Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/11/2019

Politics and Policy

On Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren detailed a new environmental justice plan aimed at bolstering and protecting vulnerable communities on the front lines of the climate crisis.  The need for such a plan was illustrated by a study of FEMA’s buyout program published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.  At The New York Times, Lisa Friedman looked at why young climate activists are not impressed with either former Vice President Joe Biden’s climate plans or his climate record.  U.S. mayors are seeking to go over President Trump’s head and negotiate directly at next month’s UN climate change conference in Santiago.  Senate Democrats plan to use the Congressional Review Act to try and repeal the Trump Administration’s replacement for the Clean Power Plan.  Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, eight EU states have called on the bloc’s incoming top climate official to raise the CO2 reduction target for 2030 to 55% from 40%.

Virginia ranked 29th in the 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard released earlier this month by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.  This caused reporter Elizabeth McGowen to write “If Virginia is ever to bust loose from its middle-of-the-pack state ranking on energy efficiency, its regulated utilities must be the prime movers and shakers.”  In a letter to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper dated Thursday, Drew Shindell, Nicholas Professor of Earth Science at Duke University, said that the state should place a “permanent moratorium” on new natural gas infrastructure in the state, including the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).  Nevertheless, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal by Dominion Energy Inc of a lower court ruling that halted construction of the ACP.  Nick Martin of The New Republic sees new pipelines coming everywhere. 

In a study released on Thursday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) joined a chorus of other studies calling for a price on carbon emissions.  The IMF study found that a global tax of $75 per ton by the year 2030 could limit the planet’s warming to 2°C, although others have recommended a much higher tax.  The Vice Chairman of the Board of Swiss drug company Roche said business must set more ambitious goals for reining in human impact on climate and the environment.  A poll conducted by YouGov Blue and Data for Progress sought to determine voters’ reactions to some of the recent proposals by Democratic candidates for fighting climate change.  Robinson Meyer reviewed the findings at The Atlantic.

Two new reports from the Center for Global Energy Policy at Columbia University addressed the question of how to decarbonize industrial heat, i.e., the heat used to do things like make steel, glass, or cement.  The first report is about the current state of industrial heat technology (decarbonizing is hard) whereas the second addresses policy recommendations for decarbonizing the sector (a carbon tax only ranked fifth among the policies).

Climate and Climate Science

Scientists in Siberia have discovered regions with very high atmospheric methane concentrations.  The methane is coming from melting permafrost.  One source is under the East Siberian Sea and is releasing so much methane that the sea looks like it is boiling in some places.

The New York Times has published detailed maps of total transportation-based CO2 emissions and emissions per capita for many metropolitan areas around the U.S., based on data from Boston University’s “Database of Road Transportation Emissions”.  The Times also had an article about the formation of ghost forests along the mid-Atlantic coast, caused by the migration inland of salt water as a result of sea level rise and a decreased flow of fresh water as a result of drought.

Two recent articles, one last month in Scientific Reports and one this week in Science Advances, shed light on the forces causing accelerated melting of the glaciers in Antarctica.  Be sure to watch the video, in which Ian Howat of Ohio State University does a good job of explaining what is happening.  More rapid melting is also occurring in Greenland, contributing at least 25% of sea level rise.  Science has a rather lengthy article about efforts in Greenland to better understand the melting there, thereby improving scientists’ ability to predict how rapidly sea level will rise.  There is also an interesting video associated with this research.  In South America, nearly 30% of Peru’s glaciers have melted away since 2000, threatening a critical source of drinking water and irrigation for millions of people downstream, according to a new study published in the journal The Cryosphere.  Unfortunately, such melting of mountain glaciers is happening all over the world with similar consequences, as detailed in the new IPCC report on oceans and the cryosphere. 

The National Audubon Society released a new report on Thursday detailing how the ranges of 389 North American birds will change as Earth warms.  Brad Plumer of The New York Times used that report to examine what will happen to the state birds of several states.  A new paper in the journal Science has found that by 2050, up to 5 billion people may be at risk from diminishing ecosystem services, particularly in Africa and South Asia.

NOAA announced that September 2019 tied for the second-warmest September on record in the Lower 48 states.  In addition, hundreds of weather stations from the Mississippi River to the East Coast broke high temperature records for the period Oct. 1-3.  The records weren’t confined to the U.S., however, with records also being set in Europe.

In a study published in the journal Science Advances, scientists found that some coral colonies damaged by oceanic warming from climate change can regrow and fill out the empty skeletons they left behind.  The process is slow, however, suggesting that its success will depend on the frequency of ocean warming events.

Energy

This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to the pioneers of the lithium-ion battery.  NASA recently received an all-electric aircraft, the X-57 Maxwell, that will undergo testing in the coming months with the first flight expected in 2020.  British inventor Sir James Dyson said that the company that bears his name is scrapping its plans to build an electric car, even though its engineers had developed a “fantastic” one.

A new report from the Center for American Progress noted that the U.S. needs to get to 65% renewable electricity by 2030 to be on track for 100% renewables in 2050, the level scientists say is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.  The report also looks at what needs to happen in key sectors to meet that goal.  Many think wind power will supply the majority of U.S. renewable energy.  Philip Warburg reviewed the history of wind power in the U.S.

In order to reduce the risk of forest fires during periods of high winds, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. began cutting electricity to 800,000 customers in California this week.

In the U.S. all utility scale facilities combining renewable energy with energy storage use alternating-current coupling.  Now, utilities are studying direct-current coupling, which requires less equipment and promises to be less expensive.

Potpourri

The Guardian has launched a new series entitled “The polluters”.  The first article was published Wednesday and reveals the 20 companies whose exploitation of the world’s fossil fuel reserves can be linked to more than one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions since 1965.  George Monbiot had an opinion piece to accompany the article.  At the New Yorker, Bill McKibben wrote that in order to make progress, Americans need to stop believing in the fable that the U.S. has already made great progress in cutting its greenhouse-gas emissions.  Michael Svoboda presented summaries with links of 12 reports about climate change, its impacts, and building resilience against them at Yale Climate Connections.  Jane Fonda is moving to Washington, DC, for four months to engage in civil disobedience over climate change on the Capitol steps each Friday.  A new wave of climate protests hit cities around the world this week—this time aimed at shocking people with civil disobedience, fake blood on the pavement, and bodies lying in the streets under signs that read: “Stop funding climate death.”  “Carbon Ruins” is a museum exhibit that looks back on the fossil fuel age from the perspective of 2050 after global net-zero CO2 emissions had been achieved.

