Tag Archives: Nauru

Weekly News Check-In 4/15/22

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Welcome back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— The NFGiM Team

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about pipelines

LEGISLATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about legislation

GREENING THE ECONOMY

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about clean energy

LONG-DURATION ENERGY STORAGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about long-duration energy storage

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY RESOURCES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about siting impacts of renewables

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

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

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

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

But reality has fallen wildly short of the dream.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about clean transportation

CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE

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

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

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

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

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

» More about CCS

DEEP-SEABED MINING

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

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

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

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

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

» More about deep-seabed mining     

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about fossil fuel

CYBERSECURITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about cybersecurity

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about LNG

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Weekly News Check-In 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 10/8/21

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Welcome back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— The NFGiM Team

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about pipelines

LEGISLATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

How so?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about legislation

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about FERC

CLIMATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about clean energy              

BUILDING MATERIALS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about building materials

ENERGY STORAGE

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

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

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

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

» More about energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

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

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

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

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

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

» More about clean transportation

DEEP-SEABED MINING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about deep-seabed mining

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about fossil fuel

GAS BANS

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about gas bans

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

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

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

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

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

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

» Read article               

» More about LNG

BIOMASS

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about biomass

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