Tag Archives: sea level rise

Weekly News Check-In 10/15/21

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Welcome back.

Today concludes a five day series of protests and actions aimed at raising global awareness of the dangers posed by our continued reliance on fossil fuels. The timing is meant to focus attention on the critical COP26 climate talks opening soon in Glasgow. Participants there will have what may be our last chance to correct humanity’s course and avoid catastrophe.

Michigan’s Governor Whitmer has been trying to shut down the dilapidated Line 5 pipeline where it crosses the Straits of Mackinac. We’re offering three separate articles related to this complicated international issue as Canada, Michigan, and Indigenous groups are all claiming treaty violations.

The divestment movement has made considerable progress with insurers, pension funds, commercial banks, and universities – many of which are dumping fossils from their portfolios. But in what feels like a game of wack-a-mole, along comes venture capital hoping to turn a quick buck by propping up otherwise-abandoned polluters just a little longer.

The steel, ammonia, and cement industries together represent huge carbon emissions while producing products essential to the modern world. Greening those processes is challenging, but that’s not the whole story. The manufacture of cement and concrete requires massive volumes of high quality sand typically found in rivers. Demand for this material supports a global criminal network causing environmental havoc in some of the planet’s most vulnerable communities and ecosystems.

The International Energy Agency is trying hard to get our attention, delivering a clear message ahead of those COP26 climate talks that there’s absolutely no justification for further fossil fuel exploration anywhere, and that efforts to deploy clean energy must accelerate. For a kind of case study, we look at how Texas could avoid adding gas generator plants to shore up its creaky electric grid – implementing energy efficiency measures instead for better performance at much lower cost.

Transitioning to clean transportation is good and necessary, but it won’t happen all at once. Activists in Massachusetts are seeking stepped-up air pollution monitoring along the state’s highways to monitor missions in environmental justice communities.

Residents of Maine will vote November 2nd on a referendum to determine the fate of a controversial electric transmission corridor to bring Quebec hydro power through the state, largely to supply energy-hungry Massachusetts. The outcome of the vote is key to Massachusetts’ decarbonization plans, and may also foreshadow upcoming challenges to new transmission infrastructure elsewhere. But Massachusetts has committed to phasing out gas almost entirely – a commitment that relies on loads of new clean electricity. It also involves negotiations that may be ceding too much control to gas utilities.

Now that deep-seabed mining is poised for its first real expansion, serious questions and concerns are multiplying. This week, we take a look at legal liability – who’s responsible if something goes wrong in this risky venture?

Speaking of risk, the fossil fuel industry has teed up a potentially massive environmental and humanitarian disaster in the Red Sea, in the form of over a million barrels of crude oil aboard a rotting old supertanker called FSO Safer (pronounced saffer). The ship is mixed up in the ongoing war in Yemen, and the oil volume is four times larger than the Exxon Valdez spilled in Alaska thirty-two years ago.

We’ll end with a couple of positive items. First, the Natural Resources Defense Council has analyzed the biomass energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) model being promoted by DRAX, the UK’s largest biomass energy facility. Their conclusion? It’s bunk – burning biomass makes the climate worse even if you capture carbon dioxide at the site. That’s because of the emissions intensity of harvesting, processing, and transporting the fuel – along with the folly of cutting trees that would otherwise be pulling CO2 from the atmosphere.

The second bit of good news involves plastics recycling, or rather a clear statement that recycling doesn’t work, and will never solve our plastic waste problem. Good. Now maybe we can focus on stopping so much plastic being made in the first place.

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

people v fossil fuels
Indigenous Leaders Deliver Petitions to Army Corps DC Headquarters, After 155 Activists Arrested at The White House
People vs. Fossil Fuels week-long protest continues in Washington DC, with a sustained message to President Biden to take meaningful action against the climate crisis
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmog Blog
October 12, 2021

On the second day of ‘People vs. Fossil Fuels’ demonstrations in Washington, D.C., hundreds marched to the White House, again calling on President Biden to recognize  the world is in a climate emergency and to halt approvals of new fossil fuel projects. More than 150 people were arrested for refusing to clear the sidewalk in front of the White House, just a day after similar arrests of 136 people. After the U.S. Park Police escorted the last protesters away, a second rally was held in front of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters. There, over a hundred environmental activists showed their ongoing resistance to the recently completed construction of Enbridge’s expanded Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

The event was hosted by Honor The Earth, an Indigenous-led environmental justice organization based in northern Minnesota, with support from Seventh Generation, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN), and the People vs. Fossil Fuels coalition. And the petitions were collected by community and environmental justice groups, including Braided Justice Collective, Friends of the Earth, Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate, and 350.org, among others.

During a press conference the group held a ceremony with Anishinaabe drummers in front of the building where they presented the Army Corps with the petitions.
» Read article                     

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

jockying
Michigan tribes to Biden: Enbridge Line 5 threatens our treaty rights
By Kelly House, Bridge Michigan
October 12, 2021

As Canada leans on an international treaty to keep oil flowing through Line 5, Michigan Native American tribal leaders want the Biden administration to acknowledge that the pipeline’s fate affects their treaty rights, too.

In a press conference Tuesday, Bay Mills Indian Community President Whitney Gravelle called upon the Biden administration to make “a serious commitment” to uphold the rights of Michigan tribes as the federal government faces increasingly complex diplomatic issues regarding Line 5.

Gravelle’s comments come a week after Canada invoked a 1977 treaty governing cross-border pipelines in an attempt to block Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s efforts to shut down Line 5, which runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac. Canada argues that the treaty, part of which says that “no public authority” in either the U.S. or Canada can impede the flow of petroleum products through international pipelines, leaves Whitmer powerless to shut down Line 5.

Lawyers for the state of Michigan dispute that interpretation, and a University of Michigan legal expert earlier told Bridge Michigan that other language in the 1977 treaty gives Michigan the power to regulate the pipeline.

Calling efforts to keep Line 5 open a “direct attack on our sovereignty,” Gravelle argued at a virtual press conference Tuesday that “tribal nations’ treaty rights in this area predate and supersede any of Enbridge’s interests, including any rights the government of Canada or Enbridge may claim.”

The Straits and much of Michigan’s landmass are protected by the 1836 Treaty of Washington, in which tribes ceded millions of acres to the U.S. government in exchange for permanent rights to hunt, fish and gather, among other rights. Michigan tribes have argued an oil spill from Line 5 could decimate fish populations, rendering their protected fishing rights meaningless.
» Read article                   

oil and water
Line 5 opponents criticize Canada’s treaty maneuver, ask Biden to reject move
By Sheri McWhirter, MLive
October 12, 2021

Environmental and tribal advocates argued Canada’s invocation of treaty rights to keep Line 5 open was a ploy to protect fossil fuel profits over Great Lakes protections, and a failure to immediately address the climate crisis with reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Proponents of shutting down Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline and quashing a replacement tunnel proposal on Tuesday voiced their collective dismay at Canada’s recent argument that treaty rights somehow protect the continued flow of petrochemicals beneath Great Lakes waters at the Straits of Mackinac. The maneuver came as Southern California’s coastline became awash with oil leaked from an underwater pipeline, which they contended is a foreboding warning for Michigan.

“Canada’s last-ditch effort to save Enbridge came while oil was still flowing towards the California coast in an incident that should be instructive for all of us. The California oil spill was likely caused by a ship’s anchor striking the pipeline,” said Sean McBrearty, campaign coordinator for advocacy group Oil & Water Don’t Mix, recalling a 2018 tugboat anchor strike on the pipeline on Lake Michigan bottomlands.
» Read article                     

treaty invoked
Canada invokes 1977 treaty with US as dispute over pipeline intensifies
Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer says Line 5 of pipeline is a ‘ticking time bomb’ and has ordered it shut down
By Leyland Cecco, The Guardian
October 6, 2021

The Canadian government has invoked a decades-old treaty with the United States in its latest bid to save a pipeline that critics warn could be environmentally catastrophic if it were to fail.

For nearly 67 years, Calgary-based Enbridge has moved oil and natural gas from western Canada through Michigan and the Great Lakes to refineries in the province of Ontario.

But Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, says that one section of the company’s pipeline – Line 5, which crosses the Great Lakes beneath the environmentally sensitive Straits of Mackinac – is a “ticking time bomb” and has ordered it shut down.

Court-ordered mediation talks between Enbridge and the government of Michigan have broken down, and as tensions mount, Canada this week invoked a 1977 treaty obliging both countries to allow oil to flow uninterrupted.

By invoking the treaty – which would bring the dispute to binding arbitration – Canada has shown a rare frustration with president Joe Biden’s administration and its refusal to wade into the feud.

“While Biden may want to duck the issue to please [Whitmer] and keep the environmentalists in the Democratic caucus on side, the fact is that the treaty guarantees uninterrupted pipeline transit, except in exceptionally grave emergencies,” said Lawrence Herman, an international trade lawyer and senior fellow at the CD Howe Institute. “And even in those emergency cases, any interruption is only allowed for temporary periods.”

Line 5 delivers nearly half the oil needs of both Ontario and Quebec, as well as propane for the state of Michigan, and the treaty was initially pushed by the US to ensure oil could flow from Alaska, through Canada. Senators made the point that it ensured Canadian provinces couldn’t interfere with the movement of oil.
» Read article                     

» More about pipelines

DIVESTMENT

private equity
Private Equity Funds, Sensing Profit in Tumult, Are Propping Up Oil
These secretive investment companies have pumped billions of dollars into fossil fuel projects, buying up offshore platforms, building new pipelines and extending lifelines to coal power plants.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
October 13, 2021

As the oil and gas industry faces upheaval amid global price gyrations and catastrophic climate change, private equity firms — a class of investors with a hyper focus on maximizing profits — have stepped into the fray.

Since 2010, the private equity industry has invested at least $1.1 trillion into the energy sector — double the combined market value of three of the world’s largest energy companies, Exxon, Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell — according to new research. The overwhelming majority of those investments was in fossil fuels, according to data from Pitchbook, a company that tracks investment, and a new analysis by the Private Equity Stakeholder Project, a nonprofit that pushes for more disclosure about private equity deals.

Only about 12 percent of investment in the energy sector by private equity firms went into renewable power, like solar or wind, since 2010, though those investments have grown at a faster rate, according to Pitchbook data.

Private equity investors are taking advantage of an oil industry facing heat from environmental groups, courts, and even their own shareholders to start shifting away from fossil fuels, the major force behind climate change. As a result, many oil companies have begun shedding some of their dirtiest assets, which have often ended up in the hands of private equity-backed firms.

By bottom-fishing for bargain prices — looking to pick up riskier, less desirable assets on the cheap — the buyers are keeping some of the most polluting wells, coal-burning plants and other inefficient properties in operation. That keeps greenhouse gases pumping into the atmosphere.

At the same time banks, facing their own pressure to cut back on fossil fuel investments, have started to pull back from financing the industry, elevating the role of private equity.

The fossil fuel investments have come at a time when climate experts, as well as the world’s most influential energy organization, the International Energy Agency, say that nations need to more aggressively move away from burning fossil fuels, said Alyssa Giachino of the Private Equity Stakeholder Project.

“You see oil majors feeling the heat,” she said. “But private equity is quietly picking up the dregs, perpetuating operations of the least desirable assets.”
» Read article                     
» Read the Private Equity Stakeholder Project analysis

» More about divestment

GREENING THE ECONOMY

blast furnace
Can the World’s Most Polluting Heavy Industries Decarbonize?

The production of steel, cement and ammonia emit about one-fifth of all human-caused CO2. Technologies are emerging to decarbonize these industries, but big challenges remain.
By Fred Pearce, Yale Environment 360
September 23, 2021

We know how to decarbonize energy production with renewable fuels and land transportation with electric vehicles. Blueprints for greening shipping and aircraft are being drawn up. But what about the big industrial processes? They look set to become decarbonization holdouts — the last and hardest CO2 emissions that we must eliminate if we are to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century. In particular, how are we to green the three biggest globally-vital heavy industries: steel, cement, and ammonia, which together emit around a fifth of anthropogenic CO2?