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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Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/4/2019

Politics and Policy

In contrast to most proposed legislation for a carbon tax, a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that the best strategy for applying one is to start high (e.g., over $100/ton or more), rise for a few years, and then fall gradually.  David Roberts examined the implications of that suggestion.  Pennsylvania, one of the nation’s largest coal and natural gas producing states, is starting the process to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).  On Wednesday, Citigroup issued a report entitled “Managing the Financial Risks of Climate Change,” in which it said that financial regulators must transform how they account for the economic risks of a climate change.  Perhaps the failure to do so is why the majority of the world’s 50 largest banks have not made commitments to respond to the risks of climate change and continue to finance fossil fuels.

Because there were no new commitments from the big emitters at the recent UN Climate Action Summit, many considered it to be a failure.  However, dozens of announcements on climate action were made over the three-day summit.  With a view toward accountability, Climate Home News published a (non-exhaustive) list of initiatives, promises, and goals.  In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Professor Alex Rosenberg of Duke University explained why climate change is such a hard problem to solve, introducing the concept of PPE in the process.

On Monday, the White House announced that President Trump intends to nominate James Danly to be a commissioner on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  But he broke with a decades-old tradition by not nominating a Democrat along with Danly.  A nonpartisan taskforce of former government officials has warned that the treatment of science by the Trump administration has hit a “crisis point”.  The Trump administration’s recent revocation of California’s authority to set its own tailpipe emission standards was seen by many as an assault on states’ rights.  E&E News had an article entitled “Meet the ‘NIMBY people’ trying to kill solar.”  A report from the Rhodium Group shows that passing a few tax incentives for electric cars, nuclear plants, and renewable power could lead to big carbon cuts.  An article in The Hill stated “The Trump administration, in its push for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, is arguing the project should go forward because ‘there is not a climate crisis.’”

A growing body of evangelical leaders is ramping up pressure on Republican lawmakers to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, breaking from some evangelicals’ long skepticism of climate change.  On the NBC News website, researcher Malka Older argued that the U.S. government must recognize the economic threat caused by extreme weather associated with climate change and prepare for it.  On Tuesday, a coalition of New England and mid-Atlantic states, known as the Transportation and Climate Initiative, took a first step toward limiting transportation emissions across 13 states.  After the recent rash of fire and extreme weather events, the Federal Reserve’s regional banks are digging deeper into how Earth’s warming will impact U.S. businesses, consumers, and the country’s $17 trillion banking system.

Climate and Climate Science

High temperature records were set all over the southeastern U.S. on Wednesday.  A new study by World Weather Attribution found that since 1900, the chances of receiving the amount of rain dumped on Southeast Texas by Tropical Storm Imelda has more than doubled, while the amount of rainfall in such an event has increased by about 18%.

Salt water continues to move farther inland in Florida’s Biscayne Aquifer (Miami-Dade County), although at a slower rate, according to new U.S. Geological Survey mapping.  In Australia, parts of northern and inland New South Wales, along with southern Queensland, have been in drought since 2016, severely depleting river and lake levels, threatening water supplies for many towns and cities.

Throughout the last 500 million years, the period when complex animal life has existed on Earth, the carbon cycle has been in balance for more than 99% of the time, but not now.  National Geographic went along with scientists to learn more about the huge peat deposit in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the scale of which was only recognized a few years ago.  Because of the amount of carbon it contains, it must remain intact.

An iceberg slightly larger than Oahu, Hawaii, broke off this week from the Amery Ice Shelf in East Antarctica.  The loss of Arctic ice is making it very difficult for polar bears to feed, causing their future to be uncertain.  The Washington Post published a photo-essay on Thursday about the impacts of the melting permafrost in Siberia. 

Coral bleaching occurs during ocean heat waves as a result of corals ejecting the algae with which they live in symbiosis.  If bleaching events occur in rapid succession, the corals can be killed.  Now, new research published in the journal Scientific Reports provides hope by suggesting that corals may be able to cope with these stressful events by controlling which algae reside within them.

Energy

A good deal of press has been given to carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) as a component of any plan to hold the global average temperature increase below 1.5°C.  CCS will require the development of a complex infrastructure but there currently is no economic incentive for doing so.  Some propose, however, that we first focus on carbon capture and utilization (CCU), in which economic benefits are gained through use of the captured carbon.  David Roberts is publishing a four-part series at Vox explaining how CCU might serve as an on-ramp for eventual large-scale application of CCS.  Part 1 was published September 4 and presented a brief introduction to the need for CCS and the various types of CCU that might help get it going.  Part 2 was published October 2 and focused on the largest industrial use of captured CO2: enhanced oil recovery.  Parts 3 and 4 will appear later.  It may be too early to judge whether it will pan out, but scientists and engineers in Canada believe they have developed a way to extract in situ hydrogen from tar sands, while leaving the carbon in the ground.  The hydrogen would provide a clean energy source.

The powering past coal alliance (PPCA), which seeks to establish a global coal phase-out by 2050 at the latest, now has 91 members, all vowing to end the construction of new coal-fired power plants by 2020.  On the other hand, the New South Wales government is considering legislation that could limit the ability for planning authorities to rule out coal mine projects on the basis of the climate change impact of emissions from the coal once it is burned.  China plans to shut a total of 8.66 GW of obsolete coal-fired power capacity by the end of this year, the National Energy Administration said.  In the U.S., a group backed by anonymous donors launched a campaign on Monday to promote the benefits of cheap, abundant natural gas against what it called “radical” proposals like the Green New Deal that would phase out use of the fossil fuel.  On the other hand, opponents of new natural gas pipelines are arguing that their builders are misusing eminent domain.  Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the issue of whether the Atlantic Coast Pipeline can cross two national forests and the Appalachian Trail.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has issued permits for the construction and operation of four new solar projects that will generate a total of 192 MW of electricity.  A modeling study conducted by the Greenlink Group found that adding at least 49 GW of solar energy through 2050 would save Virginia consumers money.

The largest windfarm in the world will have a combined capacity of 3.6 GW and will be located at Dogger Bank off the coast of Yorkshire in the North Sea.  The turbines will be GE Renewable Energy’s Haliade-X, which have a capacity of 12 MW each and stand 853ft tall with blades that extend 351ft.  The vast majority of offshore wind farms employ turbines fixed to the ocean floor, but waters off the coast of California are too deep for that technology.  Floating turbines offer a solution, but only a few have been tried, all in Europe.  Utility Dive examined the possibility of employing floating turbines in California.  Bloomberg Businessweek examined why it is so hard to get an offshore wind farm built in the U.S. and the A.P. addressed Trump’s dislike for the industry.

At Energy Storage News, Stefan Hogg addressed the need for lithium-ion battery recycling and the challenges facing the industry in developing a system.

