Tag Archives: renewables

Weekly News Check-In 11/5/21

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Welcome back.

We’ll start with the somewhat obscure Energy Charter Treaty, a post-cold-war relic intended to integrate ex-Soviet energy markets with the west. Lately, the treaty has allowed fossil fuel companies to sue countries for hundreds of millions of dollars, claiming their attempts to reduce emissions have hurt profits. While we’ve been quick to support court action that slows or stops the expansion of fossil fuel projects, this is an uncomfortable reminder that the legal blade cuts both ways.

With COP26 climate talks underway in Glasgow, we’re highlighting a new report from Climate Analytics warning that we need to cut total natural gas use by 1/3 this decade to maintain a shot at keeping global warming within the Paris agreement limits. Note that the Paris warming limits of 1.5C to 2.0C aren’t just random numbers – exceeding them triggers a cascade of really bad things. Bearing that in mind, it’s difficult to justify the Eversource push for a gas pipeline expansion in Springfield. We agree that neighborhoods served by a single aging gas line are vulnerable. But our solution would be to double down on energy efficiency and electrification – and rapidly eliminate the gas dependence. We have all the tools to do that.

Connecticut offers another cautionary tale regarding the continued build-out of gas infrastructure when it should have been trimmed back.

Checking in on another fossil fuel, the COP26 40-country agreement to phase out coal is less significant than it seems on the surface. Big coal burners like China, Australia, India, and the US didn’t sign on. And even for its limited scope, the timeline is a decade slower than science demands for a total shutdown. In another softball lobbed to industry, a US proposal to increase tax credits for carbon capture and sequestration has environmentalists concerned that its practical effect will be to extend the life of fossil fuel plants. Note that CCS is still neither economical nor effective, but it’s talked up enthusiastically by industry as the magic pixie dust justification for continuing business as usual.

A hugely important energy efficiency effort is just starting to ramp up, especially in states with ambitious emissions reduction targets. That’s a career opportunity for tens of thousands just in Massachusetts, with jobs ranging from building insulation and sealing to installing and servicing heat pumps. And those workers need to come onboard quickly.

Elsewhere on the green scene, passage of a Maine ballot initiative blocked a proposed transmission corridor meant to carry hydro power electricity from Quebec to Massachusetts. The move upsets MA emission reduction plans, and presents a case study in the siting impacts of renewable energy resources.

We’ll close with fossil fuels, an industry that realized decades ago it could either transition to clean energy or cook the planet. That its leaders chose to cook the planet is now a matter of record. What’s almost stranger is the industry’s continuing campaign to spin facts and rebrand products, as if keeping the party going a while longer might make it fun again. “Responsibly sourced” fracked gas? Please!

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

Uniper suit
Secretive court system poses threat to Paris climate deal, says whistleblower
Treaty allows energy corporations to sue governments for billions over policies that could hurt their profits
By Jennifer Rankin, The Guardian
November 3, 2021

A secretive investor court system poses a real threat to the Paris climate agreement, activists have said, as governments taking action to phase out fossil fuels face a slew of multimillion-dollar lawsuits for lost profits.

New data seen by the Guardian shows a surge in cases under the energy charter treaty (ECT), an obscure international agreement that allows energy corporations to sue governments over policies that could hurt their profits.

Coal and oil investors are already suing governments for several billions in compensation for lost profits over energy policy changes. For example, the German energy company RWE is suing the Netherlands for €1.4bn (£1.2bn) over its plans to phase out coal, while Rockhopper Exploration, based in the UK, is suing the Italian government after it banned new drilling near the coast.

“It’s a real threat [to the Paris agreement]. It’s the biggest threat I am aware of,” said Yamina Saheb, a former employee of the ECT secretariat who quit in 2018 to raise the alarm.

“The Paris agreement … means that we need to decarbonise in the current decade before 2030,” said Saheb, also a co-author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report on mitigation. She has estimated that foreign investors could sue governments for €1.3tn until 2050 in compensation for early closure of coal, oil and gas plants – a sum that exceeds what the EU hopes to spend on its green deal in the next decade.

As compensation to companies is paid by public funds, governments would have less money to pay for new technology to make buildings, transport and industry greener. Saheb argued these payments could endanger the green transition. “It’s impossible to do everything,” she said.
» Read article                  

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

alternative routes
Concern about gas pipeline proposed from Longmeadow to Springfield
By And Another Thing Team, NEPM
November 3, 2021

A proposed natural gas pipeline from Longmeadow to Springfield has some residents of both communities up in arms, but utility Eversource insists the five-mile pipeline is safe and essential to assure reliable service. What’s called the Western Massachusetts Natural Gas Reliability Project is a proposed pipeline that would take one of four routes from Longmeadow to a regulator station in Springfield.
» Listen to report              

both sides now
A Russian Pipeline Changes Direction, and Energy Politics Come to the Fore
Amid an energy crunch in Europe, one of Russia’s largest natural gas pipelines began pulling gas out of Western Europe back eastward, Russian news agencies reported.
By Andrew E. Kramer, New York Times
October 30, 2021

Natural gas, already in short supply in Europe this fall, began moving away from Germany on Saturday and back toward the east in an unusual reversal in a major Russian pipeline, Russian media reported.

In themselves, the Russian reports were no cause for alarm, and the giant Russian energy firm, Gazprom, said Saturday that it is filling all European orders. One Russian news media report even suggested the flow reversal was a short-term problem caused by balmy weather in Germany over the weekend.

But the reversal is playing out against a backdrop of a politically charged explosion in gas prices in Europe and accusations that the Kremlin is restricting gas supplies for political purposes. One such purpose is to prod the E.U. into approving a new pipeline, Nordstream 2, that would bring gas from Russia directly to Germany, bypassing Eastern Europe.

More broadly, analysts say, the Kremlin may be sending a message about renewable energy, illustrating that too quick a pivot away from natural gas will leave the Continent vulnerable to fickle wind and solar supplies.

Analysts say Russia has for weeks now been slow to supply fuel to make up for shortfalls, often by limiting deliveries to its own storage facilities. The reversal of the direction of flow on the major Yamal-Europe pipeline was seen as a potential new wrinkle.

The pipeline connects Russia to Germany and crosses Belarus and Poland. It accounts for about 20 percent of Russia’s overland supply capacity to the European Union, suggesting a significant shortfall if its operations were halted.
» Read article                  

» More about pipelines

GREENING THE ECONOMY

cheapest energyReasons to be hopeful: the climate solutions available now
We have every tool we need to tackle the climate crisis. Here’s what some key sectors are doing
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
October 31, 2021

The climate emergency is the biggest threat to civilisation we have ever faced. But there is good news: we already have every tool we need to beat it. The challenge is not identifying the solutions, but rolling them out with great speed.

