizing their participation, with groups like the Hoopa tribe in California and the Mexican collective Futuros Indígenas decrying the COP26 deal as a failure on climate action. Climate and earth science experts noted that even with provisions and national commitments in the updated deal, the world will almost certainly miss the 1.5 degree Celsius warming target. Even Sharma himself apologized for having to change the language on coal from “phasing out” to “phasing down.”

Among other things, COP26 failed to address biomass energy, which many European nations have relied on as a “renewable energy” source. At best, that terminology is a semantic stretch. At worst, it’s greenwashing a dirty fuel at the worst possible moment. One thing is for certain: Biomass has fueled quite the controversy.

Biomass energy comes from organic material like waste crops and animal manure—but it’s mostly wood burned in the form of compressed particle pellets. It’s not super common in the U.S.: According to U.S. Energy Information Administration statistics, biomass energy (again, mostly made from wood) represented roughly 5 percent of total domestic primary energy use during 2020. But the Build Back Better Act passed by the House of Representatives would support increasing its use. It’s already more common across the Atlantic: Biomass energy is the second-largest source of renewable electricity in the U.K., having provided 12 percent of its electricity in 2020. Woody biomass accounts for more than half of the European Union’s renewable energy sources. And a lot of that wood is coming from the Southeastern U.S.
» Blog editor’s note: If Build Back Better ever passes with provisions to increase the use of biomass energy, we guarantee that legions of environmental groups will quickly act to remove it.
» Read article               

» More about biomass

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Weekly News Check-In 5/7/21

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Welcome back.

Out here in the Berkshires, we’re working to raise awareness of health and emissions problems associated with fossil fueled peaking power plants. We’re focused on replacing our existing peakers with a combination of battery storage, renewable energy, and energy efficiency measures. Meanwhile, our friends on Boston’s north shore are mounting a similar effort to avoid construction of a new gas plant in Peabody. Plans for that progressed quietly for six years, and largely flew under the radar until very recently.

The struggle to retire/replace/avoid natural gas peakers provides an excellent segue into the murky world of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Every transaction requires a massive amount of computation, and huge banks of computers are humming away right now to handle that traffic. Annual energy consumption to support cryptocurrencies surpasses that of the entire country of Sweden – and that will only rise as the value and utilization of these currencies increases. Devoting massive amounts of electric energy (no matter how it’s generated) to supporting electronic currencies runs counter to climate mitigation efforts. New York state, host to a growing number of cryptocurrency computing centers, is considering placing a 3-year moratorium on “crypto mining” while it studies whether it can support these currencies while still meeting its emissions targets.

We have an update on state-level efforts to criminalize protests, and also a good article explaining the history, current status, and potential future of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Recall that courageous and sustained resistance at Standing Rock in 2016-17, largely by indigenous people, raised awareness and rallied popular opposition to this and other pipelines. Republican-dominated state legislatures (backed by the fossil fuel industry) responded with a growing arsenal of draconian laws aimed at raising the stakes for people and organizations who engage in civil action – in the form of steep fines and long prison sentences.

Like it or not, greening the economy is going to require a lot of mining. Projected demand for minerals like lithium, silicon, copper, and aluminum outpace our rate of acquisition. Meanwhile, we’re learning that some of our schemes to benefit the climate are under-performing. Forest carbon offsets involve tricky accounting, and a new California study exposes some of the pitfalls. Lesson: there’s no substitute for actually not burning stuff.

EV enthusiasts are impatiently awaiting the arrival of solid state batteries, and expect them to seriously juice the potential for clean transportation. This article explains the technology, why it’s causing so much buzz, and why you can’t have it for a while.

Notes from the fossil fuel industry include Joe Nolan’s promotion to CEO of Eversource, New England’s largest utility. Congratulations, Mr. Nolan. We’re encouraged that you spent 25 years expanding Eversource’s renewable energy portfolio – which sounds better if we ignore the fact that the utility scored public relations points off that program while it worked even harder to expand sales of natural gas. And we open this section with an article exposing Eversource’s leadership in an industry effort fight electrification and lock in natural gas consumption for years to come.