Potpourri

On September 20, David Wallace-Wells began publishing a series of interviews at Intelligencer, part of New York Magazine.  The series is entitled “The State of the World: A series about climate change” and comprises in-depth interviews with climate leaders about their views on the future of Earth’s climate.  A list of the interviewees can be found here.  Another article from mid-September that I want to call to your attention focused on the psychological impact of climate change on children.  On that same theme, PBS News Hour presented an article advising how to talk to your children about climate change.  Yale Climate Connections has reposted two short essays from The Conversation by Australian scientists working on the Great Barrier Reef, one near the end of his career, the other near the start of hers.  At The Tyee, Professor Jennifer Ellen Good addressed the link between continual economic growth and climate change, concluding that the news media ignore the clear connection.  On Monday in Harrisonburg, Innovation Hub aired a segment entitled “Fools for Fossil Fuels: A History of Climate Change Inaction.”  Three scientists have been named MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ Fellows for their work related to climate change.  The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication has updated its “Climate Opinion Maps,” including a new question on whether the President should do more to address global warming.

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.

Community Perspective: Climate Strike

Harrisonburg’s The Citizen | September 30, 2019

A contributed Perspectives piece by Joy Loving

What a wonderful two days Harrisonburg citizens have just had! On September 20 and 27, our youth came together at Court Square loudly and seriously to say they’re worried about their futures. And they want the “adults in the room” to help them save those futures. I hear they’re planning a third climate strike later this fall.

Having been part of a group of adults who worked with students from Harrisonburg High School, EMU, JMU, and Turner Ashby High School who organized the two events, I found the experience profoundly inspiring and energizing. Although I’ve worked with others on many projects to educate legislators and citizens about our climate emergency, never have I witnessed so many determined youngsters working cooperatively to get their message across. And I’m so pleased that local media covered both events.

The Second Climate Strike was followed the next day by the International Festival. This annual coming together of so many community members was just as inspiring as what the students did the day before. The “joie de vivre” on Saturday was evident on all the faces I saw. I was fortunate to speak with many attendees while volunteering for several local organizations who serve and work to improve our community—Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, Renew Rocktown, Earth Day Every Day, and Skyline Literacy. To a person, everyone was friendly, curious, and clearly happy to be enjoying the event.

It’s gratifying to know that events like these happen in the area. And I express my sincere thanks to all the students and volunteers who made them happen.

Joy Loving lives in Grottoes.

Find the original version in The Citizen HERE.

Community Support For Local Students’ Climate Strike

Daily News-Record, October 3, 2019

We should be proud of our youth who organized two recent local youth climate strikes. Whether you agree with them or not, they worked together to literally shout to all of us that they fear for their future and want us to help them save it. We should not disparage their efforts.

I met kids from Harrisonburg High School, Eastern Mennonite University, Turner Ashby High School, and James Madison University.

Two candidates running for office, April Moore and Brent Finnegan, were there. Their presence encouraged me because I expect all Virginia legislators to enact legislation to address our children’s concerns. I did not see their opponents, though perhaps they were there. If they were not there, we need to ask them why not.

The fervor and energy I saw inspired me and gave me some hope for my grandchildren’s future.

Joy Loving, Grottoes

Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/27/2019

Politics and Policy

Greta Thunberg, whose emotional address to the UN Climate Action Summit went viral this week, was recognized by the judges of Sweden’s annual Rights Livelihood awards for “inspiring and amplifying political demands for urgent climate action reflecting scientific facts”.  Unfortunately, the Summit accomplished little, although Thunberg’s remark about “fairy tales of eternal economic growth” raised the ire of some.  Many others agreed with her, however.  For example, both Canadian economist and author Peter Victor (Managing Without Growth: Slower by Design, Not Disaster) and Canadian writer Naomi Klein (On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal) argued that we must overcome the idea of investing for endless growth to stop climate change.  In anticipation of the Summit, both Al Gore and John Kerry published opinion pieces.  Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Southern States Energy Board in Louisville, Kentucky, chairman and host, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (R), said Thunberg was “remarkably ill informed.”  Robinson Meyer’s article about her in The Atlantic certainly doesn’t confirm that.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) called on governments to overhaul the rules of the international trade and monetary systems so all countries could carry out the necessary mass investments to decarbonize their economies.  UNCTAD secretary general Mukhisa Kituyi said meeting the UN sustainable development goals “requires rebuilding multilateralism around the idea of a global Green New Deal, and pursuing a financial future very different from the recent past”.  Data firm IHS Markit compiled the first global benchmark for carbon emissions pricing, based on trading under the three most liquid trading schemes: the EU’s, and two from the U.S. (California and RGGI). 

Early in the week, Trump administration officials threatened to withhold federal highway funding from California, arguing that the state has not shown what steps it is taking to improve its air quality.  But California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) responded “We won’t be intimidated by this brazen political stunt,” only to be accused on Thursday of “failing to meet its obligations” to protect the environment.  EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said his agency is “limited” in regard to its “statutory authorities to address the issue” of climate change.  On Friday, hundreds of thousands of people around the world took part in another wave of strikes to demand urgent action on climate change.  New research suggests that banks are shielding themselves from climate change at taxpayers’ expense by shifting riskier mortgages — such as those in coastal areas — off their books and over to the federal government.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said on Tuesday it was forming a climate change task force to better understand how businesses are responding to the issue.  A substantial number of corporations moved ahead with vows to address climate concerns and used the U.N. Climate Summit as a venue for unveiling their targets.

While more than 60 countries have said that they will try to reduce their net carbon emissions to zero by 2050, they accounted for only 11% of global emissions in 2017.  Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.) has introduced the bipartisan Market Choice Act which would replace the federal gasoline tax with a tax on carbon emissions from sources of fossil fuel combustion.  Many argue that a carbon tax is not very effective at reducing carbon emissions from transportation.  Jonathan Marshall addressed that criticism at the Citizens’ Climate Lobby website.

Climate and Climate Science

On Wednesday the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its special report on the ocean and cryosphere in a changing climate.  A good short summary was provided at Science, while Carbon Brief provided an in-depth summary of the key findings.  The Washington Post also covered the release.  The Arctic, of course, is part of the cryosphere, so Richard Hodgkins summarized what has happened there this year and what its impacts will be on the rest of us.  On Monday, Carbon Brief examined the many factors contributing to sea level rise.  Arctic sea ice reached its summer minimum extent for 2019.  This year was the joint-second lowest in the 40-year satellite record, tied with 2007 and 2016.