Some key sectors are already racing ahead, such as electric cars. They are already cheaper to own and run in many places – and when the purchase prices equal those of fossil-fueled vehicles in the next few years, a runaway tipping point will be reached.

Electricity from renewables is now the cheapest form of power in most places, sometimes even cheaper than continuing to run existing coal plants. There’s a long way to go to meet the world’s huge energy demand, but the plummeting costs of batteries and other storage technologies bodes well.

And many big companies are realising that a failure to invest will be far more expensive as the impacts of global heating destroy economies. Even some of the biggest polluters, such as cement and steel, have seen the green writing on the wall.

Buildings are big emitters but the solution – improved energy efficiency – is simple to achieve and saves the occupants money, particularly with the cost of installing technology such as heat pumps expected to fall.

The real fuel for the green transition is a combination of those most valuable and intangible of commodities: political will and skill. The supply is being increased by demands for action from youth strikers to chief executives, and must be used to face down powerful vested interests, such as the fossil fuel, aviation and cattle industries. The race for a sustainable, low-carbon future is on, and the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow will show how much faster we need to go.
» Read article                  

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

Watford CityWorld urged to slash gas use by a third to avoid climate disaster
‘Gas is the new coal’, says Climate Analytics report that finds it the fastest growing source of carbon dioxide emissions
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
November 4, 2021

The escalating rollout of gas for heating, electricity and cooking is turning it into the “new coal” and its use worldwide must be slashed by nearly a third this decade to avoid disastrous climate effects, according to a new report.

Gas has often been referred to as a “bridge fuel” as it emits about half the carbon dioxide of coal, and many countries have embraced it while also promising to transition to renewable energy in order to cut planet-heating emissions.

But this energy source, which has become easy and cheap to access due to the advance of fracking for its extraction, is still a fossil fuel, and the new analysis finds that it is now the fastest-growing source of carbon dioxide emissions, putting the world at risk of blowing past dangerous global heating thresholds.

“Natural gas is not a bridging fuel. It is a fossil fuel,” said Bill Hare, chief executive of Climate Analytics and lead author of the new report. “Gas is the new coal. Governments, investors and the financial sector must treat it the same way as they do coal: phase it out as soon as possible.”

But growth in gas has had a significant influence over global heating, with the Climate Analytics report finding that gas was the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions increase in the past decade, rising by 42% and causing 60% of the methane emissions from fossil fuel production. Methane is a short-lived but potent greenhouse gas that is many times more powerful than CO2 at trapping heat.

If the world is to avert disastrous 1.5C of global heating the use of gas should already be in decline, according to the report, but it is projected to cause 70% of the fossil CO2 emissions increase by 2030 under current policies.

This means unabated gas use must peak this decade and then drop sharply, the analysis finds, necessitating a decrease of 30% below last year’s levels by 2030 and then a 65% decrease by 2040. Renewable energy such as solar and wind should be ramped up to take the place of gas, according to the report.
» Read article                 
» Read the report: Why gas is the new coal

Tom Goldtooth
Tom Goldtooth at COP26: Absolute Carbon Reduction “Issue of Life and Death” for Indigenous Peoples
By Democracy Now, YouTube
November 2, 2021

» Watch video                  

Brianna Fruean
Samoan Climate Activist Brianna Fruean: If Pacific Islands Drown, the Rest of the World Is Doomed
By Democracy Now, YouTube
November 2, 2021

» Watch video                     

Dipti Bhatnagar
Voices from Global South Shut Out of U.N. Climate Summit As Vaccine Apartheid Limits Travel to U.K.
Democracy Now, YouTube
November 1, 2021

» Watch video                    

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

underwhelmingMore than 40 countries agree to phase out coal-fired power
Critics say pledge to end use of dirtiest fuel source in 2030s and 40s does not go far enough
By Fiona Harvey, Jillian Ambrose and Patrick Greenfield, The Guardian
November 3, 2021

More than 40 countries have agreed to phase out their use of coal-fired power, the dirtiest fuel source, in a boost to UK hopes of a deal to “keep 1.5C alive”, from the Cop26 climate summit.

Major coal-using countries, including Canada, Poland, South Korea, Ukraine, Indonesia and Vietnam, will phase out their use of coal for electricity generation, with the bigger economies doing so in the 2030s, and smaller economies doing so in the 2040s.

However, some of the world’s biggest coal-dependent economies, including Australia, China, India and the US were missing from the deal, and experts and campaigners told the Guardian the phase-out deadlines countries signed up to were much too late.

The goal of “consigning coal to history” has been a key focus for the UK as host of the Cop26 summit, which aims to put the world on track to limit global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Expert assessments have found that for the world to stay within 1.5C, developed economies should phase out coal before 2030, rather than in the 2030s as in the deal announced on Wednesday night.

Elif Gündüzyeli, senior coal policy coordinator at the campaign group Climate Action Network Europe, said: “This is not a game-changer. A 2030 phaseout deadline should be a minimum, and this agreement doesn’t have that. Coal is already expensive [compared with renewable energy] and no one wants to put money in coal any more.”
» Read article                  

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

EE worker
Report: Massachusetts doesn’t have enough workers to meet its efficiency goals

A recent report by the clean energy nonprofit E4TheFuture says the state will need to attract some 35,000 people to energy efficiency related fields this decade if it wants to hit targets for 2030 and beyond.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
November 1, 2021

Massachusetts needs to grow its energy efficiency workforce by some 35,000 people if it is to make significant progress updating its aging homes by 2030, according to a recent report.

Massachusetts is already a leader in clean energy workforce development, advocates said, but the sector was already struggling to find qualified job candidates before the pandemic upended the labor market. More must be done if the state is to reach its goal of going carbon-neutral by 2050.

“We have to make the financial commitment,” said Pat Stanton, director of policy for E4TheFuture, the Massachusetts-based organization that developed the report. “How do we convince young people that going into the trades is a smart career path? And how do we help that whole sector grow?”

Energy efficiency is the largest employer in the energy sector nationwide, but it is particularly prominent in Massachusetts, where leading energy efficiency incentives, some of the oldest housing stock in the country, and cold winter temperatures combine to boost demand for efficiency services. In Massachusetts, efficiency jobs make up nearly 57% of the total energy workforce, well above the national average of 40%, according to the E4TheFuture report.

Still, the need for workers who can install heat pumps, operate high performance systems, conduct energy audits, and construct well-sealed building envelopes far outstrips the availability of trained workers in the state.

