Climate and Energy News Roundup 11/17/2017

Policy and Politics

The Trump administration used its only public forum at the U.N. climate talks in Bonn on Monday to promote fossil fuels and nuclear energy, prompting Michael Bloomberg to tweet, “Promoting coal at a climate summit is like promoting tobacco at a cancer summit”.  Meanwhile the UK and Canada launched a global alliance of 20 countries committed to phasing out coal for electrical energy production.  Environmental writer Elizabeth Kolbert provided her take on the activities of the Trump administration.  One of the accomplishments of the Paris Climate Agreement was the concept that all nations had a responsibility to fight climate change and should contribute what they could, “in light of different national circumstances”.  There has been a movement in Bonn to walk that back and divide the world’s countries into two groups, which many countries, both developed and developing, oppose.  French president Emmanuel Macron promised to replace the $2 million annual donation withdrawn by the U.S. from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  On Saturday, Nov. 11th, Virginia became the latest U.S. state to commit to action on climate change, becoming a member of the Under2 Coalition of leading sub-national governments at a side event hosted during COP23 in Bonn.  On Thursday, Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board unanimously approved a rule that would cap emissions from the electricity sector beginning in 2020 and reduce them by 30% over a decade. In addition, Virginia would join nine other states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

There is a civil war brewing within the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  At issue is whether they should support withdrawal of the 2009 endangerment finding for CO2 and other greenhouse gases that is the basis for the Clean Power Plan.  In a chilling article in The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report on a closed-door meeting of climate change deniers who were critiquing the Trump administration on its dismantling of environmental regulations.  Almost as chilling is Robinson Meyer’s article in The Atlantic, in which he says that most progressive voters “trust that Democrats have a legislative plan to resolve [the] climate crisis, and that the party only needs to be granted control of Congress to pass it.  But nothing of a similar scale exists, and some of the Senate’s most vocal Democrats on the issue resist formulating one.”  Some good news: U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R FL), who started the House Climate Solutions Caucus, and May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, were presented with this year’s John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards on Thursday evening at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

In a very informative New Yorker article about atmospheric CO2 removal, Elizabeth Kolbert wrote: “Carbon-removal plants could be built anywhere, or everywhere.  Construct enough of them and, in theory at least, CO2 emissions could continue unabated and still we could avert calamity.  Depending on how you look at things, the technology represents either the ultimate insurance policy or the ultimate moral hazard.”  Speaking of insurance and hazards, the major insurance companies recently said that the potential damage from severe weather events may become so unpredictable that it is impossible to model, which is an unacceptable risk to them.  The issue of damages from climate change has been important at COP23, causing Julie-Anne Richards of the Climate Justice Programme to say “A climate damages tax on the fossil fuel industry is one way to reverse the injustice of climate change, and ensure the fossil fuel industry pays for its damage – not poor people.”

Climate

Solar radiation management (SRM) is one form of geoengineering, whose objective is to decrease the amount of solar radiation reaching Earth’s surface, thereby cooling the planet and buying time for reduction of CO2 emissions.  Now a new paper in Nature Communications has found that if aerosols were released just from the northern hemisphere, other parts of the world could face an increase in droughts, hurricanes, and storms.

According to a new paper published in Nature Scientific Reports, better soil management could boost carbon stored in the top layer of the soil by up to 1.85 Gt/year, about the same as the carbon emissions of transport globally.  Another paper, this one in the journal Nature Communications, concluded that by adopting organic farming practices, in combination with other changes, the projected world population in 2050 could be fed without increasing the amount of land under cultivation, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  This paper was met with skepticism by the agricultural community.

A new study by NASA scientists, published in Science Advances, reported that public officials in charge of preparing for sea level rise need to consider the melting rate of specific glaciers, not just their aggregate impact.  This is because as glaciers melt, they become lighter, which impacts gravitational forces in their vicinity, thereby influencing whether nearby land masses rise or fall.  Speaking of melting glaciers, scientists have long known that West Antarctica has many more melting glaciers than East Antarctica.  Now a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters has found that West Antarctica receives more heat from within the Earth than East Antarctica.  In Sunday’s Washington Post, Bill McKibben had a review of Jeff Goodell’s book The Water Will Come.