Our modern urban environments are largely constructed from concrete — which is made from cement — and steel. Most of our food is grown through the application of fertilizer made from ammonia. These most ubiquitous industrial materials are produced at huge expense of energy and carbon dioxide emissions.

Their staid industries have prospered for over a century using largely unchanged manufacturing processes. But the urgent need to produce green ammonia, steel, and cement is starting to shake them up. Research is providing new options for fundamental changes to chemical processes. And in recent weeks, leading players have announced major initiatives in each of these three crunch industries.
» Read article                     

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

Santa Monica Pier
What sea level rise will do to famous American sites, visualized
New images show what areas of the world can be saved or lost if carbon emissions aren’t curbed
By Aliya Uteuova, The Guardian
October 12, 2021

The land on which 10% of the world’s population lives could be lost to sea level rise if carbon emission trends continue, new maps and visualizations show.

Fifty major cities, mostly in Asia, and at least one large nation on every continent but Australia and Antarctica are at risk. Many small island nations are threatened with near total loss of their land.

The collection of images and videos produced by the non-profit Climate Central visualize future sea level rise if the world fails to meet emissions reduction targets. The images show what areas of the world can be saved and which could be lost, taking with them the heritage and history of these coastal communities.

Meeting the most ambitious goals of the Paris climate agreement could reduce the sea level rise exposure by roughly half. But the world is not on course to limiting global warming to 1.5C (2.7F), as outlined in the 2015 Paris agreement. Based on current emissions, the Earth is expected to reach and even exceed 3C (5.4F) warming by 2100.
» Read article                     

carbon load
Climate scientists should pay more attention to fish poop. Really.
Fish poop transforms ocean chemistry and can store carbon for centuries.
By Benji Jones, Vox
October 8, 2021

Daniele Bianchi, a researcher at the University of California Los Angeles, has a message for climate scientists everywhere: Pay more attention to fish poop.

Fish and their feces play a hugely important and vastly underrated role in ocean chemistry and the carbon cycle that shapes Earth’s climate, according to a new study led by Bianchi and published in the journal Science Advances.

The story goes something like this: Tiny marine organisms called phytoplankton absorb carbon from the water and air around them. As the plankton are eaten by increasingly larger creatures, the carbon then travels up the food chain and into fish. Those fish then release a lot of it back into the ocean through their poop, much of which sinks to the seafloor and can store away carbon for centuries. The scientific term for carbon storage is sequestration.

“We think this is one of the most effective carbon-sequestration mechanisms in the ocean,” Bianchi told Vox. “It reaches the deep layers, where carbon is sequestered for hundreds or thousands of years.”
» Read article                     
» Read the study

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

Baton Rouge refinery
IEA Sends Clear Message to World Leaders: Stop Investing in New Oil and Gas
“It is now beyond doubt that there is no need for further coal, oil, and gas exploration if we are to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.”
By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams
October 13, 2021

Just over two weeks out from the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, the International Energy Agency on Wednesday delivered a straightforward and urgent message to world leaders: Fossil fuels must stay in the ground if planetary warming is to be limited to 1.5°C by the end of the century.

The IEA’s formal recognition of the 1.5°C target—the most ambitious aim of the Paris climate accord—was hailed as a “major shift” in the right direction for the influential agency, whose annual World Energy Outlook (WEO) report is often used as a resource by policymakers and businesses across the globe.

David Tong, Global Industry Campaign manager at Oil Change International, said Wednesday that the latest iteration of the WEO—while far from flawless in its projections and recommendations—”confirms that investment in new fossil fuel projects will undermine our chance to limit warming to 1.5ºC.”

“Today’s report is particularly remarkable because of the IEA’s history,” Tong added. “Big oil and gas companies like Shell and BP have relied on previous, less ambitious IEA scenarios to justify inadequate climate plans and pledges. That hiding place is now gone.”

The IEA’s report specifically finds that even if nations meet their current climate pledges, the world will see just 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions reductions necessary by 2030 to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

“Reaching that path requires investment in clean energy projects and infrastructure to more than triple over the next decade,” Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said in a statement. “Some 70% of that additional spending needs to happen in emerging and developing economies, where financing is scarce and capital remains up to seven times more expensive than in advanced economies.”

Pointing to the upcoming climate summit, the IEA’s report states that “making the 2020s the decade of massive clean energy deployment will require unambiguous direction from COP26.”
» Read article                     
» Read the IEA’s World Energy Outlook

big wind
Biden Administration Plans Wind Farms Along Nearly the Entire U.S. Coastline
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced that her agency will formally begin the process of identifying federal waters to lease to wind developers by 2025.
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
October 13, 2021

The Biden administration announced on Wednesday a plan to develop large-scale wind farms along nearly the entire coastline of the United States, the first long-term strategy from the government to produce electricity from offshore turbines.

Speaking at a wind power industry conference in Boston, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said that her agency will begin to identify, demarcate and hope to eventually lease federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of Maine and off the coasts of the Mid-Atlantic States, North Carolina and South Carolina, California and Oregon, to wind power developers by 2025.

The announcement came months after the Biden administration approved the nation’s first major commercial offshore wind farm off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts and began reviewing a dozen other potential offshore wind projects along the East Coast. On the West Coast, the administration has approved opening up two areas off the shores of Central and Northern California for commercial wind power development.

Taken together, the actions represent the most forceful push ever by federal government to promote offshore wind development.
» Read article                     

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Texas efficiency
These 7 efficiency policies could help Texas avoid $8B in new gas plants, ACEEE says
Robert Walton, Utility Dive
October 14, 2021

Winter Storm Uri knocked about half of Texas’ generation offline, leading grid officials to consider a range of solutions including weatherizing power plants and the construction of new generation. But those system upgrades would raise customer bills while only being relied on in the most extreme situations, ACEEE’s report points out.

“An alternate way to address these problems is to expand Texas’s currently limited energy efficiency and demand response programs,” the report finds, particularly those which reduce summer and winter peak demands.

ACEEE’s analysis concludes that a set of seven residential efficiency and demand response retrofit measures could serve about 9 million Texas households and offset most of the capability of new proposed gas combined-cycle generators. And those residential programs would have a five-year total programmatic cost of about $4.9 billion, or 39% less than the $8 billion capital investment required for new gas plants.

Efficiency programs ACEEE identifies include incentives for attic insulation, electric furnace upgrades, smart thermostats, and heat pumps and electric water heaters. Demand response programs include those targeting the flexibility of water heating, air conditioning and electric vehicle charging.
» Read article                     

» More about energy efficiency

BUILDING MATERIALS

illegal sand mining
Illegal Sand Mining Is Creating an Ecological Crisis in Bangladesh
Sand is at the center of a vast multinational criminal trade that’s having a catastrophic impact on the health of the planet.
By Kat Williams, Vice
September 20, 2021

Sand. If we think about it at all, it’s probably in relation to a relaxing day at the beach.

But sand is also at the center of a vast multinational criminal trade that’s having a catastrophic impact on the health of the planet.

Sand’s value stems from its integral role in the production of concrete, which is a necessary ingredient in both the physical and economic growth of countries across the globe. “Sand is so valuable as a resource that people are and have been killed over it,” says Julian Leyland, a professor of geography and environmental science at the University of Southampton.

And it’s not just any sand that can be used to make high-quality concrete. Jagged, sharp-shaped river sand is particularly sought after because, unlike smooth desert sand, it bonds well with cement.

One valuable source of river sand is Bangladesh, known as the “land of rivers.” Sand mining in Bangladesh is big business, and although it is supposed to be regulated, Bangladeshi sand miners often expand their operations beyond the areas they have legally leased.

Syeda Riswani Hasan, an attorney with the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, estimates 60 percent to 70 percent of Bangladeshi sand on the market is illegally mined.

“Sand here in Bangladesh has blood stains on it,” she says. “The entire river ecosystem…is bearing the brunt of sand mining.”

So, why isn’t sand mining better policed? Hasan describes a “thoroughly corrupt” system in which authorities are bribed to look the other way.  Leyland notes that nations are incentivized to turn a blind eye to illegal sand mining to further their own economic goals.

“There’s a real push for development…and so that’s really fueled their demand for sand,” she says.

Hasan foresees the insatiable demand for sand as potentially ruinous for Bangladesh. “Countries who do not want to destroy their own environment will be relying on Bangladesh because enforcement is very weak here,” she says. “And if there is more demand for sand, the entire river ecosystem of the country will simply collapse.”

To make matters worse, there is no international body tracking the sand trade.
» Read article                     
» Watch YouTube video

bags of cement
Cement makers across world pledge large cut in emissions by 2030
Industry responsible for about 8% of CO2 emissions commits to reaching net zero by 2050 without offsetting
By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
October 12, 2021

Cement makers around the world have pledged to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by up to a quarter this decade and reach net zero by 2050, in a move they said would make a major difference to the prospects for the Cop26 climate summit.

The industry is responsible for about 7%-8% of global carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of more than any individual country except China and the US. Cutting emissions from cement production is difficult, because the chemical processes used to make it and concrete release CO2.

The Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA), which represents 40 of the world’s biggest producers and about 80% of the industry outside China, made the pledge on Tuesday. Several major Chinese cement and concrete companies, which account for about 20% of China’s market, have also joined.

Companies have been working for more than a decade on ways to change the chemical processes and use different materials, as well as becoming more energy efficient. Tuesday’s pledge marks the first time that major producers have made a public commitment on the climate.
» Read article                     

» More about building materials

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

MA HWY
Activists want more air pollution monitoring near Massachusetts highways

Massachusetts environmental justice advocates want to make sure air pollution near highways is measured so that the state can ensure nearby communities benefit from the state’s transition to cleaner transportation.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
September 29, 2021

Massachusetts environmental justice activists are promoting a bill that would require the state to install more air quality monitors in areas vulnerable to transportation pollution.

The legislation is part of an effort to ensure communities that have borne a disproportionate share of diesel fumes and tailpipe emissions are able to reap the benefits of the state’s transition to cleaner energy. The information collected would be used to create plans to cut contaminants to a quarter of current levels by 2035.

“We want to address wrongs that were made decades ago but are still impacting our communities now,” said state Rep. Christine Barber, one of the sponsors of the bill.

The electrification of the transportation sector is a major component of Massachusetts’ plan for going carbon-neutral by 2050. However, simply reducing overall statewide transportation emissions is not enough, environmental justice activists say. They want the transition to be targeted at helping rectify some of the damage done by years of higher pollution levels in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

“Even if we implement policies to lower transportation pollution, disparities in air pollution hotspots will continue to exist,” said Sofia Owen, staff attorney for environmental justice group Alternatives for Community and the Environment. “And in our minds that is unacceptable — we need to do more.”
» Read article                     

loss happens
How Much Range Does an Electric Car Lose Each Year?
All EVs offer a multitude of measures used to slow down the process of battery degradation. However, the process is inevitable.
By Andrew Lambrecht, Inside EVs
October 12, 2021

While electric vehicles have been proven to have considerably lower ownership costs compared to their ICE counterparts, battery longevity remains an equivocal subject. Similar to how consumers ask how long the batteries can last, manufacturers often question the same subject. ”Every single battery is going to degrade every time you charge and discharge it,” Atlis Motor Vehicles CEO, Mark Hanchett, told InsideEVs.

Essentially, it’s inevitable that your electric car battery, or any rechargeable Li-ion battery, will lose its capacity it once had. However, the rate at which it’ll degrade is the unknown variable. Everything ranging from your charging habits to the very chemical makeup of the cell will affect your EV battery’s long-term energy storage.