And demand is only likely to grow. Boston earlier this month passed new regulations calling for large buildings to be carbon-neutral by 2050, and the climate bill signed this spring will allow towns to require new buildings to have net-zero emissions. The state’s decarbonization roadmap estimates a million buildings will need heating system retrofits by 2030 to remain on pace to reach the state’s emissions-reduction goals.
» Read article                 
» Read the report

» More about energy efficiency

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY

shot down
Maine voters tell Mass. to stick its transmission line
Backers of project say referendum was unconstitutional
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
November 2, 2021

MAINE VOTERS delivered a shock to Massachusetts on Tuesday, overwhelmingly approving a ballot question that would block the Bay State’s bid to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels by building a 145-mile transmission line delivering hydro-electricity from Quebec.

The ballot fight was the most expensive in Maine history. Opponents of the ballot question heavily outspent supporters and most of the state’s political and media establishment urged a no vote. But with 77 percent of the vote counted Tuesday night, the tally was 59 percent in favor of the question, 41 percent opposed.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine called the victory a landslide. Pete Didisheim, the group’s advocacy director, urged Central Maine Power to halt construction work on the transmission line immediately.

“We also call on Massachusetts to honor this electoral outcome by selecting an alternative option for meeting its climate goals without imposing significant environmental harm on another New England state,” Didisheim said in a statement.

Central Maine Power is likely to challenge the ballot outcome in court, possibly on the grounds that the question attempts to retroactively overturn regulatory approvals on which the utility relied in moving ahead with construction of the power line.

Clean Energy Matters, a political group affiliated with Central Maine Power, issued a statement saying “we believe this referendum, funded by fossil fuel interests, is unconstitutional. With over 400 Maine jobs and our ability to meet our climate goals on the line, this fight will continue.”
» Read article                  

» More about siting impacts of renewables

CARBON CAPTURE & SEQUESTRATION

smoke and steamProposed U.S. carbon capture credit hike cheers industry, worries greens
By Richard Valdmanis, Reuters
November 1, 2021

A proposed tax credit hike for U.S. carbon capture and sequestration projects being mulled by Congress could trigger a big jump in use of the climate-fighting technology to clean up industry, but environmentalists worry the scheme will backfire by prolonging the life of dirty coal-fired power plants.

Carbon capture sequestration (CCS) is a technology that siphons planet-warming carbon dioxide from industrial facilities and stores it underground to keep it out of the atmosphere. The administration of President Joe Biden considers it an important part of its plan to decarbonize the U.S. economy by 2050.

Under the proposal, embedded in the Biden administration’s $1.75 trillion spending package, CCS projects would become eligible for an $85 credit for each metric ton of carbon dioxide captured and stored, up from the current $50-per-ton credit that the industry says is too low.

Some environmental groups expect the credit will have the unintended consequence of extending the lives of big polluters like coal-fired power plants, among the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, by giving them a new revenue stream.

Under the credit proposal, industrial facilities would be required to capture at least 50% of their carbon emissions to be eligible for the credit, with that threshold rising to 75% for power plants – thresholds green groups say are too low.

“Such a handout to the fossil industry risks putting a sharp stop to the transition plans of coal-fired utilities, causing them to pursue speculative and expensive carbon capture dreams that are likely never to be realized, to the detriment of the climate and taxpayers,” said the Sierra Club, an environmental group focused on speeding the retirement of coal plants.
» Read article                  

» More about CCS

GAS UTILITIES

stock pipeline image
Expert says natural gas program ‘has been a complete fleecing of utility ratepayers’
By Kimberly James | The Center Square contributor
October 29, 2021

A natural gas program designed to save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year has yet to materialize in Connecticut, and is instead leaving homeowners and businesses who converted to it facing an expensive winter.

Former Gov. Daniel P. Malloy’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy included a large-scale natural gas expansion, in part to bolster the economy and in part to reduce high energy prices. By 2020, 300,000 homes were to be connected to natural gas.

“At a high-level, the program assumed that the economics of converting from fuel oil to natural gas would drive a substantial number of conversions, with some additional assistance through this program,” Taren O’Connor, director of Legislation, Regulations and Communications at Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, told The Center Square. “However, the relative prices of fuel oil and natural gas through the life of this program have proven more price competitive, leading to fewer conversions than projected through the CES and at the outset of the program.”

Chris Herb, president of the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association, told The Center Square the plan was built on a faulty premise that natural gas prices would remain low for decades. “At the end of the day, DEEP was wrong when it came to the economics and on the environmental benefits of natural gas.”

With natural gas prices currently soaring, those homes and businesses that have made the switch are looking at a costly winter season.

Herb said that conservation is the only proven way to cut costs and reduce emissions.

“At Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) insistence, an important discounting mechanism was taken away from the CT Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) when they dedicated non-firm margin which was used to discount the cost of natural gas, was given to the utilities to build new pipelines,” Herb said. “This was a fundamental flaw with the expansion plan that hurt consumers.”
» Read article                  

» More about natural gas utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Marcellus drill site
The Problem With Calling Fracked Gas ‘Responsibly Sourced’
The natural gas industry is increasingly trying to market its product to environmentally and socially conscious investors, but two environmental advocates argue these efforts leave out fracked gas’s massive water and waste issues.
By Ted Auch, PhD, FracTracker Alliance, with contributions from Shannon Smith of FracTracker Alliance, DeSmog Blog | Opinion
November 1, 2021

The fracked natural gas industry has never been the most responsible or efficient consumer of resources. Drillers are using ever-increasing amounts of water and sand in order to produce the same volume of gas, with a corresponding rise in the levels of solid and liquid waste created.

Nevertheless, the industry has begun a new wave of branding around “Responsibly Sourced Natural Gas,” or RSG. But what does RSG really mean?

We argue that right now it’s an inadequate and ill-defined measurement of the overall ecological and social burden imposed by fracking. Instead, we suggest a new ratio for more accurately calculating fracked gas’s full impacts so that the fossil fuel industry can’t use RSG standards as a thin green veil for continuing its polluting practices.

Quantifying methane emissions is central to most of the RSG programs, but none of them  require full public disclosure of the methane levels that are actually released. That practice mirrors the secretive nature of the fracked oil and gas industry, which also does not publicly disclose the full list of chemicals used during the fracking process.

There are benefits to the natural gas industry reducing methane emissions — most notably for the rapidly destabilizing climate — but it represents low-hanging fruit for the industry to clean up its practices. Given the scale of the climate crisis, we need a much more serious commitment on the part of policymakers and energy companies to phase out fracked oil and gas production entirely and in the interim to significantly lessen its resource demands and waste production.

