Tag Archives: Trump

Weekly News Check-In 9/4/20

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Welcome back.

The Army Corps of Engineers is preparing to begin a lengthy environmental review for the Dakota Access Pipeline. Since regulatory agencies failed to enforce this requirement prior to the pipeline’s construction and commission, it is belatedly underway because the courts have threatened to shut the pipeline down. Resistance continues without letup. On the international front, fossil fuel protest recently took the form of an Extinction Rebellion action calling attention to a group of climate-denying libertarian organizations operating from an office building in central London.

While greening the economy necessarily involves sweeping policy initiatives, the stories we offer this week are smaller in scale, and illustrate how local or company-specific programs can produce better jobs and greener products. But the climate isn’t waiting around for humans to get their act together – it’s heating and changing even faster than predicted while the Trump administration pretends it isn’t happening.

We highlight some of the headwinds facing clean energy, including lagging utility adoption of carbon free energy resources worldwide. Closer to home, we feature an interesting podcast describing how the administration quashed a study exploring grid optimization because Trump considered it a threat to the coal industry. This general “keep folks in the dark” strategy to forestall decarbonization even extends to residential energy efficiency. But Portland, Oregon successfully implemented a program to assign homes an energy efficiency score. It’s benefiting home buyers in that city and providing a model for the rest of the country.

We’re tracking innovation this week, including a hybrid energy storage system combining lithium-ion batteries with mechanical energy storage in the form of flywheels. Now operating in the Netherlands, it provides 9MW of frequency stabilizing primary control power to the transmission grid. And satellite technology is coming back to Earth in the form of metal-hydrogen batteries, reformulated by the firm EnerVenue to be affordable while offering decades of cycles without degradation.

We lead our Clean Transportation section with a story from The Guardian about how seriously bad SUVs are for the planet – and consider the climate implications of their phenomenal market penetration worldwide. Electric school buses and delivery trucks are coming soon, but our love affair with SUVs has the capacity to gobble up all progress on transportation emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the fossil fuel industry were both in the news. The EPA for allowing coal plants to dump toxic waste into waterways, and the industry for continuing to demonstrate its decline in spite of the Trump administration’s relentless support.

Our Biomass section has news you can use! Specifically, the first story describes a bill before the Massachusetts house that would classify biomass and trash incineration as “non-carbon” emissions. This, of course, is not true. The article includes a call for action, including contacting representatives and signing a petition. Please consider taking these steps, as failure to amend this bill would result in the construction of a large biomass incinerator in Springfield – a city that already has the worst air quality in Massachusetts – and the most asthma within its population.

We wrap up with a few stories about plastics in the environment and the plastics / fracking connection. Note the hellish photo in the final article (New York Times, captioned “A dump in Nakuru, Kenya….”). I can tell you that a few decades ago those hills were lush and green, and the lake in the background hosted thousands of flamingos. The world should recognize the dignity of the people in that photo, affirm that they deserve a restored environment, and acknowledge that what has been done to them is a crime.

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

PIPELINES

encroachment
Corps weighs Dakota Access easement options, plans to begin environmental review process
By Amy R. Sisk, Bismarck Tribune
August 31, 2020

The federal agency embroiled in a lawsuit over the Dakota Access Pipeline is evaluating whether to continue allowing the line to pump oil following a court order revoking a key permit, and it plans to begin a lengthy environmental review this week.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers indicated its plans in a court filing Monday. Because U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg revoked the pipeline’s easement in a July ruling, the pipeline is now considered an “encroachment” on federal property managed by the Corps, the agency wrote in a status report.

While the Corps weighs its options, it’s allowing Energy Transfer to continue operating the pipeline under the terms of that easement. The easement allows the line to cross under the Missouri River just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

The Corps’ general policy “is to require removal of encroachments,” but it can make exceptions, the agency said. The two “most plausible options” involve removing the pipeline or giving it permission to continue using the property through a method such as granting a new easement.

The Corps acknowledged that the latter option would be subject to the National Environmental Policy Act, which is at the heart of the lawsuit filed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribes over the pipeline. The agency’s procedures state that complying with that law might require an Environmental Impact Statement, which is the lengthy environmental review it plans to begin this week after Boasberg ordered it earlier this year.
» Read article           

» More about pipelines          

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

think again
Former Green Party Spokesperson Arrested at ‘Home of Climate Denying Thinktanks’
By Richard Collett-White, DeSmog UK
September 3, 2020

Four Extinction Rebellion activists were arrested on Wednesday night at the end of a demonstration in Westminster against the influence of “right-wing climate sceptic thinktanks” on the UK’s political system.

The arrestees included former Green Party spokesperson and philosophy professor Rupert Read, who was removed by police after pouring fake blood over the entrance to 55 Tufton Street.

The word “lies” was also spray-painted on the front of the office building.

The central London address is home to several libertarian organisations with a history of opposing environmental regulations and downplaying the threat of climate change, including the Global Warming Policy Foundation and the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

Read said the “few still pretending that the climate and ecological emergency is not an existential threat to civilisation as we know it” were “yesterday’s men”.

The event was organised by Writers Rebel, a subgroup of the environmental activist movement that brought parts of the capital to a standstill last year and is currently staging 10 days of protests. Jessica Townsend, co-founder of Writers Rebel, was another of those arrested, along with two activists who had been perched on top of tripods for the duration of the protest, blocking the road to traffic.

Townsend said in a statement: “the fossil fuel companies, their lobbyists and other climate deniers are putting the welfare of people in the UK in danger, not to mention the billions in the Global South, by using the cynical tactics first used by the tobacco industry.”
» Read article

» More about protests and actions    

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Van Jones
Watt It Takes: Van Jones Reflects on the Origin of Green Jobs
This week on Watt It Takes: Powerhouse CEO Emily Kirsch sits down with green jobs pioneer Van Jones.
By Stephen Lacey, GreenTech Media – podcast
September 3, 2020

Today, Van Jones is best known as a CNN host and author of three best-selling books.

But long before the Green New Deal, Jones was on the front lines of clean energy, trying to bring green jobs to black and brown communities. He helped spearhead the Green Jobs Act of 2007, the first time the country deliberately trained workers for the future clean economy. Later, he went to the White House to become President Obama’s green jobs czar.

In this episode, Jones reveals a little-told backstory of his “nerd” childhood and early life, his transformation at Yale Law School, and the painful time he briefly joined, and then left, the Obama administration.

“I spent a year clinically depressed. I wouldn’t ask anybody to go through what I went through — such a steep rise and then such a steep fall. You go from Oakland to the White House and then the White House to, like, public enemy number one. And at no point do you really feel understood,” said Jones.
» Listen to podcast          

Appalachian solarAppalachian solar effort a reality after backers powered through setbacks
By Elizabeth McGowan, Energy News Network
Photo By Jimmy Davidson / Courtesy / Appalachian Voices
September 2, 2020

Persistence should be Adam Wells’ middle name.

The nonprofit organizer’s vision of embedding solar energy training, jobs and renewable power in his native Appalachia is on the verge of happening after five-plus years of brainstorming, cajoling and striving.

A new initiative announced Wednesday, called Securing Solar for Southwest Virginia, will deliver on Wells’ dogged pursuit of affordable solar power for businesses, nonprofits and local governments in the state’s seven-county historic coalfield region.

Private and public partners involved in the ambitious undertaking plan to install up to 12 megawatts of solar power in the next three years while also creating 15 full-time jobs in solar installation, sales and marketing, entrepreneurship, and small business development.
» Read article          

greening Unilever
Unilever to drop fossil fuels from cleaning products by 2030
By Siddharth Cavale, Reuters
September 1, 2020

Unilever Plc (ULVR.L) said on Wednesday it would invest 1 billion euros to eliminate fossil fuels from its cleaning products by 2030, cutting the carbon emissions created by the chemicals used in making the products.

The household goods conglomerate behind the Omo, Cif, Sunlight and Domestos brands said that, instead of petrochemicals, the products would use constituents created from plants and other biological sources, marine sources such as algae and waste materials.

Chemicals in its cleaning and laundry products make up 46% of its Home Care division’s carbon emissions across their life cycle.

The switch – which Unilever said it is the first company to commit to – will cut those emissions by a fifth.

Surfactants, or de-greasing agents, are the biggest petroleum-derived components, Peter ter Kulve, Unilever’s president of Home Care, told Reuters.

He said the company was working with small biotech companies and chemical makers such as Dow Chemical (DOW.N) to create environment friendly product formulations.

“The writing is on the wall.. the next phase is industry change in chemicals and cleaning agents ….many of these big suppliers still have a lot of capital still locked in the old carbon economy,” he said.
» Read article          

» More about greening the economy 

CLIMATE

energy to spare
How Fast Is the Climate Changing?: It’s a New World, Each and Every Day
By Bill McKibben, New Yorker
September 3, 2020

The struggle over climate change is necessarily political and economic and noisy—if we’re going to get anything done, we’ll have to do it in parliaments and stock exchanges, and quickly.

But, every once in a while, it’s worth stepping back and reminding ourselves what’s actually going on, silently, every hour of every day. And what’s going on is that we’re radically remaking our planet, in the course of a human lifetime. Hell, in the course of a human adolescence.

The sun, our star, pours out energy, which falls on this planet, where the atmosphere traps some of it. Because we’ve thickened that atmosphere by burning coal and gas and oil—in particular, because we’ve increased the amount of carbon dioxide and methane it contains—more of that sun’s energy is trapped around the Earth: about three-fourths of a watt of extra energy per square meter, or slightly less than, say, one of those tiny white Christmas-tree lights. But there are a lot of square meters on our planet—roughly five hundred and ten trillion of them, which is a lot of Christmas-tree lights. It’s the heat equivalent, to switch units rather dramatically, of exploding four Hiroshima-sized bombs each second.
» Read article        

Arctic heating overperforming
Arctic heating races ahead of worst case estimates
Arctic heating is happening far faster than anybody had anticipated. And the ice record suggests this has happened before.
By Tim Radford, Climate News Network
September 2, 2020

An international team of scientists brings bad news about Arctic heating: the polar ocean is warming not only faster than anybody predicted, it is getting hotter at a rate faster than even the worst case climate scenario predictions have so far foreseen.

Such dramatic rises in Arctic temperatures have been recorded before, but only during the last Ice Age. Evidence from the Greenland ice cores suggests that temperatures rose by 10°C or even 12°C, over a period of between 40 years and a century, between 120,000 years and 11,000 years ago.