A study published in the journal Scientific Reports found more than 65,000 lakes, like those on the Greenland ice sheet, on the surface of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet.  This is surprising because East Antarctica is much colder and suggests that parts of the East Antarctic ice sheet may be highly sensitive to climate warming.

The IPCC Sixth Synthesis Report (AR6) is not due until June 2022 and like its predecessors, it will rely heavily upon modeling to determine what will likely happen in the future.  An editorial in the journal Nature Climate Change provided a brief look at where the modeling effort stands and considers the interesting findings concerning equilibrium climate sensitivity.

U.N. officials have warned that increasing numbers of farmers in drought-stricken Honduras could be forced to leave their homes unless support is ramped up to help them better cope with extreme weather and climate change.

China’s Ministry of Natural Resources said on Thursday that coastal sea levels were 48 millimeters (1.9 inches) higher last year than the 1993-2011 average, with winter ice floes shrinking.  In addition, average recorded temperatures in December last year were 1.7°C (3.1°F) higher than normal.

Energy

Last week I provided information about Duke Energy announcing plans to attain net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.  It joined 21 other power companies that have pledged to lower their carbon footprints since 2018.  However, many of them plan to keep large coal-fired power plants open for decades to come and/or plan to build new natural gas power plants.  Consequently, some energy analysts are skeptical of the companies’ ability to meet their pledges.  Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced that the state will contribute $20 million to a Dominion Energy plan to replace diesel-powered school buses with electric buses and Ivy Main commented on the “cascade of clean energy announcements” recently in Virginia.  Meanwhile, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, and Southern Co. have spent more than $109 million lobbying lawmakers and officials since the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was unveiled five years ago.

Writing at Yale Environment 360, Michael Standaert reported that growth of wind and solar in China is slowing as government funding for green energy falters and upgrades to the transmission infrastructure lag.  With China’s CO2 emissions again on the rise, experts worry the world’s largest emitter may fall short of key climate goals.  At the same site, Bruce Lieberman addressed the question: “How to reconcile people’s love affair with their vehicles and society’s need to reduce carbon emissions?”.

For years, the oil and gas industry downplayed the connection between fossil fuel burning and climate change.  Today, however, nearly every major fossil fuel company has acknowledged that carbon emissions help drive global warming, even as President Trump questions the connection.  The latest Energy Trends data confirm that coal accounted for just 0.6% of the UK’s power mix between April and June, marking the first quarter since the 19th century in which coal fell below 1.0% of total generation.

New energy efficiencies in the transportation, building, and industrial sectors can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by 50%, according to a report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Bolivia will try and capitalize on its large lithium reserves to set up an industrial ecosystem around batteries and other storage technologies

Potpourri

Teenage girls are stepping up for the climate much more than boys.  A survey of more than 100 U.S. climate strike organizers and nearly 200 participants in the Washington, DC, strike found that 68% of the organizers and 58% of the participants were female.  Unfortunately, regardless of gender, teenage activism is accompanied by a lot of harassment and “climate change anxiety.”  David Roberts had a piece in Vox about Greta Thunberg and the seeming ineffectiveness of troll attacks against her.  Although I missed it last week, David Wallace-Wells published a profile of Thunberg in New York Magazine.  Billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick announced on Thursday the second-largest donation ever to an American university: $750 million to the California Tech for environmental study, much of it focused on technological solutions to combat climate change.  At Yale Climate Connections, Amy Brady interviewed author Amitav Ghosh about his new cli-fi novel Gun IslandNewsweek published a lengthy interview with authors Katharine K. Wilkinson (Between God & Green: How Evangelicals Are Cultivating a Middle Ground on Climate Change) and Robin Veldman (The Gospel of Climate Skepticism: Why Evangelical Christians Oppose Action on Climate Change) about what evangelical Christians think about climate change.

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.

Harrisonburg Climate Strike Pt. 2

Calling all CAAVers!!

Please see the information below for details and come to Court Square tomorrow, Friday.  You can also join the JMU students on the Quad at 11:30 and march with them to Court Square.

The strike event last Friday was great.  The community really turned out.  Hopefully we can repeat and better our success.  If you believe the world has a climate crisis, please make your concerns known by showing up.  And, please spread the word.

Here’s what the organizers have told us:

The Global Climate Strike Young people have woken up much of the world with their powerful Fridays for Future school strikes for the climate. As we deal with devastating climate breakdown and hurtle towards dangerous tipping points, young people are calling on millions of us across the planet to disrupt business as usual by joining the global climate strikes on September 20, just ahead of a UN emergency climate summit, and again on September 27. Together, we will sound the alarm and show our politicians that business as usual is no longer an option. The climate crisis won’t wait, so neither will we.

James Madison University 50 by 25 Clean Energy Call to Action

  • We are in a climate emergency.
  • We are all affected, but the poor are hurt first and worst.
  • We all need clean energy, clean air, and clean water.
  • We must act now.

The Demands of the James Madison University Students

  1. We ask the JMU Administration to:Adopt a solar and wind energy requirement of 50% by 2025 and 100% by 2040.
  2. Place a moratorium on all future construction of parking decks and parking lots associated with the school.
  3. Divert a student-agreed upon amount of funding from the JMU comprehensive fee to green initiatives on campus, without raising said fee.

The Official September 27th Harrisonburg Climate Strike Order of Events

WEAR GREEN

11:30 AM-Meet at the Quad

• Sign building materials for students/faculty to make signs or grab a sign/poster/drop cloth to hold.

12:00 PM- JMU Student and Faculty* Speeches

*TBD

12:30 PM- Begin our march to Court Square.

1:00 PM- Convene at Court Square with Harrisonburg High School, EMU, and all other communities, organizations, and individuals wishing to participate.

1:10 PM- Court Square Order of Events

• Welcome Speech: Nidhi Vinod (Renew Rocktown)
• Student Speech: Spencer Spears (HHS Student)
• Student Speech: Wade Banks (EMU Student)
• Student Speech: Silas Benevento (HHS Student)
• Labor Speech: Michael Snell-Feikema (Occupy HBurg)
• Faith Communities Speech: Pastor Lauren Eanes (Muhlenberg Lutheran Church)
• Closing Remarks
Speeches should not take more than five minutes apiece. A brief amount of time will be given between speeches, to allow each speaker to prepare.

2:00 PM Official Event will end at this time

Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/20/2019

Joni and I are pretty well settled in our new home, so it is time for me to return to compiling the Roundup each week.  I would like to send a big Thank You! to Joy Loving for filling in for me while I was occupied with other things.  I greatly appreciate it.