After all, RSG programs do not transform natural gas from a fossil fuel that accelerates climate change into a renewable fuel that does not. Instead, the RSG label offers the oil and gas industry an undeserved pass to continue gobbling up resources and polluting the environment, at the expense of people and the climate.
» Read article                  

two energy futures
In Their Own Words: The Dirty Dozen Documents of Big Oil’s Secret Climate Knowledge
Science historian Ben Franta unpacks some of the most critical documents exposing what the fossil fuel industry knew and when they knew it.
By Paul D. Thacker, DeSmog Blog
October 29, 2021

“Did we aggressively fight against some of the science? Yes,” said ExxonMobil lobbyist Keith McCoy. “Did we join some of these ‘shadow groups’ to work against some of the early efforts? Yes, that’s true. But there’s nothing illegal about that.”

For years, academics, journalists, and activists have been unearthing documents proving that the fossil fuel industry knew about the dangers of climate change since the late 1950s. That’s many, many years before McCoy was even twinkle in his daddy’s eye and decades before he came to Washington to join in Exxon’s campaign to deny science and delay action to save the planet from “catastrophic climate change” — a term Exxon used back in 1981.

These documents show how companies worked to erode public acceptance of climate science over the years — including Exxon corporate reports from the late 1970s, revealed by DeSmog in 2016, which stated “There is no doubt” that CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels was a growing “problem.”

To explain the long history of what the fossil fuel industry knew and when they knew it, Stanford University science historian Ben Franta has collected a dozen of his favorite documents.

The fossil fuel industry was first warned about climate change back in 1959 by famed physicist Edward Teller, known as “the father of the hydrogen bomb.” Throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, oil and gas companies continued to gather evidence that burning fossil fuels was going to change the planet, perhaps even catastrophically. By the early ‘80s, the science was clear enough that oil and gas companies began to strategize on ways to control messaging about climate change and regulations. In 1989, they launched the Global Climate Coalition, a massive lobbying effort to undermine science and attack any attempt to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Franta and I recently discussed these key documents, what they say, how they were found, and what this means for the fossil fuel industry. This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
» Read article                  

» More about fossil fuels

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Weekly News Check-In 10/8/21

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Welcome back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— The NFGiM Team

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about pipelines

LEGISLATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

How so?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about legislation

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about FERC

CLIMATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about clean energy              

BUILDING MATERIALS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about building materials

ENERGY STORAGE

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

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

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

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

» More about energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

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

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

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

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

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

» More about clean transportation

DEEP-SEABED MINING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about deep-seabed mining

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about fossil fuel

GAS BANS

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about gas bans

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

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

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

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

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

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

» Read article               

» More about LNG

BIOMASS

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about biomass

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Weekly News Check-In 9/18/20

banner 14

Welcome back.

The Weymouth compressor station generated a lot of news this week. We lead with an excellent report by DeSmog Blog’s Dana Drugmand, covering an accidental methane leak during testing. Ms. Drugmand also includes a summary of the many problems  and objections that make this facility so controversial. In spite of the methane leak, renewed calls for the project’s shut-down, and fresh criticism of the disputed 2019 Health Impact Assessment, developer Enbridge just sought federal approval to begin operations as early as October 1st.

Every week seems to bring several more climate-related lawsuits, as cities and states take legal action against the fossil fuel industry. Cleaning up after hurricanes, floods, and fires is crushingly expensive, and these suits seek compensation from the corporations and their lobbies for the fraud and deception that led to the current crisis. The state of Connecticut and city of Charleston, SC are the latest to take action.

New legislation aims to stop further harm by rolling back fossil fuel expansion. Congresswomen Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), introduced the Future Generations Protection Act, which would “ban greenhouse gas emissions from all new power plants, stop hydraulic fracking, and ban crude oil and natural gas exports”, among other measures. Congress is also probing ways to insert green economic development into Covid-19 relief funding.

As we conclude the northern hemisphere’s hottest summer on record, life is becoming untenable in previously desirable parts of the country. We start with an accounting of future emissions expected from the Trump administration’s rollback of dozens of environmental regulations, and follow with a look at the human migration that will result when those rollbacks play out in the climate.

Assuming we manage to quickly and decisively reverse our current disastrous policies, clean energy deployment will have to accelerate substantially. A new study finds that solar buildout needs to proceed at a pace six times greater than the 2019 level to achieve zero carbon by mid century. There’s also more work to be done in clean transportation, as some of the current generation of electric buses are falling short of performance requirements, especially in winter conditions.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) passed a long-awaited order to open up the country’s wholesale energy markets to distributed energy resources like rooftop solar, behind-the-meter batteries and electric vehicles. This is a big deal and FERC deserves credit for doing the right thing. Now, if they could only apply the same principles to pipeline projects….

The fossil fuel industry seems to have exhausted its run on the policy of denying, ignoring, and self-policing their methane emissions problem. Satellite-based methane detection technology and increased global awareness have left nowhere to hide. Accountability is long overdue but seems to be coming.

We close with outstanding reporting from NPR and PBS/Frontline on the decades-long scam by the oil/gas and plastics industries that sold the myth of plastics recycling to a public that was growing alarmed about huge volumes of trash flowing to landfills and oceans. It’s vital to understand this story at a time when the industry plans to significantly ramp up plastics production – and still has no viable way to dispose or recycle the stuff.

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

— The NFGiM Team

 

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

unplanned not unexpected
‘Unplanned Gas Release’ at Controversial Gas Facility in Weymouth, South of Boston
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
September 15, 2020

The standard, pre-operational testing of a new natural gas compressor station in the Massachusetts community of Weymouth, south of Boston, had barely begun last week when a gasket failure prompted an emergency shutdown of the facility and resulted in an unintentional gas leak. Weymouth’s compressor station, once open, would keep gas pumping through a regional pipeline system, but even before this gas leak, its road to get there has been bumpy, with outcries over its air pollution permit and health concerns from the surrounding community.

Enbridge, the Canadian-based energy pipeline corporation behind the controversial Weymouth compressor station, sent a written notice to Massachusetts state regulators on Friday, September 11 informing them of the mechanical failure and “unplanned” gas release. The compressor station’s approval plan requires this notification when there is an unplanned gas release exceeding 10,000 standard cubic feet in volume. According to Enbridge, 265,000 standard cubic feet of gas and 35 pounds of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were leaked during the incident.