On Wednesday, Carbon Action Tracker released a report prepared by three independent European research groups, saying that current policies meant the world was headed for warming of 3.4°C by 2100, down from 3.6°C it predicted a year ago.  Unfortunately, even if all countries adhere to their pledges under the Paris Climate Agreement, global temperature rise will exceed 3°C.  Deutsche Welle examined what five cities would experience under such a situation.

A modeling study published in Nature Geoscience found that with business-as-usual climate change, mid-latitude storms could travel further before reaching their maximum intensity and, as a result, countries further from the equator, including the UK and the U.S., could face more frequent and more intense storms during winter months.

The extreme rains that inundated the Houston area during Hurricane Harvey were made more likely by climate change, according to a new study by MIT hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The work also suggested that such extreme flooding events will become more frequent as Earth continues to warm.

Energy

After three years of almost flat emissions, global CO2 output is expected to rise in 2017.  Much of that rise is due to increased CO2 emissions by China.  Somini Sengupta of The New York Times analyzed the apparent contradiction between China’s desire to lead on climate change and its continued reliance on coal.  However, coal-fired power capacity across China will be capped at 1,100 gigawatts by 2020 as they work to increase transmission capacity to make better use of their renewable energy.  Increasing the use of hydrogen in power generation, transportation, heating, and industry could deliver around 20% of the total carbon emission cuts needed to limit global warming to safe levels by mid-century, according to a report released at COP23 by the Hydrogen Council.

A growing number of insurance companies increasingly affected by the consequences of climate change are selling holdings in coal companies and refusing to underwrite their operations.  However, none of the major U.S. insurers such as Berkshire Hathaway, AIG, and Liberty Mutual have taken action.  In an effort to make its sovereign wealth fund less vulnerable to a permanent drop in oil prices, Norway has proposed dropping oil and gas companies from its benchmark index, which would mean cutting its investments in those companies.

The supply surge from U.S. shale oil and gas will beat the biggest gains seen in the history of the industry, the International Energy Agency predicted in its annual World Energy Outlook.  By 2025, the growth in American oil production will equal that achieved by Saudi Arabia at the height of its expansion, and increases in natural gas will surpass those of the former Soviet Union.  The report also projected that renewable energy is likely to grab a bigger share of the market in the coming decades, generating more electricity than coal by 2040.  Zeke Hausfather provided an in-depth summary of the report at Carbon Brief.

Dozens of groups and individuals filed requests this week challenging FERC’s certificate orders approving the Atlantic Coast (ACP) and Mountain Valley (MVP) pipelines.  Contending that FERC’s approvals for the ACP and MVP violate the Natural Gas Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Constitution, the groups called on the Commission to immediately stay its certificate orders pending rehearing.

On Thursday evening Tesla introduced its new long-haul truck, which will travel 500 miles at 60 mph on a single charge and accelerate to 60 mph in 5 sec empty and 20 sec fully loaded.  Bloomberg analyzed the truck and what it will take to succeed, particularly given the rivals that are already working hard.

According to 50 States of Grid Modernization, a new policy update from the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center, in the third quarter of 2017, there were 184 actions on grid modernization proposed, pending, or enacted across 33 states and the District of Columbia.

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 11/10/2017

Policy and Politics

During Senate hearings on Wednesday, Kathleen Hartnett White, President Trump’s nominee to head the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, when asked about the link between human activity and climate change, acknowledged that there was probably some human contribution, but said “the extent to which I think is very uncertain.”  On Thursday, the Senate confirmed William Wehrum on a 49-47 vote to head the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.  Also on Thursday, the EPA proposed a rule to repeal tighter emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks with older engines that had been put into place by the Obama administration.  Moving in the opposite direction, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will begin presenting its draft greenhouse gas reduction program next week to the state’s Air Pollution Control Board for approval to create the state’s first cap-and-trade program, possibly by joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to become the 11th member of the multi-state cap-and-trade system.  When Robert Litterman, chairman of the Risk Committee at Kepos Capital, decided to apply the basic tenets of Wall Street risk management to climate change, he came to the conclusion that carbon taxes should be higher than anything proposed or enacted almost anywhere in the world.  He also decided that a carbon tax would be a great way to eliminate the deficit in the current Republican tax reform plans.