“We have been clearly underestimating the rate of temperature increases in the atmosphere nearest to the sea level, which has ultimately caused sea ice to disappear faster than we had anticipated,” said Jens Hesselbjerg Christensen, a physicist at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, one of 16 scientists who report in the journal Nature Climate Change on a new analysis of 40 years of data from the Arctic region.

They found that, on average, the Arctic has been warming at the rate of 1°C per decade for the last four decades. Around Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, temperatures rose even faster, at 1.5°C every 10 years.

During the last two centuries, as atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide climbed from an average of around 285 parts per million to more than 400ppm, so the global average temperature of the planet rose: by a fraction more than 1°C.

The latest study is a reminder that temperatures in the Arctic are rising far faster than that. And the news is hardly a shock: within the past few weeks, separate teams of researchers, reporting to other journals, have warned that Greenland – the biggest single reservoir of ice in the northern hemisphere – is melting faster than ever; more alarmingly, its icecap is losing mass at a rate that suggests the loss could become irreversible.
» Read article          
» Obtain the study

laundry list of shame
President Donald Trump’s Climate Change Record Has Been a Boon for Oil Companies, and a Threat to the Planet
Pursuing an unrelenting fossil fuel agenda, Trump has scaled back or eliminated over 150 environment measures, expanded Arctic drilling, and denied climate science.
By VERNON LOEB, MARIANNE LAVELLE, STACY FELDMAN, InsideClimate News
September 1, 2020

In the middle of his 44th month in office, two weeks before the start of the Republican convention in late August, President Trump rolled back Barack Obama’s last major environmental regulation, restricting methane leaks.

The move represented an environmental trifecta of sorts for the president, who had handed the oil and gas industry another gift in his quest for “American energy dominance,” thumbed his nose yet again at climate change and came close to fully dismantling his predecessor’s environment and climate legacy.

It had been a busy four years, and a breakneck 2020, as Trump and the former industry executives and lobbyists he’d placed in control of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior raced to rollback auto emissions standards, weaken the nation’s most important environmental law, open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling and reject stronger air pollution standards, even as research showed a link between those pollutants and an increased risk of death from Covid-19.
» Read article           

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

coal-fired power capacity
Only one in 10 utility firms prioritise renewable electricity – global study
Vast majority of world’s electricity companies remain heavily invested in fossil fuels
By Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian
August 31, 2020

Only one in 10 of the world’s electric utility companies are prioritising investment in clean renewable energy over growing their capacity of fossil fuel power plants, according to research from the University of Oxford.

The study of more than 3,000 utilities found most remain heavily invested in fossil fuels despite international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and some are actively expanding their portfolio of polluting power plants.

The majority of the utility companies, many of which are state owned, have made little change to their generation portfolio in recent years.

Only 10% of the companies in the study, published in the research journal Nature Energy, are expanding their renewable energy capacity at a faster rate than their gas- or coal-fired capacity.

Of the companies prioritising renewable energy growth, 60% have not stopped concurrently expanding their fossil fuel portfolio and only 15% of these companies are actively reducing their gas and coal capacity.

Galina Alova, the author of the report, said the research highlighted “a worrying gap between what is needed” to tackle the climate crisis and “what actions are being taken by the utility sector”.
» Read article          
» Obtain the study

quashed supergrid reportWhy Trump’s Energy Department Quashed a Supergrid Report
This week on The Interchange, we dig into an investigation of Trump’s suppression of clean energy.
By Stephen Lacey, GreenTech Media – podcast
August 28, 2020

This week, we discuss how an innocuous grid-modeling project came to be seen as a threat to Trump’s efforts to save coal and then languished inside the Department of Energy.

It’s one of many pieces of research that have been suppressed by the current administration.

What is the study? What does it tell us about the systematic dismantling of government institutions and norms under Trump? What are the implications for a cleaner grid?

Journalist Peter Fairley joins us on this week’s Interchange podcast to talk about his investigation, which was a collaboration between InvestigateWest and The Atlantic.
» Listen to podcast

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Portland leading
Why Aren’t Home Efficiency Scores Standard in Online Real Estate Listings?
Realtors say such scores are useful for buyers and can open the door to broader conversations about home energy use.
By Justin Gerdes, GreenTech Media
September 2, 2020

Consumers rely on labels and scores to understand the attributes and performance of the products they buy. There are miles-per-gallon ratings for cars, nutrition labels for food and Energy Star ratings for appliances. But when it comes to the energy efficiency of their biggest investment — buying or renting a home — Americans are largely on their own.

Many U.S. consumers take on mortgages without knowing how much energy a home uses, consigning themselves to needlessly high future utility bills. But the right information delivered at the right time can nudge homebuyers to select the more energy-efficient option before closing papers are signed.

Portland, Oregon is the best real-world example in the U.S. to date.

Portland’s Home Energy Score program took effect on January 1, 2018, so it’s had some time to establish itself. Homes are scored on a 10-point scale based on DOE’s Home Energy Score system: homes with a “1” rating use the most energy; homes with a “10” rating use the least.

Scores posted thus far show considerable opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of Portland’s housing stock. By the end of 2019, the average Home Energy Score was 4.6, while 36 percent of homes received an initial score of 3 or below. However, half of the homes could cost-effectively improve to a score of 8 or higher.
» Read article           

» More about energy efficiency   

ENERGY STORAGE

taking a spin
Flywheel-lithium battery hybrid energy storage system joining Dutch grid services markets
Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
September 2, 2020

A hybrid energy storage system combining lithium-ion batteries with mechanical energy storage in the form of flywheels has gone into operation in the Netherlands, from technology providers Leclanché and S4 Energy.

The hybrid system combines 8.8MW / 7.12MWh of lithium-ion batteries with six flywheels adding up to 3MW of power. It will provide 9MW of frequency stabilising primary control power to the transmission grid operated by TenneT and is located in Almelo, a city in the Overijssel province in the east Netherlands.

S4 Energy launched into the frequency containment reserve market using a combination of its KINEXT flywheels and batteries in 2017. According to the company’s project director Dominique Becker Hoff, the flywheel supplies instantaneous power for very short periods of time without losing capacity. The 5,000kg KINEXT flywheel operates at 92% efficiency, storing energy as rotational mass.

The technology is seen as complementary to higher capacity electrochemical battery storage because the flywheels are not prone to degradation. The flywheel component can supply reserve power continuously while the battery only joins in for lengthier variations in frequency, protecting the batteries from degradation and ensuring a longer lifespan for cells.
» Read article          

down to earth
Metal-hydrogen batteries coming down to earth with launch of EnerVenue
By Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
August 28, 2020

Startup technology provider EnerVenue has launched a bid to commercialise a variation of metal-hydrogen batteries of the type used on the International Space Station and Hubble Space Telescope for use in stationary storage applications.

“As an example of metal hydrogen batteries, nickel-hydrogen batteries have proven to be an incredibly powerful energy storage technology – albeit an expensive one – for the aerospace industry over the past 40 years. The performance and longevity of nickel-hydrogen batteries is well-established and second to none. We’re now able to deliver the same performance and durability at a breakthrough competitive price using new low-cost materials,” EnerVenue founder, chief technology advisor and board member Dr Yi Cui – who is a Stanford University professor of materials science, said.

Claimed advantages include the ability to operate at temperatures from -40 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees, 30-year / 30,000+ duty cycle lifespan without battery degradation and a broad charge and discharge range from C/5 to 5C. Claiming that it also does not run the risk of thermal runaway as lithium batteries do, EnerVenue also said that its devices could even beat lithium-ion on CAPEX cost reductions over time too.
» Read article           

» More about energy storage       

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

squashed
How SUVs conquered the world – at the expense of its climate
Exclusive new emissions analysis shows how much more dangerous for the climate SUVs are than smaller vehicles, and how embedded they have become in our lives
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
September 1, 2020

They are the hulking cars that have conquered the world. Spreading from the heartlands of the US to a new generation of eager buyers in China to dominate even the twisting, narrow streets of Europe, the sports utility vehicle, or SUV, has bludgeoned its way to automobile supremacy with a heady mix of convenience and marketing muscle.

The rise of the SUV as the world’s pre-eminent car has been so rapid that the consequences of this new status – the altered patterns of urban life, air quality, pedestrian safety, where to park the things – are still coming into focus.

But it’s increasingly clear that SUVs’ most profound impact is playing out within the climate crisis, where their surging popularity is producing a vast new source of planet-cooking emissions.

Last year, the International Energy Agency made a finding that stunned even its own researchers. SUVs were the second largest cause of the global rise in carbon dioxide emissions over the past decade, eclipsing all shipping, aviation, heavy industry and even trucks, usually the only vehicles to loom larger than them on the road.
» Read article           

yellow bus planSchool buses should go electric – here’s how
Vehicles offer huge health and economic benefits
By Duncan McIntyre, CommonWealth Magazine – Opinion
August 29, 2020

Deep within Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan for creating a more resilient, sustainable economy is a proposal that deserves wider attention. Under the heading of “position[ing] the American auto industry to win in the 21st century,” Biden proposes a goal of all American-made buses being zero-emission by 2030, starting with “converting all 500,000 school buses in the country to zero emissions.” Practically, that means the next generation of yellow school buses would be electric. That is good news for parents, for communities, and for our economy.

Most of the half million school buses in use across the country today, on which each student spends an average of 180 hours annually, are diesel-powered. Diesel exhaust exposes children to toxic pollutants. Poor air quality is responsible for high rates of asthma, cancer, and heart disease. Children are even more vulnerable to air pollutants than adults, and the hardest hit children are those in disadvantaged communities, which have the highest concentrations of air pollution.
» Read article           

electric UPS
Soon, the Kitty Litter Will Come by Electric Truck
With deliveries surging during the pandemic, carriers like UPS and FedEx and companies like Amazon are renewing their push toward electric vehicles.
By Jim Motavalli, New York Times
August 27, 2020

Going back years, you might have been able to spot a truck from the likes of FedEx and UPS, and more recently Amazon, that ran on electricity. But most of these were small, short test runs that left the internal-combustion status quo in place.

Now that battery technology is catching up to ambitions, many companies are making big commitments to electrify the last delivery mile, typically from transportation hub to destination. The momentum means that plugging in the fleet may happen well before another vaunted goal — self-driving — is reached. Success is not guaranteed, though. The companies are eager to buy, but they will need the latest in battery-powered trucks, and a lot of them.