We close with a strange, developing biomass story from the western Massachusetts town of Ashfield. Seems like California-based Clean Energy Technologies (CETY) plans to build a high temperature ablative fast pyrolysis reactor in town as a first step to other, similar-but-larger facilities elsewhere in the region. A press release indicated town support, which surprised town officials who knew nothing about the plans….

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

— The NFGiM Team

PEAKING POWER PLANTS

Pittsfield-Generating-Power-Plant
Letter: Keep clean air a priority as Pittsfield ‘peaker plant’ is up for permit
By Susan Purser, Becket, in The Berkshire Eagle
May 4, 2021


To the editor: Currently, we have a chance to improve the air quality in Pittsfield especially on very hot or cold days.

Pittsfield Generating, a “peaker plant” on Merrill Road, provides electricity during periods of very high power demand. Unfortunately, this plant is an old facility and is quite polluting to the surrounding neighborhoods of Morningside and Allendale when it runs a few times a year.

The Pittsfield Generating is up for renewal of its air quality permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection in the next few months. This is an excellent opportunity to bring this plant into the 21st century with a combination of solar, battery storage and conservation, or, if needed, to be shut down. An upgrade to the plant not only provides for cleaner air but continues the flow of revenue from the plant to the city of Pittsfield.

There will be a DEP public hearing regarding the permit soon. Residents of Pittsfield are strongly encouraged to attend or submit comments.

Further information will be available at tinyurl.com/PeakerPermit. In addition, please sign the peaker petition at tinyurl.com/PeakerPetition.

We all deserve cleaner air to breathe. Let’s make that happen.
» Read letter        

electric meters
North Shore Officials, Peabody Light Spar Over Proposed Gas Plant
Officials cite resident safety and environmental concerns, while Peabody Light said the plant is needed to meet surge capacity requirements.
By Scott Souza, Patch
May 6, 2021

PEABODY, MA —Growing environmental and quality-of-life concerns surrounding a proposed gas power plant in Peabody are in conflict with the Peabody Municipal Light Plant’s insistence that the plant is necessary to meet surge capacity requirements.

The long-proposed plant moved forward in relative obscurity until recent months when advocacy groups began to publicize the project and both residents and elected officials started questioning whether the congested city is right for the plant they say is in conflict with the state’s new climate law.

In a recent letter to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, State Rep. Sally Kerans (D-Danvers) said the Waters River substation location near the Peabody and Danvers line already encompasses several “environmental burdens,” including Route 128, a propane company, a pipeline.

“The plan before you is for a gas turbine that can rev up to full capacity in 10 minutes, a new 200,000(-gallon) oil tank, a smokestack, an ammonia storage (container), among several components,” she wrote. “All of these bring to mind legitimate concerns about the impact on our environment and our health.”

She also questioned whether renewal energies have been [exhaustively considered] as an alternative to the new plant and why there has been so little public input allowed in the five years of the proposal’s development.
» Read letter        

stealthy
Peabody power plant plans caught city off-guard
By Erin Nolan, The Salem News
May 4, 2021

PEABODY — About three weeks ago, Councilor-at-Large Jon Turco received a notice about a public hearing related to the building of a new gas-powered plant in the city. He thought it was a new project.

“I read through it, and truthfully I thought, ‘this must be in the beginning phases of a project, so let me learn about this,’” he said about the three-page document informing him of an upcoming Department of Public Utilities meeting. “Then through that meeting, I learned this was taking place since 2017 and had been voted on by our Light Plant. Yet there had been no correspondence from the Light Plant to the council, no correspondence from the state to the council, even though I believe this a project which will have an impact on Ward 3 in Peabody.”

Turco isn’t alone. Other local and state elected officials said they weren’t aware of the years-old plans to build a 60-megawatt power plant at Peabody Municipal Light Plant’s Waters River substation, behind the Pulaski Street industrial park. But both the Light Plant and the organization which would operate the plant said there were no attempts to keep the project secret from public officials or Peabody residents.

The plans to build the plant, which would be owned and operated by Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company, were unanimously approved by the light commission in 2017.

