Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/8/2019

Joy Loving is this week’s author.

Politics and Policy

This article in Yes! Magazine provided a perspective on government action and inaction on climate change, asking “After 40 Years of Government Inaction on Climate, Have We Finally Turned a Corner?”  The author was inspired in part by his reporting about The Children’s Trust.  Perhaps an answer lies in part in actions such as this one by the House and Senate on a bipartisan basis:  The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reported on passage of a bill to protect some public lands.

Last week’s Roundup highlighted several articles about young climate activists.  The Guardian weighed in as well this week, with a close look at some individuals involved in the Sunrise Movement.  Perhaps these young people and others in their movement will be heartened to learn that there is a strong climate advocate, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State, who says he will run for President in 2020.  The Washington Post’s (WaPo) Energy 202 gave the details.

You’ve no doubt heard about Democratic proposals for a “green new deal”.  The Hill reported that the conservative approach would look a lot different.  And the Washington Examiner offered a slightly different, but related, take. republicEn offered this perspective:

“The caucus will not focus on climate change, but instead on returning Republicans to the conservation and environmental roots laid by President Theodore Roosevelt by tackling public lands issues, wildlife conservation, and environmental degradation of rivers, streams, and animal habitats. Toward that end, the caucus will work on ‘conservative solutions which are driven by a commitment to innovation, competitive markers, and entrepreneurialism.’”

Is there a way forward for the c-words (compromise? consensus? climate action?)?  See what you think about this Inside Climate News item titled “Green New Deal vs. Carbon Tax: A Clash of 2 Worldviews, Both Seeking Climate Action” and subtitled “The contest is elevating climate policy conversations on the campaign trail and in Washington. It could inspire compromises that bring together pieces of each.”  Maybe not, according to this author writing in FiveThirtyEight. USA Today reported a somewhat related story.  And then there’s this Bloomberg piece, which suggested maybe some level of bipartisanship is a possibility, this item from DW.com about shifting attitudes among evangelicals, and this PBS Frontline story about the self-described “conservative Republican and libertarian” mayor of Georgetown TX.  This WaPo Energy 202 story talked about the first debate in the Senate this week, suggesting so far compromise is not “in the air”.  And yet, two senators of different parties penned a March 8 op-ed in the WaPo on why we need to act on climate change.

There’s a new government panel that Mr. Trump is convening to let us all know just how much of a climate-related security problem we have.  Here’s Reuter’s report “White House drafts guidelines for panel questioning climate threat to security”.  Not everybody thinks that’s a good idea, as these WaPo items reportedAxios weighed in also.  Also, Bloomberg reported that Mr. Trump’s soon-to-be-released 2020 budget proposal would slash Department of Energy funding for renewable energy from $2.3B to $700M.  The author doesn’t believe Congress will go along. In this WaPo opinion piece, the authors explored how they consider Mr. Trump “at war with his own government over climate change”.

Nexus noted that “A report released Tuesday by the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU details how the administration’s efforts to eliminate regulations in key industries, including the automotive and fossil fuel sectors, ‘amount to a virtual surrender to climate change.’”  Nexus listed several media articles, including one by the Washington Examiner and another by ThinkProgress that present somewhat different “takes” on the report. This Grist article briefly summarized expected legal battles about six environmental regulatory rollbacks, and the Daily Press wrote a story about VA’s attorney general supporting challenges to offshore drilling.  Apparently, offshore drilling is preceded by seismic testing, and a SC lawmaker demonstrated just how harmful that might be to marine wildlife, the Post and Courier reported.

Potpourri

Is the world ready for lab-grown meat?  That question is examined in this Guardian article.  In a related article, Guardian asked “What the Green New Deal will mean for your hamburger”.

Like olive oil?  “Italy sees 57% drop in olive harvest as result of climate change, scientist says”, according to The Guardian.

Here’s a surprising WaPo Energy 202 piece headlined: “The Energy 202: Oil giant makes business case for taking climate change seriously”.  Guess who the “oil giant” is?  Of all companies, BP!

