Tag Archives: Trans Mountain

Weekly News Check-In 9/17/21

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Welcome back.

Lewis Carroll published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, early in the industrial period and nearly a hundred years before the nascent fossil fuel industry launched its mind-warping climate disinformation campaign to delay meaningful and rational action to avoid the planetary catastrophe baked into their business model. While collecting articles this week, I found myself asking more than once, “How did he know?”

Let’s begin with an overview of how utilities are still selling gas burning peaking power plants as solutions to our need to cut emissions. Also, Canada claims to be reducing emissions while pushing hard to complete the Trans Mountain tar-sands oil pipeline, even as giant Chubb becomes the sixteenth insurer to drop coverage. And while a Congressional committee calls for oil majors to testify next month about their organized and sustained influence and disinformation campaigns, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin threatens to hold up meaningful climate legislation because, “What is the urgency?”.

“Well, I never heard it before, but it sounds uncommon nonsense.” – L.C.

How about this for urgency… renowned climate scientist James Hansen predicts that, due to a reduction in aerosol pollution, the rate of global warming over the next 25 years could be double what we experienced in the previous 50. Again, Lewis Carroll on what that means for our climate mitigation efforts: “My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”

Meanwhile, back in the real world, efforts are underway to build out lithium battery recycling centers and diversify the green economy workforce. Australian startup SunDrive posted a power output efficiency record with its new solar PV module – using relatively abundant copper in its design instead of silver – a significant clean energy development. And energy storage company EnerVenue has found a way to bring long-duration nickel-hydrogen batteries down in price and down from space, where they have been successfully deployed for years – including on the International Space Station and Hubble Telescope.

At least as important as all that nice technology is actually leaning into the monumental task of improving the energy efficiency of our built environment. While Connecticut falls behind on this effort, the town of Brookline, Massachusetts doggedly pursues a ban on gas hookups for new construction – a key motivator for progress in this area.

We’re using our Clean Transportation section to spotlight where all the lithium for electric vehicles is likely to come from, and also launch a discussion about the biofuel “solution” to aviation emissions – too good to be true?

In the spirit of reality checks, we found some reasonable skepticism about Iceland’s big new carbon capture and sequestration project. The issue is whether it can ever be scaled up to a level that matches the need.

While much of this week’s fossil fuel industry news was just silly, we found some serious reporting on coal. The first article describes the utter environmental devastation caused by a partnership between Wall Street money and mountaintop-removal mining operations in Appalachia. The second notes that plans for most new coal plants have been cancelled in the six years since the Paris Climate Agreement.

We’ll close with a report on efforts in Massachusetts to remove renewable energy subsidies from woody biomass. And for anyone who still maintains that biomass is carbon neutral as it’s being harvested, processed, and burned, we’ll let Lewis Carroll have the last word: “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

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

PEAKING POWER PLANTS

CenterPoint
Fight over ‘peaker’ plants poses grid climate test
By Miranda Willson, E&E News
August 24, 2021

A proposed natural gas power plant and pipeline project in southwestern Indiana are drawing fire out of concerns that they will add more pollution to a region saddled with fossil fuel infrastructure.

The controversy surrounding CenterPoint Energy Inc.’s plans for the site of an aging coal plant near Evansville, Ind., highlights a broader debate over natural gas “peaker” plants — backup power producers that rarely run but can be ramped up quickly when electricity demand is high.

Some electric utilities are proposing new peaker units as coal plants retire and the power grid becomes more dependent on intermittent solar and wind farms, but the gas projects face opposition from local environmental groups who say their communities are already overburdened by emissions-spewing facilities.

In addition to the fight brewing near Evansville, utilities in Peabody, Mass., and Queens, N.Y., have similarly proposed new “peaking” gas units at the sites of existing or retiring fossil fuel generators. In all three cases, activists contend that the closure of fossil fuel plants should be used as opportunities to remedy historic environmental injustices.

“The majority of peaker plants across the country are sited in low-income areas and communities of color, many of which are already overburdened by decades of pollution from fossil-fuel infrastructure, industrial processes, and heavy transportation,” Seth Mullendore, vice president of the nonprofit advocacy organization Clean Energy Group, said in an email.

Because new peaker plants are often used less than 10% of the time and release less carbon dioxide than coal plants, environmentalists don’t always challenge them. In Minnesota, for example, several clean energy groups were “encouraged” by Xcel Energy Inc.’s plan to build new solar and wind projects as well as a transmission line, even though it also included two small gas units (Energywire, June 28). The groups added that they are still reviewing the plan and the need for the gas units.

Peaker plants built today are also much more energy efficient and lower-cost than older versions, said Alex Bond, deputy general counsel for climate and clean energy at the Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities.

Nonetheless, clean energy groups are calling on utilities to pursue more advanced solutions to the grid reliability issues posed by renewables, such as battery storage, demand-response programs and power lines to connect to far-flung solar or wind farms. And some environmentalists in communities with a legacy of fossil fuels perceive new gas plants as half measures toward clean air.
» Read article                 

» More about peaker plants

PIPELINES

TMX pipe
Liberals say Trans Mountain pipeline could stay open until 2060
By Brian Hill, Global News
September 14, 2021

The Trans Mountain Pipeline could remain operational for another “30 to 40 years,” according to Liberal candidate Jonathan Wilkinson.

Wilkinson, who is also the current environment minister, made the remarks during an interview with Global News on Sept. 13 about the future of fossil fuels and pipelines in Canada.

“What you’re going to start to see is declining demand for oil over the coming 30 years — 40 years perhaps in the context of some of the developing countries,” Wilkinson said.

“And so, in that context, I would say that the utilization of the Trans Mountain Pipeline is probably in that order of 30 to 40 years.”

Wilkinson said building and operating the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, which will increase the existing pipeline’s current capacity from 300,000 barrels a day to 890,000 barrels, will ensure Canadian energy producers receive “full value” for the oil they extract by opening up foreign markets other than the United States.

Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada and an instructor of environmental studies at the University of Toronto, said expanding any pipeline at a time of decreasing demand for fossil fuels is illogical.

“When you’re supposedly moving to a zero carbon economy, that doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Stewart said.

“There’s this notion that we can basically get off fossil fuels, and yet somehow continue to export them.”

A report recently published in the journal Nature said 84 per cent of Canada’s 49 billion barrels of proven oil sand reserves, and nearly two-thirds of global oil supplies, must remain “unextracted” to avoid temperatures rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. That target was set at the 2015 Paris climate change summit.

“Canada’s resources are really expensive to extract, in addition to having a super high carbon intensity,” said Caroline Brouilette, domestic policy manager at Climate Action Network Canada. “In a global market, where demand has to decrease, those resources that are the most expensive and most polluting will have to be the first one to stay in the ground.”
» Read article                  
» Read the Journal Nature report

» More about pipelines                    

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

gas station damage
House Panel Expands Inquiry Into Climate Disinformation by Oil Giants
Executives from Exxon, Shell, BP and others are being called to testify in Congress next month after a secret recording this year exposed an Exxon official boasting of such efforts.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
September 16, 2021

The House Oversight Committee has widened its inquiry into the oil and gas industry’s role in spreading disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming, calling on top executives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Royal Dutch Shell, as well as the lobby groups American Petroleum Institute and the United States Chamber of Commerce, to testify before Congress next month.

The move comes as Washington is wrestling with major climate legislation intended to slash the nation’s reliance on oil and gas, and in a year of climate disasters that have affected millions of Americans. Raging wildfires in the West burned more than two million acres, one of the strongest hurricanes ever to make landfall in the United States left a path of destruction from Louisiana to New York City, and heat waves smashed records and delivered life-threatening conditions to regions unaccustomed to extreme heat.

Thursday’s demands from the powerful Oversight Committee put senior executives from some of the world’s largest oil companies at the center of an investigation into the role their industry has played in undermining the scientific consensus that the burning of fossil fuels is a root cause of global warming.

“We are deeply concerned that the fossil fuel industry has reaped massive profits for decades while contributing to climate change that is devastating American communities, costing taxpayers billions of dollars, and ravaging the natural world,” read the letter to Darren Woods, the Exxon chief executive.

“We are also concerned that to protect those profits, the industry has reportedly led a coordinated effort to spread disinformation to mislead the public and prevent crucial action to address climate change,” the letter said.
» Read article                   

» More about protests and actions

DIVESTMENT

TMP - Chubb out
BREAKING: Trans Mountain Loses 16th Insurer as Industry Giant Chubb Walks Away
By The Energy Mix
September 14, 2021

The world’s biggest publicly-traded provider of property and casualty insurance, Chubb, has become the 16th insurer to declare that it won’t back the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline, a coalition of climate and Indigenous campaigners announced yesterday.