“There are 11 members of the City Council and all or all but a few were completely caught off guard,” Turco said. “That is a problem, because we were elected to represent these people.”
» Read article               

» More about peaker plants

CRYPTOCURRENCY

Greenidge Generation Holdings
As bitcoin mining hooks into Upstate NY power plants, some wonder if it’s just more hot air
By Glenn Coin, Syracuse.com
May 5, 2021

Syracuse, N.Y. – By next year, owners of a gas-fired power plant on Seneca Lake hope to be producing enough electricity to power 85,000 homes.

But much of that electricity won’t turn on lights in living rooms. It will instead stay on site at the plant in Dresden, powering up to 27,000 computers that will run 24 hours a day to snag increasingly rare virtual currency called bitcoin.

The plant worries climate change activists, who say the extraordinary amount of energy consumed in what’s known as bitcoin mining will make it hard for New York to meet its aggressive climate change goals.

“We’re talking about burning more fossil fuels to make fake money in the middle of climate change, which we view as insane,” said Yvonne Taylor, vice president of the environmental group Seneca Lake Guardian.

The Greenidge Generation Holdings plant is part of a growing trend. Lucrative cryptocurrency centers gobble up huge amounts of energy, so much so that they take over power plants or old factories to use for themselves. Several have already set up shop in Upstate New York, where energy is cheap and cold weather reduces the cost of cooling thousands of computer processors, each of which emits as much heat as a 1,400-watt hair dryer.

New York will have to grapple with the surging demand of bitcoin mining if the state expects to slash greenhouse gas emissions, said Tristan Brown, a professor of sustainable resources management at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

“Bitcoin does raise some interesting questions,” Brown said. “Is this something we necessarily want to have contributing to our (electrical) demand? What type of value does it bring the state economically? That’s ultimately what state policy will have to determine.”

While those questions are being debated, state legislators in both houses have introduced bills to impose a three-year moratorium on cryptocurrency mining operations.

“This is literally the biggest environmental issue we’re facing,” said Assemblywoman Anna Kelles, D-Ithaca, who wrote and is sponsoring the moratorium bill in the Assembly. “If this does take over a lot of power plants, the greenhouse impact alone will counter all the work we’ve been doing. We need to understand it better.”
» Read article               

BitcoinCrypto mining ban considered in New York following environmental concerns
Cryptocurrency mining could be suspended in the state of New York
By Joel Khalili, TechRadar
May 6, 2021

The practice of cryptocurrency mining could be banned on environmental grounds in the state of New York after a new bill was placed under review.

Tabled by Democrat senator Kevin Parker, the bill seeks to establish a three-year moratorium on crypto mining, with the goal of preventing irreparable damage to the state’s sustainability ambitions.

The bill was referred to the Committee on Environmental Conservation on May 3 and, if passed, will require crypto miners to undergo an environmental impact review if they are to continue to operate.

“The continued and expanded operation of cryptocurrency mining centers will greatly increase the amount of energy usage in the State of New York and it is reasonable to believe the associated greenhouse gas emissions will irreparably harm compliance with the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.”

The recent surge in the price of cryptocurrencies has placed mining practices under the spotlight. One of the most common grievances with Bitcoin mining in particular has to do with the toll it takes on the environment.

Under the proof-of-work (PoW) system applied by Bitcoin and others like it, mining operations compete to solve complex mathematical problems. The first to do so earns the right to process a block of transactions, in exchange for transaction fees and newly minted cryptocurrency.

Although this system is crucial to maintaining and securing the Bitcoin network, the amount of energy used up by competing miners is astronomical. A recent report from the University of Cambridge claims that Bitcoin uses up more energy on an annual basis than the country of Sweden, at 141.91 TWh/year.
» Read article               

» More about cryptocurrency

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

bill mill
Montana, Kansas, and Arkansas enter the arms race to criminalize protest

The Republican push to criminalize pipeline protests is expanding beyond fossil fuel-producing states.
By Naveena Sadasivam, Grist
May 3, 2021

Montana will become the fourth state this year to pass legislation that increases penalties for trespass on properties with so-called “critical infrastructure” — a long list of facilities including pipelines, refineries, and other oil and gas equipment. The bill punishes those who “materially impede or inhibit operations” of an oil and gas facility with up to 18 months in prison and a fine of $4,500. Those who cause damage to critical infrastructure that costs more than $1,500 could face a jail term of up to 30 years. Kansas and Arkansas passed similar laws earlier this month, and in January Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed a bill that makes trespassing on oil and gas properties a misdemeanor punishable with up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.