While many factors are at play, there are four main elements that assist in further degrading EV batteries.
» Read article               

» More about clean transportation

SITING IMPACTS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY

CMP corridor
New England will need more clean power even if the CMP corridor is built
By Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News
October 13, 2021

The upcoming referendum over a transmission line through western Maine will have broad implications for New England and Quebec’s energy future, as the demand for massive quantities of clean energy will persist regardless of the outcome.

Mainers will vote Nov. 2 on a question that aims to block the $1 billion corridor being built by Central Maine Power affiliates and Hydro-Quebec through western Maine while requiring legislative approval for infrastructure projects on public lands. A yes vote in the referendum would block the project, while a no vote would allow work to continue.

The region has much riding on the outcome, but hydropower and long, controversial transmission lines are likely to play some role in a broad effort to slash carbon emissions whether the corridor is built or not. While alternatives including offshore wind are on the way, they are not likely to bridge the gap as quickly.

“Fighting climate change is a wicked problem, and there’s no easy fix because otherwise we would have found it,” said Francois Bouffard, an engineering professor at McGill University in Montreal. “So there’s always going to be winners and losers.”

But the project has broader consequences for the rest of New England, as well as in neighboring Quebec. In the short-run, the success or failure of the corridor is “very significant” for Massachusetts, which needs the power to meet its aggressive low-carbon energy goals, said Paul Hibbard, an energy consultant and former chair of the public utilities department there.

The Massachusetts attorney general’s office left a comment left before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission earlier this month urging quick resolution to disputes surrounding the project, saying the 1,200-megawatt transmission line was of “vital importance.”

Massachusetts’ shift toward hydropower would have secondary effects for the rest of the New England market, with more power available for others to buy. Although some corridor opponents have been skeptical, experts said there is little doubt that gas-fired power plants would be the first source displaced. Some of their owners have funded the political fight against the corridor.

“We cannot develop enough low-carbon sources fast enough,” Hibbard said. “So any incremental piece of energy coming from any zero carbon source right now is not going to be displacing renewables, it’ll be displacing fossil fuels.”
» Read article                     

» More about siting impacts

DEEP-SEABED MINING

inconclusiveDeep seabed mining is risky. If something goes wrong, who will pay for it?
By Ian Morse, Mongabay
October 8, 2021

Citizens of countries that sponsor deep-sea mining firms have written to several governments and the International Seabed Authority expressing concern that their nations will struggle to control the companies and may be liable for damages to the ocean as a result.

Liability is a central issue in the embryonic and risky deep-sea mining industry, because the company that will likely be the first to mine the ocean floor — DeepGreen/The Metals Company — depends on sponsorships from small Pacific island states whose collective GDP is a third its valuation.

Mining will likely cause widespread damage, scientists say, but the legal definition of environmental damage when it comes to deep-sea mining has yet to be determined.
» Read article                     

» More about deep-seabed mining

GAS UTILITIES

dismissive
The state asked for a blueprint of a gas-free future. Why are the utilities writing the first draft?
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
October 14, 2021

Looking ahead to a future when fossil fuels must be almost entirely removed from everyday life, Massachusetts last year made what would seem a sensible move: It launched a formal effort to plot the organized phase-out of natural gas.

The outcome of that investigation into the future of natural gas is to be a key step in the state’s climate fight, meant to produce the “policy and structural changes we need to ensure a clean energy future” and address the critical questions of “when and how” the state will wean itself from its most pervasive heating fuel.

So, what state regulators did next triggered more than a few angry questions among climate advocates, legislators, and researchers involved in Massachusetts’ climate efforts: they handed responsibility for writing the first draft of how the state will reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 to the very industry whose fate hung in the balance, natural gas.

For the first phase of the process, which began earlier this year, the Department of Public Utilities asked the gas companies to create several scenarios for how the state can reach net zero and still provide reliable, affordable heat to residents and business owners. Other interested parties, including state and local governments, and labor, business, and environmental groups, are invited to take part in monthly meetings, but, according to an order from the DPU, it’s the gas companies that lead this part of the process. Only later, once those companies have filed their reports, will others have the chance to formally weigh in.

Moreover, the DPU gave the utilities responsibility for selecting and hiring the consultant needed to develop critical data and models that will be used in the blueprint, rather than retaining its own independent adviser.

Some advocates fear these steps give the gas companies excessive control early in the process, potentially allowing them to lay a foundation for policies that put gas industry interests above the climate, either by prolonging widespread use of natural gas or recommending unproven fuels that fall short on cutting carbon.

“It really is industry driving climate policy in Massachusetts,” said Debbie New, a member of the advocacy group Gas Leaks Allies, which is a participant in the DPU investigation. “It needs to be an independent process in which the gas companies participate but everyone is on a much more equal footing,” she said.

In early September, a number of participants submitted a letter to the DPU listing ways they felt the gas companies were shutting them out of the discussion and failing to adequately consider equity and environmental justice, and asking the department for additional oversight.

The DPU dismissed the groups’ request to have the letter entered into the official record.

The current process calls for gas companies to submit their proposals by March. Next, the DPU will solicit comments from other participants and then “develop a regulatory and policy road map” that fits the state’s overall climate goals, said Craig Gilvarg, a spokesman for the state office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

The problem with that, according to numerous stakeholders, is that critical decisions — such as which pathways are possible, and what those entail — will have been already made by the time others get to weigh in, and any meaningful changes would be difficult, if not impossible, to make.
» Read article                     

gas meters
Massachusetts advocates say they’re being ignored in future-of-gas talks

Climate and equity groups say gas utilities are marginalizing their views as they develop a legally required “roadmap” for the gas industry’s future in the state.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
October 4, 2021

As Massachusetts gas companies start legally mandated investigations into their role in a clean energy future, advocates are concerned that stakeholder voices calling for aggressive decarbonization, environmental justice, and a fair transition for fossil fuel workers are being shut out at a crucial moment in the process.

While the gas companies contend they are committed to soliciting and incorporating stakeholder feedback, advocates say the utilities are failing to fully engage with their concerns. At the same time, the state has rejected advocates’ requests for increased oversight from regulators.

“It’s important for our perspective to be at the center of this and right now it feels like we’re much more of an audience,” said Debbie New, a participant in the Gas Leaks Allies coalition. “When questions about labor, equity, health, or safety are asked, we are told they will consider them later, rather than making them integral to the process.”

In June 2020, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey asked the state’s department of public utilities to open an investigation into the future of the natural gas industry as the state moves toward its goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The department launched the investigation in October of that year with the stated goal of developing “a regulatory and policy roadmap to guide the evolution of the gas distribution industry.”

The first step in Massachusetts’ process required the state’s gas distribution companies to hire consultants to analyze the costs, regulatory implications, and emissions reductions involved in several different decarbonization strategies the state could pursue. These studies, the order specified, should look at the so-called “pathways” laid out in the state’s 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap, as well as any other scenarios deemed appropriate. They should also take into account the input of stakeholders, the state said.

The gas companies have secured consultants and are working on the analysis required. A report of their findings, including recommendations for future action, is due in March 2022.

That timeline makes right now a very important moment for environmental and public health activists. The report that emerges from the current process will inform the rest of the discussions and decisions throughout the investigation. Therefore, advocates argue, it is essential that there is broad agreement as to the scenarios the consultants model, the data used, and the assumptions made.
» Read article                     

» More about gas utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

FSO Safer
Rotting Red Sea oil tanker could leave 8m people without water
FSO Safer has been abandoned since 2017 and loss of its 1.1m barrels would destroy Yemen’s fishing stocks
By Patrick Wintour, The Guardian
October 11, 2021

The impact of an oil spill in the Red Sea from a tanker that is rotting in the water could be far wider than anticipated, with 8 million people losing access to running water and Yemen’s Red Sea fishing stock destroyed within three weeks.

Negotiations are under way to offload the estimated 1.1m barrels of crude oil that remains onboard the FSO Safer, which has been deteriorating by the month since it was abandoned in 2017. The vessel contains four times the amount of oil released by the Exxon Valdez in the Gulf of Alaska in 1989, and a spill is considered increasingly probable.

The oil will spread well beyond Yemen and cause environmental havoc affecting Saudi Arabia, Eritrea and Djibouti, according to the latest modelling, which is unlike previous studies because it examines the impact more than a week after the spill.

Three-way talks between the Houthi rebels, the UN-recognised government of Yemen and the UN have foundered, despite repeated warnings, including at the UN security council, of the impact if the tanker explodes, breaks up or starts leaking. UN officials have been unable to secure guarantees to maintain the vessel, including its rotting hull, which is now overseen by a crew of just seven.
» Read article                     

» More about fossil fuel

BIOMASS

accounting corrected
Drax’s ‘Carbon Negative’ Bioenergy Claims ‘Wildly Exaggerated’, Study Argues
Responding to the analysis, Phil MacDonald, chief operating officer of Ember, said this was “exactly the kind of research that the UK government should be doing before it makes a decision on funding BECCS”.
By Phoebe Cooke, DeSmog Blog
October 13, 2021

The current supply chain of biomass giant Drax “makes the impacts of climate change worse”, a new study has claimed.

Analysis by US environmental advocacy group, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), studied the emissions from wood pellets transported from pine plantations in the southeastern United States to be used in a bioenergy, carbon capture and storage (BECCS) operation by Drax in Yorkshire.

Currently bioenergy is classified as a renewable energy source by the UK government, under the premise that it uses trees which can be replanted to recapture carbon and is therefore considered carbon neutral. Advocates of BECCS say the technology can even make the process “carbon negative”, by removing the carbon emissions from burning biomass and storing them underground.

Drax, which has piloted the BECCS technology since 2018, is hoping to deliver its first fully operational plant by 2027 as part of plans to become a “carbon negative company” by 2030 – removing more carbon than it produces.

However Sasha Stashwick, senior advocate at NRDC and campaigner with Cut Carbon Not Forests, said Drax’s claims of becoming “carbon negative” were “wildly exaggerated”.

“Drax’s biomass supply chain is so highly emissive, that with or without CCS (carbon capture and storage), it makes climate change worse,” she said. “This report makes clear that any UK government climate plan that relies on BECCS at Drax is extremely high-risk.

“When you’re in a hole, you stop digging – and the government must stop ploughing money into dirty biomass subsidies. Instead, these funds should be redirected to wind and solar energy, which is not only low-cost and low-risk, but actually helps fight the climate crisis.”
» Read article                     
» Read the NRDC analysis

» More about biomass

PLASTICS RECYCLING

Costa del Esta
Recycled plastic won’t solve tech’s waste problem
It doesn’t get at the root of the problem
By Justine Calma, The Verge
October 6, 2021

Buying a gadget made with recycled plastic instead of brand-new materials might sound like an environmentally friendly investment, but it does very little to cut down on the heaps of plastic pollution and electronic waste that are trashing the environment and ending up everywhere — including in our own bodies.

Think of plastic pollution like an overflowing tub in your bathroom, says Josh Lepawsky, a professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland who maps the international movement of electronic waste. “If you walked into that, probably the first thing you would do would be to turn off the tap — not grab a bucket and a mop, if you think of the bucket and the mop as recycling,” Lepawsky says. Turning off the tap equates to staunching the production of plastic goods. Trying to clean up a growing mess won’t address the root of the problem. “It doesn’t mean, don’t use a bucket and a mop. But that’s not turning off the tap.”

Cutting down waste means cutting down consumption. That’s something that can’t be solved with flashy new product offerings, even if those products are made with recycled materials. Companies need to sell fewer products that last longer so that gadgets aren’t so disposable in the first place. Hyping up recycling can actually stand in the way of that.