Union of Concerned Scientists published an October 2018 report that may help you more fully understand why lower rates don’t necessarily mean lower electricity costs.  The story is a few months old but the information remains relevant.

A Guardian reporter provided some history (past and present) about environmental injustice. VA is featured in several examples he cited.

When climate disasters strike, we can always count on FEMA to help those affected, right?  Maybe not, as NPR reported in “How Federal Disaster Money Favors The Rich”.

A 2017 VA law provided Dominion a lot of money for a variety of energy initiatives, including energy efficiency.  As a regulated monopoly, Dominion is guaranteed cost recovery and a minimum rate of return for many of its projects. This opinion piece from Bacon’s Rebellion is a bit wonky but reminds us about unintended consequences and their effects on our wallets.

Climate

In the “financial costs of climate change” department, here’s a NRDC story reporting on homeowners’ plights following the multiple hurricanes in the south in the past few years.  In last week’s Roundup we learned that “property value losses from coastal flooding in 17 Atlantic and Gulf Coast states were nearly $16 billion from 2005 to 2017.” But what about California’s fires?  Incredibly costly, according to this recent Bloomberg article:  “California’s Wildfires Burn Through America’s Climate Illusions”.  The Economist published a report that by 2100 “Climate change will affect more than the weather”—specifically the U.S Gross Domestic Product or GDP.  The graphics indicate—surprise!—the poorer among us will be hit harder economically than the wealthier and—another surprise!—the warmer areas more than the more northern ones.

National Geographic is offering its film “Paris to Pittsburgh” on its website.  Introducing the film, National Geo said: “As scientists’ warnings about the impacts of climate change become more and more dire—and the level of inaction from the federal government becomes more and more alarming—a growing number of leaders are fighting global warming with local solutions.”

This AP News article reported on efforts by legislators in several states, including VA, to ensure “balance” in the way schools present climate-related materials.

This Nature article addressed the question of whether humans can engineer our way out of our excessive carbon emissions.

Do we really need insects?  After reading this WaPo article, you might conclude we do.  But then there’s mosquitoes, which like to live where it’s warm (CityLab).  This Guardian item made a case that “Endangered species face ‘disaster’ under Trump administration” because “Trump’s push to expand oil and gas drilling is eroding protections for some of America’s most at-risk wildlife”.  You know the one about the frog in water that is very gradually heated up so the animal does not realize the danger until it’s too late?  What about humans?  The Atlantic said maybe we’re somewhat like that frog.

Bad news about ocean warming, sea level rise, and low sea ice in these four articles from The Guardian (“Heatwaves sweeping oceans ‘like wildfires’, scientists reveal” and “Australia’s marine heatwaves provide a glimpse of the new ecological order”); RNZ (“The world talks about climate change while Kiribati waits…and suffers”); and the AP (“Correction: Bering Sea-Low Ice story”).

Energy

A VA solar installer penned an op-ed about Virginia energy policy that appeared in the Virginia Mercury (VA Merc).  He wants more transparency and inclusiveness.

The Virginia State Water Control Board decided not to consider revoking its certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) but declared it’s in favor of strong “enforcement” around “compliance” matters.  The VA Mercury described what happened and, sort of, why (based on the Board’s public explanation).  The online paper followed up with an opinion piece by Editor Robert Zullo that had some harsh words about the process.  A Forbes contributor and investment advisor analyzed the possible economic effects on the developers of the MVP and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), which he believes will be built.

In the Central Valley, when pipelines come up in a discussion, usually so does eminent domain.  It also comes up in Texas—by a Republican State Senator whose family “has run a gasoline and fuel distribution company”–interesting item appearing in the Texas Tribune.  The Senator’s constituents facing eminent domain land seizure agreed with her.  In NC, a judge sided, at least temporarily, with a landowner over Dominion and Duke, in what was described in The Progressive Pulse as another setback to the utilities wanting to build the ACP.  At least one VA legislator tried “to give landowners who don’t want pipeline construction on their land a fair chance against … companies involved in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline”. He wasn’t successful as reported by WSHV TV 3.  My Buckhannon (WV) provided a March 6 update on the ACP titled “Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction unlikely to recommence prior to September”.