Natural gas, also known as fossil gas, is composed almost entirely of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that has roughly 86 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide over the short-term. Both planned and unplanned gas releases in pipeline infrastructure like compressor stations add methane to the atmosphere, contributing to the ongoing climate crisis. Emissions of VOCs and chemicals including some known carcinogens are also common with gas compressor stations. Explosions and fires have occurred in gas systems, including compressors, all over the country.

Activists opposed to the Weymouth compressor have repeatedly raised a number of climate, health, and safety risks. The contentious project has seen sustained local protests and direct action for the last several years. Earlier this year, Boston University Professor Nathan Phillips, an environmental researcher, went on a two-week hunger strike to raise awareness of the compressor’s public health and safety hazards.

But federal and state regulators have apparently ignored these concerns. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which initially approved the project in 2017, granted permission in late November last year for Enbridge subsidiary Algonquin Gas Transmission to begin construction on the compressor.

Massachusetts permitting authorities such as the Office of Coastal and Zone Management and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have also green-lighted the project. In June a federal appeals court overturned the project’s air quality permit, finding that the DEP erred in approving it, but on August 31, the court reversed its decision and reinstated the permit.

The compressor station is part of Enbridge’s Atlantic Bridge pipeline carrying fossil gas through the Northeast region and into Canada, where it could be exported. The liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility in Nova Scotia, however, has not yet been built and it is unclear exactly where the gas is going as several utility companies that originally signed onto the project have since said they do not need the Weymouth compressor to meet customer gas demand. 

“The question of where the gas is going is totally up in the air,” Alice Arena, Weymouth resident and president of the community group Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station, told DeSmog.
» Read article            

 

compressor pic 9-3-20
Enbridge seeks to turn on Weymouth compressor station
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local Weymouth
September 17, 2020

WEYMOUTH_ An unplanned gas release from a compressor station in the Fore River Basin, on Sept. 11 is not deterring Enbridge Inc. from trying to have the controversial facility be in full operation by Oct. 1.

Enbridge is requesting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission allow the compressor station to be fully operative by its subsidiary Algonquin Gas Transmission.

Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station leader Alice Arena said the opposition group requested FERC to order the facility shut down after the gasket failure.

“They had an emergency shutdown system, but it was not fully operative,” she said. “Their (Enbridge) letter to the DEP said the emergency shutdown system was not fully operative.”

Arena said FERC had not done an investigation into how the gasket failure occurred.

“We are working with Sen. Markey’s office to get the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) involved because the facility is part of an interstate pipeline,” she said. “That is in the works. Nobody has gone down to the site to say, why did your emergency shutdown system not work?”

Arena said the natural gas leak from the gasket failure might have been worse if it occurred at 2 a.m. because there were no workers at the facility.

“The gas buildup could have been so immense that there could have been a fire,” she said.

Arena said FRRACS couldn’t fathom how the compressor station could be ready for full service on Oct. 1 because Enbridge has not finished its commissioning activities.
» Read article            

 

Lynch calls for shutdown
Congressman Lynch pushes for compressor shutdown
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
September 15, 2020

Congressman Stephen Lynch is calling for a halt to operations of the natural gas compressor station in the Fore River Basin after an unplanned gas release last week just days after the facility started testing.

In a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Lynch, a South Boston Democrat, called the compressor station a “misguided and dangerous project” that poses an “imminent public safety threat” to the residents of Weymouth and nearby communities.

He said the station should be shut down pending extensive state and federal oversight following an unplanned release of 265,000 cubic feet of natural gas at the facility last week, just days after testing started to prepare for operations.

“The September 11th gas leak in Weymouth has greatly exacerbated our concerns – particularly in the wake of the series of devastating natural gas explosions that occurred in the Merrimack Valley in 2018 and considering the marked increase in pipeline safety incidents reported by (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) over the last two decades,” Lynch wrote in the letter.

The controversial compressor station is part of Enbridge’s Atlantic Bridge project, which would expand the company’s natural gas pipelines from New Jersey into Canada. It has been a point of contention for years among neighbors and some local, state and federal officials who say it presents serious health and safety risks.
» Read article            

 

Fore River HIA
MAPC Releases Independent Evaluation of Fore River Health Impact Assessment
Statement by MAPC Executive Director Marc Draisen, MAPC
September 14, 2020

Today, I am releasing an independent evaluation of the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) regarding the proposal to site a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, MA. The evaluation was conducted by Public Health by Design (PHD), a consulting group with broad expertise in international standards for the conduct of HIAs. PHD is based in London, England. [The following excerpts are from the summary of PHD’s findings]

  1. HIA scoping limitations. PHD found that the HIA was limited by Governor Baker’s Directive, which narrowed the HIA’s scope and split the air quality assessment from other health-relevant issues, including public safety in the case of malfunction and impacts on climate. Furthermore, the time allocated to complete the HIA, and the resources made available for that purpose, were highly constrained.
  2. Cumulative pollutant exposures assessment. PHD found that MAPC should have gone further in the assessment of cumulative exposures in the study area.
  3. Environmental Justice communities. PHD also found that MAPC did not conduct adequate outreach to nearby Environmental Justice communities or ensure their residents were represented on the Advisory Committee.
  4. Health impacts of emissions below regulatory thresholds. Finally, PHD found that the findings of the report tended to under-estimate the possible health effects of emissions that fall below regulatory thresholds.     

» Read statement 

» More about the Weymouth compressor station         

 

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

 

Connecticut trendingConnecticut Becomes the Fifth State to Sue Big Oil over Climate Change
By Dana Drugmand, Drilled News
September 14, 2020

On Monday, September 14, Connecticut announced it had filed a lawsuit in state court against oil major ExxonMobil for alleged “decades of deceit” on the risks of climate change that stem from burning fossil fuels.

“ExxonMobil sold oil and gas, but it also sold lies about climate science,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a press release. “ExxonMobil knew that continuing to burn fossil fuels would have a significant impact on the environment, public health and our economy. Yet it chose to deceive the public. No more.”

At a time when much of the West Coast is engulfed in flames, fossil fuel companies are facing a torrent of climate accountability lawsuits from cities and states with four new cases filed this month alone.

Connecticut’s lawsuit comes on the heels of back-to-back lawsuits filed against Exxon and other oil and gas companies by the city of Charleston, South Carolina and by the state of Delaware on September 9 and 10, respectively. Hoboken, New Jersey sued some of these same fossil fuel firms on September 2. All of these cases are centered on allegations that the industry deliberately deceived the public on the climate risks of its fossil fuel products in order to stave off climate policies and protect profits.
» Read article      
» Read the press release        

 

Charleston up nextClimate Litigation Reaches American South with Charleston, SC Filing Latest Suit
By Dana Drugmand, Drilled News
September 10, 2020

 

The city of Charleston, South Carolina is going to court to hold two dozen oil and gas companies accountable for alleged deception about the role of fossil fuels in driving climate change.

