Climate and Energy News Roundup 6/16/2017

On Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told the European Parliament that “The European Union will not renegotiate the Paris agreement.  The 29 articles of the agreement must be implemented and not renegotiated.”  At the end of a two-day summit in Bologna, Italy, the U.S. refused to endorse a joint communique with other G7 countries on climate change.  DOE is closing the office that works with other countries to develop clean energy technologies.  Analysts are beginning to detect the way the Trump administration will try to rescind the Clean Power Plan.  Meanwhile, the Swedish parliament passed a law committing the country to becoming a net-zero carbon emitter by 2045.

On Tuesday, the EPA proposed a two-year delay in implementing a rule requiring oil and gas companies to detect and repair leaks of methane and other air pollution at new and modified drilling wells.  In addition, the Bureau of Land Management is seeking to delay implementation of a rule limiting methane waste at oil and natural gas drilling sites on federal lands.  EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has named energy industry attorney Patrick Traylor as a deputy in the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.  On Thursday Pruitt appeared before a House Appropriations subcommittee to defend the budget proposal for his agency that would cut its funding by 31%.  However, members of the subcommittee made it clear that they have no intention of approving the budget as proposed.  At the same hearing, he indicated that the Trump administration is not considering revoking California’s authority to set its own pollution standards for cars and trucks.  On a similar topic, the attorneys general from 13 states announced that they would mount a vigorous court challenge to any effort to roll back vehicle fuel-efficiency standards for 2022-2025 put in place by the Obama administration.

It turns out the Heartland Institute isn’t the only group giving “educational” materials to teachers about fossil fuels and climate change.  So are the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board, Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, and the National Energy Education Development Project, among others.  A longer article can be found here.  Federal judge James Boasberg, who sits on the D.C. district court, has ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to perform an adequate study of the Dakota Access Pipeline’s environmental consequences when it first approved its construction and ordered the agency to conduct new reviews.  On the subject of lawsuits, after district court judge Ann Aiken last week stood by her decision that the youth lawsuit against the federal government deserved a hearing, the Trump administration went over her head to the 9th circuit court of appeals to get the case dismissedChelsea Harvey put this all in perspective at The Washington PostGo here for a profile of one of the plaintiffs, a 14-year old girl from Louisiana.  What happens on the children’s lawsuit is of major importance, not just for them, but for other lawsuits that have been filed in the U.S.  Other countries are facing similar actions.

Climate

According to data released by NASA on Thursday, May was the second-warmest May on record.  The planet was 1.6°F (0.88°C) warmer than the 1951-80 average, trailing May 2016 by just a 10th of a degree.

A new paper in Nature Geoscience examined the warming that occurred during the Holocene epoch since the last ice-age.  It makes several important points, but two stand out: (1) climate models can simulate climate changes over the history of human civilization fairly accurately and (2) humans are causing global warming at a rate 20 times faster than Earth’s fastest natural climate change.

The mayor of Tangier Island, VA, in the Chesapeake Bay is concerned about the erosion of the island.  However, President Trump called to tell him not to worry: “your island has been there for hundreds of years, and I believe your island will be there for hundreds more.”  That’s not what the Army Corps of Engineers thinks, however.  Meanwhile, across the Bay, residents of Deal Island, MD, are struggling with a variety of questions, including what is the most appropriate way to respond to on-going changes.

A new paper, published Wednesday in the Geological Society of America’s bulletin GSA Today has found that the coast of Louisiana is sinking faster than had been thought.

A paper in Nature Communications has documented a two-week period of surface melting on the Ross ice shelf in West Antarctica in January 2016.  A series of confounding events, including the strong El Niño, acted together to cause the melting.  Such events contribute to concern for the stability of the West Antarctic ice sheet.  At this point we are still waiting for the release of the huge iceberg from the Larsen C ice shelf.  John Abraham provided some perspective on why that release is of concern.

Energy

The 2017 BP Statistical Review of World Energy has been released and Carbon Brief has provided a detailed look at its content.  The major points are that global CO2 emissions grew by only 0.1% while energy demand increased by 1.0%; non-hydro renewable energy sources grew by 14%; oil and gas use increased by 1.8%, but coal use fell 1.4%.  Bloomberg Markets summarized in five charts the shifts occurring in global energy.  Bloomberg New Energy Finance also released a new report, entitled New Energy Outlook 2017.  Because of the declining costs of solar panels, the report predicts that by 2040, 25% of Australia’s power will come from solar, as will 20% of Brazil’s, 15% of Germany’s, and 5% of India’s and the U.S.’s.  The report also projects that global CO2 emissions from the power sector will peak in 2026.  Among other projections, China’s renewable capacity will account for 63% of its overall power mix in 2040, compared with 33% last year.  Also, India’s cumulative solar PV capacity will rise from 10 GW in 2016 to 670 GW in 2040.  Inside Climate News also has an extensive report.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s monthly power report for March found that 8% of the electricity produced in the U.S. that month came from wind and 2% from solar, making March the first time that production from the two sources exceeded 10%.  The consulting firm M.J. Bradley & Associates released a report prepared for Ceres in which they found that since 2000, CO2 emissions from the U.S. electric power industry have dropped 19%, while GDP has grown 33%.  Looking to the future, an increasing number of solar-plus-storage projects have been cropping up around the country.  Nevada has reinstated net metering for residential solar customers after an 18-month absence.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance has reported that 34 of the 61 operating U.S. nuclear reactors are being paid less for their electricity than it costs them to produce it, due to competition from cheap natural gas.  Consequently, some states are working to subsidize nuclear power plants to keep them generating emissions-free electricity.

Many think that hydroelectric power is environmentally benign.  However, a paper published in the journal Nature has warned that the Amazon basin could suffer significant and irreversible damage if an extensive dam building program proceeds.  It said that more dams could affect the dynamics of the complex river system and put thousands of unique species at risk.

Put this one down as one of those developments you hope will be commercialized someday.  Researchers in Australia have developed a solar paint that splits water vapor in the atmosphere into hydrogen gas and oxygen, using energy provided by sunlight.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has released a new report entitled the 2017 Utility Energy Efficiency Scorecard.  The report evaluated the 51 largest electrical utilities in the U.S. on their energy efficiency programs.  Dominion Energy in Virginia ranked 50th.  Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has signed Executive Directive 11, instructing the Department of Environmental Quality to begin the process of establishing regulations that will reduce carbon emissions from power plants.  One provision in the regulations will be a mandatory cap-and-trade program.

The administration’s plans for energy research run counter to the rest of the world’s.  Last week I supplied a link to an article about the Trump administration’s proposed elimination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy.  Now, at the behest of Congress, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine issued a report evaluating the program.  It found that the program “is not failing” and doesn’t need reform.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

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