The flurry of social media activity was triggered by a single tweet from Financial Times insurance correspondent Ian Smith, with no elaborating news story as The Energy Mix went to virtual press Tuesday evening. “Chubb does not provide insurance coverage for any tar sands projects,” a spokesperson told Smith, following a protest at the U.S. Open tennis tournament earlier this month.

Chubb became the official insurance sponsor for the annual tournament last year.

At the U.S. Open last week, campaigners “erected a 15-foot inflatable of Chubb CEO Evan Greenberg to demand he act on climate change,” Insure Our Future wrote in a release. “U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) wrote to Greenberg in March asking how Chubb’s underwriting policies align with its sustainability commitments.”

That was apparently enough pressure for Chubb, which became the first U.S. insurer to withdraw investment and risk coverage from coal projects in 2019. That action made the company a leader at the time, Insure Our Future said, “but the company has not made any additional climate commitments since then. In recent months, it has been under increasing pressure for its involvement with the tar sands industry.”
» Read article                   

shift
Harvard to Divest Fossil Fuels, Sets Example for Other Institutions
By The Energy Mix
September 12, 2021

Climate activists are hailing Harvard University’s move to divest from fossil fuels as a profound shift in the status quo and a model for other institutions.

The iconic and wealthy university’s decision to go fossil-free comes after years of resisting calls to divest, writes The Washington Post, citing Harvard President Larry S. Bacow’s invocation of the climate crisis as the reason for the about-face.

“We must act now as citizens, as scholars, and as an institution to address this crisis on as many fronts as we have at our disposal,” Bacow said in an open letter explaining the shift.

The university’s a call to action “is likely to have ripple effects in higher education and beyond, given Harvard’s US$41-billion endowment and its iconic status among American institutions,” notes the Post. Along with ending all direct investment in fossil exploration or development, Harvard “also plans to allow its remaining indirect investments in the fossil fuel industry—through private equity funds—to lapse without renewal.”

That figure currently stands at about 2% of the endowment, the Post says.

“Harvard is really a very potent symbol of the status quo,” said Richard Brooks, climate finance director at San Francisco-based Stand.earth. “With this move, they have shifted the status quo. That’s where the power of this announcement and this change really lies.”
» Read article                  
» Read Harvard President Larry S. Bacow’s letter

» More about divestment

LEGISLATION

urgency is obvious
In the Democrats’ Budget Package, a Billion Tons of Carbon Cuts at Stake
The package is imperiled by opposition from Joe Manchin, a coal state Democrat, who is balking at the costs, and advocates fear the chance won’t come again.
By Marianne Lavelle, Inside Climate News
September 17, 2021

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia was explaining why he opposed his Democratic colleagues’ $3.5 trillion budget plan, but his words summed up the Congressional response on climate change for the past 30 years.

“What is the urgency?” asked Manchin in an appearance on CNN on Sunday.

With climate action advocates now in a race against both the forces of nature and the political calendar, some might say the answer is obvious.

The legislation that Manchin wants to stall contains the policies that most Democratic senators see as the best hope left to make the deep cuts in greenhouse gases necessary to curb devastating planetary warming.

With a key round of international climate talks scheduled for November in Glasgow—the first since the United States rejoined the Paris accord—Congressional action now would demonstrate the nation’s commitment to President Joe Biden’s ambitious pledge to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2030.

And with the Democrats’ slim majority in both the House and Senate in jeopardy in next year’s midterm elections, the budget package may mark the last opportunity to act.

“We have a responsibility now—while we don’t have fossil fuel-funded Republican control in the House or the Senate, and while we have President Biden in the White House—to get this done,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) at a rally outside the Capitol on Monday. “If we miss this moment, it is not clear when we will have a second chance.”
» Read article                   

» More about legislation

GREENING THE ECONOMY

elemental
Li-ion battery recycling specialist Li-Cycle plans Alabama facility after demand exceeds expectations
By Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
September 13, 2021

Lithium battery recycling company Li-Cycle is planning its fourth facility in North America, the company said, as it made its first financial results release since listing on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in August.

The new plant will be built in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which Li-Cycle co-founder and executive chairman Tim Johnston said is in response to demand for lithium-ion battery recycling exceeding the company’s expectations. Li-Cycle builds ‘Hub and Spoke’ facilities: lithium batteries are dismantled and turned into ‘black mass’ which contains all their different metals at Spokes and then the black mass is processed at Hubs.

The company has two Spokes already in operation in Kingston, Ontario, and Rochester in Upstate New York and then announced a further Spoke in Arizona in April to meet both supply and demand from the West Coast. Meanwhile it is still developing its first Hub, which will also be in Rochester and is expected to be its major revenue-generator.

Li-Cycle is betting, as are many in the battery industry, that recycling will become a big opportunity further down the line and has sought to enter the space early. At the moment the majority of its feedstock comes from the 5% to 10% of assembly line batteries that manufacturers reject, but it is anticipating a “tsunami” of end-of-life batteries to begin in the next couple of years.
» Read article                   

help wanted
E2: ‘The face of clean energy is predominantly White and male’
By Emma Penrod, Utility Dive
September 14, 2021

People of color and women are “vastly underrepresented” in clean energy jobs compared to the U.S. workforce at large, and many underrepresented groups lost ground between 2017 and 2020, according to a report released last week by BW Research Partnership, E2, and a coalition of clean energy industry groups.

Underrepresented racial and ethnic groups hold just four in ten clean energy jobs, according to the report. Black workers were the most poorly represented in the sector, composing 8% of clean energy jobs compared to 13% of the U.S. workforce as a whole.

With people of color and women now representing the majority of young students in the U.S., clean energy companies could face labor shortages in the future if they fail to recruit more diverse workers, according to Paula Glover, president of the Alliance to Save Energy. “If you’ve done nothing and know nobody, then your roadway is a lot longer than someone who has been at it a long time,” she said.
» Read article                  
» Read the E2 report

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

the devil collects
The Rate of Global Warming During Next 25 Years Could Be Double What it Was in the Previous 50, a Renowned Climate Scientist Warns
Former NASA climate scientist James Hansen urged Congress decades ago to act on climate change. Now he says he expects reduced aerosol pollution to lead to a steep temperature rise.
By Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News
September 15, 2021

James Hansen, a climate scientist who shook Washington when he told Congress 33 years ago that human emissions of greenhouse gases were cooking the planet, is now warning that he expects the rate of global warming to double in the next 20 years.

While still warning that it is carbon dioxide and methane that are driving global warming, Hansen said that, in this case, warming is being accelerated by the decline of other industrial pollutants that they’ve cleaned from it.

Plunging sulfate aerosol emissions from industrial sources, particularly shipping, could lead global temperatures to surge well beyond the levels prescribed by the Paris Climate Agreement as soon as 2040 “unless appropriate countermeasures are taken,” Hansen wrote, together with Makiko Sato, in a monthly temperature analysis published in August by the Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions center at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

Declining sulfate aerosols makes some clouds less reflective, enabling more solar radiation to reach and warm land and ocean surfaces.

Since his Congressional testimony rattled Washington, D.C. a generation ago, Hansen’s climate warnings have grown more urgent, but they are still mostly unheeded. In 2006, when he was head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, George W. Bush’s administration tried to stop him from speaking out about the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The removal of air pollution, either through air quality measures or because combustion processes are phased out to get rid of CO2, will result in an increase in the resulting rate of warming,” said climate scientist and IPCC report author Joeri Rogelj, director of research at the Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute.

There’s a fix for at least some of this short-term increase in the rate of warming, he said.

“The only measures that can counteract this increased rate of warming over the next decades are methane reductions,” Rogelj said. “I just want to highlight that methane reductions have always been part of the portfolio of greenhouse gas emissions reductions that are necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. This new evidence only further emphasizes this need.”
» Read article               

methane plume
U.S., EU pursuing global deal to slash planet-warming methane – documents
By Kate Abnett and Valerie Volcovici, Reuters
September 14, 2021

BRUSSELS/WASHINGTON, Sept 13 (Reuters) – The United States and the European Union have agreed to aim to cut emissions of the planet-warming gas methane by around a third by the end of this decade and are pushing other major economies to join them, according to documents seen by Reuters.

Their pact comes as Washington and Brussels seek to galvanize other major economies ahead of a world summit to address climate change in Glasgow, Scotland, in November, and could have a significant impact on the energy, agriculture and waste industries responsible for the bulk of methane emissions.

