Climate and Energy News Roundup 8/3/2018

This week’s Roundup was prepared by H. Bishop Dansby.


Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change

The Weekly Roundup particularly recommends this landmark piece in the New York Times Magazine by Nathaniel Rich. It is a work of history, addressing the 10-year period from 1979 to 1989: the decisive decade when humankind first came to a broad understanding of the causes and dangers of climate change. Complementing the text is a series of aerial photographs and videos, all shot over the past year. Click here.

At last: A carbon tax proposal by a Republican

Citizens Climate Lobby and others around the world believe that a carbon tax is the best solution for climate change. Now, Florida congressman Carlos Curbelo, a Republican, will introduce legislation next week that calls for a gradually escalating carbon tax specifically designed to accelerate the decarbonization of the U.S. economy.

In exchange for the fee, the proposal would completely eliminate the gasoline tax and press pause on the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions (that’s in jeopardy anyway under the changing Supreme Court). It would also devote most of its revenue to building new transportation infrastructure nationwide. That it raises money at all is controversial, since Citizens Climate Lobby and those few Republicans in favor of a carbon tax want a completely revenue-neutral proposal. Click here.

U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Youth Plaintiffs, Allows Juliana v. United States to Proceed to Trial 

Remarkably, this suit by Our Children’s Trust has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2015, a group of 21 kids aged 8 to 19 filed suit against the U.S. government in a District Court in Oregon. The complaint: The feds had violated their constitutional rights by deliberately allowing CO2 levels to skyrocket. The plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States argued the government should be held accountable for the harm caused by climate change.

On Monday, the Supreme Court denied the Trump administration’s plea to halt case proceedings, kicking it back to the District Court of Oregon, where the case is still pending. If successful, the suit would force the federal government to come up with a plan to reduce carbon emissions.

The suit proceeds to trial on October 29. Click here.

Virginia lawmakers consider fossil fuel lobbyist for energy regulator seat

On paper, Virginia’s sweeping new energy law should result in significant new investments in the state’s electric grid, as well as energy storage, efficiency, and renewable generation such as wind and solar. Now, even as Virginia lawmakers ask the State Corporation Commission to implement the comprehensive energy bill they passed this year, they’re also considering appointing a commissioner with close ties to the oil and gas industry who critics say will hurt the state’s clean energy transition. Click here.

Virginia Supreme Court rules in favor of customers in Dominion solar case

Dominion was attempting to overturn a State Corporation Commission ruling that allows big businesses or box stores to seek out non-utility power providers who offer 100 percent renewable energy, without the requirement of providing 5 years’ advance notice.

SELC attorney Will Cleveland says, “Time and again, we’ve seen Dominion throw up road blocks to prevent customers from directly accessing renewable energy. The Virginia Supreme Court today made clear that Dominion cannot control or impede the renewable energy industry…” Click here.


Droughts, Heat Waves and Floods: How to Tell When Climate Change Is to Blame

Meteorologists, particularly those on TV, have always had a grand opportunity to educate the public on climate change, but they have generally refused to do so, either because of their own climate change denial or because climate change was not deemed part of the weather news. Now, the science is increasingly capable of sussing out what part of extreme weather is due to climate change, so that it is likely to become part of weather forecasting. Click here.

The world is hot, on fire, and flooding. Climate change is here. The worst ravages of climate change are on display around the world.

It’s the hottest month of one of the hottest years in the history of human civilization, and unusual wildfires are sprouting up all over the map. Sweden has called for emergency assistance from the rest of the European Union to help battle massive wildfires burning north of the Arctic Circle. Across the western United States, 50 major wildfires are burning in parts of 14 states, fueled by severe drought. In Greece, citizens have been forced into the sea to try to escape the flames. Heat waves in Japan have killed scores of people. The wildfires burning in Siberia earlier this month sent smoke plumes from across the Arctic all the way to New England. Last year, big wildfires burned in Greenland for the first time in recorded history. Click here.


Technology companies help drive solar growth in Virginia

Driving the growth is a huge appetite for solar-generated electricity from the nation’s biggest technology companies — Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Facebook. They are setting up shop in Virginia and insisting on renewable energy to power their facilities.

Ashburn’s “Data Center Alley,” for example, now has the largest concentration of data centers in the world, with more than 70 percent of the world’s internet traffic passing through Loudoun County’s digital infrastructure.

Also driving solar energy growth is a steep drop in price. According to one industry source, the cost to develop a kilowatt of solar power has fallen from $96 in 1970 to 40 cents this year.

Ivy Main contends, though, that the General Assembly needs to do much more to unlock the potential of solar for multifamily housing, parking lots, airports, closed landfills, and other spaces. Click here.

N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center Releases the 50 States of Grid Modernization Report

The report provides insights on state regulatory and legislative discussions and actions on grid modernization, utility business model and rate reform, energy storage, microgrids, and demand response. Click here.

The $3 Billion Plan to Turn Hoover Dam Into a Giant Battery

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, an original operator of the dam when it was erected in the 1930s, wants to equip it with a $3 billion pipeline and a pump station powered by solar and wind energy. The pump station, downstream, would help regulate the water flow through the dam’s generators, sending water back to the top to help manage electricity at times of peak demand. The net result would be a kind of energy storage — performing much the same function as the giant lithium-ion batteries being developed to absorb and release power. Click here.