The scale of the plastics problem is massive. As of 2017, humans had produced 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic (for comparison, a rhinoceros weighs about 1 metric ton) — much of which can persist in the environment or in landfills for hundreds of years. Recycling has done little to stop that mess. Only 9 percent of plastic waste has ever been recycled, research has found. People send at least 8 million tons of plastic into the ocean every year, where it might end up in giant garbage patches, arctic ice, the bellies of sea life, and back inside our bodies.

“We can’t recycle our way out of this problem—acute reduction of plastic products, recycled or not, is the solution,” Max Liboiron, an associate professor of geography at Memorial University who researches plastic pollution, said in an email to The Verge. “​​Even the production of new plastic items that use some of these ocean plastics as feedstock will result in a net increase in plastic pollution.”
» Read article                     

» More about plastics recycling

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Weekly News Check-In 8/28/20

banner 10

Welcome back.

The Department of Public Utilities held public hearings on the pending purchase of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts by Eversource. This follows the disastrous series of fires and explosions in the Merrimack Valley two years ago. Many commenters shared a skepticism that transfer of corporate ownership would result in any public safety improvement. And as a growing list of communities push back against Big Gas, the first half of 2020 resulted in more pipelines being scrapped than were put into service.

In fossil fuel divestment news, a large Nordic hedge fund dumped its stock in some of the world’s foremost oil and mining companies – calling out those firms’ lobbying efforts against climate action.

On Tuesday, U.S. Senate Democrats published a plan for achieving a net-zero energy economy – offering a more general outline than the much more detailed work recently published by the House. Of course, any transformation of this magnitude displaces workers from mothballed industries. We’re keeping an eye on coal country where the upheaval is already underway, and where public support for a green future depends on jobs.

This week’s climate news features three separate studies, including a surprising revelation of global ice lost in recent decades, expanding tropical and arid climate zones, and techniques for optimizing carbon sequestration in natural forest systems.

The shear volume of reporting on clean energy makes it difficult to understand and prioritize the trends. We found an article that highlights the five most important technologies driving the energy transition. New York City has an immediate opportunity to apply some of these technologies as it grapples with plans to replace aging oil-burning “peaker” power plants. Meanwhile, New Hampshire is looking at ways for utilities to compensate operators of battery storage facilities for the services they provide the grid.

Not exactly green, but better than status quo is this week’s theme for clean transportation. We looked at aviation and heavy shipping and found news about cleaner, lower-carbon fuels being developed for both sectors.

The Environmental Protection Agency under President Trump has become a polluter’s best friend. The non-profit EcoWatch reports ten ways life has become more hazardous as a result.

The Guardian published an important report this week, detailing how the natural gas industry is working against climate action in a desperate and coordinated bid to uphold the fiction that it is a clean, low-emission “bridge fuel”. Meanwhile, in a not-so-subtle indicator of Big Oil’s declining power, the Dow Jones Industrial Average kicked ExxonMobil off the index – replacing it with Salesforce.com.

We wrap up with two stories from the liquefied natural gas beat. DeSmog Blog makes a case that the industry’s economics just don’t add up, so LNG can’t be profitably exported – especially to China. But it can be used to move natural gas domestically where pipelines aren’t available. If the Trump administration has its way, this highly concentrated and volatile fuel will soon be rumbling along in cryogenic train cars on a rail line near you.

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

— The NFGiM Team

COLUMBIA GAS INCIDENT / EVERSOURCE PURCHASE

EverColumbia
Not everyone happy about Columbia Gas deal
By Bill Kirk, Eagle-Tribune
August 25, 2020

Different company, same end result?

That pretty much sums up the fears of some Merrimack Valley residents who testified in front of the Department of Public Utilities during a Zoom public hearing Tuesday night to get input on the proposed buyout of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts by Eversource Energy.

“It feels like more of the same thing with a different name,” said Lawrence resident Justin Termini, who lived through the Sept. 13, 2018 gas explosions, fires and evacuations that left one dead and dozens injured. “I don’t feel safe. I’m disappointed in the whole idea. We want to feel safe and not get hurt again.”

The deal, prompted by the 2018 calamity, was crafted by the Massachusetts Attorney General with the cooperation of NiSource — the parent company of Columbia Gas — and Eversource, which currently has gas customers throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

This deal will double the number of its customers, as Eversource will take over all Columbia Gas customers in three regions of the state — Brockton, Springfield and Lawrence — if the deal is approved by the DPU.
» Read article          

» More about the Columbia Gas disaster     

PIPELINES

H1 2020 scap
More Gas Pipelines Scrapped Than Put In Service In H1 2020
By Charles Kennedy, oilprice.com
August 24, 2020

Some 5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of new pipeline capacity was placed into service in the United States in the first half this year, but an estimated 8.7 Bcf/d of pipeline projects have been canceled so far in 2020, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Monday.
» Read article          

» More about pipelines            

DIVESTMENT

holding us backMajor investment firm dumps Exxon, Chevron and Rio Tinto stock
Storebrand says corporate lobbying to undermine climate solutions is ‘unacceptable’
By Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian
August 24, 2020

A Nordic hedge fund worth more than $90bn (£68.6bn) has dumped its stocks in some of the world’s biggest oil companies and miners responsible for lobbying against climate action.

Storebrand, a Norwegian asset manager, divested from miner Rio Tinto as well as US oil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron as part of a new climate policy targeting companies that use their political clout to block green policies.

The investor is one of many major financial institutions divesting from polluting industries, but is understood to be the first to dump shares in companies which use their influence to slow the pace of climate action.

Jan Erik Saugestad, the chief executive of Storebrand, said corporate lobbying activity designed to undermine solutions to “the greatest risks facing humanity” is “simply unacceptable”.
» Read article          

» More about divestment        

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Sen Dem plan
US law makers must ‘use every proven tool’ to create net zero economy
By Liam Stoker, PVTech
August 26, 2020

The US federal government must use every tool available, and do so at an unprecedented scale, if it is to sufficiently tackle the climate crisis and stimulate a clean economy.

The benefits of doing so, a new report published by the Senate Democrats claimed, would pose multiple benefits for US citizens, ranging from public health benefits to enormous job creation.

Yesterday (25 August 2020) the Senate Democrats published the report, dubbed ‘The Case for Climate Action’, which provides detailed recommendations on how the country could establish a clean economy for the good of its people.

The document claims that the federal government must “use every proven tool at its disposal”, and at a scale not seen before, in order to accelerate the decarbonisation of the US’ power supply. Included within these tools are;

  • Direct spending and financing of new build renewable generation
  • Investments in transmission to increase the effectiveness of the grid across the entire US
  • Ramp up the use of market mechanisms such as a federal clean energy standard or carbon price to scale-up clean technologies over fossil fuels
  • Predictable, technology-neutral tax incentives focused on reducing emissions
  • Increased R&D spending aimed at reducing the cost of associated technologies

The benefits of doing so, the senate democrats have argued, would be plentiful and extensive, ranging from reducing emissions, allowing consumers to save money on energy bills, improving health and wellbeing and creating sustainable jobs for US citizens in the wake of COVID-19.

Amongst specific recommendations included within the report is policy to make the adoption of solar, energy efficiency retrofits and electric vehicles more accessible to US citizens. Senate Democrats point to institutions created by the US government in the 1930s, which increased home ownership by making available more affordable mortgages. Similar institutions could and should be created today for this purpose.
» Read article 
» Read ‘The Case for Climate Action’

reclamation opportunities
Survival is anything but certain for coal country

Coal country is not without options. But coal’s long legacy of hope, promises and failure has instilled a political inertia that won’t soon be overcome.
By Dustin Bleizeffer and Mason Adams, Energy News Network
Photo By Dustin Bleizeffer / WyoFile
August 25, 2020

Perhaps the biggest factor when it comes to efforts to transition, for both Wyoming and Appalachia, is whether voters will continue to endorse efforts to save coal or help coal-dependent communities move beyond it.

States actively seeking coal transition strategies, such as Colorado, are looking toward securitization. It’s a refinancing tool that can help reduce the ratepayer impact of retiring coal units early. Portions of savings from securitization go toward renewable energy and community development projects, which can in turn attract additional funds from the federal government.

Grassroots nonprofit groups such as the Powder River Basin Resource Council (which hosted a series of four webinars this summer focusing on communities in transition), Appalachian Voices and others have generated a font of ideas for assisting communities in transition from coal.

In late June, a range of local, tribal and labor leaders from coal communities across America endorsed the National Economic Transition (NET) Platform, developed through a process led by the Just Transition Fund. (The Just Transition Fund also provided a grant to fund this series.) The platform outlines principles and processes, but largely leaves specific details to be developed by local communities.

Coalfield communities “literally fueled the growth of the nation,” said Peter Hille, president of the community economic development nonprofit Mountain Association in eastern Kentucky. “There is a debt to be paid. Justice demands we bring new investment to these places: to build a new economy, to revitalize communities and to educate people of all ages to be ready.”
» Read article          

» More about greening the economy      

CLIMATE

mushing for miraclesEarth has lost 28 trillion tonnes of ice in less than 30 years
‘Stunned’ scientists say there is little doubt global heating is to blame for the loss
By Robin McKie, The Guardian
August 23, 2020

A total of 28 trillion tonnes of ice have disappeared from the surface of the Earth since 1994. That is the stunning conclusion of UK scientists who have analysed satellite surveys of the planet’s poles, mountains and glaciers to measure how much ice coverage lost because of global heating triggered by rising greenhouse gas emissions.

The scientists – based at Leeds and Edinburgh universities and University College London – describe the level of ice loss as “staggering” and warn that their analysis indicates that sea level rises, triggered by melting glaciers and ice sheets, could reach a metre by the end of the century.

“To put that in context, every centimetre of sea level rise means about a million people will be displaced from their low-lying homelands,” said Professor Andy Shepherd, director of Leeds University’s Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling.

The scientists also warn that the melting of ice in these quantities is now seriously reducing the planet’s ability to reflect solar radiation back into space. White ice is disappearing and the dark sea or soil exposed beneath it is absorbing more and more heat, further increasing the warming of the planet.

In addition, cold fresh water pouring from melting glaciers and ice sheets is causing major disruptions to the biological health of Arctic and Antarctic waters, while loss of glaciers in mountain ranges threatens to wipe out sources of fresh water on which local communities depend.
» Read article          
» Read the study

parched zones expanding
Hotter oceans make the tropics expand polewards
The tropical climate zones are not just warmer, they now cover more of the planet. Blame it on steadily hotter oceans.
By Tim Radford, Climate News Network
August 27, 2020

The tropics are on the march and US and German scientists think they know why: hotter oceans have taken control.

The parched, arid fringes of the hot, moist conditions that nourish the equatorial forest band around the middle of the globe are moving, unevenly, further north and south in response to climate change.

And the role of the ocean is made even more dramatic in the southern hemisphere: because the ocean south of the equator is so much bigger than in the north, the southward shift of the parched zone is even more pronounced.

Across the globe, things don’t look good for places like California, which has already suffered some of its worst droughts and fires on record, and  Australia, where drought and fire if possible have been even worse.

In the past century or so, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have risen from what was once a stable average of 285 parts per million to more than 400 ppm, and global average temperatures are now at least 1°C higher than they have been for most of human history.

Now a new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres offers an answer. The expansion of the tropics has been driven by ocean warming.
» Read article         
» Read the study

faster recovery
Restoring forests can reduce greenhouse gases
In a way, money does grow on trees. So it could pay to help nature restore forests and reduce greenhouse gases.
By Tim Radford, Climate News Network
August 21, 2020

European and US scientists think they may have settled a complex argument about how to restore a natural forest so that it absorbs more carbon. Don’t just leave nature to regenerate in the way she knows best. Get into the woodland and manage, and plant.

It will cost more money, but it will sequester more carbon: potentially enough to make economic good sense.