The rush to electrify, prompted by concern about climate change, a chance to offset growing delivery costs, government regulation and big advances in battery technology, is occurring as the coronavirus pandemic has caused a huge spike in package delivery. UPS, for instance, was delivering up to 21.1 million packages a day in the second quarter, a nearly 23 percent jump in average daily U.S. volume from a year earlier. Avery Vise, vice president for trucking at FTR Transportation Intelligence, said big increases in delivery truck orders hadn’t shown up yet, but they’re very likely coming.
» Read article           

» More about clean transportation 

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

contaminant pass-thru
Trump weakens Obama-era rules on toxic wastewater from coal plants
By Emily Holden, The Guardian
August 31, 2020

The Trump administration is loosening rules for toxic water pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Coal plants generate wastewater when they rinse the filters they use to catch pollutants from smokestacks. That wastewater is discharged into rivers and lakes and often ends up in drinking water.

Obama administration regulations required coal plants to upgrade their wastewater systems to treat arsenic, mercury, and other heavy metals. Electricity companies will now have more time and flexibility to meet those standards. Plants shutting down or switching to natural gas by 2028 will be exempt, according to Bloomberg News.

Steam-based power plants, including coal plants, are the third biggest source of toxic wastewater in the country, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The pollutants they release into the water – either directly or from leaching from ponds where coal ash water is stored – are linked with cancer, heart disease, diabetes and developmental problems for children.
» Read article           

» More on the EPA 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Hoboken at the forefront
‘At the Forefront of Climate Change,’ Hoboken, New Jersey, Seeks Damages From ExxonMobil
The city joined a long line of state and local litigants alleging Big Oil knew burning fossil fuels caused climate-related problems like sea level rise.
By David Hasemyer, InsideClimate News
September 3, 2020

The city of Hoboken, New Jersey, filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking damages from ExxonMobil and other major oil and gas companies for misleading the public about the harmful climate-related impacts such as sea level rise they knew would be caused by burning fossil fuels.

The city cast itself as a prime example of an oceanside community “at the forefront of climate change,” as Mayor Ravi Bhalla said in announcing the lawsuit.

Less than five miles from midtown Manhattan in New York City, Hoboken is uniquely vulnerable to sea level rise, according to the lawsuit filed in Hudson County Superior Court. It set forth nuisance, trespass and negligence claims, as well as violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.
» Read article          
» Read the complaint

corporate humiliation
“Humiliation”: Exxon dumped out Dow Jones Industrial Index after nearly 100 years
Do not underestimate the significance of this moment. Exxon is the oldest member of the influential Index, having joined in 1928.
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
September 1, 2020

The once mighty Exxon suffered the corporate humiliation of being booted out the highly influential Dow Jones Industrial Index.

“The last day of August also marked the first day of trading for the newly reconfigured Dow”, reported the Washington Post. “The index, which tracks 30 large publicly traded companies, swapped out three companies.” And one of those was oil giant, ExxonMobil.

The Seeking Alpha investor website calls the move the “ultimate insult” for Exxon. As an article in NPR notes: “The Dow Jones Industrial Average is the classic blue-chip stock index. Exxon Mobil is an iconic blue-chip stock … It reflects just how once-dominant Exxon has diminished.”

But the company’s demise has been a long time coming. The Motley Fool investor website has calculated that Exxon’s stock has lost value over the past 20 years. This compares to an increase of over 130% for the S&P 500.

Such was the size of the company that even seven years ago, Exxon was still the world’s most valuable corporation. But since then, the company’s market value has disintegrated a staggering $267 billion.
» Read article           

patchy performance
Big Oil’s patchy deals record casts shadow over green makeover
As major oil companies prepare to spend billions on renewable energy assets to stay relevant in a low-carbon future, the industry’s patchy track record on takeovers is a red flag for some investors.
By Ron Bousso, Reuters
September 1, 2020

[With] European policymakers cracking down on greenhouse gas emissions, the region’s major oil companies have promised to reinvent themselves as low-carbon power suppliers that would thrive in a world of clean energy.

To hit their goals in time, though, they will almost inevitably have to chase a relatively small pool of renewable energy assets in competition with big utility companies at a time valuations are going through the roof.

And some investors worry that history will repeat itself.

“The majors have been poor capital allocators for the better part of the past 20 years,” said Chris Duncan, an analyst at Brandes Investment Partners which has shares in several European oil firms. “I’m nervous … usually when companies transition to a different market the transition is not a profitable process.”
» Read article          

» More about fossil fuels 

BIOMASS

take action on biomass
MA House Climate Bill Would Promote Biomass Incinerators as “Non-Carbon Emitting Sources”
By Partnership for Policy Integrity
September 3, 2020

In the closing days of July, the Massachusetts House of Representatives rushed through language in its 2050 Climate Roadmap Bill – a broad package of climate proposals – that defines biomass power plants as “non-carbon emitting energy” sources. A conference committee with three members each from the House and Senate will decide the ultimate fate of this legislation this fall. PFPI and environmental justice advocates in Springfield, MA and across the state are urging the conference committee to reject this language.

Specifically, Section 15 of H.4933 creates a new greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standard for municipally owned electric utilities in MA, known as municipal light plants (MLPs). MLPs are exempt from many of the standards that apply to investor-owned utilities, like National Grid and Eversource, so this provision on its surface appears to be a step forward in reducing GHG emissions from the power sector.

The problem, however, lies in the definition of “non-carbon emitting energy.” The House bill defines this term to include both non-emitting energy sources, such as solar, wind, hydro, and nuclear, and biogenic fuels, which emit carbon when combusted, such as landfill gas, anaerobic digestion, and biomass. It also includes any other generation qualifying for MA’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS), which brings in garbage incineration, and for good measure gives the MA Department of Energy Resources (DOER) unlimited authority to add additional resources. In all, there are four different ways that a woody biomass power plant could qualify as “non-carbon emitting energy” for the purpose of this new MLP procurement standard – even though biomass plants are more polluting than coal.

Take Action for Clean Air and Environmental Justice!

A conference committee has been set up to negotiate the final language of the climate bill, comprised of six members: Senators Michael Barrett, Cynthia Creem, and Patrick O’Connor, and Representatives Tom Golden, Patricia Haddad, and Brad Jones. Whatever comes out of the climate conference committee this fall will be voted on without further opportunity for amendment. It would then go to Governor Baker for his signature.

MA residents can take action by contacting their state legislators and urging them to reach out to their peers on the climate conference committee to oppose language in the House bill that defines biomass energy as “non-carbon emitting,” and by signing this petition to the conference committee chairs, Senator Barrett and Rep. Golden.
» Read article           

biomass burning surges
Are forests the new coal? Global alarm sounds as biomass burning surges
By Justin Catanoso, Mongabay
August 31, 2020

Though current science has shown that burning the world’s forests to make electricity is disastrous for biodiversity, generates more emissions than coal, and isn’t carbon neutral, a UN policy established in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol erroneously counts energy produced from forest biomass as carbon neutral.

As a result, nations pay power companies huge subsidies to burn wood pellets, propelling industry growth. While the industry does utilize tree residue, forests are being cut in the US, Canada, Russia, Eastern Europe and Vietnam to supply pellets to the UK, EU and other nations who can claim the energy creates zero emissions.

So far, the UN has turned a blind eye to closing the climate destabilizing carbon accounting loophole. The Netherlands, which now gets 61% of its renewable energy from biomass, is being urged to wean itself off biomass for energy and heat. If the Dutch do so, advocates hope it could portend closure of Europe’s carbon loophole.

The forest biomass industry is sprawling and spreading globally — rapidly growing in size, scale, revenue, and political influence — even as forest ecologists and climatologists warn that the industry is putting the planet’s temperate and tropical forests at risk, and aggressively lobbying governments against using wood pellets as a “renewable energy” alternative to burning coal.

“We have repeatedly pointed out that… the large-scale substitution of coal by forest biomass [to produce electricity] will accelerate climate warming, and will increase the risks of overshooting Paris [Climate Agreement] targets,” Michael Norton, environmental director of the Science Advisory Council of the European Academies, said in a December 2019 statement issued to European Union countries.

“The reason is simple: when the forest is harvested and used for bioenergy, all the carbon in the biomass enters the atmosphere very quickly, but it will not be reabsorbed by new trees for decades. This is not compatible with the need to tackle the climate crisis urgently,” said Norton.
» Read article          

» More about biomass    

PLASTICS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

nurdle apocalypse
Pollution Scientist Calls Plastic Pellet Spill in the Mississippi River ‘a Nurdle Apocalypse’
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmog Blog
August 28, 2020

Three weeks after a shipping container full of tiny plastic pellets fell into the Mississippi River near New Orleans, cleanup hired by the vessel that lost its cargo stopped shortly after it started as a pair of major storms approached the Gulf Coast. But huge numbers of the pellets, which were made by Dow Chemical and are melted down to manufacture plastic products, still line the river banks in New Orleans and further afield.

After visiting a couple locations along the river banks affected by the spill, Mark Benfield, an oceanographer and plastic pollution expert at Louisiana State University, estimated that nearly 750 million of these lentil-sized plastic pellets, also known as nurdles, could have been lost in the river.

He described the mess as “a nurdle apocalypse.”

The nurdle spill occurred after an incident at the Ports America facility in New Orleans in which four shipping containers were knocked off the container ship CMA CGM Bianca on August 2. Three containers were retrieved, but the fourth, containing 55-pound bags of Dow Chemical polyethylene, fell into the river. It is unclear how many, if any, of the bags of nurdles were recovered.
» Read article           

» More about plastics in the environment    

THE PLASTICS / FRACKING CONNECTION

plastic Mt KenyaOil industry lobbies US to help weaken Kenya’s strong stance on plastic waste
Environmentalists fear changing Kenya’s resolve would lead to all of Africa becoming a plastics dumping ground
By Associated Press, in The Guardian
September 1, 2020

Major oil companies are lobbying the United States to pressure Kenya to change its world-leading stance against plastic waste, according to environmentalists who fear the continent will be used as a dumping ground.

The request from the American Chemistry Council to the Office of the United States Trade Representative came as the US and Kenya negotiate what would be the first US bilateral trade deal with a country in sub-Saharan Africa.

That deal is expected to be a model for others in Africa, and its importance helped lead to the Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta’s White House visit with Donald Trump this year – a rarity for an African leader during this administration.

In 2017 Kenya imposed the world’s strictest ban on the use, manufacturing and import of plastic bags, part of growing efforts around the world to limit a major source of plastic waste. Environmentalists fear Kenya is now under pressure not only to weaken its resolve but to become a key transit point for plastic waste to other African countries.