In a very interesting essay on disaster planning in an age of climate change, Brad Plumer of The New York Times quoted Dr. David Titley, who heads a climate center at Pennsylvania State University: “If climate adaptation is a marathon, we’ve run about the first 50 yards so far.  Grudgingly.”  Part of our adaptation should be to fix the National Flood Insurance Program.  Bob Henson of Weather Underground took a deep dive into why that has been so difficult.  With respect to planning, New Zealand’s climate change minister hopes to create an experimental humanitarian visa for climate refugees.  Planning requires that we know what is happening with the climate.  Consequently, 26 scientists published a paper in the journal Earth’s Future, which was released Thursday, that calls for a coordinated and expanded measurement network focused on answering key scientific questions about Earth’s climate.

At COP 23 in Bonn, Syria announced it plans to join the Paris Climate Agreement, leaving the U.S. as the only country not on board.  Because of his plans to remove the U.S. from the Agreement, President Trump is, “for the time being,” not invited to a climate change summit to be held in Paris in December, according to an official in French President Macron’s office.  “We Are Still In”, the organization established in response to President Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Agreement, has opened the U.S. Climate Action Center, a pavilion and forum where dozens of American leaders will convene throughout the negotiations.  China under President Xi Jinping is moving to shape the consensus on how to rein in greenhouse gases after President Donald Trump decided to scale back U.S. involvement.  The head of the Africa group of climate negotiators said on Thursday that the wealthiest countries on earth are failing to take seriously the need to speed up the money they have promised to help the poor cope with climate change.  One example of the need is Fiji, a small island nation that is facing climate adaptation costs over ten years that exceed its GDP.  Meanwhile, Michael Bloomberg, U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, announced a $50 million commitment to partners worldwide to catalyze a global effort to move nations away from coal dependence.  The New York Times has an interesting infographic showing how far we have to go to keep warming below 2°C.

Climate

Let’s start off with a little hope!  Damian Carrington, environment editor at The Guardian wrote on Wednesday about “the seven mega-trends that could beat global warming.”  And in an opinion piece at MacLean’sclimate scientist Katharine Hayhoe wrote: “It’s not the science of climate change that we must emphasize to prevent ‘dangerous human interference with the climate system.’  It’s the immediacy of its impacts, and the hope its solutions offer for a better future for us all.”  On the other hand, while David Roberts at Vox agrees that it is futile to emphasize the science to conservative elites, he argues that the way to win the climate warsis to do “everything possible to publicize their intransigence and make it core to their identity” so they end up crying “‘Hey, We Like Clean Energy Too!’”

In a statement released on Thursday, NOAA formally declared that La Niña conditions were present in the tropical Pacific Ocean.  Andrew Freedman explained what this might mean for winter weather in the U.S. and Canada.  Vox presented some interesting graphics of climate change data.

A study published Monday in Geophysical Research Letters found that algal growth was more important than deposited dust and soot to the darkening of ice in one region of western Greenland.  Dark ice melts more rapidly than clean ice.  On the other side of the Arctic, black guillemots nest on Cooper Island, an uninhabited strip of land 5 miles offshore near Barrow, Alaska.  They have been studied each summer since 1975, providing one of the longest, continuous records of the impact of climate change on a single species.

Like the U.S., data from New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research indicates that their winter has decreased in length by a month over the last 100 years.