The greenhouse gas methane, the biggest cause of climate change after carbon dioxide (CO2), is facing more scrutiny as governments seek solutions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, a goal of the Paris climate agreement.

In an attempt to jumpstart the action, the United States and the EU later this week will make a joint pledge to reduce human-caused methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030, compared with 2020 levels, according to a draft of the Global Methane Pledge seen by Reuters.

“The short atmospheric lifetime of methane means that taking action now can rapidly reduce the rate of global warming,” the draft said.
» Read article                   

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

new breed
Australia’s breakthrough solar tech has eye on rooftop and mega-project markets
By Giles Parkinson, Renew Economy
September 15, 2021

The Australian start up that has achieved a major new benchmark for solar cell efficiency says it hopes to target the rooftop solar market first and then expand into some of the mega, multi-gigawatt scale projects proposed in the north and west of Australia.

SunDrive, a solar start-up founded six years ago in a Sydney garage by two UNSW graduates, last week claimed a world record of 25.54 per cent for commercial size silicon solar cell efficiency, from testing carried out by Germany’s Institute for Solar Energy Research at Hamelin.

The significance of this, however, was not so much the record in itself – impressive as it was – it was the fact that it was achieved using a new breed of solar cells that rely on more abundant and cheaper copper rather than the silver traditionally used in solar cells.

The switch from silver to more abundant and lower cost copper is the principal aim of SunDrive, and the goal when graduates and flatmates Vince Allen and David Hu set up operations in a Sydney suburban garage in 2015, with the backing of solar industry luminary Zhengrong Shi, the founder of Suntech.
» Read article                 

ITER magnet
Magnet milestones move distant nuclear fusion dream closer
Teams working on two continents have marked similar milestones in their respective efforts to master nuclear fusion
By FRANK JORDANS, SETH BORENSTEIN and DANIEL COLE, Associated Press, in The Berkshire Eagle
September 9, 2021

SAINT-PAUL-LES-DURANCE, France (AP) — Teams working on two continents have marked similar milestones in their respective efforts to tap an energy source key to the fight against climate change: They’ve each produced very impressive magnets.

On Thursday, scientists at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in southern France took delivery of the first part of a massive magnet so strong its American manufacturer claims it can lift an aircraft carrier.

Almost 60 feet (nearly 20 meters) tall and 14 feet (more than four meters) in diameter when fully assembled, the magnet is a crucial component in the attempt by 35 nations to master nuclear fusion.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists and a private company announced separately this week that they, too, have hit a milestone with the successful test of the world’s strongest high temperature superconducting magnet that may allow the team to leapfrog ITER in the race to build a ‘sun on earth.’
» Read article                   

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Hartcord CT
Connecticut losing ground on building emissions despite efficiency programs

Climate activists say the state’s progress on reducing building emissions has been far too slow given the pace of the climate crisis, and that it needs to end incentives for energy-efficient natural gas heating.
By Lisa Prevost, Energy News Network
September 15, 2021

Greenhouse gas emissions from heating and cooling buildings continue to rise in Connecticut despite the state’s efforts to improve energy efficiency.

An annual greenhouse gas inventory released last week for 2018 — the latest available data — showed vehicle exhaust remains the state’s largest problem, but the sharpest year-over-year increase came in the residential sector. Commercial building emissions were also higher.

The report attributes the increases to greater cold-weather heating demand, but climate activists underscore the state’s lack of progress on building emissions, which are roughly the same as they were a decade ago. They say the state lags on the adoption of electric heat pumps relative to the rest of New England, continues to expand its natural gas infrastructure, and doesn’t allow municipalities to adopt more stringent efficiency standards for new buildings.

Just one day after the emissions report was released, the state’s Energy Efficiency Board approved the next round of ratepayer-funded energy efficiency incentives, and despite pleas not to do so, included subsidies to entice homeowners to switch from oil heating to high-efficiency natural gas furnaces. Activists met the news with incredulity.

“Continuing to subsidize polluting fossil fuels defies logic,” said Shannon Laun, a staff attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation, in a statement. “If Connecticut continues subsidizing gas heating, the state will not meet its climate goals and our communities will suffer.”

“I’m not seeing very much in the way of a change in the standard way of doing business in Connecticut, which is just continuing to do things they way they’ve been done for the last several decades,” said Bruce Becker, a Westport-based developer who specializes in highly efficient building projects and is converting a former office building in New Haven into what could be the country’s first net-zero-energy hotel. “Public utilities are still sending out mailers to get people to convert to natural gas, which is not helping.”
» Read article                   

gas-lit flame
Brookline Tries Again For A Fossil-Free Future
By Bruce Gellerman, WBUR
June 3, 2021

On June 2 Brookline voted, again, to become the first municipality in Massachusetts with an ordinance designed to keep fossil-fuel hookups out of new buildings. This was the town’s second attempt to get builders to go all-electric in future construction.

Brookline’s first attempt, which was overwhelmingly approved in Town Meeting in 2019, was declared unlawful by Attorney General Maura Healey because it superseded state authority. Healey said she supported Brookline’s clean-energy goals, however.

This time, instead of banning fossil-fuel installations in future construction, Town Meeting members proposed two carefully-worded warrant articles. Instead of a ban, the proposals require that people applying for special construction permits agree to go fossil-free in exchange for permit approval. Both proposals passed by margins of more than 200 to 3.

Brookline Town Meeting member Lisa Cunningham, one of the leaders of the effort, says municipalities must take action because the state, which is legally obligated to reduce climate emissions to net zero by 2050, has no mechanism for limiting fossil fuel use. Buildings account for 27% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Brookline’s new ordinances “won’t get us where we have to go,” Cunningham said, “but it is a first step and we really need to stop making this problem worse; we need to make it better.”

The Attorney General’s Municipal Law Unit will review Brookline’s new ordinances before they go into effect. The office has 90 days for review, which can be extended to six months.
» Read article                   

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

EnerVenue
EnerVenue to use latest funding to build gigawatt-scale nickel-hydrogen battery factory in USA
By Kelly Pickerel, Solar Power World
September 15, 2021

Metal-hydrogen battery company EnerVenue announced today it has raised $100 million in Series A funding that it will use to build a gigawatt-scale factory in the United States, accelerate R&D efforts and expand its salesforce.

EnerVenue’s batteries use nickel-hydrogen technology that has been tested for decades on the International Space Station and Hubble Space Telescope. The company formed in 2020 to bring the NASA-originated technology to grid-scale and other stationary power applications.

“With the durability, flexibility, reliability, and safety of its batteries, EnerVenue is delivering a unique and future-proof solution for grid-scale energy storage,” said Jorg Heinemann, CEO, EnerVenue. “We have proven the advantages that our next-generation nickel-hydrogen battery delivers and are excited to accelerate our journey forward with Series A backing and our agreement with Schlumberger.”

EnerVenue nickel-hydrogen batteries can work in -40° to 60°C (140°F) temperatures with projected 30,000-cycle lifespans. With no lithium, the batteries have no thermal runaway risk. Also with no toxic materials and easily separable parts, the batteries are expected to be 100% recyclable.
» Read article                   

» More about energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

white gold ev boom
In Argentina’s north, a ‘white gold’ rush for EV metal lithium gathers pace
By Agustin Geist, Reuters
September 14, 2021

Beneath the South American country’s highland salt flats, reached by winding mountain roads, is buried the world’s third largest reserve of the ultra-light battery metal, which has seen a price spike over the past year on the back of a global push towards greener modes of transport.

Already the fourth top producer of lithium worldwide, Argentina’s national and local governments are now looking to speed up development, held back for years by red tape, high tax rates, rampant inflation and currency controls.

Provinces like Salta are building regional mining logistics nodes and access roads, lowering tax rates and rationalizing confusing rules for the sector to attract investment in the ‘white gold’ metal.

That has seen a flurry of new activity, deals and plans to ramp up production, which could make Argentina a key player in the electric vehicle supply chain in coming years, with demand from carmakers and buyers like China expected to gain pace.

“Argentina could become the world’s leading producer from brines in less than a decade if the flow of projects is followed and maintained,” David Guerrero Alvarado, a consultant advising Canada’s Alpha Lithium, told Reuters in Salta.

Alpha Lithium is in the investigation stage for a project in the nearby Salar Tolillar, one of many early-stage developments that – while offering promise – need an often long and costly process to be turned into a reality.