Politics and Policy

The Trump administration on Thursday officially revoked California’s authority to set its own emission standards but the state filed a lawsuit on Friday and is preparing for a lengthy legal battle over the issue.  Also on Thursday, Senate Democrats released a report outlining dozens of times the Trump administration has censored or minimized climate science at agencies across the federal government.

The U.N. is convening a climate summit on Monday, September 23, in part to determine whether the world’s nations can muster the resolve to slash carbon emissions as rapidly as scientists say is needed.  Only countries that have promised meaningful new pledges will be allowed to speak, muzzling the U.S.  In advance of that summit, an international group of experts has published the Exponential Roadmap: the 36 most viable solutions to halve greenhouse gas emissions globally by 2030.  They also say that strong civil society movements are needed to drive such change.  Unfortunately, humanity doesn’t have a very good track record, as illustrated in a feature for Nature, where Jeff Tollefson “shows how little progress nations have made towards limiting greenhouse-gas emission”.  He also compares current pledges to what would be needed to meet global climate goals and highlights the gap between these insufficient aims and current progress.  Nevertheless, Bill McKibben could still paint a hopeful picture of the future, as could Jeff Goodell.

Climate Home News deputy editor Megan Darby had a feature entitled “Net-zero: the story of the target that will shape our future.”  A group of more than 500 major institutional investors, which together manage $35 trillion in assets, called Thursday for governments to boost efforts to tackle climate change, warning that failure to do so could have serious economic consequences.  In addition, on Wednesday over 200 investors representing some $16.2 trillion under management called on companies to do their part in halting the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

On Tuesday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued an executive order calling on state agencies and public institutions to create a plan that will make Virginia’s electric grid solely dependent on carbon-free energy sources by 2050.  On the same day, Duke Energy announced that it would accelerate its carbon reduction goals and hoped to hit “net zero carbon emissions” by 2050.  The New Democrat Coalition, made up of moderate congressional Democrats worried about the infeasibility of passing sweeping climate legislation like the Green New Deal, released an 11-page outline of principles on Wednesday, along with a list of bills to back them up.

Potpourri

A solid majority of American teenagers is convinced that humans are changing Earth’s climate and believe that it will cause harm to them personally and to other members of their generation.  Inspired by sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, students and others all over the world participated in the Global Climate Strike on Friday.  Bill McKibben gave 23 reasons for participating.  Thunberg and three other teenagers appeared before the House Climate Crisis Committee and a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Wednesday, with Thunberg telling the lawmakers to “listen to the scientists.”  McKibben also had a rather long piece in The New Yorker in which he addressed the question “What if the banking, asset management, and insurance industries moved away from fossil fuels?”  The Economist devoted its September 19 print edition primarily to climate change.  In an editorial to accompany the issue, the editors state that “to conclude that climate change should mean shackling capitalism would be wrong-headed and damaging.” 

Climate and Climate Science

The summer of 2019 was tied with that of 2016 as the hottest on record in the Northern Hemisphere, according to NOAA data released Monday, with a temperature anomaly of 2.03°F (1.13°C) above the 20th-century average.  What’s remarkable about 2019′s record warmth is that it came in the absence of a strong El Niño event in the tropical Pacific Ocean.  Globally, the June-through-August period was the second warmest such period on record with an average that was 1.67°F (0.93°) above the 20th-century average.

Two new modeling studies published in the journal Nature provided a more optimistic view of the future.  One showed that it should be possible to rapidly shut down coal-fired power plants lacking air pollution control devices without causing a spike in global warming due to the reduction of aerosol emissions.  The other suggested that the need for negative emissions (i.e., removal of CO2 from the atmosphere) to hold temperature increases below 1.5°C is an artifact of the logic employed in modeling studies.  Using the logic framework presented in the study, the authors show that the need to rely on negative emission scenarios will likely be much less than previously thought.

Another paper in the most recent issue of Nature reported on the growth in thickness and area of giant ice slabs beneath the surface snow at middle elevations in Greenland.  They prevent meltwater from percolating into the deeper snow and hasten its runoff to the sea.  As a consequence, Greenland is contributing two to three times as much meltwater to sea level rise than previously thought.

An intensifying marine heat wave in the northeastern Pacific Ocean has raised concerns about a repeat of “The Blob,” which last occurred in 2013-2015, suppressing the growth of small organisms at the base of the ocean food chain and causing wide-spread disruption of fisheries and wildlife.

In Scientific American, Emily Holden wrote: “…the impact of the climate crisis—for patients, doctors and researchers—is already being felt across every specialty of medicine, with worse feared to come.”

Energy

Dominion Energy on Thursday announced plans to build the nation’s largest offshore wind farm off the coast of Virginia — a 220-turbine installation that would power 650,000 homes at peak wind.  Presently, the only off-shore wind farm in the U.S. is next to Block Island in Rhode Island.  Dan Drollete Jr., the editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, visited to see how this experiment in the transfer of European technology has gone.  On a related topic, NIMBY attitudes are having a negative impact on the siting of renewable energy projects.

China’s total planned coal-fired power projects stand at 226.2 GW, the highest in the world and more than twice the amount of new capacity on the books in India, according to data published by environmental groups on Thursday.  Saudi Aramco, is trying to rebrand itself as being environmentally conscious, but it has a long history of obstructionism on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  Oil-backed groups have challenged electric companies’ plans to build charging stations across the country, according to utility commission filings reviewed by Politico, waging regulatory and lobbying campaigns against the proposals as a way to fight electric vehicles.

On Thursday, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos pledged to make the company net carbon neutral by 2040 and to buy 100,000 electric delivery vans from U.S. vehicle design and manufacturing startup Rivian Automotive LLC.

Worldwide CO2 emissions from commercial flights are rising up to 70% faster than predicted by the UN, according to an analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation.

E&E News asked “Is U.S. shale facing an ‘unmitigated disaster’?”  Experts say the shale oil/gas industry could be headed off a financial cliff and environmental groups are asking who will clean up thousands of wells drilled miles beneath the surface if businesses go bust.  We don’t just rely upon gas and oil for the fuels to power our vehicles.  They also serve as the feedstock and power source for the processes that make the products, from pharmaceuticals to shampoo, that are inherent to modern life.  Robert Service explored the question of how we will make those things as we begin to leave hydrocarbons in the ground.

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.

April Moore

April Moore presented at the CAAV steering committee meeting on September 3rd.

In a continuation of CAAV’s efforts to hear the climate positions of candidates for state office, at our steering committee meeting on September 3, 2019, we listened to April Moore, Democratic candidate for 26th District State Senator (incumbent Mark Obenshain serves on the Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources Committee, and has received a lifetime score of 38% from the League of Conservation Voters.) According to Moore, climate change is THE urgent issue and changing the balance in the General Assembly is critical to the passage of any legislation to address it. For instance, joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative lost along party lines and now must have a 2/3 instead of simple majority to pass. She suggested all read Greta Thunberg’s newest book, No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference.