Remember the tree sitters who oppose the pipelines?  Well, some of them are still there, per this CITYLAB article.  And, speaking of trees, here’s a tale, from WVTF Public Radio, about what happens in one part of the world affecting others.

Water water everywhere—at least in the climate news.  Related to our dependence on it, here’s a VERY detailed presentation from Ensia of how, when, where, and why the U.S. uses water.  Certainly makes one pause when one considers what may happen to water supplies because of climate disruptions and our apparently insatiable need for water.  One industry that uses LOTS of it is the concrete industry.  This report in The Guardian provided some alarming details about concrete’s hazards.  And then there’s waste from the coal industry (aka coal ash) according to this Inside Climate News report.

Another energy industry that can unfavorably affect water availability and safety is hydro fracturing (aka fracking).  Energy News reported that fracking produces another “side effect” in the territory of the grid operator PJM.  PJM services VA, among other nearby mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes states.  The reporter made the argument that “Shale gas boom slows progress on renewables in PJM grid territory” so that “Wind and solar generation on the nation’s largest regional electric grid lags other parts of the country.”  A surprising part of the report suggests that PJM states can’t produce as much solar energy as other, sunnier states like NC, apparently overlooking how close VA is to NC, how much farther south it is than Great Lakes states, and how much sunshine VA actually receives.

Farther south, in GA, the Atlanta City Council decided “… to OK plan to have facilities run on clean energy by 2035”, apparently believing it has enough solar energy to do that.

Mining has been big business in Brazil but the benefits to mining companies have come at a huge cost to the indigenous peoples whose lands are being mined.  The Guardian reported on how they are fighting back and why.

The Energy Democracy Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) “tracks and scores states based on their energy policies and how these policies help or hinder local clean energy action.”  Its latest Community Power Scorecard rates Virginia a C.  Reviewing their “policies that matter for local energy” makes it hard to understand how Virginia scored that well.  John Farrell of ILSR explained in a Renewable Energy News “Why ILSR’s 2019 Community Power Scorecard Matters”.

Locally and elsewhere in Virginia and other states, proposals for “solar farms” are attracting a lot of attention from proponents and opponents.  In a recent opinion piece, a former Augusta County Supervisor, weighed in writing in the Daily Progress.  And, a recent CivilEats piece described a way to have solar panels on land that is also being farmed. The WaPo Business section wrote about some pros and cons of IL farmers “raising” solar panels on farmable land in “The next money crop for farmers: Solar panels”.

Speaking of solar, here’s some good news about Nepal, from Thomson Reuters Foundation News (“In rural Nepal, solar irrigation helps keep families together”). Closer to home, Augusta County has joined Albemarle in putting solar panels on 7 schools, WHSV TV reported.  Harrisonburg’s school system plans to have solar energy producing electricity for one or more of its schools, and Rockingham County is considering that possibility.  Here’s some more good VA solar news from WVPT.

Remember the Exxon Valdez?  How about the Deepwater Horizon?  Probably yes.  But, have you heard about Taylor Energy of New Orleans?  Here are an article from the WaPo and another from the SunSentinel.  The Solomon Islands also recently experienced a catastrophic oil spill, as reported in the Guardian.

Action Items

Robert Whitescarver, a farmer and blogger in Swope VA, wrote extensively about proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) changes to the definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS).  He noted that the definition “has profound implications”—e.g., “How much can we pollute these waters? How much can we dredge, fill, or alter them?”  He suggested each of us should consider “Just how far upstream do we allow the federal government to regulate and protect?” and let the EPA know our answer.  The public comment period ends April 15.

Renew Rocktown, CAAV, and Shenandoah Group of Sierra Club plan to do a Solar Census to count the number of solar installations within the city of Harrisonburg.  If you own solar, check out this site.

 

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