With countries around the world scrambling to reduce emissions, rising global lithium demand and surging prices have drawn increased interest in the so-called ‘lithium triangle’ that spans parts of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.
» Read article                   

environmental toll
Biden Outlines a Plan for Cleaner Jet Fuel. But How Clean Would It Be?
Some biofuels may contribute to greenhouse gas emissions in ways that can significantly reduce, and sometimes offset, their advantages over fossil fuels, studies have shown.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
September 13, 2021

At first glance, it’s a big step forward in curbing climate change. In a deal announced Thursday, the Biden administration and the airline industry agreed to an ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050, a target meant to drive down flying’s environmental toll.

As early as 2030, President Biden said, the United States will aim to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about 10 percent of current jet fuel use — from waste, plants and other organic matter, reducing aviation’s emissions of planet-warming gases by 20 percent and creating jobs.

The airline industry has set sustainable fuel targets before. The International Air Transport Association, a trade group of the world’s airlines, had pledged to replace 10 percent of the jet fuel it uses with sustainable fuels by 2017. That year has come and gone, and sustainable fuels are still stuck at far less than 1 percent of supply.

Could it be different this time?

It could. Momentum is building for action even in industries like aviation, which are particularly reliant on burning fossil fuels, because powering planes solely with batteries, especially for long-haul flights, is tricky.

But there’s a twist: Depending on the type of alternative fuel, using billions of gallons of it could hurt, not help, the climate.

Scientists’ concerns center on the complicated calculations that go into assessing the true climate-friendliness of biofuels, a major subset of sustainable fuels. Growing crops like corn and soy to be made into biofuels can significantly change how land is used, and trigger emissions increases — for example, if forests are cut down or grassland is dug up to make way for those crops.

Add in the emissions from fertilizers, and from transporting and processing the crops into fuel, and the overall climate costs become unclear. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that corn ethanol emits just 20 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline, and that calculation doesn’t fully take into account past land-use changes, scientists say. Scientific studies have long shown that biofuels can be as polluting as fossil fuels.
» Read article                   

» More about clean transportation

CARBON CAPTURE AND SEQUESTRATION

carbfix
Critics question viability of world’s largest carbon sucking plant
By Andy Rowel, Oil Change International l Blog Post
September 13, 2021

The latest techno-fix to try and reduce carbon dioxide emissions has begun operations in a remote, bleak landscape of Iceland.

Called Orca, or Icelandic for energy, it is the first such facility to suck carbon dioxide out the air and then permanently dispose of it underground as it dissolves into rock.

Climeworks’ co-chief executive Jan Wurzbacher told the Financial Times, “this is the first time we are extracting CO2 from the air commercially and combining it with underground storage.”

Most CCS projects to date try and capture carbon dioxide in a smoke stack after carbon has been burnt, where concentrations of CO2 can be as high as ten percent. However, the Orca plant extracts carbon dioxide directly out of the air, which is less than 0.05 per cent.

So although this plant is different from other CCS projects, such as Gorgon in Australia, it is easy to question whether this is another so-called solution that offers false hope at a time-scale that is unrealistic.

Firstly, it is way more expensive than other CCS projects. As Bloomberg notes: “Individuals wanting to purchase carbon offsets can pay the company up to $1,200 per ton of CO2.”

And then there is CCS’s perennial problem of scale. The new Orca facility, which is built by Swiss startup Climeworks and Iceland’s Carbfix, will capture 4,000 tons of CO2 a year, which according to Bloomberg Green, makes “it the largest direct-air capture facility in the world.”

As with much CCS technology, there is immediately a problem. 4,000 tons of CO2 is the equivalent of the annual emissions of 250 US residents or some 870 cars. As other CCS projects, it is not living up to the hype or the hope. Also to put it in perspective, 33 billions tons of CO2 will be emitted this year.
» Read article                   

» More about CCS

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

mountaintop-removal coal mining
When Wall Street came to coal country: how a big-money gamble scarred Appalachia
Around the turn of the millennium, hedge fund investors put an audacious bet on coal mining in the US. The bet failed – but it was the workers and the environment that paid the price.
By Evan Osnos, The Guardian
September 14, 2021

Around the turn of this century, hedge funds in New York and its environs took a growing interest in coalmines. Coal never had huge appeal to Wall Street investors – mines were dirty, old-fashioned and bound up by union contracts that made them difficult to buy and sell. But in the late 1990s, the growing economies of Asia began to consume more and more energy, which investors predicted would drive up demand halfway around the world, in Appalachia. In 1997, the Hobet mine, a 25-year-old operation in rural West Virginia, was acquired for the first time by a public company, Arch Coal. It embarked on a major expansion, dynamiting mountaintops and dumping the debris into rivers and streams. As the Hobet mine grew, it consumed the ridges and communities around it. Seen from the air, the mine came to resemble a giant grey amoeba – 22 miles from end to end – eating its way across the mountains.

This was more than just the usual tradeoff between profit and pollution, another turn in the cycle of industry and cleanup. Mountaintop removal was, fundamentally, a more destructive realm of technology. It had barely existed until the 90s, and it took some time before scientists could measure the effects on the land and the people. For ecologists, the southern Appalachians was a singular domain – one of the most productive, diverse temperate hardwood forests on the planet. For aeons, the hills had contained more species of salamander than anywhere else, and a lush canopy that attracts neotropical migratory birds across thousands of miles to hatch their next generation. But a mountaintop mine altered the land from top to bottom: after blasting off the peaks – which miners call the “overburden” – bulldozers pushed the debris down the hillsides, where it blanketed the streams and rivers. Rainwater filtered down through a strange human-made stew of metal, pyrite, sulphur, silica, salts and coal, exposed to the air for the first time. The rain mingled with the chemicals and percolated down the hills, funnelling into the brooks and streams and, finally, into the rivers on the valley floor, which sustained the people of southern West Virginia.
» Read article                   

Nantong coal plant
Most plans for new coal plants scrapped since Paris agreement
Report by climate groups found more than three-quarters of projects were discarded after the deal was signed
By Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian
September 14, 2021

The global pipeline of new coal power plants has collapsed since the 2015 Paris climate agreement, according to research that suggests the end of the polluting energy source is in sight.

The report found that more than three-quarters of the world’s planned plants have been scrapped since the climate deal was signed, meaning 44 countries no longer have any future coal power plans.

The climate groups behind the report – E3G, Global Energy Monitor and Ember – said those countries now have the opportunity to join the 40 countries that have already signed up to a “no new coal” commitment to help tackle global carbon emissions.

“Only five years ago, there were so many new coal power plants planned to be built, but most of these have now been either officially halted, or are paused and unlikely to ever be built,” said Dave Jones, from Ember.

“Multiple countries can add their voices to a snowball of public commitments to ‘no new coal’, collectively delivering a key milestone to sealing coal’s fate.”

The remaining coal power plants in the pipeline are spread across 31 countries, half of which have only one planned for the future.

Chris Littlecott, the associate director at E3G, said the economics of coal have become “increasingly uncompetitive in comparison to renewable energy, while the risk of stranded assets has increased”.
» Read article                   

» More about fossil fuels

BIOMASS

Pinetree power station
New bill would eliminate subsidies for biomass energy
By State House News Service
September 14, 2021

With regulations ready to take effect that effectively close about 90 percent of the state’s land area to new wood-burning power generation facilities, Springfield-area lawmakers on Monday pushed for legislation that would more permanently eliminate state clean energy program subsidies for biomass anywhere in the Bay State.

Sens. Eric Lesser and Adam Gomez, and Rep. Orlando Ramos, each of whom represent parts of the western Mass. city known as the asthma capital of the United States, were joined by Boston Rep. Jay Livingstone in calling for the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy to issue favorable reports on bills (H 3333/S 2197) that would remove state incentives for facilities that burn wood products to generate power.

“The purpose of these two bills, and they are identical, is to remove woody biomass as an eligible fuel source in Massachusetts’ renewable energy portfolio standard, RPS, and the alternative energy portfolio standard, the APS standard,” Lesser, an opponent of a controversial wood-burning power plant proposed in East Springfield, said. “I want to be clear … H 3333 and S 2197 do not outright ban biomass. What they do is they eliminate the subsidy for biomass, and I feel strongly that Massachusetts ratepayers should not be subsidizing what is an inherently dirty fuel.”
» Read article                   

» More about biomass

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Weekly News Check-In 7/30/21

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Welcome back.

We’ll cover a lot of ground in this newsletter, but first kick back and enjoy Ben Hillman’s wonderful short video explaining the problem with our highly-polluting peaking power plants, and what we’re doing here in Berkshire County to clean them up.  We also offer an excellent new report that details the considerable environmental and financial advantages of replacing Peabody’s planned gas/oil peaker with battery storage.