On Wednesday, a subcommittee of the House Science Committee held a hearing on geoengineering, which was quite informative and without the usual posturing.  One of the witnesses, Douglas MacMartin, is a co-author on five papers examining by simulation the impacts of the injection of sunlight-reflecting aerosol particles into the stratosphere.  They were published together in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres this week.  One reason some climate scientists are beginning to consider geoengineering is their inability to model cloud behavior.  How and where clouds move and how that will change as the climate warms and the atmosphere becomes either more or less polluted remain among the biggest unanswered questions in climate science.

In case you haven’t had a chance to look at Part 1 of the National Climate Assessment that was released last week, Sabrina Shankman has a summary at Inside Climate News.  In another article there, Georgina Gustin wrote: “Scientists at the University of Hawaii at Manoa reviewed medical literature to identify ways in which the body responds to heat and how organs are affected.  They calculated that there are 27 ways, physiologically speaking, for a person to die from extreme heat.”

In a new peer-reviewed article in the journal Nature Climate Change, scientists from World Weather Attribution and the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research wrote that they had developed techniques that “make it possible to assign extreme events to human-induced climate change and historical emissions” and “allow losses and damage associated with such events to be assigned country-level responsibility.”

Energy

Renewables combined with energy storage technologies could generate enough secure power to cover the world’s entire electricity demand by 2050 while proving cheaper than the current fossil-fuel dominated system, according to a study by German non-profit Energy Watch Group and the Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland, released on Wednesday at COP23 in Bonn.

China Energy Investment Corp. plans to invest $83.7 billion in shale gas development, chemical manufacturing, and underground storage of natural gas liquids derivatives in West Virginia over 20 years, according to a memorandum of understanding.  European governments have drastically underestimated methane emissions and will miss their Paris Agreement goals unless they urgently scale down its use, a major new study by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research has found.

According to the International Energy Agency’s new “Energy Access Outlook 2017” report, the number of people without access to electricity fell to 1.1 billion in 2016 from 1.7 billion in 2000.  More than 100 million people have gained electricity access every year since 2012, much of it with renewable energy.

The Energy Storage Association, in collaboration with Navigant Research, has released a white paper entitled “35×25: A Vision for Energy Storage”, which charts a path toward 35 GW of new energy storage systems by 2025.

On Wednesday, the EU proposed sharp automobile emission cuts over the next decade to support the Paris Climate Agreement and compete with China by spurring electric vehicle (EV) production.  To be prepared for greater penetration of EVs in the market, filling stations are experimenting with ways to retain their customers’ loyalty after they buy an EV.

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.

Sun Power for Puerto Rico

sunpowersnip

Help Puerto Rico Recover with Solar Power
Proceeds to support the work of Resilient Power Puerto Rico

Saturday, November 18
4:30-6:00PM
The Golden Pony
181 N. Main St., Harrisonburg

For years the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley has championed bringing solar power to the Valley for people who could afford it. Now we want to help bring it to hurricane ravaged communities in Puerto Rico that can’t afford it but are still left in the dark without power after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. This fundraiser will raise money to give to the marvelous group, Resilient Power Puerto Rico (you can read all about them below).

Join us at The Golden Pony to lift a glass, eat some food (the Pony will donate 20% of your food and drink tab), and write a check to make a real difference. You might even win a door prize from The Sierra Club Shenandoah Group and others (all donors will be entered for the chance to win). You will also hear first-hand from a neighbor what her family in Puerto Rico has been facing during this difficult time period. Whatever you do, you’ll leave knowing you’ve made a real difference in the lives of American citizens who are facing a long road back to recovery.

If you cannot attend, please donate at ResilientpowerPR.org. You can also visit their website to read more about this organization’s work to steadily bring community-owned solar power to Puerto Ricans over a 4-year strategic plan.