The 28 April letter from the American Chemistry Council’s director for international trade, Ed Brzytwa, seen by the Associated Press, urges the US and Kenya to prohibit the imposition of domestic limits on “production or consumption of chemicals and plastic” and on their cross-border trade.
» Read article           

plastic Nakuru
Big Oil Is in Trouble. Its Plan: Flood Africa With Plastic.
Faced with plunging profits and a climate crisis that threatens fossil fuels, the industry is demanding a trade deal that weakens Kenya’s rules on plastics and on imports of American trash.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, Michael Corkery and Carlos Mureithi, New York Times
August 30, 2020

Confronting a climate crisis that threatens the fossil fuel industry, oil companies are racing to make more plastic. But they face two problems: Many markets are already awash with plastic, and few countries are willing to be dumping grounds for the world’s plastic waste.

The industry thinks it has found a solution to both problems in Africa.

According to documents reviewed by The New York Times, an industry group representing the world’s largest chemical makers and fossil fuel companies is lobbying to influence United States trade negotiations with Kenya, one of Africa’s biggest economies, to reverse its strict limits on plastics — including a tough plastic-bag ban. It is also pressing for Kenya to continue importing foreign plastic garbage, a practice it has pledged to limit.

The chemistry council’s plastics proposals would “inevitably mean more plastic and chemicals in the environment,” said Griffins Ochieng, executive director for the Centre for Environmental Justice and Development, a nonprofit group based in Nairobi that works on the problem of plastic waste in Kenya. “It’s shocking.”

The plastics proposal reflects an oil industry contemplating its inevitable decline as the world fights climate change. Profits are plunging amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the industry is fearful that climate change will force the world to retreat from burning fossil fuels. Producers are scrambling to find new uses for an oversupply of oil and gas. Wind and solar power are becoming increasingly affordable, and governments are weighing new policies to fight climate change by reducing the burning of fossil fuels.

Pivoting to plastics, the industry has spent more than $200 billion on chemical and manufacturing plants in the United States over the past decade. But the United States already consumes as much as 16 times more plastic than many poor nations, and a backlash against single-use plastics has made it tougher to sell more at home.
» Read article          

» More about the plastics / fracking connection  

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Weekly News Check-In 5/8/20

WNCI-6

Welcome back.

A recent federal appeals court ruling against the water-crossing permit issued to Keystone XL by the Army Corps of Engineers may signal an end to easy pipeline permits in general. Big Oil is watching closely.

Our new section on greening the economy is a great place for thought-provoking articles, and this week is exceptional.  We include writing that discusses a potential green bias in future project financing, the issues surrounding “just transition” – compensation for displaced fossil fuel sector workers – and a must-read essay by science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson who suggests that the Covid-19 crisis and global response may open our collective imagination enough to tackle climate change.

Our climate section offers fresh examples of why we should hope Robinson is right. Unless we change our emissions trajectory soon, about one-third of humanity will find itself facing intolerable heat within 50 years. Unfortunately the Trump administration has pressed a sustained and effective attack on the very federal institutions that should be leading the climate fight.

That said, we have to give tentative credit to the Treasury Department for suggesting in a recent three-sentence letter that it will extend the federal renewable energy credit deadline for some projects delayed by the Covid-19 crisis. Stay tuned… this could be particularly beneficial to the wind industry.

We have some good/bad news on energy storage. Southern California Edison has commissioned a record amount of new capacity in an attempt to get ahead of planned natural gas power plant shut-downs. At the same time, Tesla has announced it will have trouble keeping up with demand.

The Environmental Protection Agency is a prime example of an agency that has been transformed under Trump to do industry’s bidding. Its latest attack on the use of science in the public interest involves an attempt to use a 19th century rule that legal scholars may not even apply to this agency. A court challenge is likely.

Regardless of all the help it gets from the federal government and its captured regulatory agencies, the fossil fuel industry as a whole is in deep trouble. We offer three insightful articles for a clear look at the situation from the oil patch to the securities trading floor.

Until recently considered a boon to shale gas producers, the dream of exporting liquefied natural gas to higher-priced foreign markets has sailed onto the rocks. Huge projects are being cancelled as investors and politicians recognize this new reality.

We close with an issue related to burning woody biomass for energy. A new United Nations report raises concern that global forest production can’t sustainably keep pace with all the various wood products a growing human population demands.

— The NFGiM Team

PIPELINES

big oil yellow light
Big Oil Fears Keystone XL Ruling Means End of Easy Pipeline Permits
By Steve Horn, DeSmog Blog
May 3, 2020

On April 15, Judge Brian Morris nullified water-crossing permits in Montana that were granted for the Keystone XL, a major setback for the long-embattled tar sands oil pipeline. The ruling came just days after Keystone XL owner TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada, obtained billions of dollars in subsidies from the Alberta government as global oil prices plummeted.

The oil and gas industry has taken notice. Seemingly just a ruling on Keystone XL — the subject of opposition by the climate movement for the past decade — the ruling could have far broader implications for the future of building water-crossing pipelines and utility lines.

In his decision, Judge Morris cited a potential violation of the Endangered Species Act when he ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do a deeper analysis of potential impacts to protected species. Morris required the Corps to demonstrate whether or not it could construct the pipeline without harming endangered species, such as the Pallid Sturgeon or the American burying beetle. Instead, the Army Corps “failed to consider relevant expert analysis and failed to articulate a rational connection between the facts it found and the choice it made,” Morris ruled, when the Corps gave Keystone XL the initial green light.
» Read article     

» More about pipelines

GREENING THE ECONOMY

financiers say rebuild green
Rich nations must make pandemic recovery plans green: global investors
By Simon Jessop and Kate Abnett, Reuters
May 4, 2020

LONDON (Reuters) – The world’s richest nations must ensure their COVID-19 recovery plans are sustainable and help meet the goals of the Paris climate accord, according to leading global investor groups that together manage trillions of dollars in assets.

While some members of the world’s 20 biggest economies such as Britain, France and Germany have made statements about doing just that, some of the biggest emitters such as China and the United States have yet to do so.

The intervention comes as more governments start to plan for the lifting of lockdown restrictions that have cratered the revenues of companies from airlines to retailers and radically changed the economics of the energy sector.

The groups said private capital would play a key role in the recovery, but investors needed long-term policies to be put in place that reflected the agreed move to a low-carbon economy.
» Read article     

one last puff
Looming Coal and Nuclear Plant Closures Put ‘Just Transition’ Concept to the Test
In Europe, the fate of displaced power plant workers is increasingly a matter of national concern. So far, things look very different in the U.S.
By Jason Deign, GreenTech Media
May 4, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has not changed the grim reality facing workers at coal and nuclear power plants in the U.S. and Europe. How those workers will fare in the years ahead will vary greatly based on where they live and the prevailing political winds.

In Europe, the retirement of aging plants is increasingly seen as a matter of national concern. Germany this year agreed to a €40 billion ($45 billion) compensation package for workers affected by the country’s planned phaseout of coal generation by 2038. Last month the Spanish authorities agreed a just transition plan affecting 2,300 workers across 12 thermal power plants that are due to close this year.

In contrast, there is no federal support plan for such workers in the U.S., said Tim Judson, executive director at the Maryland-based Nuclear Information and Resource Service, which lobbies for an end to nuclear and fossil-fuel power.
» Read article     

rewriting out imaginations
The Coronavirus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations
What felt impossible has become thinkable. The spring of 2020 is suggestive of how much, and how quickly, we can change as a civilization.
By Kim Stanley Robinson, The New Yorker
May 1, 2020

The Anthropocene, the Great Acceleration, the age of climate change—whatever you want to call it, we’ve been out of synch with the biosphere, wasting our children’s hopes for a normal life, burning our ecological capital as if it were disposable income, wrecking our one and only home in ways that soon will be beyond our descendants’ ability to repair. And yet we’ve been acting as though it were 2000, or 1990—as though the neoliberal arrangements built back then still made sense. We’ve been paralyzed, living in the world without feeling it.

Now, all of a sudden, we’re acting fast as a civilization. We’re trying, despite many obstacles, to flatten the curve—to avoid mass death. Doing this, we know that we’re living in a moment of historic importance. We realize that what we do now, well or badly, will be remembered later on. This sense of enacting history matters. For some of us, it partly compensates for the disruption of our lives.

Actually, we’ve already been living in a historic moment. For the past few decades, we’ve been called upon to act, and have been acting in a way that will be scrutinized by our descendants. Now we feel it. The shift has to do with the concentration and intensity of what’s happening.
» Read article     

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

diminished capacity
The Trump Administration Has “Corroded” Federal Environmental Science

A watchdog group’s new report documents the heavy toll that three and a half years of Trump-era attacks have had on environmental and public health research at government agencies.
By Emily Gertz, Drilled News
May 7, 2020

The Trump administration’s ongoing attacks on the budgets, staffing, and priorities of federal environmental agencies have “corroded our government’s ability to protect our nation’s ecology and public health,” according to a new report from Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, a government science watchdog.

“If there’s one overriding principle involved, it’s a pretty strategic taking-apart of government capacity to act in the public good,” said [the report’s lead author, Christopher Sellers, an environmental historian at Stony Brook University in New York].

The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative formed in late 2016 to archive and monitor federal climate and other environmental data, and to track changes to environmental, energy, and climate information on government websites.
» Read article     
» Read the report         

insufferable in fifty
One billion people will live in insufferable heat within 50 years – study
Human cost of climate crisis will hit harder and sooner than previously believed, research reveals
By Jonathan Watts, The Guardian
May 5, 2020

The human cost of the climate crisis will hit harder, wider and sooner than previously believed, according to a study that shows a billion people will either be displaced or forced to endure insufferable heat for every additional 1C rise in the global temperature.

In a worst-case scenario of accelerating emissions, areas currently home to a third of the world’s population will be as hot as the hottest parts of the Sahara within 50 years, the paper warns. Even in the most optimistic outlook, 1.2 billion people will fall outside the comfortable “climate niche” in which humans have thrived for at least 6,000 years.

The authors of the study said they were “floored” and “blown away” by the findings because they had not expected our species to be so vulnerable.
» Read article
» Read the study

leases vacated in Montana
Judge Vacates Oil and Gas Leases on 145,000 Acres in Montana
A federal judge, rapping the Trump administration for its weak environmental assessments, has vacated hundreds of oil and gas leases across a large swath of Montana.
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
May 1, 2020

WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Friday vacated 287 oil and gas leases on almost 150,000 acres of land in Montana, ruling that the Trump administration had improperly issued the leases to energy companies in 2017 and 2018.