Enbridge Line 3 protesters who received heavy-handed treatment from law enforcement have won a restraining order against the Hubbard County (MN) Sheriff’s department. A little farther north, the divestment movement chalked a win as Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline lost its principal insurer.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts climate activists and state legislators are not resting on their laurels since passing landmark climate legislation. We’re seeing a welcome push for modifications to the law that will kick off early and substantial action, and put the state on the right path to achieve its emission reduction obligations on schedule.

The transition away from coal and natural gas will affect the communities that currently rely on those industries. We found stories of two plans to manage that change while protecting workers – addressing both the Appalachian fracklands and coal country.

In Climate, we report that Earth’s vital signs are worsening, and also that the recently-concluded G-20 summit meeting of the world’s wealthiest nations failed to reach agreement on a rapid phase-out of coal… a failure that must now be corrected at the November COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Scotland.

A large tidal turbine has begun sending power to the UK grid from from a high-flow channel off Scotland’s Orkney Islands. Long eclipsed by wind and solar, this clean energy technology is just starting to hit its stride. Energy efficiency will get a big boost if Massachusetts passes the Better Buildings Act, designed to raise the bar for commercial buildings. And a story from Holyoke drives home the urgent need to make those efficiency improvements in our built environment. Form Energy’s newly revealed iron-air battery technology continues to sparkle in the energy storage news, based on its potential to profoundly influence all of the above.

Last week we called out General Motors for corporate disregard of some distressed EV owners. Now it’s time for a look at Toyota’s hypocrisy. The one-time leader in electric vehicle technology made a bad bet on hydrogen fuel cells, and is now actively attempting to delay the EV transition timeline in an apparent effort to allow it to catch up. Meanwhile, heavy trucks could pull power from overhead cables along highways, allowing them to carry just enough battery for off-highway travel. The concept would increase both range and cargo capacity – a double win.

We found contrasting stories from opposite corners of the country. Ironically – considering that Florida will be the first state erased from the map by rising seas – its climate-denying governor and legislature just forced Tampa and other localities to scrap plans to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Northwest Washington’s Whatcom County, meanwhile, enacted a law that prohibits new fossil fuel infrastructure and strictly limits expansion of existing facilities.

Today, Massachusetts’ Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE), held an oversight hearing to consider revised rules for biomass in the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. We are grateful to Senators Adam Hinds and Jo Comerford, among others, for presenting clear, science-based arguments against placing this dirty and destructive fuel in the same renewable energy class with wind and solar.

And we finish with welcome news that Canada declared plastics an environmental toxin, opening a path for badly needed regulation of single-use packaging and recycling.

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

— The NFGiM Team

PEAKING POWER PLANTS

PPPP
VIDEO: The Pittsfield peaker plant problem
By Ben Hillman, in Berkshire Edge
July 28, 2021
» Blog editor’s note: Special thanks to Ben Hillman for producing this outstanding and informative video in support of our Put Peakers in the Past campaign!

» Watch video           

step oneReport: Battery storage could be viable alternative
By Erin Nolan, The Salem News
July 29, 2021

Battery storage powered by renewable energy resources could be a viable alternative to the proposed 55-megawatt natural gas-fired “peaker” plant in Peabody, according to a report by Strategen Consulting.

The report, which was prepared on behalf of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN) and the Clean Energy Group, states battery storage would be preferable to the proposed plant from both financial and environmental standpoints.

“This assessment once again illustrates that battery storage is a cheaper and cleaner alternative to polluting fossil-fuel peaker plants,” said Clean Energy Group Vice President Seth Mullendore in a statement. “We’ve seen the same result in our work with environmental justice advocates across the country, from California to Kentucky and New York to Louisiana. Battery storage and renewable generation is the clear path forward, not locking communities and the climate into decades of additional devastating emissions.”

Previously, both MMWEC and PMLP officials stated during public meetings that batteries are not a feasible replacement for the proposed plant— referred to as Project 2015A in public documents. The officials explained that batteries are expensive, require more space than is available on PMLP’s property, and would fail to provide adequate reliability to the electric grid.

In the report, however, Strategen argues that despite these claims, battery storage would actually be a far more economic option.

“When accounting for capital, fuel, and operations and maintenance costs, as well as for the expected energy and ancillary services revenue, the net cost of batteries is projected to be significantly lower than that of Project 2015A,” according to a press release from MCAN and the Clean Energy Group.
» Read article              
» Read the Strategen report                

» More about peaker plants

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

roadblock
Judge Grants Restraining Order Against Minnesota County Sheriff in Line 3 Fight
By Karen Savage, Drilled News
July 23, 2021

A judge on Friday granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office from blocking vehicular access to Namewag Camp, an Indigenous woman and two-spirit-led camp opposing Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline.

In the order Hubbard County District Court Judge Jane M. Austad ordered the sheriff’s office to stop “barricading, obstructing, or otherwise interfering with access to the property” and prohibited deputies from stopping vehicles, issuing citations, or arresting or threatening to arrest individuals for driving on the driveway.

Winona LaDuke, Tara Houska, and two additional plaintiffs filed a lawsuit last week alleging that the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office had illegally conducted a 2-day  blockade of the camp driveway and was continuing to illegally issue citations to Indigenous water protectors and their allies for using the driveway.
» Read article               

» More about protests and actions

DIVESTMENT

TMP under pressure
Trans Mountain Pipeline Loses Lead Insurer as Zurich Steps Away
By The Energy Mix
July 24, 2020

Mammoth global insurance company Zurich has decided to abandon its role as principal insurer for the Trans Mountain pipeline when its coverage expires August 31.

The pipeline’s annual liability insurance contract filed with the Canada Energy Regulator April 30 “had shown Zurich was the lead insurer for the pipeline,” Reuters reports. “Zurich was the sole insurer for the first US$8 million of potential insurance payouts, and the company provided a total of US$300 million in cover with other insurers, the 2019-20 energy regulatory filing showed.”

“If you needed proof that petitions, emails, and calls work—this is it,” enthused Stand.earth, one of 32 groups urging Trans Mountain’s 26 insurers to abandon the project by August 31. “This project is never getting built.”

Two insurance companies, Munich Re and Talanx, had already decided to abandon the controversial pipeline.

The energy regulatory filing listed Lloyd’s of London, Chubb Ltd., Liberty Mutual, and a unit of the Munich Re group as other insurers backing the pipeline. Munich Re has “said it would review the contract given its new underwriting guideline on oil sands, which have a higher carbon footprint than conventional oil,” Reuters says.

A Trans Mountain spokesperson told the news agency the company still has enough insurance to operate and continue expanding the pipeline. “There remains adequate capacity in the market to meet Trans Mountain’s insurance needs and our renewal,” she said in an emailed statement.
» Read article               

» More about divestment

LEGISLATION

call for action
Climate advocates seek ‘action’ legislation to move beyond road map bill
By Danny Jin, Berkshire Eagle
July 26, 2021

The Massachusetts climate plan that became law in March, climate advocates say, was a step in the right direction.

That bill set a target for the state to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. While setting the target was a positive development, climate leaders say, the state also needs to take the necessary actions to meet it.

“The centerpiece of that bill was setting goals and directing the administration to come up with a plan to meet those goals,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts. “In my view, goals are good and plans are good. But, goals and plans are not sufficient. We need action, too.”

The road map bill directs the governor’s office to set interim emissions limits for every five-year increment through 2050. It requires the 2030 limit to be at least 50 percent below 1990 levels, the 2040 limit to be at least 75 percent below 1990 levels and the 2050 limit to be at least 85 percent below 1990 levels. Beyond those requirements, control over the five-year plans falls entirely to Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides, in the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker.

“While the road map bill set up a bunch of emissions targets for the state to reach, it leaves it pretty open how we’re going to get there,” said Jacob Stern, deputy director of Sierra Club Massachusetts. “It basically leaves it nearly entirely up to the governor to figure out what happens in between.”

The 100 Percent Clean Act would set the state on a path for 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 through requirements it would set for both investor-owned and municipal utilities.

It also would place a focus on less-scrutinized emissions from buildings and transportation. To achieve 100 percent clean heating by 2045, it would require new houses and small commercial buildings to use clean heating by 2025 and would apply that requirement to all new buildings after 2030. And to reach 100 percent clean transportation by 2045, transit authorities would have to transition to zero-emission buses, and only zero-emission cars would be sold in the state after 2035.