For more information on April Moore’s climate change positions see her website .

April was accompanied by Laura Crites who is a founding member of Citizens for Climate Change Solutions, along with Barbara Halperin. She suggested that to encourage a deep commitment to the issue nothing would work better than showing the film Merchants of Doubt, preferably in a movable film festival including Addicted to Plastic and Time to Choose. Her organization is looking for support in hosting an environmental film festival featuring these films.

Joni Grady, CAAV Recording Secretary

Responsibility On Climate Change

Daily News-Record, September 13, 2019

Open Forum: H. Bishop Dansby

For a number of years now, local citizens have urged our representatives at the local, state and federal levels to develop policies on climate change and the related issues of renewable energy and energy efficiency. The city of Harrisonburg has been relatively receptive; for example, it formed the Environmental Performance Standards Advisory Committee. A key issue for the city is whether its municipal electric company, HEC, will transform itself to be part of the renewable energy future. The city School Board took a big step forward in building its new elementary school to a high level of energy efficiency, but then it missed a golden opportunity to outfit the new school and others with solar energy.

At the state level, Sen. Mark Obenshain has taken the position that nothing can be done as to climate change at the state level, and that it will be decades before solar energy is practical. At the federal level Rep. Goodlatte and his successor, Ben Cline, believe that action taken on climate change, “if it exists,” would unduly damage the economy.

Meanwhile, Rockingham County, skeptical that policies related the climate change have anything to do with county governance, has been confronted sooner than they ever imagined with climate related issues, such as unprecedented stormwater management challenges, the need for a solar system ordinance, and at least one application for the installation of utility scale solar system (solar farm).

The county denied the application of the solar farm ostensibly on the grounds that it would not be the best use of agricultural land, which presumably means the use is not consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan. If the county had a climate change policy, it would weigh the impact on agriculture against the value of providing renewable energy to the electric grid.

What is Rockingham County’s obligation with respect to climate? For starters, you could say that Rockingham has an obligation to produce enough renewable energy to meet its own energy needs. The state of Virginia has a population of 8,500,000 which consumes 111 billion kWh of electric energy per year. Rockingham County has a population of 85,000, which suggests it consumes about 1.11 billion kWh. If you do the math, the amount of acreage required of utility scale solar to provide all of Rockingham’s electric energy would be in the order of 5,000 acres. The county Board of Supervisors could say that it is reasonable for Rockingham to allow as much as 5,000 acres to be consumed by solar farms. Rockingham has a total area of 545,000 acres, of which 222,000 is agricultural land, so the 5,000 acres of solar would represent only 1 percent of the land in the county, or 2 percent of the agricultural land.

Provisions in the comprehensive plan that reflect this kind of obligation would allow the county to grant applications for solar farms without the fear of threatening agriculture, while at the same time doing its part to fight climate change.

H. Bishop Dansby lives in Keezletown.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 8/25/2019

Joy Loving is the author of the summer 2019 occasional Roundups, of which this is the seventh and the last.  Les Grady will be returning from his summer hiatus in September. 

Politics and Policy

The Associated Press (AP) reports that the “US government weakens application of Endangered Species Act”.  “EPA Plans to Rewrite Clean Water Act Rules to Fast-Track Pipelines”, according to this Inside Climate News item.  The Augusta Free Press has the story from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s perspective.  The New York Times/Climate (NYT/Climate) said that, by changing the way the Act is applied, the plan “significantly weaken[s] the nation’s bedrock conservation law… making it harder to protect wildlife from the multiple threats posed by climate change.”  And the National Resources Defense Council (NDRC) is also unhappy about what they say is a gutting of the Endangered Species Act.

NYT/Climate notes that “Trump’s Rollback of Auto Pollution Rules Shows Signs of Disarray”.  “The White House, blindsided by a pact between California and four automakers to oppose President Trump’s auto emissions rollbacks, has mounted an effort to prevent any more companies from joining the other side.”  Bloomberg’s editors have produced a podcast and an opinion piece about recent Republican actions to address the climate crisis.

Virginia “Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler … released the final report to Gov. Ralph Northam on recommended actions for enhancing protection of air, water, and public health in Virginia…. Key recommendations include improving water supply and air quality monitoring, measures to hold polluters accountable, and a focus on environmental justice and public engagement. The full report and recommendations [are] available here. ” [AFP item].  The Virginia Mercury’s story called the report a blueprint to modernize the agency and noted: “Even as the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s scope of work has broadened to include such critical concerns as climate change and environmental justice, the agency has seen its funding cut and its programs hamstrung by outdated state regulations”.

NYT/Climate reports that “A coalition of 29 states and cities … sued to block the Trump administration from easing restrictions on coal-burning power plants, setting up a case that could determine how much leverage the federal government has to fight climate change in the future.”  Virginia is one of the states.  The Virginia Mercury also has this storyCitizens Climate Lobby (CCL) asks and answers “How Do GHG Emissions Compare Under New Carbon Tax Bills?”  The Energy News Network advises that “Virginia looks to New York green bank for possible clean energy financing”, reporting that “Virginia’s energy office is exploring whether to align the state with a billion-dollar New York clean energy financing program.”

UPI says “Bernie Sanders unveils $16.3 trillion climate change plan”.  Inside Climate News also covers the story.  WaPo’s editors are not impressed.   U.S. News reports that “A DNC [Democratic National Committee] panel on Thursday [August 22] voted down a resolution calling for a presidential primary debate focused on climate change”.  Fox News says “Protests erupt after DNC puts kibosh on climate change-focused debate”. 

Potpourri

  • AFP—Personal story about honeybees.
  • WaPo’s Joel AchenbachScience Trip (audio and great imagery included) to Fly Geyser, Ether Dome, Atchafalaya Swamp, Green Bank Observatory, Earthquake Trail, Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, Scopes Monkey Trial, Cinder Lake, Brookhaven Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, Cahokia Mounds, Delmarva’s Wintering Birds, Humongous Fungus.
  • Another WaPo picture story about Greenland, a large island and autonomous Denmark territory that straddles the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans (includes climate change repercussions). 
  • The Denver Post has this AP story: “Earth’s future is being written in fast-melting Greenland.  Experts say that by the year 2100, melting from Greenland alone could cause 3 or 4 feet of sea level rise”. Apparently, Mr. Trump is interested in the U.S. owning it, according to this item from the BBCWaPo’s Capital Weather Gang (CWG) says that “The U.S. is already transforming Greenland, and it’s imperiling Americans here at home”.
  • From the New York Times (NYT) comes an interactive story about how Phoenix residents try to beat the heat:  “As Phoenix Heats Up, the Night Comes Alive; That will be true for many more cities as the world gets hotter.”
  • The Guardian runs this opinion piece arguing that “The Lion King missed an opportunity to talk about the climate crisis”.  Kate Cohen (writing in WaPo) offers her opinion that “Most of us are hypocrites on climate change. Maybe that’s progress.”