Researchers from 13 universities and research institutions report in the journal Science that they carefully mapped and then studied a stretch of tropical forest in Sabah, in Malaysian Borneo: a forest that had been heavily logged more than 30 years ago, and converted to plantation, and then finally protected from further damage. The mapping techniques recorded where, and how much, above-ground carbon was concentrated, across thousands of hectares.

The researchers report that those reaches of forest left to regenerate without human help recovered by as much as 2.9 tonnes of above-ground carbon per hectare each year. But those areas of forest that were helped a little, by what the scientists call “active restoration”, did even better.

Humans entered the regenerating forests and cut back the lianas – the climbing plants that flourish in degraded forests and compete with saplings – to help seedlings flourish. They also weeded where appropriate and enriched the mix of new plants with native seedlings.

Where this happened, the forest recovered 50% faster and carbon storage above-ground per hectare was measured at between 2.9 tonnes per hectare and 4.4 tonnes.

The lesson to be drawn is that where a natural forest may be thought fully restored after 60 years, active restoration could make it happen in 40 years.
» Read article    
» Read the report

» More about climate   

CLEAN ENERGY

five key technologies5 technologies propelling the energy transition
By Utility Dive Editors – series
August. 24, 2020

As states continue efforts to pursue clean energy targets, new technologies are emerging to help usher sweeping changes.

Utility Dive spoke with a wide array of experts to identify five key technologies that will propel the power sector’s transformation: green hydrogen, distributed energy aggregation, transmission development, fine-tuning wind and solar power, and power sector digitization.

This series is focused on technologies that could strengthen the grid, increasing reliability and making clean energy more affordable and available. Such developments are crucial to deploying higher levels of renewable energy onto the grid.
» Read article        

low hanging fruit
New York City’s hottest new energy fight
By Alexander C. Kaufman, Huffpost, in Grist
August 23, 2020

NRG Energy has quietly revived plans to replace its 50-year-old oil-burning generators with new gas-fired units, part of a $1.5 billion makeover the utility giant says will allow it to comply with state pollution rules while meeting electricity demand.

But the new cadre of climate-change hard-liners who unseated incumbents in this summer’s primary wants to upend that. The group of more than half a dozen campaigned for the New York State Legislature on platforms that included shutting down fossil fuel generation and bringing private utilities under government control.

“This is what it means to live out your belief in the Green New Deal,” said Zohran Mamdani as he squinted through the fence on a sunny recent Saturday morning. The 28-year-old democratic socialist unseated 10-year incumbent Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas in the Democratic primary for the 36th Assembly District last month.

New York City’s roughly 15 “peaker” plants — which produce extra generating capacity when the city’s demand eclipses the regular supply, like during a heatwave — are aging, and they run primarily on oil and gas. As the city looks to shrink its output of planet-heating gases, the plants seem like low-hanging fruit.
» Read article           

» More about clean energy      

ENERGY STORAGE

Concord capitol
New Hampshire looks for ways to pay battery owners for benefits they provide
A new state law asks regulators to investigate options for compensating energy storage projects for avoided distribution and transmission costs.
By David Thill, Energy News Network
Photo By Alexis Horatius  / Wikimedia Commons
August 24, 2020

A well-placed battery has the potential to ease electric grid congestion, bolster resilience, and even postpone costly utility equipment upgrades.

Owners of energy storage systems are rarely compensated for all of that value, though, because most states simply haven’t calculated what it’s worth.

New Hampshire regulators will take a step toward fixing that problem as a new state law calls for them to study how energy storage projects might be made whole for the benefits they provide to the state’s electric grid.
» Read article           

» More about energy storage          

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

small steps
Sustainable aviation fuels could soon take flight
The Midwest is ready for takeoff as a leader in cleaner aviation, thanks to researchers in Ohio and elsewhere and a cleantech startup in Illinois.
By Kathiann M. Kowalski, Energy News Network
Photo by sigmama / Flickr / Creative Commons
August 28, 2020

Presentations at the American Chemical Society’s Fall 2020 conference last week outlined various approaches to developing sustainable aviation fuels and ways to reduce costs and time for approvals. So, even if rules for aircraft engines include a business-as-usual approach, the fuel they burn could have lower lifecycle emissions, compared to the current use of all fossil fuels.

“In most cases, the reductions come from the fact that our carbon molecules [are] pulled from the atmosphere by plants, or from other circular economy sources, instead of continuing to pull carbon molecules from the ground,” said research engineer Derek Vardon at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.

Vardon’s report at the American Chemical Society conference noted that while direct exhaust emissions would be generally comparable to those from regular jet fuel, the lifecycle emissions of greenhouse gases would be lower. Much of that could come from preventing emissions that would otherwise result from biogas feedstocks. Sustainable fuels would also avoid a chunk of emissions from fossil fuel extraction and production. And emissions of sulfur dioxide and other pollutants would be lower.
» Read article          

dirty fuelHydrogen Is Cleaning Up One Of The World’s Dirtiest Industries
By Haley Zaremba, Oilprice
August 27, 2020

“If all the ships on Earth were a single country, that country would be the sixth-largest polluter in the world.” This jaw-dropping fact comes from an NPR report from late last year. The shipping industry, by way of its massive scale and its dirty fuel, ranks just behind Japan in its pollution levels. But the shipping sector’s open approach to change makes it pretty unique.

Last year, Oilprice reported on what was then the most promising approach to provide the worldwide shipping industry with a meaner, greener fleet. This would be the implementation of hydrogen fuel cells, a technology that has already been around for decades. Experiments with hydrogen-powered yachts were already underway, and one poll showed that the industry as a whole largely favored the implementation and adoption of hydrogen fuel cells within the next five years.

But the industry has not put all its eggs in one basket. Just this week the Maritime Executive reported on a brand new green shipping fuel option that South Korea is bringing to the table. “A new cooperation of South Korean companies is being formed to develop bio heavy fuel as an alternative for the shipping industry to meet its goal for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” wrote the Executive in its Monday report.

This marine biofuel would be created from biomass including “animal and plant oils, along with the production [residues] from the more common biodiesel fuel.” This reuse, reduce, recycle approach to shipping fuel would make for a much more eco-friendly shipping industry. As HMM has already found the materials as well as tested them out, all that’s left is bringing a product to market. “The partners will work together on R&D efforts to further establish standards for bio heavy oil and to commercialize the fuel through the development of a supply system,” reported the Executive. “If proven successful, the partners believe bio heavy fuel could become an alternative to the current fuels used in the shipping industry.”
» Read article          

» More about clean transportation         

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

toxic wake
Trump’s Toxic Wake: 10 Ways the EPA Has Made Life More Hazardous
By Melanie Benesh, Legislative Attorney with Environmental Working Group, in EcoWatch
August 23, 2020

From the beginning, the Trump administration has aggressively slashed environmental regulations. A New York Times analysis identified 100 environmental protections that have been reversed or are in the process of getting rolled back. The administration’s record on chemical safety has been especially hazardous for the health of Americans, especially children.

One year into President Trump’s term, EWG detailed how the Trump administration has stacked the Environmental Protection Agency with industry lawyers and lobbyists, undermined worker safety and cooked the books on chemical safety assessments. Midway through his second year, we reported how the EPA reversed a ban on a brain-damaging pesticide, delayed chemical bans and killed a rule to protect kids from toxic PCBs in schools. Last year, we reported that the EPA had rescinded safety rules at chemical plants, rubber-stamped untested new chemicals and silenced researchers.

As Trump’s first term nears its end, things are even worse. Here are 10 more ways the Trump administration has continued to make life more toxic for Americans.
» Read article           

» More about the EPA   

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Mentone flare
Revealed: how the gas industry is waging war against climate action
In a nationwide blitz, gas companies and their allies fight climate efforts that they consider an existential threat to their business
By Emily Holden, The Guardian
August 20, 2020

When progressive Seattle decided last year to wipe out its climate pollution within the decade, the city council vote in favor was unsurprisingly unanimous, and the easiest first step on that path was clear.

About one-third of the city’s climate footprint comes from buildings, in large part from burning “natural” gas for heating and cooking. Gas is a fossil fuel that releases carbon dioxide and far more potent methane into the atmosphere and heats the planet. It is plentiful and cheap, and it’s also a huge and increasing part of America’s climate challenge.

So, a city councilman drafted legislation to stop the problem from growing by banning gas hookups in new buildings. Suddenly, the first step didn’t look so easy.

“From there, we just ran into a wall of opposition,” said Alec Connon, a campaigner with the climate group 350 Seattle.

Local plumbers and pipe fitters warned of job losses. Realtors complained their clients would still want gas fireplaces. Building owners feared utility bills could soar.

The effort died. The ban wasn’t politically tenable, it seemed.

But internal records obtained by the Guardian show the measure’s defeat and the “wall of opposition” that advocates experienced were part of a sophisticated pushback plan from Seattle’s gas supplier, Puget Sound Energy.

Seattle’s story isn’t unique. In fact, it’s representative of a nationwide blitz by gas companies and their allies to beat back climate action they consider an existential threat to their business, according to emails, meeting agendas and public records reviewed by the Guardian.

The documents show the multibillion-dollar gas industry has built crucial local coalitions and hired high-powered operatives to torpedo cities’ anti-gas policies – sometimes assisted by money those same cities have paid into gas trade associations.
» Read article           

veggie oil refinery
Crude oil or cooking oil? For some U.S. refiners, it’s now a choice
By Stephanie Kelly and Laura Sanicola, Reuters
August 27, 2020

A slump in demand for gasoline since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic has several refining companies accelerating their plans to retrofit facilities to produce so-called renewable diesel made from, among other things, used cooking oil from fast-food restaurants.

The shift helps, they say, because it allows them to tap into lucrative federal and state incentives for production of low carbon fuels at a time when slumping fuel demand has squeezed profit margins for conventional fuels like gasoline.

Renewable diesel fuel burns cleaner than conventional diesel and can run without blending. Refiners can produce it by converting gasoline-making units to hydrotreaters that can process soybean oil or used cooking grease.
» Read article          

replaced by Salesforce on djia
An Oil Giant’s Wall Street Fall: The World is Sending the Industry Signals, but is Exxon Listening?
The company, which dropped off the Dow this week, has remained defiant as the oil market has plummeted and its competitors have begun to shift gears.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, InsideClimate News
August 26, 2020

In case anyone doubted the existential threats bearing down on the oil industry, Wall Street delivered another sign that oil and gas companies are in deep trouble this week, with the announcement that ExxonMobil was falling off the Dow Jones Industrial Average stock index. While the decisive blow might have come from the novel coronavirus, which has sent oil demand plummeting, it’s becoming harder to dispute that the industry may be in irreversible decline, as governments accelerate efforts to tackle climate change and move away from fossil fuels.

The companies included in the Dow Jones index are meant to represent the might of American commerce, and Exxon and its predecessor Standard Oil of New Jersey had held a secure place on the list since 1928, the longest run of any company.

On Monday, however, the keeper of the list announced Exxon would be replaced by Salesforce.com, the software company, as part of a shakeup prompted by a stock split by Apple. It’s hard to imagine a more symbolic end to Exxon’s tenure.
» Read article          

» More about fossil fuels

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

biz model blowupU.S. LNG Industry’s Business Model Doesn’t Work
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
August 25, 2020

In mid-July, Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette signed an order authorizing the export of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, from a proposed $10 billion terminal and gas pipline project in Oregon. The news release accompanying Brouillette’s order hailed the approval as having “profound economic, energy security, and environmental implications, both at home and abroad.”

Although the project, known as the Jordan Cove LNG terminal, has struggled to obtain state permits and faces vocal opposition from tribes and others, this consistent Trump administration refrain has not changed. The Obama administration made similar claims about natural gas production and energy security, jobs, and the environment, when it oversaw a rapid expansion of the LNG export industry.