Charleston filed its lawsuit against 24 petroleum firms in South Carolina state court on September 9, joining around 20 other communities across the country pursuing similar litigation against the fossil fuel industry. Hoboken, New Jersey filed a climate lawsuit just last week against six major oil and gas companies plus the industry’s largest trade association, the American Petroleum Institute. 24 hours after Charleston’s announcement, the state of Delaware announced the filing of its climate liability suit, against several fossil fuel companies and the American Petroleum Institute.

The Charleston lawsuit names major petroleum companies and their affiliates such as BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Phillips 66, ExxonMobil, Marathon Petroleum, and Shell Oil.

“As this lawsuit shows, these companies have known for more than 50 years that their products were going to cause the worst flooding the world has seen since Noah built the Ark,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said in a press release. “And instead of warning us, they covered up the truth and turned our flooding problems into their profits. That was wrong, and this lawsuit is all about holding them accountable for that multi-decade campaign of deception.”
» Read article          
» Read the Charleston press release               

» More about protests and actions        

 

LEGISLATION

 

US Capitol
Reps. Schakowsky, Barragán Introduce Legislation to End Fossil Fuel Expansion and Protect Communities
By Collin Rees, Oil Change International
September 17, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, and Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced the Future Generations Protection Act. This bill would help ensure a rapid shift to clean renewable energy by stopping further expansion of fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Specifically, the Future Generations Protection Act would ban greenhouse gas emissions from all new power plants, stop hydraulic fracking, and ban crude oil and natural gas exports. It would also prohibit the Federal Energy Resources Commission from approving new liquified natural gas terminal siting or construction, unless doing so would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The wildfires currently devastating our country and heightened hurricane threat prove we can’t afford to wait any longer to act on climate change,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “These once-in-a-generation disasters are now normal occurrences and securing our environmental health and prosperity for future generations requires that we address the source of the problem — fossil fuels. Of course, Congress must be thorough when it comes to passing legislation that has the potential to cause mass labor displacement and pair this bill with a jobs package. The Future Generations Protection Act is a critical step toward creating opportunities for more economically viable solutions and a cleaner, healthier future for all.”
» Read press release                                                

» More about legislation            

 

GREENING THE ECONOMY

 

trailing EuropeHouse to probe US lag on leveraging clean energy for COVID-19 recovery, consider bipartisan energy bill
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
September 11, 2020

While the U.S. has yet to include green infrastructure and clean energy in any of its COVID-19 recovery packages, countries across Europe and elsewhere were comparatively quick to tie climate policy into their economic recovery plans.

“What’s interesting about the EU situation is they already had a plan,” said Jennifer Huang, senior international fellow at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
» Read article           

» More about greening the economy         

 

CLIMATE

 

damage assessment
What Trump’s Environmental Rollbacks Mean for Global Warming
President Trump has made dismantling federal climate policies a centerpiece of his administration. A new analysis from the Rhodium Group finds those rollbacks add up to a lot more planet-warming emissions.
By Nadja Popovich and Brad Plumer, New York Times
September 17, 2020

The Trump administration has acted to repeal or weaken at least 100 environmental regulations over the past four years, including a number of Obama-era climate policies that Mr. Trump has said stifle businesses.

Assuming these Trump administration policies go forward as planned and survive legal challenges, the United States will emit the equivalent of an extra 1.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide between now and 2035, the Rhodium Group estimated. That’s more than Germany, Britain and Canada together emitted from energy use in 2018, the latest year for which data is available.

Greenhouse gas emissions are the main driver of global warming, which is increasingly causing damage throughout the United States. More frequent flooding along the coasts, increased fire hazard in the West, worsening air quality, and fiercer heat waves have all been tied to rising global temperatures. If emissions are not reined in, scientists say, the damage will only deepen.
» Read article          
» Read the Rhodium Group analysis                 

 

moving day
Climate Change Will Force a New American Migration
Wildfires rage in the West. Hurricanes batter the East. Droughts and floods wreak damage throughout the nation. Life has become increasingly untenable in the hardest-hit areas, but if the people there move, where will everyone go?
By Abrahm Lustgarten, photography by Meridith Kohut, ProPublica
September 15, 2020

For years, Americans have avoided confronting [climate] changes in their own backyards. The decisions we make about where to live are distorted not just by politics that play down climate risks, but also by expensive subsidies and incentives aimed at defying nature. In much of the developing world, vulnerable people will attempt to flee the emerging perils of global warming, seeking cooler temperatures, more fresh water and safety. But here in the United States, people have largely gravitated toward environmental danger, building along coastlines from New Jersey to Florida and settling across the cloudless deserts of the Southwest.

Across the United States, some 162 million people — nearly one in two — will most likely experience a decline in the quality of their environment, namely more heat and less water. For 93 million of them, the changes could be particularly severe, and by 2070, our analysis suggests, if carbon emissions rise at extreme levels, at least four million Americans could find themselves living at the fringe, in places decidedly outside the ideal niche for human life. The cost of resisting the new climate reality is mounting. Florida officials have already acknowledged that defending some roadways against the sea will be unaffordable. And the nation’s federal flood-insurance program is for the first time requiring that some of its payouts be used to retreat from climate threats across the country. It will soon prove too expensive to maintain the status quo.
» Read article            

 

hottest summer
Northern hemisphere breaks record for hottest ever summer
By Emily Holden, The Guardian
September 14, 2020

This summer was the hottest ever recorded in the northern hemisphere, according to US government scientists.

June, July and August were 1.17C (2.11F) above the 20th-century average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa).

The new record surpassed the summers of 2016 and 2019. Last month was also the second-hottest August ever recorded for the globe. The numbers put 2020 on track to be one of the five warmest years, according to Noaa.

United Nations officials have warned that many countries are not prepared to advance climate ambitions, while the US faces a presidential election that will decide whether it will contribute to such global efforts or hinder them.

With aggressive federal action, the US could cut its climate pollution almost in half by 2030 compared with 2005, according to the latest report from America’s Pledge, a group of private- and public-sector leaders.
» Read article           

 

methane explainedClimate Explained: Methane Is Short-Lived in the Atmosphere but Leaves Long-Term Damage
By Zebedee Nicholls and Tim Baxter, EcoWatch
September 13, 2020

For the benefit of policy makers, the climate science community set up several ways to compare gases to aid with implementing, monitoring and verifying emissions reduction policies.