In total, 15 states have enacted such laws since 2017, according to the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, a nonprofit civil liberties group that has been tracking anti-protest legislation. (Montana will be the sixteenth if the bill gets the governor’s signature.) The most common provisions in these bills include lengthening jail terms so they stretch anywhere between six months and several decades, raising fines to the tune of thousands of dollars, and financially penalizing groups that help organize protests resulting in trespass or damage of critical infrastructure. For instance, trespassing on property with a pipeline in Arkansas is now a Class D felony punishable with up to six years in prison; in contrast, a traditional criminal trespass charge has a maximum of one year of jail time.

“That’s an incredibly harsh and chilling penalty, particularly in the context of environmental protests which occur in or around construction sites for pipelines, where it’s unclear where property lines begin and end,” said Nicholas Robinson, a senior legal advisor with the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law. In cases where pipeline companies used eminent domain to seize land, the protesters arrested may be the very property owners who’ve been forced to sell access to their land.
» Read article               

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

blacksnake
Explainer: The Dakota Access Pipeline faces possible closure
By Stephanie Kelly and Devika Kumar, Reuters
May 4, 2021

A U.S. court could order the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) shut in coming weeks, disrupting deliveries of crude oil, and making nearby rail traffic more congested.

WHAT IS DAPL?

The 570,000-barrel-per-day (bpd) Dakota Access pipeline, or DAPL, is the largest oil pipeline out of the Bakken shale basin and has been locked in a legal battle with Native American tribes over whether the line can stay open after a judge scrapped a key environmental permit last year.

A federal judge ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to update the court on its environmental review of the pipeline by May 3 and decide if it believes the line should shut during the process. read more

WHAT IS THE DISPUTE?

Native American tribes long opposed to DAPL say the line endangers Lake Oahe, a critical water source. Pipeline construction under the lake was finished in early 2017 and the line is currently operating. But a judge last year vacated a key permit allowing that service, raising the possibility that the line could close while a thorough environmental review was completed.

Dakota Access oil pipeline’s operators plan to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, according to a court filing last week. read more
» Read article               

» More about pipelines

GREENING THE ECONOMY

mineral hungry
New climate goals are going to need a lot more minerals
Demand for critical minerals is expected to skyrocket
By Justine Calma, The Verge
May 5, 2021

The world isn’t mining enough minerals to reach a future that runs on clean energy, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Minerals like lithium, cobalt, and nickel are the building blocks for clean energy economies. Countries can’t meet their new climate goals without them. If supply chains can’t meet skyrocketing demand, mineral shortages could mean clean energy shortages.

Many of the world’s biggest economies have set goals to nearly eliminate climate pollution from fossil fuels in the next few decades. Leading climate scientists have found that greenhouse gas emissions need to reach net zero globally by around 2050 to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

Hitting that 2050 target would require six times more critical minerals than are produced today, the IEA found. For some minerals, the gap between supply and predicted future demand is way bigger. Demand for lithium, for example, is expected to grow 70 times over the next couple decades. But the supply from existing lithium mines and projects under construction can only meet about half the projected demand this decade.

“This mismatch is something that worries us,” Fatih Birol, the executive director of the IEA, said at a press conference today. “Our numbers show that the critical minerals are not a sideshow in our journey to reach climate goals. It’s a part of the main event.”

Batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) and renewable energy storage are the biggest factor driving the potential mineral shortage. An EV requires six times more mineral resources than a car that runs on fossil fuels. Cobalt, nickel, graphite, and manganese are essential for batteries, too.

Wind and solar power generation are also mineral-hungry industries. Wind turbines need rare earth minerals for magnets, while solar panels are made with copper, silicon, and silver. An increase in renewable energy is also spurring the need to modernize electrical grids, which can’t be done without more copper and aluminum.
» Read article              
» Read the IEA report

solar equity
DOE turns its focus toward equity with commitment to lowering solar deployment barriers
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
May 5, 2021

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on Tuesday announced plans to encourage deployment of more solar and storage in low- and moderate-income communities, including a more than $15 million commitment for technical assistance and to help underserved areas attract investment.