The judge, Brian Morris of the United States District Court for the District of Montana, said the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management failed to adequately take into account the environmental impacts of the drilling. In particular, Judge Morris found that the officials had not accounted for the drilling’s impact on regional water supplies and the global impact that the increased drilling would have on climate change.

The decision is at least the third such legal loss that criticized the Trump administration for failing to consider the cumulative impacts of expanding fossil fuel production on the warming of the planet.
» Read article     

» More about climate

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

deadline relief for wind
US Treasury to Tweak Tax Credit Deadlines for Renewables Projects
A letter issued by the Treasury Department suggests relief may be on the way for an anxious renewables market, particularly wind developers.
By Emma Foehringer Merchant, GreenTech Media
May 7, 2020

A concise three-sentence letter sent by the U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday suggests relief may be on the way for a renewables industry concerned about meeting quickly approaching tax credit deadlines.

The letter came in response to a late April appeal from a bipartisan group of senators who asked that the department extend deadlines for solar and wind developers looking to qualify projects for the federal Investment Tax Credit and Production Tax Credit. In the letter, addressed to Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, a long-time champion of the U.S. wind industry, Treasury said that it “plans to modify the relevant rules in the near future.”

That statement, though short on detail, may give breathing room to developers scrambling to keep projects on track as COVID-19-fueled delays throw schedules into disarray.
» Read article     

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

hockey stick growth
SCE procures 770 MW of battery storage to bolster California’s grid as gas plants approach retirement
By Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive
May 5, 2020

Southern California Edison (SCE) is procuring a 770 MW/3,080 MWh package of battery resources to bolster grid reliability, the utility announced May 1, in what would be one of the largest storage procurements made in the United States to date.

The battery projects will “enhance electric grid reliability and help address potential energy shortfalls identified in California,” SCE said in a press release, adding that they would also help California’s broader clean energy transition as multiple coastal once-through-cooling (OTC) plants approach retirement dates in the next three years.

The scale of the projects is “hard to describe,” Daniel Finn-Foley, head of energy storage at Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables, told Utility Dive, since this single procurement is more than the entire energy storage market in the U.S. for all of 2019.
» Read article     

storage demand high
‘Tremendous demand for stationary storage’ outstrips Tesla’s 2020 supply capability, Musk says
By Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive
May 1, 2020

Tesla cannot meet the “tremendous demand” in 2020 for its energy storage products, like the large-scale Megapack battery systems, co-founder and CEO Elon Musk said during the company’s Q1 earnings call on Wednesday.

The company lists several COVID-19 impacts in its SEC filing, such as suspensions of operations at its facilities in Shanghai and New York, and deployment delays caused by closed government offices and businesses.

The pandemic is spurring the company to take a closer look at its cost structure, Musk said on the call.

“And we came to a conclusion that… the right move was actually to continue to expand rapidly, continue to invest in the future and in new technologies, even though it is risky. And we’ve talked to some of our key investors, and they support that approach as well,” he said, adding that long-term prospects for Tesla are extremely good.
» Read article     

» More about energy storage

EPA

bad housekeeping
Agency leans on 1870s ‘housekeeping’ law to block science
By Jean Chemnick, E&E News
May 8, 2020

EPA is trying to use a 19th-century statute giving department heads the right to manage personnel and internal record keeping to contain the science it uses when drafting regulations, including those on greenhouse gases.

The March supplementary proposal for a rule EPA bills as improving transparency of the science and modeling that underpin important agency work points to an obscure “housekeeping statute” enacted in 1874. It has roots in laws enacted under President Washington when early federal agencies were founded.

The agency’s gambit highlights the lengths to which the Trump administration will go, critics say, to cement the president’s anti-regulatory agenda ahead of a possible second term, or to try to tie the hands of subsequent administrations.
» Read article     

state enforcement lags
As EPA Backs Off Enforcement, States and Cities Have Little Capacity to Fill Gap
State and local governments often have authority but lack the resources and political will to enforce pollution rules.
By Kari Lydersen, Energy News Network
May 5, 2020

Since the Trump administration announced the suspension of much environmental enforcement during the coronavirus pandemic, advocates are calling on state and local regulators, as well as watchdog groups, to step up their efforts to fill the gap.

But that won’t be easy, whether in a Democratic-controlled state like Illinois or a Republican one like Indiana, given the impacts of the pandemic and past staffing and budget cuts that have curbed the ability of states to carry out enforcement.

In a March 26 letter, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicated that polluters won’t be fined for failure to meet federal standards during the pandemic. Some experts feel the administration is using the pandemic to continue a trend of backing off on enforcement.
» Read article     

fine particulates vs science
EPA Decides to Reject the Latest Science, Endanger Public Health and Ignore the Law by Keeping an Outdated Fine Particle Air Pollution Standard
By H. Christopher Frey, DeSmog Blog – Opinion
May 5, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdown have temporarily produced clearer skies across the U.S. Meanwhile, however, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been busy finding reasons not to pursue long-lasting air quality gains.

On April 30, 2020, the agency published a proposed new rule that retains current National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter without any revisions. It took this action after a five-year review process, in which scientific evidence showed unequivocally that these standards are not adequate to protect public health.
» Read article     

» More about EPA      

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

oil chaos
Oil chaos: Why is it so hard to cut production?
By Mike Lee and Carlos Anchondo, E&E News
May 6, 2020

Last week’s round of earnings reports shows that oil companies are finally starting to pull back on their production in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Big and small companies alike announced that they’re shutting down rigs and closing down wells. Exxon Mobil Corp. said it plans to mothball 75% of its rigs in the Permian Basin.

But the response came more than a month after oil prices started to fall, leaving many observers asking: Why didn’t the industry hit the brakes sooner?
» Read article     

feels different this time
‘This Feels Very Different’
For over a decade, the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico has been the epicenter of the American oil boom. Now, it’s the epicenter of its demise.
By Tamir Kalifa and Clifford Krauss, New York Times
May 1, 2020

The Permian Basin, which stretches across Texas and New Mexico and is almost as big as Britain, accounts for one out of every three barrels of oil produced in the United States.

The region has a storied history. It provided much of the oil for the American and Allied effort during World War II. In the 1970s, the basin created so many millionaires that many drank champagne out of cowboy boots and had trouble finding places to park their private planes.

That was followed by a crash, after which a popular bumper sticker appeared everywhere: “God Grant Me One More Oil Boom and I Promise Not to Screw It Up.”
» Read article     

From Supermajors to Superminors: the fall of Big Oil
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
May 1, 2020

It is increasingly looking like COVID-19 could be Big Oil’s Kodak moment. For over a century these firms have been titans of business, offering a steady financial return in good times and bad.

But most importantly, they have been immovable pillars of stone for investors in times of turmoil. Whatever the financial weather, the companies rewarded their investors.

Although we are in times of trouble now, the supermajor oil companies, which we often describe as Big Oil: BP, Chevron, Eni, Exxon, Shell, Total, and ConocoPhilips, are anything but a safe bet right now.
» Read article     

» More about fossil fuels

LNG

dead in the water
Irish LNG Plan That Would Allow US Fracked Gas Imports ‘Dead in the Water’
By John Gibbons, DeSmog Blog
May 4, 2020

It is increasingly unlikely that Ireland will develop new infrastructure to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) produced from fracked wells in the US, after the plans suffered a series of potentially fatal legal and political setbacks.

First, the European Court of Justice advocate general, Juliane Kokott, ruled that An Bord Pleanála, Ireland’s planning appeals body, erred in not requesting an up-to-date environmental impact study for the proposed Shannon LNG terminal before extending planning permission for a planned project. The decision means the case would have to be referred back to Ireland’s High Court.

Meanwhile, the political climate regarding the project has turned distinctly hostile, with the two major centrist parties Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil this week signing a joint letter that appears to signal the death knell for the LNG project.
» Read article     

» More about LNG

BIOMASS

not enough wood
Is There Enough Wood in the World to Meet the Sustainability Demand?
By Deutsche Welle, EcoWatch
May 4, 2020

According to the latest figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), global forest production hit record levels in 2018. Up 11% on the year before.

“We see an increasing demand for almost all of our products,” says Göran Örlander, strategist at Södra, Sweden’s largest association of forest owners. “The most obvious demand is for biofuels at the moment. Everybody wants to have biofuels to replace fossil fuels.”

The idea is that burning wood becomes close to carbon neutral if the forests from where it is taken are replenished at the same rate as they are felled for fuel.

But critics question whether this is the case in every country which claims to provide sustainable wood, and say some of what is supplying the current boom in biomass fuels comes from existing forests rather than sustainably managed plantations.

They also point to the carbon emitted from the soil of cleared forests, and to the emissions created in the felling and processing of wood products.
» Read article     

» More about biomass

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Weekly News Check-In 2/21/20

WNCI-3

Welcome back.

Over 200 people turned out on Wednesday to protest the Weymouth compressor station, currently under construction. Thirteen people were arrested and construction ceased for the day. The point was to draw attention to the environmental damage and local injustice of siting this facility in a densely populated community already burdened with high levels of pollution and related disease.

Another protest drawing considerable attention is happening in Canada in support of the Wet’suwet’en against the Coastal GasLink project. Protesters have blocked ports and rail lines, ramping up pressure on the Trudeau administration.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos captured a lot of attention for his $10B pledge to fight climate change. An article in Vox.com suggests that Bezos might consider putting his money and energy into cleaning up mega-polluter Amazon itself. Meanwhile, a new study in the journal Nature reveals that methane emissions from oil and gas production may be considerably greater than previously understood – and calls out the devastating consequences of the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks.

From the cutting edge of clean energy, we found a report on recent laboratory success in using protein nanowires to produce electric currents from moisture in the air. Near term, this could eliminate the need for batteries in small electronic devices. A little farther out, the technology could potentially scale up to power much larger applications.

Good news on clean transportation: the Trump administration’s effort to weaken vehicle emissions standards appears to be running off the road. While incompetence is partly to blame, the real issue is economics. Clean transportation is rapidly becoming more affordable than the dirty old model.

Wrapping up, we offer an article on serious problems with plastics recycling – and how vast quantities of nominally “recyclable” waste are piling up in landfills.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

compressor construction site
13 people arrested in protest at Weymouth compressor station site, police say
Over 200 people attended the demonstration calling on state officials to stop the controversial project, activists said.
By Christopher Gavin, Boston
February 20, 2020

Construction began on the compressor station — part of the company’s “Atlantic Bridge Project” to expand capacity on a natural gas pipeline to Canada — in December after Enbridge secured final permits.