Climate

What’s Happening?

WaPo, in its article titled “2°C: Beyond the limit”, says “Extreme climate change has arrived in America”.  Noting that “global warming does not heat the world evenly”, the report continues:  “A Washington Post analysis of more than a century of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration temperature data across the Lower 48 states and 3,107 counties has found that major areas are nearing or have already crossed the 2-degree Celsius mark.  — Today, more than 1 in 10 Americans — 34 million people — are living in rapidly heating regions, including New York City and Los Angeles. Seventy-one counties have already hit the 2-degree Celsius mark.”  WaPo’s Climate and Environment section provides” five take-aways” from its “analysis of warming climate in the United States”.

WaPo’s CWG warns “Amazon fires could accelerate global warming and cause lasting harm to a cradle of biodiversity”.  Inside Climate News has a story about the European Union’s reaction to the Amazon fires:  “Amazon Fires Spark Growing International Criticism of Brazil”.  At issue is a proposed EU trade deal with Brazil.  Also, several members of the G7 want urgent action because, as French President put it, “Our home is on fire. Literally” ….  The Amazon, the lung of our planet which produces 20 percent of our oxygen, is ablaze. It’s an international crisis.”  NBC News reports: “Record fires sweeping across the Amazon this month are bringing renewed scrutiny to Brazil’s deforestation policy and have environmental researchers and conservationists worried that the blazes will only aggravate the climate change crisis.”  This AP item says the G7 leaders have offered assistance to Brazil.

The Guardian has the story of “How US cities are scrambling to protect people from extreme heat”.  NPR explains “Why Sea Level Rise Varies Across The World”.  NPR also asks and answers “How Much Hotter Are The Oceans? The Answer Begins With A Bucket”.

We’ve heard about threats that the climate crisis pose for water.  The Virginia Mercury highlights the difficulty of one Virginia county struggling to meet its residents’ expectations in the face of reductions in its water access (from an aquifer) imposed by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.  Writing in NYT/Climate, Somini Sengupta and Weiyi Cai make a case that “A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crises” [interactive].  In another piece, Ms. Sengupta explains her view that “Earth’s Food Supply Is Under Threat. These Fixes Would Go a Long Way.” 

WaPo’s CWG says “Increasing humidity, driven in part by climate change, is making even modest heat waves unbearable”.  The same folks report what we likely already know or could guess:  “July was Earth’s hottest month since records began, with the globe missing 1 million square miles of sea ice”.  The AP reports that “Blooms, beasts affected as Alaska records hottest month”.  Grist says “The climate change ‘tipping point’ has already arrived for these 70 U.S. counties”.  There’s a graph that shows cities and their level of “readiness”.  The good news is Virginia doesn’t have any on the list.  The USDA tells us “Above-normal activity predicted for hurricane season … [and] If you live or farm along the East Coast, the chances for a tropical storm or hurricane just increased….” [AFP article]

In a detailed article in Science, the authors make “The case for strategic and managed climate retreat”.  They do so because, “Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm’s way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat.”

Who’s Doing What (or Should or Shouldn’t Be)?

This Grist article profiles “An evangelical leader calls young Christians to save the planet”.  Writing in WaPo Outlook, Jamil Zaki helps us understand “Why haven’t we stopped climate change? We’re not wired to empathize with our descendants.”  Newsweek writes about a “Fox News Host [who] Expresses Frustration That Young Americans Believe in Climate Change”.

The Columbia Journalism Review declares that there is “A new commitment to covering the climate story”.  At the urging of journalist Bill Moyers, several media outlets have formed Covering Climate Now and have agreed to “convene and inform a conversation among journalists about how all news outlets—big and small, digital and print, TV and radio, US-based and abroad—can do justice to the defining story of our time.”

Grist has a story about a recent IPCC report that “Planting trees isn’t enough to save us from the climate crisis”.

The Piedmont Chapter of the VA Sierra Club publishes a weekly list of activities and events in its area and also around the Commonwealth.  Subject matters may include gardening, electric

vehicles, bees, water, pipelines, sustainability, action alerts, and many others.  One may subscribe at this link.

Courtland Milloy, a longtime columnist for WaPo’s Local, gives his perspective on the urgent need to act on the effects of the climate crisis.  Describing one life-threatening event in the DC Metro area following serious flooding in July 2019, he declares that “Climate change is here, and we can no longer wait for someone to save us”.  Virginia Public Media has a brief story titled “Despite Growing Flood Risks, Virginia Coastal Development Continues”.  This AFP item, titled “New research could help green Virginia with blue carbon”, reports that carbon sink might be another tool in the management of the Chesapeake Bay.  “Carbon sink describes a process in which coastal sea grasses, mangroves and salt marshes capture and hold carbon.”  Another AFP article highlights a recent announcement by the New Democrat Coalition Climate Change Task Force (of which Virginia Representative Elaine Luria is co-chair) presenting “policy principles to combat climate change with the seriousness and urgency it demands.”

Prior Roundups have featured stories about Texas’ events and actions, some of which address the climate emergency and other that appear to increase it.  We’ve also heard about some actions the Dutch are taking, including providing advice on “managing” sea level rise and “recurrent flooding” (as many Virginia legislators like to call this phenomenon).  Here’s a Grist story that asks “Can the ‘masters of the flood’ help Texas protect its coast from hurricanes?”

Fortune discusses in detail the Aug 19 statement from the Business Roundtable (BR) announcing a new policy modifying its longstanding position that the purpose of corporations is to put shareholders’ interests comes first.  Steven Pearlstein offers his perspective on the statement and describes the history of the BR, which consists of the big company CEOs in U.S. business.  A search of the two articles and the statement for “climate”, “environment”, “sustainability”, “resilience”, “water”, “natural resources” yielded few results.  The Fortune article noted the book, The Trillion‑Dollar Shift by Marga Hoek, “a former construction industry CEO and founder of the Dutch Sustainable Business Association” and mentioned a few references in the statement to environment and sustainability.  Wood Mackenzie and the American Wind Energy Association have issued a report on “growing C&I [commercial and industrial] renewables opportunity [in the corporate sector].  Despite some gains, “The overall penetration of renewables in the power mix for Fortune 1000 companies remains limited at approximately 5%”.  Wood Mackenzie also provides “A peek at [its] latest outlooks for solar, wind energy storage and carbon emissions.” [Greentech Media, GTM, article]

“A group of [Virginia Tech] researchers received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to tackle … environmental challenges with the creation of a new Ecological Forecasting Initiative Research Coordination Network (EFI-RCN).”  The challenges include “climate change, land-use, and invasive species.” [AFP article] The AFP also reports that “Virginia partners with Nature Conservancy to preserve 22K acres” in Russell County.