The new initiatives and funding will help advance DOE’s justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) goals, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement, including by expanding access to clean energy and fostering a more diverse solar workforce.

Equity in the clean energy transition was also on the agenda Tuesday at the EE Global Forum. Jigar Shah, head of DOE’s Loan Programs Office, said it is “obvious” that equity issues were not a priority for the office under previous administrations.

Decarbonizing the electricity sector by 2035 will mean delivering clean energy to all communities. Shah, who founded solar company SunEdison, said it can be more difficult or expensive to get renewables projects built in some areas, but DOE is committed to changing that.

The Biden administration is “very committed to equity,” Shah said. But “it is obvious the loan program office has not participated in this issue. We do billion-dollar solar farms and billion-dollar wind farms, or geothermal facilities, or [work with] Ford Motor Co., or a Tesla manufacturing facility.”

To address the disconnect, Shah said DOE “started a listening tour” and has had talks with more than 40 groups including residential solar installers and municipalities “around where they thought we might have the most impact.”
» Read article              

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

offsets
The Climate Solution Actually Adding Millions of Tons of CO2 Into the Atmosphere

New research shows that California’s climate policy created up to 39 million carbon credits that aren’t achieving real carbon savings. But companies can buy these forest offsets to justify polluting more anyway.
By Lisa Song, ProPublica, and James Temple, MIT Technology Review
April 29, 2021

Along the coast of Northern California near the Oregon border, the cool, moist air off the Pacific sustains a strip of temperate rainforests. Soaring redwoods and Douglas firs dominate these thick, wet woodlands, creating a canopy hundreds of feet high.

But if you travel inland the mix of trees gradually shifts.

Beyond the crest of the Klamath Mountains, you descend into an evergreen medley of sugar pines, incense cedars and still more Douglas firs. As you continue into the Cascade Range, you pass through sparser forests dominated by Ponderosa pines. These tall, slender trees with prickly cones thrive in the hotter, drier conditions on the eastern side of the state.

All trees consume carbon dioxide, releasing the oxygen and storing the carbon in their trunks, branches and roots. Every ton of carbon sequestered in a living tree is a ton that isn’t contributing to climate change. And that thick coastal forest can easily store twice as much carbon per acre as the trees deeper inland.

This math is crucial to determining the success of California’s forest offset program, which seeks to reduce carbon emissions by preserving trees. The state established the program a decade ago as part of its efforts to combat climate change.

But ecology is messy. The boundaries between forest types are nebulous, and the actual amount of carbon on any given acre depends on local climate conditions, conservation efforts, logging history and more.

California’s top climate regulator, the Air Resources Board, glossed over much of this complexity in implementing the state’s program. The agency established fixed boundaries around giant regions, boiling down the carbon stored in a wide mix of tree species into simplified, regional averages.

That decision has generated tens of millions of carbon credits with dubious climate value, according to a new analysis by CarbonPlan, a San Francisco nonprofit that analyzes the scientific integrity of carbon removal efforts.
» Read article              
» Read the Carbon Plan analysis

melt water
Dissecting ‘Unsettled,’ a Skeptical Physicist’s Book About Climate Science
Five statements author Steven Koonin makes that do not comport with the evidence.
By Marianne Lavelle, Inside Climate News
May 4, 2021

Physicist Steven Koonin, a former BP chief scientist and Obama administration energy official,  seeks to downplay climate change risk in his new book, “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What it Doesn’t and Why it Matters.”

His critics say he often draws general conclusions from specific slices of data or uncertainties (sometimes signaled by key words or phrases.) As a result, they say, his statements are frequently misleading, and often leave the reader with the incorrect impression climate scientists are hiding the truth.

“Identifying, quantifying, and reducing uncertainties in models and observations is an integral part of climate science,” said atmospheric scientist Benjamin Santer of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “The climate science community discusses uncertainties in an open and transparent way, and has done so for decades. It is simply untrue that Prof. Koonin is confronting climate scientists with unpleasant facts they have ignored or failed to understand.”