According to a statement from FRRACS, Wednesday’s protest was to call on Gov. Charlie Baker and the state Department of Environmental Protection to halt construction of the facility.

“Multiple people were arrested for blocking the gate to the construction site, while two other people were arrested for locking to pieces of construction equipment on site,” the statement says. “As a result of today’s action, construction was stopped and workers left the site.”
» Read article        

FRRACS logo
Press Release: Climate Protectors stop construction at compressor station
By Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS)
February 19, 2020

North Weymouth, MA – Early this morning, over 200 members of Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS) and allies gathered for a mass demonstration at Enbridge’s compressor station site to call on Baker and the DEP to immediately halt construction on the project. Multiple people were arrested for blocking the gate to the construction site., while two other people were arrested for locking to pieces of construction equipment on site. As a result of today’s action, construction was stopped and workers left the site.  Thirteen arrests were made in total. Court dates will be held on Thursday, February 20 and Wednesday, February 26 at 8:30AM at the Quincy District Court.
» Read article        

Weymouth arrests 2-19-20
Dozens of protesters arrested at Weymouth compression center worksite
By Brynne Connolly, WHDH – Boston
February 19, 2020


WEYMOUTH, MASS. (WHDH) – Dozens of people protesting the construction of a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth were taken into custody Wednesday, according to the group protesting the project.
» View report             

Weymouth lockup
Weymouth Compressor Opponents Lock Themselves To Equipment

Protest group said two protesters locked themselves to construction equipment at the site of the Weymouth compressor station on Wednesday.
By Scott Souza, Patch.com
February 19, 2020

WEYMOUTH, MA — The group Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station said efforts for a large-scale protest at the construction site of the proposed Weymouth gas compressor station drew hundreds of protestors and included two locking themselves to equipment to halt construction on Wednesday. The protest was the latest from FRRACS and similar groups in Weymouth that have resulted in arrests in recent months.
» Read article        

» More about the Weymouth compressor station    

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Coastal GasLink protest
Canada: protests go mainstream as support for Wet’suwet’en pipeline fight widens
Protesters have blocked railways and barricaded ports in wave of dissent – and the pressure on Justin Trudeau has increased
By Amber Bracken at Unist’ot’en Camp and Leyland Cecco in Toronto, The Guardian
February 14, 2020

Set amid dense evergreen forests near the bank of the Wedzin Kwah, or Morice River, the remote cabins at Unist’ot’en camp have become a place of healing for Indigenous youth, who take lessons on trapping and traditional medicines.

But the camp in north-western British Columbia is also the last line of defence in the Wet’suwet’en nation’s fight against a controversial natural gas pipeline.

And in recent days, their fight has been taken up by other groups across the country.

For more than a week, members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk have blocked freight and commuter rail traffic in Ontario, in support of the Wet’suwet’en. Elsewhere, protestors have blocked roads, barricaded access to shipping ports and occupied the offices of elected officials in a wave of dissent.
» Read article        

» More about protests and direct actions

CLIMATE

Bezos dressed himself today
Donating $10 billion isn’t the best way for Jeff Bezos to fight climate change
Amazon is a mega-polluter. Cleaning house at the company should be the CEO’s top priority.
By Sigal Samuel, Vox
February 19, 2020

“I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share,” Bezos wrote in his Instagram announcement on Monday. “This global initiative will fund scientists, activists, NGOs — any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world.”

That sounds good, and donating $10 billion to address the climate emergency is certainly a commendable action, although it’s worth noting that figure represents less than 8 percent of Bezos’s total net worth of $130 billion.

But the devil is, as they say, in the details. And Bezos’s announcement is very short on those. Some climate groups are far more effective than others, so depending on where exactly Bezos puts his money, he could have a vastly beneficial effect on the planet — or very little effect at all.

There is, however, something Bezos could do right now that would be guaranteed to have a vastly beneficial effect on our climate: He could clean house at his company. Amazon is a mega-polluter, and although Bezos has lately pledged to decrease its carbon footprint in response to pressure from inside and outside the company, there’s a whole lot more he could do.
» Read article        

methane study
Fossil Fuels Are to Blame for Soaring Methane Levels, Study Shows
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
February 19, 2020

Oil and gas production may be responsible for a far larger share of the soaring levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, in the earth’s atmosphere, new research has found.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, add urgency of efforts to rein in methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry, which routinely leaks or intentionally releases the gas into air.

Adding to climate concerns, the Trump administration is moving forward with a plan that effectively eliminates requirements that oil companies install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from oil and gas facilities. By the Environmental Protection Agency’s own calculations, the rollback would increase methane emissions by 370,000 tons through 2025, enough to power more than a million homes for a year.
» Read article       
» Obtain the study     

warmer winters
How Warming Winters Are Affecting Everything
By Lauren Sommer, Mose Buchele, Molly Samuel, Patty Wight, Michael Elizabeth Sakas, Amy Mayer, Nat Herz, NPR
February 18, 2020

Winters are warming faster than other seasons across much of the United States. While that may sound like a welcome change for those bundled in scarves and hats, it’s causing a cascade of unpredictable impacts in communities across the country.

Temperatures continue to steadily rise around the globe, but that trend isn’t spread evenly across the map or even the yearly calendar.

“The cold seasons are warming faster than the warm seasons,” says Deke Arndt, chief of climate monitoring at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information. “The colder times of day are warming faster than warmer times of day. And the colder places are warming faster than the warmer places.”
» Read article       

416ppm
‘The Saddest Thing Is That This Won’t Be Breaking News’: Concentration of CO2 Hits Record High of 416 ppm
“Emissions from fossil fuels and deforestation need to be reduced to ZERO to stop this trend!”
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
February 12, 2020

The United Kingdom’s national weather service, the Met Office, warned in January that “a forecast of the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide shows that 2020 will witness one of the largest annual rises in concentration since measurements began at Mauna Loa, in Hawaii, 1958.”

The Met Office said that “the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is expected to peak above 417 parts per million in May,” noting that the anticipated increase is due in part to emissions from the bushfires that have devastated large swaths of Australia since late last year.

“Although the series of annual levels of CO2 have always seen a year-on-year increase since 1958, driven by fossil fuel burning and deforestation, the rate of rise isn’t perfectly even because there are fluctuations in the response of ecosystem carbon sinks, especially tropical forests,” explained professor Richard Betts of the Met Office Hadley Center and University of Exeter.
» Read article     

paid for by the upper crust
Meet the Millionaires Helping to Pay for Climate Protests

By John Schwartz, New York Times
September 27, 2019

Three wealthy donors formed the Climate Emergency Fund this year to support “disruptive activists,” as Trevor Neilson, one of the founders, put it. For years, he said, they have individually given money to more traditional environmental organizations like Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, but concluded that these groups were taking a too-gradual approach to the fight against climate change and that the crisis demanded greater urgency.

“The smartest place for philanthropists to invest is in this new generation of activists who refuse to accept the excuses of the adults whose lazy approach to climate is leading us off a cliff,” Mr. Neilson said. “The era of gradualism in environmental activism is over.”
» Read article     

» More about climate  

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

air gen
New green technology generates electricity ‘out of thin air’
By University of Massachusetts Amherst
February 17, 2020

Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a device that uses a natural protein to create electricity from moisture in the air, a new technology they say could have significant implications for the future of renewable energy, climate change and in the future of medicine.

As reported today in Nature, the laboratories of electrical engineer Jun Yao and microbiologist Derek Lovley at UMass Amherst have created a device they call an “Air-gen.” or air-powered generator, with electrically conductive protein nanowires produced by the microbe Geobacter. The Air-gen connects electrodes to the protein nanowires in such a way that electrical current is generated from the water vapor naturally present in the atmosphere.
» Read article        

» More about clean energy    

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

efficiency winning
Trump’s Path to Weaker Fuel Efficiency Rules May Lead to a Dead End
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
February 13, 2020

WASHINGTON — Last April, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, proclaimed at an auto show here that he would soon roll back President Barack Obama’s stringent fuel efficiency standards.

That, the administration contends, would unleash the muscle of the American auto industry. It would also virtually wipe away the government’s biggest effort to combat climate change.

Nearly a year later, the rollback is nowhere near complete and may not be ready until this summer — if ever. In January, administration staff members appointed by President Trump sent a draft of the scaled-back fuel economy standards to the White House, but six people familiar with the documents described them as “Swiss cheese,” sprinkled with glaring numerical and spelling errors (such as “Massachusettes”), with 111 sections marked “text forthcoming.”

The cost-benefit analysis showed that consumers would lose more money than they would gain. And, because the new auto pollution rule lacks the detailed technical analyses required by law, the regulations would be unlikely to withstand court challenges.
» Read article        

» More about clean transportation

PLASTICS RECYCLING

recycling NOT
America’s ‘recycled’ plastic waste is clogging landfills, survey finds
Many facilities lack the ability to process ‘mixed plastics’, a category of waste that has virtually no market as new products
By Erin McCormick, The Guardian
February 18 2020

Many plastic items that Americans put in their recycling bins aren’t being recycled at all, according to a major new survey of hundreds of recycling facilities across the US.

The research, conducted by Greenpeace and released on Tuesday, found that out of 367 recycling recovery facilities surveyed none could process coffee pods, fewer than 15% accepted plastic clamshells – such as those used to package fruit, salad or baked goods – and only a tiny percentage took plates, cups, bags and trays.

The findings confirm the results of a Guardian investigation last year, which revealed that numerous types of plastics are being sent straight to landfill in the wake of China’s crackdown on US recycling exports. Greenpeace’s findings also suggest that numerous products labeled as recyclable in fact have virtually no market as new products.
» Read article        

» More about plastics recycling  

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Weekly News Check-In 12/20/19

WNCI-3

Welcome back.

With construction activities underway at the Weymouth compressor station, direct observations of environmental safety violations are piling up. We have news from that and other protests, along with an endorsement of nonviolent direct citizen action from scientists in 20 countries.

The Supreme Court of the Netherlands ordered the government to cut that nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by the end of 2020. By far the most sweeping court intervention to date on behalf of the climate. Coal plants will close. Also in that section – satellites are beginning to pinpoint and measure methane leaks from space. Great news for data collection, but the findings are alarming.