In almost all cases, these rely on a calculated common currency – a carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO₂-e). The most common way to determine this is by assessing the global warming potential (GWP) of the gas over time.

The simple intent of GWP calculations is to compare the climate heating effect of each greenhouse gas to that created by an equivalent amount (by mass) of carbon dioxide.

In this way, emissions of one gas – like methane – can be compared with emissions of any other – like carbon dioxide, nitrous dioxide or any of the myriad other greenhouse gases.

Emitting methane will always be worse than emitting the same quantity of carbon dioxide, no matter the time scale.

How much worse depends on the time period used to average out its effects. The most commonly used averaging period is 100 years, but this is not the only choice, and it is not wrong to choose another.

As a starting point, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report from 2013 says methane heats the climate by 28 times more than carbon dioxide when averaged over 100 years and 84 times more when averaged over 20 years.
» Read article           

» More about climate      

 

CLEAN ENERGY

 

6x to net zero
Solar buildout must accelerate by up to six times 2019 levels to achieve net zero
By Jules Scully, PV Tech
September 16, 2020

The world will need to build five to six times as much solar and wind power per year as in 2019 if a carbon-zero economy is to be reached by the middle of the century, a study has said.

To reach that goal as well as the 90,000 – 115,000TWhs of annual global electricity supply needed, additional solar and wind capacity of around 13,000 – 18,000GW will be required by 2050, representing an investment of US$32 trillion, according to new analysis from think tank the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC).

It highlights that reductions in the cost of renewable energy make a net-zero economy “easily affordable” and argues that all growth in electricity supply should now come from zero-carbon sources with no need to build any new coal-fired power capacity to support economic growth and rising living standards.

Signatories of the report say the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the unpreparedness of the global economy to systemic risks and that the massive public spending now being dedicated to stimulating economic recovery constitutes a unique opportunity to invest in a more resilient economy. The ETC estimates that additional investments required to achieve the climate goals will be between US$1 trillion and US$2 trillion per year, equivalent to 1% – 1.5% of global GDP.
» Read article           

 

perovskite
Meet Perovskite, the Mystery Mineral That Could Transform Our Solar Energy Future
Someday, solar panels may be light and cheap enough that they could be hung on a clothesline, thanks to a synthetic mineral called perovskite. Physicist Sam Stranks explains the science and the challenges that stand in its way.
By Karen Frances Eng, TED Ideas
September 15, 2020

 

Solar power is key to our energy future. But the solar industry is butting up against one hard problem: Silicon cells are not very efficient at converting sunlight into electricity — at best, about 29 percent efficient. You may wonder, Why does efficiency even matter, when sunlight is free? The answer: because low efficiency means you need to install a whole lot of solar panels — which can be large, heavy and expensive to manufacture — to generate enough energy to make a dent in your needs.

But that could change thanks to a mineral called perovskite, according to Cambridge University physicist (and TED Fellow) Sam Stranks. He and his colleagues at Swift Solar are working to develop perovskite-based solar panels that could break the energy-efficiency upper limit.
» Read article           

 

Europe renewables dominating soon
Renewables Start to Outpace Fossil Fuels on Europe’s Grid
This week on The Energy Gang, we survey Europe’s electricity transition.
By Stephen Lacey, GreenTech Media
September 11, 2020

By 2030, Wood Mackenzie expects wind, solar and batteries to dominate Europe’s grid mix. But it may be happening even sooner.

In the first half of 2020, renewables (defined as solar, wind, hydro and biomass) beat out fossil fuels on the European grid for the first time. They didn’t just beat out coal — they beat out all fossil fuels put together.

This week on The Energy Gang, we’ll look at what the milestone means.
» Listen to podcast       

» More about clean energy        

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

 

underperformingT notes: Battery buses not ready for primetime yet
Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
September 14, 2020

MBTA OFFICIALS said on Monday that battery-powered buses are a promising technology that is still several years away from being ready for prime time, largely because a test of five vehicles indicated they take too long to charge and don’t live up to their mileage specifications, particularly during the winter.

The MBTA purchased five battery-power, 60-foot buses in 2019 and ran them on Silver Line routes over the past year. According to the T, the vehicle manufacturer promised the buses would run 100 to 120 miles on a single charge, but the actual mileage ranged from 60 to 110 miles, with the lesser amounts coming on colder weather days.

Erik Stoothoff, the MBTA’s chief engineer, said the buses would run out of juice in the afternoons, unable to complete some of their runs. He said it took eight hours to recharge the batteries.

“They don’t have enough battery power to deliver a full day’s service,” he said.

Stoothoff said the performance may actually be worse than the T’s testing indicates because the past winter was so mild. He said mileage dropped to 60 miles when the temperature was 20 degrees, but may have dropped even more with colder temperatures. “We have not stressed these buses the way the Boston climate can stress these buses,” he said.

Lawmakers and transportation advocates are pressing the T to convert to all-electric buses as quickly as possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Stoothoff said the battery technology is rapidly improving, but he predicted it would be several years before the technology reaches a level that would justify a major procurement.
» Read article           

 

marks the spot
Climate Scientists Take Their Closest Look Yet at the Warming Impact of Aviation Emissions
A new study reaffirms that contrail clouds produce more global warming than carbon dioxide, a finding that could help in the reduction of emissions from air travel.
By Leto Sapunar, InsideClimate News
September 18, 2020

An international team of prominent scientists has published what they say is the most comprehensive study to date calculating the complex climate impact of aviation emissions, reaffirming that contrail clouds produce more warming than carbon dioxide.

The study, which had been in the works since 2015, looked at both carbon dioxide and several types of “non-CO2” emissions in aviation. Carbon dioxide emissions are fairly well understood at this point, Lee said, but the impacts of non-CO2 emissions, which the study found account for about two-thirds of the net warming effect, are considerably harder to calculate.

The primary non-CO2 impact results from the emission of nitrogen oxides, water vapor and soot that can create heat-trapping contrail clouds. They form as emissions of hot gases and soot from aircraft engines activate water particles that freeze, producing the contrails, those straight, wispy white markings of a plane’s path through the sky.   

Other non-CO2 emissions involve what the study calls “aviation aerosols”—small particles composed of black and organic carbon known as soot, sulfur and nitrogen compounds.

“The airlines did not dispute that there was an impact of CO2 on the atmosphere,” said Annie Petsonk, the international counsel at the Environmental Defense Fund, who was not involved in the study. But until now, she said, they have claimed the science isn’t in on non-CO2 airline emissions. 