Scientists who have been engaged in recent climate research also believe Koonin’s critique seems out of step with what has been happening in the field. He relies on the latest statements of the consensus science, but the most recent reports of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change came out in 2013 and 2014. The IPCC’s updated assessment reports due out later this year and next year will almost certainly include recent studies that undercut Koonin’s conclusions.

Here are five statements Koonin makes in “Unsettled” that mainstream climate scientists say are misleading, incorrect or undercut by current research:
» Read article               

» More about climate

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

solid power
What You Need to Know About Solid-State Batteries
This next jump in battery-tech could solve a lot of EV problems.
By Chris Teague, Autoweek
April 30, 2021

The world of the internal combustion engine will sadly, but very necessarily, come to a close at some point in many of our lifetimes. Hybrids and electric vehicles are becoming more affordable and more advanced at a rapid pace, which means batteries are taking the place of fossil fuels. This has led to an equally rapid progression in battery technology, with the main goals of improving capacity, charging times, and safety. One major advancement in this field is the advent of solid-state batteries, which promise to push the boundaries of the limitations that current lithium-ion batteries carry.

Solid-state batteries, as the name suggests, do away with the heavy liquid electrolyte that lives inside lithium-ion batteries. The replacement is a solid electrolyte, which can come in the form of a glass, ceramics, or other materials. The overall structure of a solid-state battery is quite similar to that of traditional lithium-ion batteries otherwise, but without the need for a liquid, the batteries can be much denser and compact. Without diving too deeply into their inner workings, solid-state batteries expend energy and recharge much in the same way as traditional lithium-ion units do.

Beyond the rare potential for causing a fire, the liquid electrolytes inside lithium-ion batteries aren’t particularly great at longevity. Over time, compounds in the liquid can corrode internal battery components and can experience degradation or solid material build up inside, both of which lead to a degradation of battery capacity and overall performance.

Solid-state batteries are, for now, still in development. Toyota aims to sell its first EV powered by a solid-state battery before 2030, while several other automakers are working in partnership with battery produces on their own projects. Notably, Volkswagen is working in partnership with QuantumScape, a California-based company that hopes to push its batteries into commercial use by 2024.
» Read article               

e-fuel mirage
Study: Synthetic fuels cost more money and cause more CO2 emissions vs. batteries
By Stephen Edelstein, Green Car Reports
May 4, 2021

As buzz around synthetic fuels builds, the Europe-focused environmental group Transport & Environment (T&E) cautions that vehicles burning these supposedly greener fuels may cause more carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions than battery-powered vehicles, and cost more as well.

That’s the conclusion T&E voiced in a position paper asking regulators not to include synthetic fuels (sometimes referred to as “e-fuels”) in the upcoming Euro 7 framework for emissions rules in the European Union.

As some automakers begin to experiment with the technology, T&E said synthetic fuels shouldn’t qualify for emissions-reduction credits under future regulations, calling the environmental benefits of these fuels “a mirage.”

By 2030, an electric car charged from the electricity grid will produce 40% lower CO2 emissions than a gasoline car burning synthetic fuel, according to the paper. Furthermore, the amount of electricity used to power an EV is lower than the amount needed to produce synthetic fuel, so electric cars do better on emissions even with a dirtier grid mix than synthetic-fueled cars, the paper said.

Synthetic fuel will also be more expensive for both automakers and drivers, T&E said.
» Read article              

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

leaked docs
Leaked docs: Gas industry secretly fights electrification
By Benjamin Storrow, E&E News
May 3, 2021

In public, Eversource Energy likes to tout its carbon neutrality goals and its investments in offshore wind.

But officials from New England’s largest utility struck a different tone during an industry presentation in mid-March. Instead of advocating for lower emissions, company officials outlined a defensive strategy for preserving the use of natural gas for years to come.

Natural gas is “in for [the] fight of it’s life,” said one slide presented at the meeting and obtained by E&E News. It also called for a lobbying campaign, saying that “everyone needs to contact legislators in favor of NG.” Another slide asked how the industry could “take advantage of power outage fear” to bolster gas’s fortunes.

Eversource is identified in the presentation materials as the co-leader of a national “Consortium to Combat Electrification,” run out of the Energy Solutions Center, a trade group based in Washington. The slides identified 14 other utilities involved in the effort and said the group’s mission was to “create effective, customizable marketing materials to fight the electrification/anti-natural gas movement.”