Looking at clean energy, the Massachusetts chapter of US Green Building Council released a report showing that net zero energy buildings are economical to build – busting a longstanding myth that they’re too expensive. Energy storage has a new player, with the first U.S.-located liquid air facility planned for northern Vermont. This technology could compete favorably against lithium-ion batteries for requirements exceeding four hours. Mixed news on clean transportation: President Trump just killed the hoped-for extension of the electric vehicle tax credit. The Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) is moving along with Governor Baker’s support.

In the alternative universe where fossil fuels are king, big players want to create a U.S.-style shale boom in Argentina. That in spite of dire climate warnings and gloomy financial analysis suggesting quite the opposite. Also related: new research shows many more (and smaller) plastic pieces in the ocean than previously thought.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH

tracking trucks
Dirty concerns raised about Weymouth compressor station construction
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local Weymouth
December 18, 2019

Trucks are daily tracking mud from a compressor station construction site in the Fore River Basin, and the dirt could have contaminants such as arsenic, according to Alice Arena, leader of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station.

Arena said a Remediation Abatement Measure by Enbridge Inc., requires construction trucks to be cleansed before they leave the work area.

“Local contractors from J.F. Price and trucking companies are delivering gravel to the site,” she said during a Dec. 16 Weymouth Town Council town meeting. “These trucks are leaving the site with mud on their tires, and they are tracking the mud onto the public access roads and Bridge Street.”

Arena said there are no required cleansing pads at the compressor site under the Remediation Abatement Measure or RAM for truck operators to cleanse their tires of the soil before exiting the premises.
» Read article

compressor site cleanup
Officials, residents concerned with compressor site cleanup
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
December 17, 2019

WEYMOUTH — Town officials and residents are concerned that crews working to excavate contaminated fill at the site of a planned natural-gas compressor station are not following safety protocols and allowing hazardous materials to spread.

Alice Arena of Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station, a group opposed to the project, went before town council on Monday night to raise concerns about the ongoing work to remove contamination and more than 10,000 tons of soil containing arsenic and potentially other hazards.

Algonquin, a subsidiary of Enbridge, the company building the compressor station, recently started cleanup of the contamination at the site as part of a “release abatement measure” plan.

Arena said trucks visiting the site are already tracking soil onto neighboring roads, since there is no “cleaning pad” to wash off the mud and dirt beforehand as required in the plan. She said workers have been on site with no protective gear or breathing apparatus.

Arena said Enbridge has not appointed a public liaison to call about issues at the site as required, among other ongoing issues.
» Read article       

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

PROTESTS

NH coal train no stop
N.H.-Bound Coal Train Kept Rolling, Despite Activists On The Tracks
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
December 17, 2019


About a dozen activists attempting to stop a coal resupply train near Worcester  were forced from the tracks when the train failed to stop Monday night.

No one was injured or arrested.

The activists — some of whom were affiliated with groups like the Climate Disobedience Center, 350 New Hampshire Action and 350 Mass Action — said in a press release that the action was part of their campaign to shut down the Merrimack Generating Station in Bow, N.H., one of the last remaining coal plants in New England.
» Read article

scientists endorse direct action
Scientists endorse mass civil disobedience to force climate action
By Matthew Green, Reuters
October 12, 2019

In a joint declaration, climate scientists, physicists, biologists, engineers and others from at least 20 countries broke with the caution traditionally associated with academia to side with peaceful protesters courting arrest from Amsterdam to Melbourne.

Wearing white laboratory coats to symbolize their research credentials, a group of about 20 of the signatories gathered on Saturday to read out the text outside London’s century-old Science Museum in the city’s upmarket Kensington district.

“We believe that the continued governmental inaction over the climate and ecological crisis now justifies peaceful and non-violent protest and direct action, even if this goes beyond the bounds of the current law,” said Emily Grossman, a science broadcaster with a PhD in molecular biology. She read the declaration on behalf of the group.

“We therefore support those who are rising up peacefully against governments around the world that are failing to act proportionately to the scale of the crisis,” she said.
» Read article

» More about protests and direct action

CLIMATE

Dutch court decision
Netherlands’ Top Court Orders Government to Act on Climate Change
By John Schwartz, New York Times
December 20, 2019

The Supreme Court of the Netherlands on Friday ordered the government to cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by the end of 2020. It was the first time a nation has been required by its courts to take action against climate change.

Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Law at Columbia University Law School, said in an email: “There have been 1,442 climate lawsuits around the world. This is the strongest decision ever. The Dutch Supreme Court upheld the first court order anywhere directing a country to slash its greenhouse gas emissions.”
» Read article

rehab and release
Changing Seas Bring ‘Turtle Stranding Season’ to Cape Cod
By Kendra Pierre-Louis, New York Times
December 19, 2019


Mr. Prescott, who retired this summer after 40 years as director of the wildlife sanctuary in Wellfleet, spotted his first cold-stunned sea turtle in the region in 1974. “It was dead,” he said.

The following year he found two.

Other people started to walk the beaches too, after Mr. Prescott wrote about the turtle in the local paper. “By 1978, ’79, it became pretty obvious that there were turtles here every year,” he said.

“The single variable that helped explain this trend was warmer late-fall temperatures,” said Dr. Griffin, who published a study that looked into what was causing the rise in cold-stunning.

Turtles are cold-blooded and depend on surrounding temperatures to regulate their internal body temperatures, which makes them extremely sensitive to ambient temperatures.
» Read article

austral heat records
‘Red Lights Flashing’: Australia Smashes Heat Record Just a Day After Previous Record Hit
“I think this is the single loudest alarm bell I’ve ever heard on global heating.”
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
December 19, 2019


Calls for immediate and ambitious action to tackle the climate emergency piled up Thursday in response to preliminary analysis from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology that Wednesday smashed the nation’s temperature record by a full 1°C just one day after the previous all-time record.

The first record was set Tuesday, when Australia’s national average maximum temperature reached 40.9°C (105.6°F), eliciting alarm from climate and fire safety experts. Wednesday, the average rose to 41.9°C (107.4°F), sparking a fresh wave of warnings and demands for bold efforts to battle the planetary crisis.

For the second day in a row, Australia has broken its hottest day in recorded history.
» Read article

Sonnblick Observatory
2°C: Beyond the limit – How we know global warming is real
By Chris Mooney , John Muyskens , Aaron Steckelberg , Harry Stevens and Monica Ulmanu, Washington Post
December 19, 2019

If early forecasting aimed to avert tragedy and economic loss, the troves of data it produced are used today to monitor a new sort of disaster, one that was scarcely foreseeable by 19th-century meteorologists but that now constitutes the single most significant fact about the planet’s environment.

It is that the world is more than 1 degree Celsius hotter than it was before industrialization began pumping fossil fuels into the atmosphere. This warming has fueled new deadly fires, strengthened hurricanes and displaced people. And many areas have warmed far more than the average.

How can that be known? How can it be possible to take Earth’s temperature, not just for this week or this year, but for decades and centuries?

The answer begins with nearly 1,500 weather stations already operating by the time Sonnblick began recording. The telegraph allowed all those readings to be collected and analyzed to show weather patterns.
» Read article  

Candidate Trump
Donald Trump’s Record on Climate Change

Trump’s first term has been a relentless drive for unfettered fossil energy development. ICN’s 2020 candidate analysis looks at the president’s climate record.
By Stacy Feldman and Marianne Lavelle, InsideClimate News
December 19, 2019

As president, [Trump] has rolled back regulations on energy suppliers at a rapid clip slowed only at times by the courts, while auctioning off millions of acres of new drilling leases on public land. Last year, domestic oil production hit a record high. The result of this, among other things, was the reversal of three consecutive years of declining U.S. carbon emissions.

Trump has begun the process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate treaty, the agreement signed by nearly all nations to reduce fossil fuel emissions. He replaced Obama’s Clean Power Plan, intended to sharply reduce emissions from U.S. power plants. He has taken the first step to weaken fuel economy standards for cars, the single most important effort for reining in the largest driver of U.S. emissions.

His administration has undone or delayed—or tried to—most regulatory and executive actions related to climate change, while proposing new ones to accelerate fossil fuel development. Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law counts 131 actions toward federal climate deregulation since Trump took office. In the absence of any comprehensive national climate law, those moves have led to an erosion of the federal government’s main regulatory levers for cutting global warming emissions.

Several of those actions, including rollbacks of significant rules on methane, cross-state air pollution regulations and energy efficiency, have been blocked or delayed by judges who have questioned the administration’s broad view of its legal authority. Some of those setbacks may be temporary, though, and the courts have yet to rule on the most consequential deregulatory actions. According to the administration’s agenda for 2020, the president will try to fast-track as many more as possible before the end of his first term.
» Read article

Ohio methane blowout
A Methane Leak, Seen From Space, Proves to Be Far Larger Than Thought
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
December 16, 2019

The first satellite designed to continuously monitor the planet for methane leaks made a startling discovery last year: A little known gas-well accident at an Ohio fracking site was in fact one of the largest methane leaks ever recorded in the United States.

The findings by a Dutch-American team of scientists, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, mark a step forward in using space technology to detect leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, from oil and gas sites worldwide.

The scientists said the new findings reinforced the view that methane releases like these, which are difficult to predict, could be far more widespread than previously thought.
» Read article         
» Read report ($10 download fee)

COP25 RIP
U.N. Climate Talks End With Few Commitments and a ‘Lost’ Opportunity
By Somini Sengupta, New York Times
December 15, 2019

In what was widely denounced as one of the worst outcomes in a quarter-century of climate negotiations, United Nations talks ended early Sunday morning with the United States and other big polluters blocking even a nonbinding measure that would have encouraged countries to adopt more ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions next year.

Because the United States is withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, it was the last chance, at least for some time, for American delegates to sit at the negotiating table at the annual talks — and perhaps a turning point in global climate negotiations, given the influence that Washington has long wielded, for better or worse, in the discussions.

The Trump administration used the meeting to push back on a range of proposals, including a mechanism to compensate developing countries for losses that were the result of more intense storms, droughts, rising seas and other effects of global warming.
» Read article

tiempo de actuar
COP25: Anger Over Lack of Action for Vulnerable States as Climate Talks Conclude
By Sophie Yeo, DeSmog Blog
December 13, 2019

Climate activists have found plenty to be angry about at this year’s UN climate talks, which are scheduled to conclude in Madrid tonight. From youth groups to indigenous people, civil society has been more riled than in previous years, as the disconnect grows between momentum on the streets and the slow progress of the negotiations.