President Obama and President Trump were on the same page about LNG exports. They also share something else in common: They were both dead wrong.

The LNG export industry is an economic disaster and is also a climate disaster, factors that are both contributing to its downward spiral. And while the Department of Energy has talked about exporting “freedom gas” to American allies to improve energy security, when the largest potential customer is China and current headlines highlight a potential new U.S.-China cold war, that isn’t a very credible argument, either.

Just two weeks after Brouillette signed his order, and toured the Jordan Cove site in Coos Bay, the project appears to be dead in the water because the economics don’t work.
» Read article           

LNG by rail challenged
Environmental groups, states sue feds over LNG by rail
Federal regulation on transporting liquefied natural gas by rail goes into effect Monday
By Joanna Marsh, FreightWaves
August 24, 2020

Environmental groups, 14 states and the District of Columbia are suing federal agencies over regulation allowing the transport of liquefied natural gas (LNG) via rail.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) in June authorized the bulk transportation of LNG by rail, and the rule was expected to take effect Monday, a month after it was published in the Federal Register.

The rule, which was made in consultation with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), allows for the bulk transportation of LNG using DOT-113 tank cars with enhanced outer tank requirements and additional operational controls.

But the states and the environmental groups argue that the rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act, the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

U.S. House Democrats have also criticized federal agencies for moving along with LNG-by-rail regulations, saying more reviews on the safety and operational practices to haul LNG via rail need to be conducted.

The environmental groups that filed the lawsuit before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last Tuesday include the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and Mountain Watershed Association.

The states bringing the lawsuit before the federal court are Maryland, New York, California, Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.

The Trump administration has been eager to export LNG. PHMSA and FRA have said previously that the regulation is the result of President Trump’s executive order recognizing the growing role of the U.S. as a producer of LNG in both domestic and international markets.
» Read article          

» More about LNG       

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Weekly News Check-In 5/29/20

WNCI-1

Welcome back.

This week’s post is all about opposing forces.

Presumed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden promised to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit if elected – signaling an about-face from the Trump administration’s blanket support for fossil fuel infrastructure build out. We explored further to look broadly at the road to a greener economy – finding obstacles already positioned by financial, corporate, and political interests deeply invested in the high-carbon status quo.

An interesting article describes how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) embraced the discredited research findings of contrarian scientist James Enstrom to justify its recent refusal to tighten clean air regulations of fine particulate pollution – ignoring the strong recommendations of credible environmental scientists. Also on the subject of federal regulatory agencies disregarding public interest, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is being challenged by Congress and environmental groups on net metering and gas infrastructure issues.

The idea that the climate crisis can be resolved by simply planting a trillion trees has gained traction recently, especially among groups who see it as a free pass from having to decarbonize the economy. We offer an article that looks under the surface of that appealing message to reveal a much more complicated reality. Spoiler alert: we need to decarbonize the economy and do lots of work on forests.

Along those lines, our clean energy and clean transportation sections offer some looks ahead, and we take a peek backward to review the recent history of high performance batteries.

Last week, we carried an article about solar and wind projects on Federal lands, blindsided by a sudden demand for retroactive rent payments. In a pairing that puts fossil fuel industry influence into perspective, a report shows that public lands managers bypassed normal processes to provide royalty relief for oil and gas companies during the coronavirus pandemic. Life is bland without irony, so we provide links to both stories.

We close with a report on emerging plastics alternatives from sustainable sources like seaweed and mushrooms.

— The NFGiM Team

PIPELINES

XL pull the plug
Biden White House would yank Keystone XL permit
The Monday statement is the first from Biden’s campaign about how he would handle the project.
By Ben Lefebvre, Politico
May 18, 2020

Joe Biden would rescind President Donald Trump’s permit allowing the Keystone XL oil pipeline to cross the border into the U.S., a move that would effectively kill the controversial project, his campaign told POLITICO on Monday.

The statement is the first from Biden’s campaign about how the presumptive Democratic nominee would handle the project that has been stalled for over a decade if he wins the White House in November.

Biden’s opposition also raises the stakes for the TC Energy’s efforts to start construction on the cross-border portion of the pipeline this year that would carry 830,000 barrels of crude oil from Canada to the U.S.
» Read article      

» More about pipelines            

GREENING THE ECONOMY

G20 fossil finance
New Report Details How G20 Nations Spend $77 Billion a Year to Finance Fossil Fuels
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams, in EcoWatch
May 28, 2020

Even after the world’s largest economies adopted the landmark Paris agreement to tackle the climate crisis in late 2015, governments continued to pour $77 billion a year in public finance into propping up the fossil fuel industry, according to a report released Wednesday.

Despite their public commitments to the Paris agreement, “G20 countries continue to subsidize the fossil fuel industry even as it makes bad business decisions that hurt people and the planet,” FOE U.S. senior international policy analyst Kate DeAngelis said in a statement.

“Our planet is hurtling towards climate catastrophe and these countries are pouring gasoline on the fire to the tune of billions,” she said. “We must hold G20 governments accountable for their promises to move countries toward clean energy. They have an opportunity to reflect and change their financing so that it supports clean energy solutions that will not exacerbate bad health outcomes and put workers at greater risk.”
» Read article      
» Read the report

bad bet on fossils
Propping Up the Fossil Fuel Industry Is a Bad Bet
The Fed should not be directing money to further entrench the carbon economy.
By Sarah Bloom Raskin, New York Times – Opinion
May 28, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare just how vulnerable the United States is to sudden, catastrophic shocks. Climate change poses the next big threat. Ignoring it, particularly to the benefit of fossil fuel interests, is a risk we can’t afford.

The Fed is singularly poised to seed strategic investments in future economic stability. Oil, gas and coal companies are set or are seeking to receive billions in federal aid — including at least $3.9 billion from the Paycheck Protection Program and at least $1.9 billion in tax credits tucked into the CARES Act passed by Congress. Their allies in Congress and the administration have lobbied for changes to several of the Fed’s lending programs, including relaxing the Main Street Lending Program. Among those eligible for government assistance are many fossil fuel companies that were in deep financial trouble long before the pandemic began.

These concessions to the fossil fuel industry are a risky investment in the past. The Fed is ignoring clear warning signs about the economic repercussions of the impending climate crisis by taking action that will lead to increases in greenhouse gas emissions at a time when even in the short term, fossil fuels are a terrible investment.
» Read article       

Spain to join group of first movers off oil and gas
By Romain Ioualalen, Oil Change International
May 26, 2020

On May 19, 2020, the Spanish Council of Ministers approved a Draft Bill on Climate Change and Energy Transition which sets out the country’s overarching climate policies. If the law is adopted, Spain will join a growing group of countries and financial institutions putting an end to oil and gas production.

Faced with the twin challenges of an unprecedented economic and social crisis and an ever-worsening climate emergency, governments have a duty to build a resilient economic model that protects their citizens’ future. There is no room in that future for a volatile industry whose products are directly responsible for the climate crisis and that is faced with a bleak future as demand for oil reaches its peak.

While the proposed emissions reductions trajectory is not in line with the cuts required to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement, Spain’s proposed measures are nonetheless a welcome example of how countries can plan a fossil-free recovery. Under the proposed law, Spain would tackle both the demand for (by promoting electric vehicles, establishing alternative fuel targets for the air transport) and supply of fossil fuels thus highlighting the need to combine both approaches to address fossil fuel lock-in.
» Read article       

far out
Labor Helps Obama Energy Secretary Push and Profit from ‘Net Zero’ Fossil Fuels
By Steve Horn, DeSmog Blog
May 24, 2020

Progressive activists have called for a Green New Deal, a linking of the U.S. climate and labor movements to create an equitable and decarbonized economy and move away from fossil fuels to address the climate crisis. But major labor unions and President Barack Obama’s Energy Secretary have far different plans.

On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the AFL-CIO and the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) — a nonprofit founded and run by former Obama Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz — launched the Labor Energy Partnership. Unlike those calling for a Green New Deal, though, this alliance supports increased fracking for oil and gas, as well as other controversial technologies that critics say prop up fossil fuels. It’s also an agenda matching a number of the former Energy Secretary’s personal financial investments.
Blog editor’s note: There will be headwinds on the way to a greener economy. Not all will originate from the usual suspects – here’s something to keep an eye on.
» Read article       

» More about greening the economy

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

J Enstrom
How a Contrarian Scientist Helped Trump’s EPA Defy Mainstream Science
James Enstrom’s work on particle pollution’s health effects contradicts the findings of dozens of studies, but that hasn’t stopped the agency from relying on it.
By Marianne Lavelle, InsideClimate News
May 28, 2020

When, last month, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the agency’s decision that it would not raise the standards for air pollution because the science of PM 2.5 was too uncertain to justify doing so, he was relying in part on Enstrom’s work. Enstrom’s research was among the studies cited by Wheeler’s hand-picked committee of science advisers to raise doubts about the PM 2.5 consensus.

More broadly, Enstrom’s work has helped provide the underpinning for the Trump administration’s wide-ranging assault on environmental protection policy, from its retreat on climate change to its current effort to restrict the type of science used by the EPA by disqualifying studies that critics say are some of the most important in human health science.
» Read article       

» More about EPA        

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

net metering and FERC
24 Congressional Democrats urge FERC to reject net metering overhaul
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
May 28, 2020

A group of Democratic senators and representatives on Tuesday wrote to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, urging the regulatory body to shut down a net metering proposal that experts say would effectively overturn the policy nationally.

The proposal at hand would subject any behind-the-meter, or customer-sited, energy generation to FERC jurisdiction, arguing that power production constitutes a wholesale sale. In the letter, Congress Members questioned FERC’s authority to make such a rule and also asked the commission to ask the petitioner, New England Ratepayers Association (NERA), to disclose its members.

“If FERC granted NERA’s petition, it would overturn long-held precedent and give the federal government decision-making power that has long belonged to the states, including the authority to set rates, terms, and conditions for programs,” the letter reads. “These decisions are best left to state regulators.”
» Read article      
» Read the letter

drilled podcast
The U.S. Government Has Been Rubber-Stamping New Oil and Gas Projects—This Lawsuit Hopes to Change That
By Amy Westervelt, Drilled News podcast
May 8, 2020

A lawsuit filed against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) over a small project in Massachusetts could have big implications. It aims to force FERC to comply with an order the courts gave it back in 2017, and that it’s been ignoring ever since: to evaluate the overall emissions and climate change impact of any new energy project. The case has particular relevance right now as FERC has been rapidly approving every project that crosses its desk. Adam Carlesco, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, joins to walk us through the case.
» Listen to podcast       

» More about FERC      

CLIMATE

trillion tree diversion
Can Planting a Trillion Trees Stop Climate Change? Scientists Say it’s a Lot More Complicated
Compared with cutting fossil fuels, tree planting would play only a small role in combating the climate crisis.
By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
May 27, 2020

It seems simple. Plant enough trees to soak up all the carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels and people can forget about global warming and get on with their lives.

Climate scientists and many Democrats on the House committee greeted… proposed tree planting legislation skeptically, saying that the only real climate solution is to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero as soon as possible.

Forests can only be part of a long-term plan to curb global warming after that happens, Yale evolutionary biologist and ecologist Carla Staver testified at the Trillion Trees Act hearing.

“Our primary focus must be reducing our dependence on fossil fuels,” she said, adding that any plausible attempt to limit global warming within our lifespan must also include forest protection and reforestation. “However, it is also crystal clear that tree planting alone will not fix our ongoing climate emergency,” she said.