This paper, in filling that knowledge gap, deprives airlines of excuses to avoid dealing with non-CO2 emissions, said Petsonk.
» Read article          
» Read the study           

» More about clean transportation         

 

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

 

DERs getting traction
‘Game-Changer’ FERC Order Opens Up Wholesale Grid Markets to Distributed Energy Resources
A huge opportunity for solar, batteries, EVs and other DERs — and a huge challenge to integrate utility grid operations with bulk energy markets.
By Jeff St. John, GreenTech Media
September 17, 2020

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has passed a long-awaited order to open up the country’s wholesale energy markets to distributed energy resources (DERs) like rooftop solar, behind-the-meter batteries and electric vehicles. 

Now comes the hard part: creating market rules that allow these DERs to play in bulk energy markets while retaining the role of state regulators and utilities to maintain the soundness of their distribution grid operations and retail DER programs.

“DERs can hide in plain sight in our homes, businesses and communities, but their power is mighty,” FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said at Thursday’s meeting. Projections indicate that from 65 gigawatts to more than 380 gigawatts of DERs could be added to the country’s power grids over the next four years, he noted.
» Read article           

 

big changesBig changes may be ahead for natural gas pipelines, if FERC does its job
By Jessica Bell, Clean Energy Attorney in the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law, Utility Dive – Opinion
September 16, 2020

The day of reckoning for new natural gas infrastructure is long overdue. As states and consumers turn towards cleaner sources of energy, we must ask what the place is for new pipelines.

While prior wisdom may have seen natural gas as a bridge to a lower-carbon future, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from natural gas operations are substantial and increasingly unmitigated, as the current administration abandons regulations, such as those meant to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations. Pipelines risk becoming costly stranded assets if they are built without a serious look at how they fit with decarbonization goals. 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency tasked with evaluating the public need for new interstate natural gas pipelines and permitting their construction, refuses to grapple with these issues, though. And although FERC has said it wants to be more landowner-friendly, the burden of this infrastructure — that may not even be needed to meet demand — is still severe. But there are several avenues right now that could potentially lead to widespread change for natural gas pipeline projects.
» Read article           

» More about FERC          

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

 

dirty laundryThe US Oil and Gas Industry’s Methane Problem Is Catching up With It
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
September 16, 2020

For years, the oil and gas industry has been able to downplay, or outright ignore, the problem of methane. Methane is an invisible gas, and lax state and federal regulations in the U.S. have allowed oil and gas producers to self-report how much of this potent planet-warming gas leaks from its supply chain, which researchers have repeatedly found is a lot more than the industry was admitting to.

But improved technologies, particularly from satellites, have allowed the world to increasingly fact-check industry numbers, shining a light on the true climate impact of natural gas, which is primarily methane. These days, methane emissions have become an industry black eye, to the point that major players are now clamoring for regulations after the Trump administration recently finalized the rollback of Obama-era rules meant to reduce methane leaks from oil and gas.

On August 24, the Houston Chronicle published an op-ed arguing for the United States to regulate methane emissions for the oil and gas industry, and it was co-written by two influential voices in the industry, Antoine Halff and Andrew Gould. Halff was formerly the head of oil analysis at the International Energy Agency, an independent, intergovernmental organization focused on energy research and policy — and notorious for its overly optimistic (and inaccurate) outlooks for fossil fuels and overly pessimistic views on renewables. Gould is the former CEO of Schlumberger, the world’s largest oilfield services company. Gould also currently serves on the board of Occidental Petroleum Corporation — one of the largest fracking companies among the Permian oilfields of Texas. 

Halff and Gould were writing in response to the Trump administration’s repeal of existing methane regulations. However, as a sign of the changing times, they argued that regulating the greenhouse gas is simply good business for the oil and gas industry. 

“Producers will find it increasingly difficult to stay in business while visibly spewing methane into the air,” they wrote.
» Read article           

 

400 billion strandedOil Industry’s Shift to Plastics in Question as Report Warns $400 Billion in Stranded Assets Possible
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
September 14, 2020

This past year has brought massive disruptions for fossil fuel producers, who saw oil prices briefly dip far below $0 a barrel in some places amid pandemic lockdowns and witnessed ExxonMobil, once the king of blue chip stocks, unceremoniously booted from the widely-watched Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The last decade saw US oil and gas production skyrocket — but the sector also underperformed the market eight out of the last nine years, according to industry analysts.

And going forward, the oil industry faces increasing doubts about demand for oil in the future because of an expected shift to electric vehicles. The gas side of the oil and gas industry also faces growing competition from renewable energy, which has gone from being the most expensive way to generate power to, in many cases, the cheapest.

But executives with major oil giants have said that even if oil demand [growth] dries up, they expect they’ll still be able to sell an increasing amount of their products as petrochemicals. “Unlike refining, and ultimately unlike oil, which will see a moment when the growth will stop, we actually don’t anticipate that with petrochemicals,” Andrew Brown, a Royal Dutch Shell official, told the San Antonio Express News in 2018.

This strategy, according to a report published this month by the Carbon Tracker Initiative, carries significant financial risks, putting $400 billion of petrochemical industry investments at risk of becoming stranded assets. That’s nearly an entire year’s revenue for the worldwide plastics industry, based on 2018 figures from the Plastics Industry Association, potentially down the drain.

And the vast majority of those petrochemical investments are, in fact, investments in plastics. “Whilst most commentators have noted that petrochemicals are a major driver of expected oil demand growth, we can go one stage further,” the Carbon Tracker report notes, “and demonstrate that it is specifically plastics within petrochemicals that drive the expected growth in oil demand.”
» Read article             
» Read the Carbon Tracker report        

» More about fossil fuel            

 

PLASTICS RECYCLING

 

recycling hoaxHow Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled
By Laura Sullivan, NPR
September 11, 2020

NPR and PBS Frontline spent months digging into internal industry documents and interviewing top former officials. We found that the industry sold the public on an idea it knew wouldn’t work — that the majority of plastic could be, and would be, recycled — all while making billions of dollars selling the world new plastic.

The industry’s awareness that recycling wouldn’t keep plastic out of landfills and the environment dates to the program’s earliest days, we found. “There is serious doubt that [recycling plastic] can ever be made viable on an economic basis,” one industry insider wrote in a 1974 speech.

Yet the industry spent millions telling people to recycle, because, as one former top industry insider told NPR, selling recycling sold plastic, even if it wasn’t true.

“If the public thinks that recycling is working, then they are not going to be as concerned about the environment,” Larry Thomas, former president of the Society of the Plastics Industry, known today as the Plastics Industry Association and one of the industry’s most powerful trade groups in Washington, D.C., told NPR.
» Read article                  

» More about plastics recycling       

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