Although some observers, including the Baker administration, have expressed concerns that specific requirements or restrictions could inhibit economic activity, climate groups see a clean energy transition as an economic opportunity rather than an impediment.
» Read article               

» More about legislation

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Fracking Richland
Advocates say energy efficiency — not gas — offers Appalachia best economic prospects

Analyses suggest investment in the energy efficiency sector could let a larger share of money stay in communities vs. natural gas operations.
By Kathiann M. Kowalski, Energy News Network
July 23, 2021

Investment in energy efficiency should be part of a transition plan to improve the quality of life for counties in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania that have had lots of natural gas activity, according to new reports from the Ohio River Valley Institute.

The reports also shed light on why the overall quality of life has lagged in seven counties that have produced the lion’s share of Ohio’s fracked gas, even as their gross domestic product has risen.

“When you do energy efficiency — not just in homes, but in businesses, workplaces, schools and other public buildings — you are also contributing to an improved quality of life,” said Sean O’Leary, lead author of the two reports released Wednesday.

First, energy efficiency work on heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and doors and windows tends to be labor-intensive, O’Leary said. “For each dollar that goes into them, they generate about three to four times as many jobs as a dollar spent or earned in natural gas.”

“These are businesses that are done by local contractors,” O’Leary continued. “When you spend money with them, the money stays in the local economy. They hire local workers, and it has a multiplier effect.”

“The third thing is that these kinds of investments have an annuity value,” O’Leary said. “That is, they cause savings on utility bills.” That translates into a lower drain on residents’ personal incomes. And, “the savings go on for decades.”
» Read article              
» Read the Ohio River Valley Institute reports

coal community funds
Biden Administration Earmarks Funds For Coal Communities
By Tsvetana Paraskova, Oil Price
July 23, 2021

The Biden Administration is committing $300 million to invest in the economic development of coal and coal power plant-affected communities as part of a $3-billion funding for investment in America’s communities, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said.

“We believe that this $300 million investment in coal communities is the largest economic development that EDA has ever made in coal communities.  And we know that it will enable these communities to recover, diversify their economies, and grow,” Secretary Raimondo said at a White House briefing on Thursday.

The applications for funding went live late on Thursday on the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) website.

Investing in America’s Communities is a funding opportunity to invest the $3 billion that EDA received from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act to help communities across the country build back better.

The investment in coal communities “will ensure that they have the resources to recover from the pandemic and will help create new jobs and opportunities, including through the development or expansion of a new industry sector,” EDA said.

“Coal and power plant communities have been hard hit by the energy transition – and these pandemic relief funds are just the beginning of the Biden Administration’s efforts to support economic and community revitalization efforts in these parts of the country,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said.

Secretary Granholm and the Biden Administration target the U.S. to get to 100 percent clean electricity by 2035.
» Read article               

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

Chubut wildfires
Scientists who Issued ‘Climate Emergency’ Declaration in 2019 Now say Earth’s Vital Signs are Worsening
A rapid and urgent phaseout of fossil fuels is needed, scientists warn, in order to avoid crossing dangerous climate tipping points.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
July 27, 2021

From devastating wildfires to rising methane emissions, Earth’s vital signs are continuing to deteriorate, scientists warn. An urgent global phaseout of fossil fuels is needed, they say, reiterating calls for “transformative change,” which is “needed now more than ever to protect life on Earth and remain within as many planetary boundaries as possible.”

The warning comes roughly a year and a half after a global coalition of 11,000 climate scientists declared a climate emergency, warning that global action was needed to avoid “untold suffering due to the climate crisis.” The new paper examining Earth’s vital signs, published in the journal BioScience, is authored by some of the same scientists who helped spearhead the climate emergency declaration.

“There is growing evidence we are getting close to or have already gone beyond tipping points associated with important parts of the Earth system, including warm-water coral reefs, the Amazon rainforest and the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets,” William Ripple, a professor of ecology at Oregon State University (OSU) and one of the paper’s lead authors, said in a statement.

The team of researchers and scientists, collaborating from Massachusetts in the U.S., Australia, the U.K., France, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, and Germany, took stock of 31 variables that collectively offer a gauge for the planet’s health. Many of those metrics have worsened since the group originally declared a climate emergency in 2019.

Both methane and carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have reached new record highs, the study reveals. Sea ice has dramatically shrunk, and so too has the ice mass in Greenland and Antarctica. Wildfires in the U.S. are burning more acreage. And deforestation in the Amazon is occurring at its fastest rate in 12 years.

Ruminant livestock — cows, sheep and goats — now exceed 4 billion, and their total mass exceeds that of humans and wild animals combined. Cows in particular are huge contributors to climate change due methane emissions released from belching, and deforestation resulting from clearing land for livestock.

The global pandemic offered only a modest and brief respite from some of these trends, the scientists note, such as a short drop in the use of fossil fuels as the world went into lockdown, but a quick rebound in oil and gas consumption demonstrates that the world remains stuck on a dangerous track.
» Read article              
» Read the Earth vital signs paper

G20 fails coal phaseoutG20 Fails on Coal Phaseout, Delays Decisions on Climate Finance, Fossil Subsidies
By Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix
July 25, 2021

Environment and energy ministers from the world’s 20 wealthiest countries have failed to agree on a 2025 coal phaseout, made no progress on international climate finance, and refused to set a deadline to end fossil fuel subsidies, just 100 days before high-stakes negotiations get under way at this year’s UN climate conference, COP 26, in Glasgow.

At their summit meeting in Naples, the G20 ministers agreed they would all submit new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to speed up their greenhouse reductions by 2030. And “G7 nations as well as Mexico and South Korea supported a more ambitious plan to phase out the use of unabated coal power by 2025, which was opposed by nations including Russia, India, Saudi Arabia, and China,” the Brisbane Times reports.

But in the end, “observers from climate groups saw the failure to agree on a rapid phaseout of coal as a setback to the prospects of reaching an agreement to keep global warming to as close to 1.5°C as possible” during the COP 26 negotiations in November.

“A minority of G20 ministers continue to sit on the wrong side of history by promoting the expansion of fossil fuels,” said Eddy Pérez, international climate diplomacy manager at Climate Action Network-Canada. “It’s now up to leaders to make the G20 responsive to the devastating climate emergency ahead of COP 26.”

“Our common house is on fire, and the world’s biggest countries need to come together to put it out,” said E3G senior associate Alden Meyer. “While Italy’s leadership secured some agreement from G20 climate and energy ministers on the scale of the problem and the need for action, there are still deep divisions on the way forward.”
» Read article               

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

tidal turbine
World’s most powerful tidal turbine begins exporting power to grid
By Joshua S Hill, Renew Economy
July 29, 2021

The world’s most powerful tidal turbine, built by Scottish tidal stream turbine manufacturer Orbital Marine Power, has begun exporting power to the UK grid, delivering an important milestone for the tidal marine industry.

The 2MW O2 tidal turbine is located at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) at Scotland’s Orkney islands, anchored in the Fall of Warness tidal test site.

Measuring in at 74-metres and benefiting from some of the strongest tidal currents in the world, the O2 tidal turbine is expected to run for the next 15 years, generating enough electricity to meet the annual demand of around 2,000 homes.

“This is a major milestone for the O2 and I would like to commend the whole team at Orbital and our supply chain for delivering this pioneering renewable energy project safely and successfully,” said Andrew Scott, Orbital CEO.

“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector.”

Tidal power has been one of the junior renewable energy technologies for a while now, showing tremendous potential but falling prey to the success of more established technologies like wind and solar, which has attracted most of the available investment capital needed to scale up.
» Read article               

Silver State
Solar plus storage in Nevada to “fill the gap” left by retiring coal
By Joshua S Hill, Renew Economy
July 28, 2021

United States’ renewable energy developers Avangrid Renewables and Primergy Solar have announced they will work together to deliver a 600MW portfolio of solar-plus-storage projects in Nevada, designed to “fill the gap left by retiring coal generation”.

Avangrid Renewables, the renewable energy subsidiary of American energy company Avangrid, confirmed a sale agreement last week with

Solar developer Primergy Solar, owned by Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners, will buy the 250MW Iron Point Solar Project and the 350MW Hot Pot Solar Project from Avangrid, both of which will be co-located with battery storage.

The Iron Point project will be paired with 4-hour 200MW of battery storage, and Hot Pot will be paired with 4-hour 280MW of battery storage.

“Our vision has always been to develop projects with clean, renewable sources of power to fill the gap left by retiring coal generation,” said Alejandro de Hoz, president and CEO of Avangrid Renewables.