In February, a coalition of 95 environmental groups sent a letter to Congress opposing the Trillion Trees Act as the “worst kind of greenwashing and a complete distraction from urgently needed reductions in fossil fuel pollution.”
» Read article      
» Read the letter        

seafloor ripples
Antarctic Ocean Reveals New Signs of Rapid Melt of Ancient Ice, Clues About Future Sea Level Rise
A study of seafloor ripples suggests that ice shelves can retreat six miles per year, a quantum increase over today’s rates.
By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
May 28, 2020

Climate researchers racing to calculate how fast and how high the sea level will rise found new clues on the seafloor around Antarctica. A study released today suggests that some of the continent’s floating ice shelves can, during eras of rapid warming, melt back by six miles per year, far faster than any ice retreat observed by satellites.

As global warming speeds up the Antarctic meltdown, the findings “set a new upper limit for what the worst-case might be,” said lead author Julian Dowdeswell, director of the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge.

The estimate of ice shelf retreat is based on a pattern of ridges discovered on the seafloor near the Larsen Ice Shelf. The spacing and size of the ridges suggest they were created as the floating ice shelves rose and fell with the tides while rapidly shrinking back from the ocean. In findings published today in Science, the researchers estimate that to corrugate the seafloor in this way, the ice would have retreated by more than 150 feet per day for at least 90 days.
» Read article       

9th circuit
Climate Liability Cases Score a Win with 9th Circuit Decision to Keep Them in State Court
By Karen Savage, Drilled News
May 26, 2020

Six California municipalities scored crucial wins on Tuesday when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent their climate liability suits against several fossil fuel companies back to state court, rejecting the companies’ arguments that the cases belong in federal court.

The 9th Circuit is the second appellate court to rule that climate-related lawsuits brought by municipalities across the country belong in state court. The 4th Circuit ruled earlier this year that a case filed by Baltimore against more than two dozen fossil fuel producers and distributors belongs in state court. The 10th Circuit is currently considering whether a suit filed by three Colorado communities belongs in state or federal court, and the 1st Circuit is reviewing the issue in a case filed by Rhode Island.

“I think a lot of plaintiffs were watching very carefully to see what happened in the 9th Circuit to see how this question of jurisdiction was resolved,” said Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law.
» Read article

» More about climate     

CLEAN ENERGY

PTC guidelines
US Treasury Gives Renewables More Time to Meet Tax Credit Deadlines
The wind and solar sectors both got something to like in new tax-credit guidelines issued by the Treasury Department.
By Emma Foehringer Merchant, GreenTech Media
May 28, 2020

The U.S. Treasury Department released much-anticipated guidance Wednesday that offers onshore wind and solar projects more time to meet tax credit deadlines.

Wind was the big winner: onshore projects that started construction in 2016 and 2017 will now have five rather than four years to finish projects, while still receiving production tax credit (PTC) benefits. But solar developers got some help too, with the IRS allowing for investment tax credit-qualified equipment bought in 2019 to be delivered into October and providing added assurance that developers will receive benefits as long as they have “reasonable” expectation that equipment will be delivered in the required timeframe.

The guidance, requested by members of Congress and encouraged by the clean energy industry, should offer developers comfort as they recover from extended coronavirus-related shutdowns.
» Read article       

» More about clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

morning traffic
States Sue to Block Trump From Weakening Fuel Economy Rules
At stake in the lawsuit is the single biggest effort by the United States to fight the climate crisis.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
May 27, 2020

Led by California, nearly two dozen states sued the Trump administration on Wednesday over its reversal of fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks, arguing that the move is based on erroneous science, and endangers public health.

The lawsuit escalates a standoff between President Trump, who has moved to undo a long list of environmental regulations since taking office, and a coalition of Democratic states, which have gone to court to stop him.
» Read article      
» Read the petition     

CAL
California Leads Multi-State Lawsuit Against Trump Admins’ Clean Car Rollback
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
May 27, 2020

A coalition of 23 states plus the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging the Trump Administration’s rollback of the Obama-era clean car standards. Those standards mandated stronger reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from new light-duty cars and trucks — reductions equivalent to corporate average fuel economy improvements of 5 percent annually.

But on March 31 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a final rule requiring only minimal fuel economy increases of 1.5% annually, which the agencies’ own analyses showed would result in more pollution and premature deaths.
» Read article       

» More about clean transportation

ENERGY STORAGE

better and cheaper
The story of cheaper batteries, from smartphones to Teslas
The economics of cheaper batteries—and why they’re good news for the planet.
By Timothy B. Lee, ARSTechnica
May 22, 2020

In 2010, a lithium-ion battery pack with 1 kWh of capacity—enough to power an electric car for three or four miles—cost more than $1,000. By 2019, the figure had fallen to $156, according to data compiled by BloombergNEF. That’s a massive drop, and experts expect continued—though perhaps not as rapid—progress in the coming decade. Several forecasters project the average cost of a kilowatt-hour of lithium-ion battery capacity to fall below $100 by the mid-2020s.

That’s the result of a virtuous circle where better, cheaper batteries expand the market, which in turn drives investments that produce further improvements in cost and performance. The trend is hugely significant because cheap batteries will be essential to shifting the world economy away from carbon-intensive energy sources like coal and gasoline.
» Read article       

» More about energy storage

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

public lands fossil giveaway
Ailing Oil Companies Get a Pass on Royalties
Federal public lands managers bypassed normal processes to provide pandemic relief, according to documents obtained by High Country News.
By Nick Bowlin, High Country News, in Drilled News
May 27, 2020

The day after oil futures went negative, Nicholas Douglas, a top-ranking national BLM official, emailed the agency’s Western state directors. This email thread, obtained by High Country News, shows the agency encouraging public-land drilling, despite the continued glut in the global market.

The new policies instruct state offices to let companies apply for lease suspensions and avoid royalty payments, which are the legally mandated taxes on the revenue from resources drilled or mined on public lands. Several BLM state offices confirmed to High Country News that they are carrying out these policies.

These new directives are not outliers. Despite the pandemic, the BLM appears to be encouraging public-lands drilling, rather than pressing operators to shut in wells and not produce oil. In the past few months, the BLM held lease sales in Colorado, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming. A September auction could make more than 100,000 acres of public land available for drilling just outside Canyonlands and Arches national parks in Utah. No such aid has been offered to renewable energy industries, which have also suffered in the downturn. Instead, the Interior Department hit solar and wind projects on federal land with large retroactive rent bills in mid-May, Reuters reported.
Blog editor’s note: we recently carried that Reuters story about retroactive rents for green energy installations on public lands. Refresh your memory here.
» Read article      

» More about fossil fuels

PLASTIC ALTERNATIVES

 

tired of plastic
Tired of Plastic? These Businesses Have Ideas for You
Companies are developing alternatives to single-use plastic, and with options including seaweed and mushroom tissue, consumer interest isn’t disappearing, even during the coronavirus pandemic.
By Tatiana Schlossberg, New York Times
May 27, 2020

The pandemic came at a time when momentum was building for a shift away from plastic, with many consumers demanding alternatives or halting use of products (plastic straws) altogether. Although about 72 percent of Americans say they actively try to limit their plastic use, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, the amount of plastic waste per person has remained constant: about 4 ounces per person every day, for a total of about 15.6 million tons in 2017.

But to those who are working on alternatives to single-use plastic, the consumer momentum is not disappearing. In fact, founders of several plastic-alternative companies said that they had seen even more interest from consumers in their products, and a renewed commitment from some of the larger companies they work with to press on.
» Read article      

» More about plastics alternatives

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Weekly News Check-In 4/24/20

WNCI-4

Welcome back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about the Weymouth compressor station           

DIVESTMENT

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

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

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

» More about divestment       

CLIMATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about climate       

CLEAN ENERGY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about clean energy       

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about clean transportation      

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about fossil fuels       

FERC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about FERC    

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

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

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

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

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

» More about electric utilities      

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Weekly News Check-In 1/31/20

WNCI-9

Welcome back.

This week we’re sharing a blog post from Maine, arguing that the Weymouth compressor station is of regional concern. Additional news about resistance to fossil fuels includes continuing citizen protests to delay coal trains bound for New Hampshire’s Merrimack Station.

We found climate news on the fading usefulness of natural gas as a bridge fuel – arguing against the need for new infrastructure. At the same time, cutting-edge climate models promise more accurate predictions of global warming, and preliminary results agree strongly with the worst-case scenarios of earlier models. All this while the true extent of methane leaked from extraction and distribution systems is coming into sharper focus.

Integration of clean energy into the electric grid is moving rapidly, but maybe not with the best possible resource mix. An interesting article calls for better strategic planning.

The shipping industry was looking at liquified natural gas (LNG) as a cleaner alternative fuel to improve its emissions. A new report casts doubt on that, with a reminder that it’s a complicated problem.

While the fossil fuel industry swats down near-constant attempts to ban fracking because it threatens climate and public health, the just-passed USMCA trade agreement contains plenty of protections and rewards for gas and oil. The rapidly growing fracking-dependent plastics industry is also walking the line between government support through lax regulations and a growing public backlash based on similar concerns.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

No Compressor Station
The Weymouth Compressor Should Be Of Regional Concern
By Adam Rice, West End News – Blog
January 24, 2020

If we as Mainers become more vocal about the capacity payments taken from our utility bills that prop up the fossil fuel industry and advocate true divestment, we could easily fund clean sources of heat and power over time. With the Weymouth compressor, support from neighboring states will be a powerful thing that helps the whole region move towards measurable progress.
» Read article       

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

no coal no gas
Prof. arrested for blocking coal train in climate protest
Prof. Sabine von Mering was arrested for participating in a train blockade in protest of the use of fossil fuels. The charges were dropped.
By Jen Crystal, The Justice
January 28, 2020

Prof. Sabine von Mering (GRALL, ENVS), a longtime climate activist, was arrested on Dec. 8 for blocking a freight train carrying coal to Merrimack Station, the largest remaining coal power plant in New England, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.

This train blockade is part of the “No Coal, No Gas” campaign, which is organizing actions to limit and eliminate fossil fuel infrastructure in New England. Judge Margaret Guzman dismissed the charges against von Mering and others at the protest on Dec. 9, according to the Lowell Sun.

The largest protest of this campaign took place on Sept. 20 at Merrimack Station in Bow, New Hampshire, where 67 people were arrested for trespassing. Von Mering told the Justice in a Jan. 22 interview that she joined the “No Coal, No Gas” campaign following this protest at the request of the Climate Disobedience Center.
» Read article

» More about protests and actions    

CLIMATE

bridge too far
Is Natural Gas Really Helping the U.S. Cut Emissions?
Methane leaks throughout the supply chain make the “cleaner” fuel more damaging to the climate than government data suggests.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, InsideClimate News
January 30, 2020

Can natural gas be part of a climate change solution?

That’s what the American Petroleum Institute argues in a new campaign it has launched ahead of this year’s elections, pushing back against some Democratic candidates who support bans on new development of oil and gas. The campaign echoes a refrain that supporters from both political parties have pushed for years: that gas is a cleaner fuel than coal and can serve as a bridge to a low-carbon future.

The industry points to data showing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions are at their lowest level in decades, as coal power generation has been replaced by gas, which produces about half the carbon dioxide emissions when burned, and by renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

But experts agree that those official figures understate emissions of methane, the primary component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas released in leaks throughout the oil and gas development supply chain. And while there’s uncertainty about how much methane is leaking, several studies show that the benefits of the switch from coal to gas over the last decade are smaller than government data suggests, perhaps substantially smaller.
» Read article

Thwaites Glacier
Temperatures at a Florida-Size Glacier in Antarctica Alarm Scientists
By Shola Lawal, New York Times
January 29, 2020

Scientists in Antarctica have recorded, for the first time, unusually warm water beneath a glacier the size of Florida that is already melting and contributing to a rise in sea levels.