“It’s like two parallel worlds,” says Sara Shaw, part of the Friends of the Earth International delegation at the meeting, known as COP25. “It’s so stark, the contrast between climate breakdown, the potential of massive expansion of fossil fuels, using markets to game the system, the access polluters have to these talks when civil society is really marginalised. I think it’s just coming together in a huge amount of frustration at the injustice of it all.”

Two issues have proved particularly contentious: the role of carbon markets, and lack of finance for countries that are already suffering the impacts of climate change – known in the negotiations as “loss and damage”.
» Read article

» More on climate

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

net zero economical
Zero energy buildings are not high cost
They make sense environmentally and economically
By Meredith Elbaum, CommonWealth Magazine
November 3, 2019

The latest  report from the Massachusetts chapter of US Green Building Council, Zero Energy Buildings in MA: Saving Money from the Start, combats the common, but incorrect, notion of high upfront costs for building green. As the report describes how many types of zero energy buildings can be built with little or no added upfront cost and some zero energy commercial buildings can see return on investment in as little as one year. With zero energy buildings being more affordable than typically thought and within reach for many municipalities across the state, cities and towns can play a critical role in furthering green building in our Commonwealth.
» Read article         
» Read USGBC-MA report                   

» More on clean energy alternatives

ENERGY STORAGE

liquid air energy storageFirst US long-duration liquid air storage project planned in Vermont
By Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive
December 18, 2019

Lithium-ion batteries have dominated the advanced energy storage market in recent years, but there is a broad understanding in the space that other technologies will become more competitive as the need for longer-duration storage grows, Finn-Foley told Utility Dive.

“That’s the sort of market niche that a lot of long-duration players, including Highview, are pursuing,” he said.

Liquid air storage involves cleaning and compressing air with excess or off-peak electricity, liquefying it and storing it in cold insulated tanks. During peak periods on the grid, the air is warmed, causing it to expand and turn a turbine, “thus generating energy that can be used at peak times when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing,” Highview Power Storage said in a press release.
» Read article         
» Read press release

» More on energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

orange buffoon EV tax credit extensionTrump’s Christmas Gift to Big Oil: Killing Hopes of Electric Car Tax Credit Extension
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
December 18, 2019

The oil industry, a staunch opponent of electric vehicles (EVs), received an early Christmas present from the White House as President Trump reportedly intervened to quash an EV tax credit expansion from inclusion in a government spending package.

The tax credit is meant to help offset the upfront cost of electric vehicles and boost the EV market. Consumers who purchase an EV can currently claim a credit up to $7,500, and the credit phases out once auto manufacturers sell 200,000 qualifying vehicles. Tesla and General Motors have both hit the 200,000-vehicle cap and had lobbied for an extension. A bipartisan proposal called for allowing a $7,000 credit for an additional 400,000 vehicles sold.

That proposal, introduced earlier this year as the Driving America Forward Act, was rolled into a broader package of incentives for renewable energy that proponents hoped to pass as part of an end-of-year spending deal. But groups tied to the Koch network and backed by oil industry funding worked hard to kill the clean energy incentives. These groups sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week urging the Senate to oppose any bill that includes an EV tax credit extension.

Ultimately the EV provision was dropped from the spending package. According to Forbes, “In last-minute negotiations over a massive package of spending bills designed to avert a government shutdown, the EV provision was lost in the shuffle and that was the outcome Republicans and President Trump wanted.”
» Read article

TCI - Zakim
TCI could up gas prices 5 to 17 cents a gallon in 2022
Modeling shows costs and benefits of carbon pricing
By Andy Metzger, CommonWealth Magazine
December 17, 2019

OFFICIALS DEVELOPING A new regional approach to reducing tailpipe emissions on the East Coast are considering policies that would add between 5 cents and 17 cents to the cost of a gallon of gasoline, generating over $1 billion in the first year spread among all the participating states.

No price is set in stone yet, and it’s an open question how many of the roughly one dozen states will sign at the bottom once the agreement is finalized. On Tuesday afternoon, after the announcement, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced his state would not participate in the collective approach, tweeting that TCI is a “financial boondoggle” and “drivers will bear the brunt of the artificially higher gas prices.”

Championed by Gov. Charlie Baker, the transportation and climate initiative, dubbed TCI, aims to syphon money from gasoline and diesel wholesalers and pump it into other transportation priorities. The initiative is supposed to go into effect in two years, and Baker has said half of the Bay State’s proceeds would be steered into the Commonwealth Transportation Fund and the other half to unspecified local transportation priorities.

The “cap and invest” program for the transportation sector would be similar to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that has helped drive coal plants out of the electricity market while funding popular efficiency programs such as Mass Save.
 » Read article

Baker’s walk on the wild side
Leads the charge for TCI and higher gas prices
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
December 17, 2019

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER’S all-in embrace of the transportation climate initiative is another step away from his shrinking Republican base and a tacit admission that the state needs more transit funding.

The transportation climate initiative, or TCI, places a price on the carbon contained in gasoline and diesel fuels and requires wholesale distributors to pay allowances for the right to sell their product. The cost of the allowances will likely be passed on to drivers in the form of higher prices at the pump, and the revenue from the allowances will flow back to the participating states to be used for efforts to deal with climate change.
» Read article

New Hampshire pulls out of regional Transportation & Climate Initiative agreement that could bring $500 million a year to Massachusetts
By Tanner Stening, MassLive.com
December 17, 2019

Following the release of a memorandum of understanding Tuesday outlining a vision for the Transportation & Climate Initiative, one state has already pulled out of the effort.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu tweeted that his state will not be participating in the regional agreement to curb transportation emissions, saying he “will not force Granite Staters to pay more for their gas just to subsidize other state’s crumbling infrastructure.”

The regional policy could bring in some $7 billion in new funds across the region, and about $500 million a year in Massachusetts, according to estimates shared Tuesday. Those proceeds would then be invested in clean transportation solutions as each state sees fit.
» Read article

» More on clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

two-face tango
While Talking up Climate Action, Oil Majors Eye Argentina’s Shale Reserves
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
December 19, 2019

Even as international climate negotiators tried to make progress at the UN climate summit in Madrid in early December, fossil fuel production and consumption has continued to rise, and major oil companies have been seeking new horizons to exploit.

The industry is not slowing down, even in the face of the worsening climate crisis. Although many oil companies signed on to the Paris Climate Agreement, they have simultaneously poured $50 billion into projects since 2018 that are not aligned with climate targets. The industry also has plans to invest $1.4 trillion in new oil and gas projects around the world over the next five years, despite the fact that existing projects contain enough greenhouse gases to use up the remaining carbon budget.

In other words, the oil majors are actively betting on, and are heavily invested in, blowing past climate targets and burning as much carbon as possible, despite protestations from company executives that they are good-faith actors.
» Read article

forecast per well
Energy Analysts Deliver More Bad News for US Fracking Industry’s Business Model

By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
December 17, 2019

This month, the energy consulting firm Wood MacKenzie gave an online presentation that basically debunked the whole business model of the shale industry.

In this webinar, which explored the declining production rates of oil wells in the Permian region, research director Ben Shattuck noted how it was impossible to accurately forecast how much oil a shale play held based on estimates from existing wells.

“Over the years of us doing this, as analysts, we’ve learned that you really have to do it well by well,” Shattuck explained of analyzing well performance. “You cannot take anything for granted.”

For an industry that has raised hundreds of billions of dollars promising future performance based on the production of a few wells, this is not good news. And particularly for the Permian, the nation’s most productive shale play, located in Texas and New Mexico.
» Read article

Gas ban - MA codes
These Cities Want to Ban Natural Gas. But Would It Be Legal?
Cambridge, Massachusetts, got a surprise warning as it considered a natural gas ban to reduce its climate impact.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
December 12, 2019

Berkeley, California, passed the first such ban in the country this past summer, and other West Coast cities have since followed with similar restrictions.

But in Massachusetts, as Cambridge discovered on Wednesday, it might be harder—if not impossible—to do.

The reason: the city ordinances and town bylaws in Massachusetts may conflict with existing regulations that are governed by the state. During a Cambridge City Council committee meeting Wednesday, the city’s attorney advised that a proposed gas ban there might not stand up to legal scrutiny. The state attorney general’s office is also reviewing the legality of a ban approved last month by the Boston suburb of Brookline on natural gas heating in new buildings.
» Read article

Vaca Muerta shale
Argentina Wants a Fracking Boom. The US Offers a Cautionary Tale
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
December 12, 2019

Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez takes office in the midst of an economic crisis. Like his predecessor, he has made fracking a centerpiece of the country’s economic revival.

Argentina has some of the largest natural gas and oil reserves in the world and “possibly the most prospective outside of North America,” according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. If some other country is going to successfully replicate the U.S. shale revolution, most experts put Argentina pretty high on that list. While the U.S. shale industry is showing its age, Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale is in its early stages, with only 4 percent of the acreage developed thus far.

The country feels a sense of urgency. Declining conventional production from older oil and gas fields has meant that Argentina has become a net importer of fuels over the past decade. Meanwhile, Argentina’s economy has deteriorated badly due to a toxic cocktail of debt, austerity, inflation, and an unstable currency.

For these reasons — a growing energy deficit, a worsening economic situation, and large oil and gas reserves trapped underground — there is enormous political support for kick-starting an American-style fracking boom in Argentina.
» Read article

» More on fossil fuels

PLASTICS, HEALTH & ENVIRONMENT

 

mini-microplastics
Microplastics a million times more abundant in the ocean than previously thought, Scripps study suggests

Mini-microplastics uncovered in the stomachs of filter-feeding marine organisms
By Chase Martin, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
December 03, 2019

Nothing seems safe from plastic contamination. It is pulled from the nostrils of sea turtles, found in Antarctic waters and buried in the fossil record. But a new study by researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego suggests there could be a million times more pieces of plastic in the ocean than previously estimated.

Biological oceanographer Jennifer Brandon found some of the tiniest countable microplastics in surface seawater at much higher concentrations than previously measured. Her method unveiled that the traditional way of counting marine microplastics is likely missing the smallest particles, suggesting the number of measured microplastics in the ocean is off by five to seven orders of magnitude.

On average, Brandon estimates the ocean is contaminated by 8.3 million pieces of so-called mini-microplastics per cubic meter of water. Previous studies measuring larger pieces of plastic found only 10 pieces per cubic meter.

Her discoveries about mini-microplastics, completed while a graduate student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, was published Nov. 27 in a special issue of Limnology and Oceanography Letters devoted to research on microplastics and microfibers.
» Read article      
» Read published study

» More on plastics in the environment

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