“What makes this project unique is its location in northern Nevada where there hasn’t been significant solar development activity. These projects will contribute substantially to transitioning the Silver State to a low-carbon energy future.”
» Read article               

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Boston MAMassachusetts considers higher efficiency bar for large commercial buildings
The Better Buildings Act would phase in energy efficiency requirements for large commercial buildings. The standards would be developed by state officials and vary depending on the type of building.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
July 28, 2021

A bill pending in the Massachusetts Legislature could make the state one of the first to require all large commercial buildings to meet energy use performance standards, a measure that could slash their emissions more than 80% by 2040, supporters say.

The Better Buildings Act would mandate energy use reporting from large commercial buildings. Buildings that fail to meet performance standards would be required to reduce emissions or pay a fee to the state. Only Washington and Colorado have similar statewide rules in place, though several cities and towns throughout the country have adopted such measures.

“There’s no way for us to meet our climate goals as a state without tackling emissions from our buildings,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director of Environment Massachusetts. “And we haven’t really grappled yet with what we need to do to get all of our existing building stock off fossil fuels.”

As Massachusetts attempts to reach its goal of going carbon-neutral by 2050, emissions from existing buildings are likely to be one of the thorniest challenges. Heating and hot water for commercial and residential buildings account for about 27% of the state’s carbon emissions, and electricity generation contributes another 17%.

Massachusetts has some of the country’s oldest building stock, much of which is fitted with oil-burning heating systems, drafty windows, and meager insulation. There is widespread acknowledgment that cutting emissions in existing buildings will require extensive upgrades and retrofits, often at significant cost to owners.
» Read article               

empower your world
Holyoke natural gas moratorium stays in place; capacity remains top issue
By Dennis Hohenberger, MassLive
July 28, 2021

HOLYOKE — With no end to its natural gas moratorium in sight, Holyoke Gas & Electric is “aggressively” pursuing energy alternatives to stay ahead of demand.

James Lavelle, HG&E’s general manager, provided an update on the moratorium to the City Council’s Development and Government Relations Committee on Monday. Councilor at Large Rebecca Lisi previously filed orders seeking to understand the suspension and the utility’s renewable energy portfolio.

HG&E imposed the moratorium on new commercial and residential natural gas services in 2019 because of capacity limitations.

“It’s a top priority to do everything we can to lift the moratorium,” Lavelle said. “The best solution would be for us to get access to more natural gas supply to the city to be able to lift that.” But Lavelle told the committee he does not foresee an “imminent solution.”

“We have a moratorium because there isn’t enough gas supply to meet the demand on a peak winter day safely,” he said.

The current pipeline capacity is around 12,000 dekatherms a winter day, while HG&E’s system demands 20,000 dekatherms. The goal is to increase capacity by 5,000 dekatherms on peak days.

One dekatherm equals 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas, and is about what an average home uses on a cold winter day.

“The solution again is getting more capacity either in a pipeline or some other way,” Lavelle said. “You’re talking about 5,000 homes converting to electrification, which we’re pushing, but it’s going to take a long time to get that number.”
» Blog editor’s note: Holyoke is experiencing the real-world effects of a restricted natural gas supply while electrical conversion and energy efficiency upgrades have proceeded too slowly to make up the difference. This should be a warning to policymakers – and recognized as an opportunity.
» Read article               

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

focus on Form
Form Energy’s $20/kWh, 100-hour iron-air battery could be a ‘substantial breakthrough’
By Jason Plautz, Utility Dive
July 26, 2021

Somerville, Massachusetts-based startup Form Energy on Thursday announced the chemistry for an iron-air-exchange battery that could offer long-duration storage at a price of less than $20/kWh.

The technology relies on thousands of small iron pellets which rust when exposed to oxygen, then revert back to iron when oxygen is removed. That process can power a battery that Form claims can deliver electricity for 100 hours.

Form also announced a $200 million Series D funding round led by an investment from the innovation fund of steelmaker ArcelorMittal, one of the world’s leading iron ore producers. ArcelorMittal will also non-exclusively supply iron materials developed jointly with Form for use in the batteries.

Mateo Jaramillo, Form CEO and co-founder, said he doesn’t consider the company’s technology to be long-duration storage, instead preferring the term “multi-day storage.” The capacity of the Form battery to dispatch energy for 100 hours, he said, “puts it in a different category” than the broad definition of long-duration storage, generally defined as systems with at least 10 hours of duration.

Jaramillo, who previously led Tesla’s energy storage arm, said he considers the Form Energy technology as “complementary, not in competition” with shorter-duration lithium-ion batteries.

That balance, experts say, will be essential to transition the grid to renewable energy. While lithium-ion batteries can store energy for hours and distribute it throughout the day, a 100% renewable grid will need larger storage systems to tackle the day-to-day or seasonal variability in renewable production. While there are a variety of long-duration technologies on the market, the high cost and infrastructure difficulties have limited widespread penetration.
» Read article               

» More about energy storage                

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

bad bet on H2
Toyota Led on Clean Cars. Now Critics Say It Works to Delay Them.
The auto giant bet on hydrogen power, but as the world moves toward electric the company is fighting climate regulations in an apparent effort to buy time.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
July 25, 2021

The Toyota Prius hybrid was a milestone in the history of clean cars, attracting millions of buyers worldwide who could do their part for the environment while saving money on gasoline.

But in recent months, Toyota, one of the world’s largest automakers, has quietly become the industry’s strongest voice opposing an all-out transition to electric vehicles — which proponents say is critical to fighting climate change.

Last month, Chris Reynolds, a senior executive who oversees government affairs for the company, traveled to Washington for closed-door meetings with congressional staff members and outlined Toyota’s opposition to an aggressive transition to all-electric cars. He argued that gas-electric hybrids like the Prius and hydrogen-powered cars should play a bigger role, according to four people familiar with the talks.

Behind that position is a business quandary: Even as other automakers have embraced electric cars, Toyota bet its future on the development of hydrogen fuel cells — a costlier technology that has fallen far behind electric batteries — with greater use of hybrids in the near term. That means a rapid shift from gasoline to electric on the roads could be devastating for the company’s market share and bottom line.

The recent push in Washington follows Toyota’s worldwide efforts — in markets including the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and Australia — to oppose stricter car emissions standards or fight electric vehicle mandates. For example, executives at Toyota’s Indian subsidiary publicly criticized India’s target for 100 percent electric vehicle sales by 2030, saying it was not practical.

Together with other automakers, Toyota also sided with the Trump administration in a battle with California over the Clean Air Act and sued Mexico over fuel efficiency rules. In Japan, Toyota officials argued against carbon taxes.

“Toyota has gone from a leading position to an industry laggard” in clean-car policy even as other automakers push ahead with ambitious electric vehicle plans, said Danny Magill, an analyst at InfluenceMap, a London-based think tank that tracks corporate climate lobbying. InfluenceMap gives Toyota a “D-” grade, the worst among automakers, saying it exerts policy influence to undermine public climate goals.
» Read article               

electric motorwayUK government backs scheme for motorway cables to power lorries
E-highway study given £2m to draw up plans for overhead electric cables on motorway near Scunthorpe
By Jasper Jolly, The Guardian
July 27, 2021

The government will fund the design of a scheme to install overhead electric cables to power electric lorries on a motorway near Scunthorpe, as part of a series of studies on how to decarbonise road freight.

The electric road system – or e-highway – study, backed with £2m of funding, will draw up plans to install overhead cables on a 20km (12.4 miles) stretch of the M180 near Scunthorpe, in Lincolnshire. If the designs are accepted and building work is funded the trucks could be on the road by 2024.

Road freight is one of the hardest parts of the economy to decarbonise, because no technology exists yet on a large scale that is capable of powering long-haul lorries with zero direct exhaust emissions.

New diesel and petrol lorries will be banned in Britain by 2040 as part of plans to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. That has given lorry companies little time to develop and commercialise technology that will be crucial to the functioning of the economy. While cars can rely on lithium ion batteries, the weight of a battery required to power a fully laden truck over long distances has prompted trucking companies to look for alternatives.

The e-highway study is one of several options that will be funded, along with a study of hydrogen fuel cell trucks and battery electric lorries, the Department for Transport said on Tuesday.