The researchers, working on the Thwaites Glacier, recorded water temperatures at the base of the ice of more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above the normal freezing point. Critically, the measurements were taken at the glacier’s grounding line, the area where it transitions from resting wholly on bedrock to spreading out on the sea as ice shelves.

It is unclear how fast the glacier is deteriorating: Studies have forecast its total collapse in a century and also in a few decades. The presence of warm water in the grounding line may support estimates at the faster range.
» Read article

judges duck and cover
Judges Point Dismissed Youth Climate Plaintiffs to Political System Corrupted by Fossil Fuel Cash
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
January 24, 2020

Fossil fuel influence and money has largely captured political branches of the U.S. government, and yet the Ninth Circuit majority still concludes “that the plaintiffs’ case must be made to the political branches or to the electorate at large.”

In a scathing dissent, District Judge Josephine Staton rebuked this conclusion, warning that deferring to the political branches when they are perpetuating a grave harm would be detrimental to constitutional democracy.

“The majority laments that it cannot step into the shoes of the political branches, but appears ready to yield even if those branches walk the Nation over a cliff,” Staton writes. “This promotes separation of powers to the detriment of our countervailing constitutional mandate to intervene where the political branches run afoul of our foundational principles.”

Several legal experts concurred with Staton’s take that the majority opinion shirks the judiciary’s core function in our system of government.
» Read article      
» Read the decision and dissent    

omnicide
How Does a Nation Adapt to Its Own Murder?
Australia is going up in flames, and its government calls for resilience while planning for more coal mines.
By Richard Flanagan, New York Times Opinion
January. 25, 2020

To describe this terrifying new reality, a terrifying new idea: “omnicide.” As used by Danielle Celermajer, a professor of sociology at the University of Sydney specializing in human rights, the term invokes a crime we have previously been unable to imagine because we had never before witnessed it.

Ms. Celermajer argues that “ecocide,” the killing of ecosystems, is inadequate to describe the devastation of Australia’s fires. “This is something more,” she has written. “This is the killing of everything. Omnicide.”

What does the future look like where omnicide is the norm?

According to the American climatologist Michael Mann, “It is conceivable that much of Australia simply becomes too hot and dry for human habitation.”
» Read article       

worse than you think
Scientists Say Paris Agreement Climate Goals May Now Be Unattainable

By Alex Kirby for Climate News Network, in DeSmog UK
January 23, 2020

The fevered arguments about how the world can reach the Paris climate goals on cutting the greenhouse gases which are driving global heating may be a waste of time. An international team of scientists has learned more about the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2) − and it’s not good news.

Teams in six countries, using new climate models, say the warming potential of CO2 has been underestimated for years. The new models will be used in revised UN temperature projections next year. If they are accurate, the Paris targets of keeping temperature rise below 2°C − or preferably 1.5°C − will belong to a fantasy world.

Vastly more data and computing power has become available since the current Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections were finalised in 2013. “We have better models now,” Olivier Boucher, head of the Institut Pierre Simon Laplace Climate Modelling Centre in Paris, told the French news agency AFP, and they “represent current climate trends more accurately”.

Projections from government-backed teams using the models in the US, UK, France and Canada suggest a much warmer future unless the world acts fast: CO2 concentrations which have till now been expected to produce a world only 3°C warmer than pre-industrial levels would more probably heat the Earth’s surface by four or five degrees Celsius.
» Read article

climate blows up economy
Climate Change Could Blow Up the Economy. Banks Aren’t Ready.
Like other central banks, the E.C.B., which met on Thursday, is scrambling to prepare for what a report warns could be a coming economic upheaval.
By Jack Ewing, New York Times
January 23, 2020

FRANKFURT — Climate change has already been blamed for deadly bush fires in Australia, withering coral reefs, rising sea levels and ever more cataclysmic storms. Could it also cause the next financial crisis?

A report issued this week by an umbrella organization for the world’s central banks argued that the answer is yes, while warning that central bankers lack tools to deal with what it says could be one of the biggest economic dislocations of all time.

The book-length report, published by the Bank for International Settlements, in Basel, Switzerland, signals what could be the overriding theme for central banks in the decade to come.

“Climate change poses unprecedented challenges to human societies, and our community of central banks and supervisors cannot consider itself immune to the risks ahead of us,” François Villeroy de Galhau, governor of the Banque de France, said in the report.
» Read article      
» Read report: Central banking and financial stability in the age of climate change

» More about climate    

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

geo surprise
Geothermal’s surprise: Cheap renewables could keep states from achieving climate goals
Planners must think beyond the levelized cost for renewables to the value that each resource brings to the grid.
By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
January 27, 2020

Surprisingly, the plunging cost of some renewables could keep states from reaching ambitious climate goals if planners fail to recognize the higher value in some higher cost renewables.

States like New York, Massachusetts and California with ambitious 2030 renewables and 2045 emissions reduction mandates are starting to find a tension between cost and value. Offshore wind’s reliability and emissions reduction values have raised its profile, though it remains more expensive than onshore wind. Now California policymakers are beginning to see the potentially extraordinary, but so far unrecognized value of its geothermal resources.

“We overbuilt natural gas and then we built so much solar that we have solar over-generation, so we have fallen in love with batteries,” Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies (CEERT) Executive Director V. John White told Utility Dive. “Batteries are great, but planning is too driven by costs, and not enough by the value in meeting grid needs, and not having a balanced resource portfolio could be the Achilles heel of our climate effort.”
» Read article      

» More about clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

LNG bunker bust
LNG fuel fails to deliver GHG emission cuts: report

By Paul Bartlett, Seatrade Maritime News
January 29, 2020

A new report just released by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) concludes that using LNG for bunkers may not be as beneficial as previously thought. In fact, on a lifecycle basis, LNG as a marine fuel may have little impact on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The analysis compares LNG, marine gas oil, very low sulphur fuel oil and heavy fuel oil used in marine engines in the LNG tanker and cruise sectors. However, results varied widely depending on engine technology. High-pressure dual fuel (HPDF) machinery came out top but the ICCT estimates that only 90 of the 750-plus LNG-fuelled ships in service use these engines.

Moreover, using a 20-year global warming potential model and taking into account upstream emissions, combustion emissions and methane slip, there is no climate benefit from using LNG, regardless of engine technology, the analysis concludes. Even HPDF engines emitted more lifecycle GHG emissions than when they used marine gas oil.
» Read article
» Read report       

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

fracking Canada
Birth defects, cancer and disease among potential health risks from fracking for Canadians, doctors warn
By Kieran Leavitt, The Star
January 29, 2020

EDMONTON—Dire health impacts and a damaged environment are among concerns raised in a new review on the fracking of natural gas written by a Canadian non-profit made up of physicians.

Due to the chemicals involved in fracking, the practice’s wide-ranging impacts on humans includes the potential for birth defects, cancer, neurological issues, psychological impacts, disease and illness, reads the review by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE).
» Read article      
» Read CAPE report        

crude export ban
‘Like Handing Out Blankets Affected With Smallpox’: US Called to End Oil Exports to Thwart Climate Crisis
By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams, in DeSmog Blog
January 28, 2020

A new report released Tuesday by Oil Change International and Greenpeace USA found that reinstating the U.S. crude oil export ban Congress lifted in 2015 would slash global carbon emissions by up to 181 million tons of CO2-equivalent each year — a reduction comparable to shuttering dozens of coal-fired power plants.

Given the significant impact it would have in the fight against the global climate crisis, Oil Change and Greenpeace demanded that the next president and Congress commit to reviving the crude oil export ban as part of a broad and just transition away from fossil fuel production, which the Trump administration has worked to increase.

The next president, the groups note, has the “legal authority to reinstate crude oil export restrictions by declaring a national climate emergency.” Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, have both committed to ending crude oil exports if elected.
» Read article     

» Read report     

Permian Basin Hwy 67
The Hidden Danger Of Radioactive Oil And Gas Wastewater
Because oil and gas waste is exempt from hazardous waste regulations, the trucks that carry it are unmarked and free to travel near schools and reservoirs.
By Terri Langford, Texas Standard
January 27, 2020

Many Texans likely have a basic idea of how oil and gas is produced. The fuels are extracted from the ground and trucked to plants where they’re refined. But many people may be less familiar with the extraction waste, or “brine,” that is trucked away as part of that process.

Brine, a salty substance, is sent to treatment plants or injection wells where it’s then shot back into the Earth. It’s also radioactive, and Justin Nobel’s recent story in Rolling Stone details how little those who transport this material are told about its risks, and how little regulation there is when it comes to moving the radioactive substance.
» Read article    
» Read Justin Nobel’s Rolling Stone article      

murky water
‘We can’t live like this’: residents say a corrupt pipeline project is making them sick
A community in Pennsylvania says clay-colored water appeared during a drilling mud spill, but the pipeline company insists it’s not to blame
By Nina Lakhani, The Guardian
January 27, 2020

Every evening, Erica and Jon Tarr load up their car with towels, toiletries and dirty dishes, before driving their two-year-old daughter to a relative’s home to bathe, wash up and eat a meal cooked in clean water.

The Tarrs, who moved into their spacious detached home in semi-rural Pennsylvania last April, have relied upon bottled water and family generosity since June, when their crystalline tap water first turned murky.

Since then, they’ve spent more than $32,000 on new equipment, lab tests, bottled water, repairing pipes and parts damaged by the turbid water. It still isn’t safe, and they don’t know why.
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USMCA oil slick
5 Reasons Many See Trump’s Free Trade Deal as a Triumph for Fossil Fuels
The USMCA is a cornucopia of free-trade provisions for oil and gas companies. One environmentalist calls it “a climate failure any way you look at it.”
By Marianne Lavelle, InsideClimate News
January 24, 2020

The oil and gas industry had qualms when Trump first moved to scrap the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. “Renegotiating NAFTA creates risks,” said the American Petroleum Institute in an August 2017 position paper.

But through lobbying over subsequent months, the industry helped shape a deal better for its interests than NAFTA. The USMCA takes into account the monumental transformations in the North American oil and gas industry since NAFTA—the rise of the Canadian oil sands, the U.S. fracking boom, the opening of Mexico’s long-nationalized industry to private investment—and seeks to maintain them.
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casing failure
This Problem With Fracked Oil and Gas Wells Is Occurring ‘at an Alarming Rate’
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
January 23, 2020

On February 15, 2018, a fracked natural gas well owned by ExxonMobil’s XTO Energy and located in southeast Ohio experienced a well blowout, causing it to gush the potent greenhouse gas methane for nearly three weeks. The obscure accident ultimately resulted in one of the biggest methane leaks in U.S. history. The New York Times reported in December that new satellite data revealed that this single gas well leaked more methane in 20 days than an entire year’s worth of methane released by the oil and gas industries in countries like Norway and France.

The cause of this massive leak was a failure of the gas well’s casing, or internal lining. Well casing failures represent yet another significant but not widely discussed technical problem for an unprofitable fracking industry.
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PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

ban the bags
Booming Plastics Industry Faces Backlash as Data About Environmental Harm Grows:
Environmentalists cite “an incredible disconnect” between government support for plastics manufacturing and evidence of the industry’s pollution and climate impact.
By James Bruggers, Inside Climate News
January 24, 2020


Frustrated with the sight of plastic bags and styrofoam containers piling up in its harbor, the city of Charleston, South Carolina, rang in the new year with a promise to start enforcing a ban on single-use plastic containers and utensils.

It’s one of hundreds of similar bans that have been launched across the U.S. and Europe, amid a growing backlash to an industry that is expanding despite increasing evidence of the harm its products can do.

In just the past year, researchers have shown that tiny particles of plastic are pervasive in the environment, even high in the mountains and inside human bodies. Dead whales have washed up with dozens of pounds of plastic waste in their stomachs. And a new awareness of the role the plastics industry plays in climate change is emerging.
» Read article

» More about plastics in the environment

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