Climate and Energy News Roundup 8/25/2017

Les Grady was out of town this week.  Thanks to CAAV member Doug Hendren, who compiled this week’s Roundup.

CLIMATE:

Climate change sets the world on fire. Canada has had the worst wildfire season in its history. Europe has seen 3 times the average number of fires this summer. Even Greenland is burning. Longer, hotter seasons from climate change are an important ingredient. In the American west, there is no longer a “fire season” – now it’s year ’round. And in related news, A Russian tanker has traversed the Arctic for the first time without an ice-breaker. Its cargo? Liquefied natural gas.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Corpus Christi, Texas late Friday with “catastrophic flooding” predicted as it moves northeast toward Houston over the next few days. Over 200,000 are currently without power. Governor Abbott has advised Houston residents to “strongly consider” evacuation. Hurricanes are fueled by ocean heat, and sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are 1.5 to 4 degrees C above average. More heat also significantly increases the rainfall in hurricanes.

EXXON KNEW all along, concludes a peer-reviewed Harvard study, demonstrating a “quantifiable discrepancy” between Exxon’s internal communications and what they told shareholders and the public. This analysis of Exxon’s own materials should bolster the NY and MA Attorneys General case against Exxon-Mobil. Unsurprisingly, Exxon has already attacked the study and its authors.

US CO2 emissions have fallen 14% since 2005, about 2/3 of which is from coal’s declining share of electricity generation (55% to 33%). Most of coal’s share has gone to gas, and whether gas is actually better or worse than coal from a climate standpoint is not clear. However, wind (19%), solar (3%) and efficiency gains (18%) have also contributed to reducing emissions.

How to win the climate wars – talk about local pollution, not global warming. “Pollution” is tangible, not politicized, and something everybody cares about.  Amory Lovins captures this beautifully in his interview by Tom Friedman at last week’sRMI Energy Innovation Summit (from 4:20 to 6:00 in the video): “Talk to people where they’re at…Some care about profits, jobs, competitive advantage… some about climate, creation care, stronger families, communities, national security. It doesn’t matter. Focus on what we can agree ought to be done, for whatever reason. And don’t argue about the reasons.” The entire 45-minute interview is loaded with optimism and inspiring stories. Strongly recommended, and a breath of fresh air!

ENERGY: 

Nearly 70% of the world’s countries, including China, US and UK could be powered entirely by renewables by 2050. Stanford researchers point out this will prevent millions of premature deaths, create 24 million long-term jobs and $20 trillion in saved health and climate costs.

New Battle Cry: 100 Per Cent! Bill McKibben notes that environmentalists have been “better at opposing than proposing”, and urges the Climate Movement to rally around the call for 100% renewable energy. Orlando, FL has joined the cause, now the 40th US city to commit to a 100% clean energy future. Even 72% of Republicans, McKibben notes, want more clean energy.

Nuclear power plants are ‘bleeding cash’, writes Joe Romm. “Let it be written that environmentalists did not kill the nuclear power industry. Economics did.” After the abandonment of one of the last remaining nuclear plant projects in the US, 80% of South Carolina voters think the state should trade nuclear for solar. They are not alone in this view. Solar panel capacity (not generation yet) is about to overtake nuclear energy capacity worldwide. Coal is likewise in rapid decline worldwide, including AustraliaIndia and China, being replaced mainly with renewables. Sixteen percent of US coal plants have retired since 2012, and it looks doubtful that the US will ever build another big coal plant.

Despite coal’s and nuclear energy’s failing economics, last week’s highly anticipated DOE Report recommends policies (read ‘subsidies’) to boost these dying industries. Contradicting Trump’s claims, the report does acknowledge that the coal industry dying from market factors (displaced so far mainly by cheaper gas, wind and efficiency gains).

Renewables are good for the grid. Though some predicted trouble, the US power grid passed Monday’s solar eclipse testwithout a hitch. Joe Romm opines that Energy Secretary Rick Perry may have “stumbled upon the solution to going 100% renewable“: Far from Perry’s claim that renewables jeopardize the US grid, the DOE report finds that renewables do not destabilize the grid, but do help stabilize electricity prices for American consumers. Further, plug-in electric vehicles can provide greater grid flexibility by balancing demand and generation.

ON THE POLICY FRONT:

Cap-and-Trade growing: Northeast strengthens carbon goals as Federal rules fade. The nine states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative have resolved to step up their cap-and-trade program, now on pace to greatly exceed Obama administration targets. The RGGI states represent the 6th largest economy in the world, and five of the nine states are run by Republicans. As Gov. Terry McAuliffe positions VA for more aggressive climate policy, the possibility of VA joining the RGGIis once again on the table. On the West Coast, meanwhile, the California state GOP is divided over whether to stick with current cap-and-trade or tack right to align with the Trump camp.

Solar Tariffs? A case brought by two US solar panel manufacturers is now before the US international Trade Commission. A decision about whether to impose tariffs on solar panel imports would ultimately fall to President Trump. An import tariff would double the price of solar panels, putting half of the US market and 88,000 US solar jobs at risk. It would have major economic impact in Georgia, and also North Carolina, where Republicans are rallying to protect the state’s solar industry,

 Pipeline issues are getting hot:  The Rover pipeline (714 miles from Michigan to WV) is in the news for multiple water quality violations in West Virginia. It comes at a time when public pressure is mounting on Virginia’s DEQ to slow down pipeline water approvals, including from state Senators Hanger and Deeds, and Delegates Bell and Rasoul.  Gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam was booed in Fairfax County for suggesting that the ACP and MVP could move forward pending approvals from DEQ, FERC and COE.

Putting FERC on notice?  A federal appellate court rejected approval of a gas pipeline on Tuesday, saying FERC must give an estimate of greenhouse gas emissions that would result from burning the gas delivered by proposed pipeline projects to Florida. The Tuesday ruling sets a legal precedent that could affect the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines.

PEOPLE’S PIPELINE PROTEST, September 12, 13, 14. CCAN is organizing statewide protests at DEQ office throughout Virginia.

Trump disbanded federal climate advisory panel. These are the folks who recently leaked their major climate change report. A wise move, it appears. Mr. Trump continues to try to deal with climate by not talking about it: Another US agency deletes references to climate change.

Just for fun: If you’ve gotten this far, relax for a minute and turn up the volume. My latest 2 musical pieces: THE SUNSHINE STATE tells how Floridians reined in their utility, which sounds a lot like Dominion. And THE ANTHROPOCENE, a friendly reminder about where we are.

 

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