The presentation comes amid a rising tide of policies aimed at banning natural gas in buildings.

Eversource executives sought to distance themselves from the messages conveyed in the presentation, saying they don’t reflect the views of the utility’s leadership. Yet the company’s private assessment, delivered to industry insiders, underscores the challenge facing gas providers as state and federal policymakers set their sights on net-zero emissions targets.
» Read article               

Joe Nolan
Eversource’s New CEO Talks Future of Natural Gas
By Emily Hayes, RTO Insider
April 30, 2021

As Joe Nolan prepares to take on the role of Eversource Energy’s chief executive on May 5, he is facing the challenge of transitioning New England’s largest utility to be carbon neutral in operations –— and potentially, carbon neutral for its customers.

He has worked for the utility for 35 years, and 25 of those years were spent growing Eversource’s renewable energy portfolio. He is leading the utility’s joint venture with Danish offshore wind company Ørsted to start building three wind farms in the Northeast. Nolan will take over the CEO position from Jim Judge.

Nolan, 58, told NetZero Insider he wants to double down on achieving carbon neutrality for Eversource’s buildings and vehicle fleets as CEO.

But Massachusetts, one of the states Eversource operates in, recently passed comprehensive climate legislation that includes a legally binding commitment to reduce the state’s carbon emissions to 50% below 1990 levels by 2030. President Biden’s proposal to cut emissions in half by 2030 only strengthens state mandates like Massachusetts’s new climate laws.

Yet the utility plans to spend billions of dollars upgrading pipes that distribute natural gas, and ratepayers will be responsible for covering the cost. The utility is also in the process of renewing three contracts with natural gas supply companies.

The plans clash with the goals of the state’s new climate law, as well as the new climate-driven mission statement for the state’s Department of Public Utilities. But new orders that specify how to wean utilities off fossil fuels are needed before agencies enforcement can happen.

Energy experts like Amy Boyd, director of policy at the Acadia Center, say that the money utilities put into natural gas systems is “buried money and stranded costs” that will fall on low-income and environmental justice communities without the same access to renewable energy options. As a result, those communities will experience higher utility rates.

From a physics perspective, it is “always more thermodynamically effective to just use electricity directly,” Boyd added.

Hydrogen molecules are also smaller than methane. If methane is leaking in the existing natural gas pipe system, then hydrogen will surely leak as well.
» Read article         

» More about fossil fuels

BIOMASS

image looks green
Construction deal reached for $15m Massachusetts biomass project
By Power Engineering International
May 3, 2021

US-based energy company Clean Energy Technologies has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Ashfield Agricultural Commission (Ashfield Ag Resources) for the development of a biomass renewable energy processing facility in Massachusetts.

The MoU enables the two parties to co-develop the $15 million project. Clean Energy Technologies (CETY) will provide its high temperature ablative fast pyrolysis reactor (HTAP Biomass Reactor). Ashfield Ag Resources has provided the energy company with the rights to feedstock and site control.

The HTAP Biomass Reactor is a ‘unique’ and proprietary process that transforms organic forest waste by using ultra-high temperatures and produces renewable electrical power, BioChar fertilizer and high heating value fuel gas in addition to other commercially valuable chemicals.

The parties agreed in principle to the critical components which are expected to annually deliver up to 14,600MWh of renewable electricity and 1,500 tons of BioChar by Q1 2022.

Clean Energy Technologies also plans to secure additional biomass resources to deliver additional projects ten times larger in the future. (emphasis added)

Kam Mahdi, CEO of CETY, said “This project is the first of four anticipated renewable biomass projects, and is expected to serve as a model for developing new projects to capture market share in this highly profitable and growing industry. By vertically integrating the biomass projects into our business, we are also able to grow our heat recovery business horizontally. We hope that our future projects will be large by orders of magnitude and have a profound impact on the environment while bringing us new sources of income.”
» Read article
» Read press release
» Read some of the backstory: Plant to power Ashfield lumber biz draws ire, By Richie Davis, Daily Hampshire Gazette, June 24, 2018

» More about biomass              

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