On the e-highway, lorries fitted with rigs called pantographs – similar to those used by trains and trams – would be able to tap into the electricity supply to power electric motors. Lorries would also have a smaller battery to power them over the first and last legs of the journey off the motorway.
» Read article               

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Dunkin FL
A Florida city wanted to move away from fossil fuels. The state just made sure it couldn’t.
The story behind Florida’s new laws that strip cities of their ability to fight climate change.
By Emily Pontecorvo & Brendan Rivers, Grist
July 29, 2021

In January, Tampa was set to become the 12th city in Florida to set a climate goal to transition to 100 percent clean energy. But that was before the natural gas industry and Republican state lawmakers got involved. 

Tampa City Councilman Joseph Citro had worked for months with environmental groups and local businesses on a non-binding resolution — more of a North Star for the city than a mandatory policy. As part of its clean energy goal, the resolution supported a ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure including pipelines, compressor stations, and power plants.

No state-level policies in Florida require reducing planet-heating emissions, and some federal and state lawmakers deny the science of human-caused climate change. So it’s been up to cities and towns to do what they can, like buying electric school buses and powering municipal buildings with renewable energy. Increasingly, local governments are ramping up their ambitions. 

But around the country, the gas industry has aggressively lobbied against local climate policies while simultaneously trying to get state legislatures to strip cities of their ability to restrict fossil fuels.

That fight was about to come to Florida. Just as Citro was finessing the final language on his city resolution, Republican state Senator Travis Hutson of Palm Coast introduced bills that would make Citro’s Tampa proposal illegal. Hutson wanted to prohibit cities from passing any policies aimed at regulating energy infrastructure or fuel sources.

Lawmakers approved Hutson’s bills, and Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed them in June. Florida law now prohibits local governments from taking “any action that restricts or prohibits” energy sources used by utilities. (It also voids any such existing local policies, except in cities that own their utilities, like Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tallahassee.) And it prevents local officials from banning gas stations or requiring gas stations to install electric vehicle chargers.
» Read article              

derailed
An Oil Industry Hub in Washington State Bans New Fossil Fuel Development
The plan brings together local stakeholders, including the oil industry, labor unions and environmental groups.
By Marianne Lavelle, Inside Climate News
July 29, 2021

Eight years ago, Whatcom County, on the northwest coast of Washington State, seemed destined to become the gateway through which North America’s expanding fossil fuel industry would connect with the hungry energy markets of Asia.

The BP and Phillips 66 refineries in Ferndale, Washington—about 100 miles north of Seattle—were building new receiving facilities for oil trains to deliver crude from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota. Tar sands oil from Canada also was coming in, with plans looming to expand pipeline capacity. And, most significantly, the nation’s largest coal export terminal was set to be built just to the south in Bellingham, expected to unload 15 coal trains weekly that would rumble into the county from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.

But the massive coal proposal would prove to be the undoing of the vision of Whatcom County as a fossil fuel export mecca. The plan produced a ferocious backlash, killing the project in 2016 and sparking a local political upheaval that culminated on Tuesday night.

At its weekly meeting, the Whatcom County Council voted to approve an overhaul of local land-use policies, allowing existing refineries to expand but prohibiting new refineries, transshipment facilities, coal plants, piers or wharfs in its coastal industrial zone. The new rules also require a public review of the environmental impact of any significant expansion at existing refineries and other facilities, including any increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The moves were spearheaded by council members who had won their seats since 2013, and were driven to get into local politics by the coal terminal controversy. Environmental advocates, who worked for a decade to defeat plans for more carbon-polluting industry on the northwest coast, say it is the first time a local government in the United States has utilized land use law to impose such a broad, permanent ban on fossil fuel development.
» Read article               

» More about fossil fuel

BIOMASS

Senator Comerford
Dear Jo with Sen. Jo Comerford: What gets defined as renewable energy?
By JO COMERFORD, Daily Hampshire Gazette | Column
July 27, 2021

This week, our air turned hazy as winds blew in wildfire smoke from the west coast, a stark reminder that when it comes to climate change, we’re all in this together.

On Friday, I’ve been invited to testify at an oversight hearing of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE). The subject? Biomass, or the burning of natural material like wood at a large scale to generate energy.

The Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has issued updated draft regulations for the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The RPS mandates that electricity suppliers in Massachusetts get a certain percentage of the energy they provide to customers from renewable sources. When the RPS began, suppliers were required to get just 1% of their energy from renewables. This year, suppliers are required to get 18 percent of their energy from “Class 1 renewable resources.” That requirement will now increase by 3% per year thanks to the legislature’s passage of omnibus climate legislation earlier this session, ensuring that at least 40% of our energy will come from renewable resources by 2030.

(And, yes. I still maintain that we should be on a path to 100% renewable energy, given the climate crisis.)

So what’s the catch? In this case, it hinges on what gets defined as a renewable resource.

Biomass should not be considered a Class 1 renewable resource, like solar or wind. It doesn’t matter where the facility is sited, the science still says, “No.” A biomass plant located more than five miles away from an environmental justice community is not any “greener” than a biomass plant in Springfield. Location of the facility has never been a factor in RPS Class 1 eligibility, and only the most environmentally friendly sources should be included in this most strict Class 1 category.

In May of this year, dozens of national climate and public health organizations released A Declaration on Climate Change and Health, calling on President Biden and Congress to “heed the clear scientific evidence and take steps now to dramatically reduce pollution that drives climate change and harms health.” In a short list focused on “equitable climate action and pollution cleanup,” these groups called for “measures to secure dramatic reductions in carbon emissions from power plants, including rapid phaseout of power plants that burn fossil fuels, biomass, and waste-for-energy.”
» Read article               

chips and pellets
Biomass critics press lawmakers for more stringent regulations
By SCOTT MERZBACH, Daily Hampshire Gazette
July 26, 2021

Local groups focused on environmental policy are trying to keep pressure on state officials to strengthen rules surrounding biomass energy, even after a controversial biomass plant in Springfield was canceled in the spring.

“We are hopeful that substantive legislation, including explicitly forbidding subsidies for woody biomass power plants, will emerge from this legislative session,” says Martha Hanner, a member of the League of Women Voters in Amherst.

Several area organizations recently signed onto a letter written by the Partnership for Policy Integrity in Pelham and sent to the Legislature’s Joint Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, calling for hearings on the revised Renewable Portfolio Standards issued by the Department of  Energy Resources.

Both the League of Women Voters chapters in Northampton and Amherst are among 86 organizations supporting the letter that is going to state Sen. Michael J. Barrett and state Rep. Jeffrey N. Roy. The letter expresses appreciation that the current regulations have the highest standards and now include an environmental justice provision, which would prohibit any wood-burning power plant built in or within five miles of an environmental justice community.

The groups are concerned, though, that new standards dramatically weaken some health and environmental protections in the current regulations.

“Ultimately the best solution may be to pass laws specifically excluding woody biomass from the state’s clean energy subsidy programs and providing broader protections for environmental justice communities,” they write.
» Read article               

» More about biomass

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

captured gannet
Canada Declares Plastics Toxic, Paving the Way for Restrictions
“I think the days of waiting for recycling to work are over,” notes one environmentalist.
By Marc Fawcett-Atkinson, National Observer, reproduced in Mother Jones
May 14, 2021


Plastic is now considered toxic under Canada’s primary environmental law—the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA)—the Trudeau government announced Wednesday.

The decision, which comes despite months of lobbying by Canada’s $28 billion plastics industry, paves the way for a proposed ban on some single-use items. A series by Canada’s National Observer earlier this year cataloged the sustained push by the plastics and food industries to disassociate plastics from anything to do with the word “toxic.”

However, the government held firm, which now clears the way for other measures to reduce plastic waste proposed by the government last fall. “This is the critical step,” said Ashley Wallis, plastics campaigner for Oceana Canada. “It’s the key that unlocks so many possibilities to help us actually address the plastic pollution crisis.”

About 3.3 million metric tons of plastic is discarded in Canada each year, and less than 10 percent—about 305,000 metric tons—is recycled. The remainder goes to landfills, incineration, or leaks into rivers, lakes and oceans, according to a 2019 study commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).

The industry is also poised to drive continued oil and gas extraction, with some petrochemical companies expecting it to account for up to 90 percent of their future growth, according to a 2020 report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative.

A 2020 government science assessment found ample evidence that plastic harms the environment, choking seabirds, cetaceans and other wildlife. The findings form the basis of the government’s decision, as substances can be considered toxic under CEPA if they harm the environment and biodiversity, human health, or both.

In October 2020, ECCC released a proposal to deal with the problem. Under the proposed rules, Canada will ban six single-use plastic items, like straws and six-pack rings, create incentives for companies to use recycled plastic, and force plastic producers to pay for recycling.
» Read article               

» More about plastics and the environment

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