The AP says that California, “[h]oping to fend off the extinction of mountain lions and other species that require room to roam, transportation officials and conservationists will build a mostly privately funded wildlife crossing over a major Southern California highway. It will give big cats, coyotes, deer, lizards, snakes and other creatures a safe route to open space and better access to food and potential mates.”

ACTION ITEM—Eric King of the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition has issued this request:  “Harrisonburg recently applied to renew our status as a Bicycle Friendly Community with the League of American Bicyclists. If you are a cyclist and are interested in contributing input on the bike-friendliness of the Friendly City, the below survey will be reviewed by the League as well as shared with the City.”  Here is the link

Energy

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

WJCT Public Media says that “JEA Projects No Energy Efficiency Gains As FL Utility Regulators Consider Next Decade”.  JEA is “Northeast Florida’s Not-For-Profit, Community-Owned Utility”. FLAPOL reports that the Florida Public Service Commission and Florida Power and Light are examining “a sharp decline in in-state utilities’ projected conservation, with new goals to be set.”  Utilities spokespersons were not in favor of setting goals and offered numerous explanations for the decline.  “’With goals of zero,’ countered Bradley Marshall of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, ‘there is little help on the way for low-income customers, however.’”

Utility Dive asserts that “Everyone loves a guaranteed discount: New financing approach drives community solar growth”.  The article explores how utility-owned utility solar’s growth has the potential to extend the benefits of solar energy to lower and middle income (LMI) customers.  It also discusses numerous projects enable by Department of Energy innovation grants.  It does not appear that many, if any, projects highlighted are customer-community-owned.  Utility Dive also reports that “North Carolina clean energy plan could reduce power sector emissions up to 70% by 2030”.  PV Magazine discusses how and why a utility’s use of solar can actually result in harmful emissions:  “Solar gets by with a little help from its friends”.

GTM’s story, “Why Long Island Could Become New York’s First Energy Storage Hot Spot”, reports that, as a result of a New York state program, “[t]he region stands to benefit from storing renewable power, and $55 million of new incentives could get the market going.”

Fossil Fuels, Utilities and Pipelines

Recent legal actions about Virginia’s two proposed pipelines:  The Roanoke Times reports the “Mountain Valley Pipeline faces new legal challenge, this one over endangered species”.  This challenge is a petition to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals “to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reexamine its earlier opinion that burrowing a 42-inch diameter pipe across rugged mountain slopes and through unspoiled streams will not significantly harm the threatened fish, bats and plants that live there.”  The AP also reports on this story, as does Think Progress in this piece.  The Virginia Mercury notes that the “Mountain Valley Pipeline voluntarily suspends construction that could harm endangered species”.  Blogger Bobby Whitescarver (Getting More on the Ground) offers his take on the court’s decision.  Writing in the Virginia Mercury, environmental hydrologist Jacob Hileman explains “Why the Mountain Valley Pipeline is uniquely risky”.

Not long after an editorial in the News & Advance suggesting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) may not be viable, the same paper has this item announcing that “Amherst council approves lease to Atlantic Coast Pipeline for storage yard, staging hub”.  Energy News Network reports that opponents of the ACP in North Carolina “are attempting a novel legal maneuver to stop the gas project from ever coming to the Tar Heel State.” Blogger James Bacon (Bacon’s Rebellion) asks “Delay-and-Block for Pipelines… and Solar?”  He suggests that “delay and block” tactics used by “environmentalists” opposed to pipelines could also be used by those opposed to solar farms.

PV Magazine says “Dominion is polling its customers for pro-monopoly arguments”.  One person contacted by the pollster was asked “if she found two arguments compelling: 1) the claim that ratepayer bills will go up $100 per month if corporations are allowed to procure their own renewables, and 2) that in the states where deregulation was introduced, that customer rates rose 39%.”  The article says the questions suggest “the messages that Dominion is planning on using to fight off legal or regulatory changes that could allow corporations to bypass it and procure renewable energy directly, and challenges to its monopoly.”  Bacon’s Rebellion blogger Steve Haner asks and answers “What Does Dominion Lose When Customers Leave?”—addressing the desire by some large customers to obtain their energy from competitors who can provide it from renewable sources.  Mr. Haner also pens this blogpost.  He examines a Dominion Energy “100 percent renewable” Rider TRG” now pending before the State Corporation Commission (SCC), with a hearing date of Nov 21.  He states:  “How the monopoly utilities propose to provide “100 percent renewable” power is important to understanding their efforts to prevent anybody else selling it in their territory.  Preventing that competition is the real gain for the utilities, and state law only allows consumers a choice if the monopoly utility doesn’t offer its own 100 percent renewable product.  This is Dominion’s third try.”  He goes on to report that “renewables” include hydro plants, Dominion-owned solar fields, four generators that burn biomass (wood) and the percentage of power from wood waste coming out of one of its WV coal plants, and adds that “if the SCC approves this new tariff, no Dominion customer can sign up for renewable energy either produced or packaged by a competitive service provider (CSP)”. 

The Southern Environmental Law Center discusses a recent study “by experts in carbon lifecycle modeling” concluding that “Burning wood from ‘sustainably managed’ forests increases carbon pollution for 40+ years”.

The Rivard Report describes community concerns about the Port Aransas Oil Project that will establish a place for large tankers to take on crude and liquid natural gas (LNG).  A recent near miss between a local ferry and a LNG ship helped fuel public fears.

Writing in the Texas Observer, Amal Ahmed argues that “Climate Change Will Drive Up Energy Use in Texas and Beyond”, pointing out “[a] new study …[finding] that global energy demand could rise by as much as 58 percent in the next 30 years due to climate change… [b]ut Texas’ electric grid doesn’t exactly account for this climate impact.”  According to the North Carolina Clean Technology Center, “Forty-four states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, took actions related to grid modernization in the second quarter of the year, with the greatest number of actions relating to energy storage deployment, data access policies, distribution system planning, utility business model reforms, and integrated resource planning….”  Virginia is among the states.  [Solar Industry Magazine article]