Here’s some more information about Resilient Power Puerto Rico from architecturalrecord.com:

Architects Bring Solar to Hurricane-Battered Puerto Rico
October 27, 2017
James S. Russell, FAIA

hurricane-maria-puerto-rico-solar-power-01

Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, as a Category 4 hurricane. Photo by Staff Sergeant Michelle Y. Alvarez-Rea, U.S. Air Force

On October 22, the Buena Vista community center in San Juan, Puerto Rico, switched off one of the many noisy generators that has become an inescapable part of life since Hurricane Maria devastated the country on September 20. For the first time in weeks, fans turned through the blessed silence. A refrigerator hummed and lights glowed.

This small miracle in an island staggering to recover was powered by a 5-kilowatt photovoltaic solar array. It was the first installation by an ambitious nonprofit called Resilient Power Puerto Rico that aims to rapidly restore electrical service by installing permanent solar arrays on the island, which lost almost its entire grid to the hurricane. Full restoration of the electrical system could take years.

Resilient Power Puerto Rico launched only a week after the hurricane, when the full extent of the tragedy became evident. …

The … (group is) targeting community facilities including health clinics, food kitchens, and nonprofit service providers, to increase each installation’s impact. The group raised $150,000 in days, permitting rapid deployment of solar panel and battery pack kits to the island.

At least five PV arrays are now in place, and the organization is ramping-up fundraising and training to bring 100 sites all over the island online in 100 days, …

Community centers in Puerto Rico, such as the long-established Buena Vista in the Caño Martín Peña area of San Juan, play a critical role in storm recovery. Each serves from 20,000 to 50,000 people. Volunteers share information, help storm victims apply for aid, and give out tarps, food, medicines, and other necessities.

The PV arrays charge phones and operate computers, water purifiers (since all the reservoirs are polluted), and refrigerators that store medicines and make ice. With battery packs supplied, … the centers can operate on three shifts if they want, … since volunteers are abundant.

The sun-drenched climate makes the island a perfect candidate for PV at large scale. People are being trained to mount the arrays atop the flat concrete roofs that top most nonresidential buildings. The arrays can resist 150 MPH winds, …

With donated labor and materials acquired at cost, the 5-kW solar arrays installed by Resilient Power Puerto Rico, cost around $25,000 each, less than half their retail value.*

(The partners behind Resilient Puerto Rico) expect the development of solar hubs to grow rapidly, linked together to form microgrids that could mix solar with other renewable sources. The road to energy independence could be a source of skilled jobs—sorely lacking before the storm—as well as a clean-energy alternative that can survive future hurricanes.

* Co-founder of Resilient Power Puerto Rico, Jennifer Bolstad offered this clarification on November 9: The initial sites cost around $6000 each, mostly due to transport costs, but the later work will be closer to the $25,000 mentioned since they’ll be hiring and training a labor force. She added that their crew of volunteers from here is already on the island, 79 additional sites have been scoped out and are ready to go, and two containers of supplies for the rest of the 1st phase has just landed. She was really excited and really appreciative of our efforts (and happy with the election returns).

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Climate and Energy News Roundup 11/3/2017

Policy and Politics

The 600-plus-page Climate Science Special Report, which is Volume 1 of the fourth National Climate Assessment, has been released by the White House.  It concludes that it is “extremely likely” that human activities are the “dominant cause” of global warming.  President Donald Trump’s pick to lead NASA, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), was slammed by Senate Democrats on the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation during his nomination hearing Wednesday, while he waffled on the scientific consensus about climate change.  Also on Wednesday, President Trump’s nominee to be the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientist, Sam Clovis, withdrew his name from consideration.  He previously had admitted in a letter to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, that he has no academic credentials in science or agriculture.  On Thursday, the Senate confirmed the appointments of Republican Kevin McIntyre and Democrat Richard Glick to FERC, giving the commission a full panel for the first time in two years.  Rep. Lamar Smith (R, TX), climate change denier and Chair of the House Science Committee, has announced that he will not seek reelection in 2018.

The four commissioners of the U.S. International Trade Commission on Tuesday voiced their support for tariffs and other import restrictions to protect domestic solar companies from an influx of cheap solar panels being produced overseas, but South Korea’s trade ministry said it may consider filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization if tariffs are imposed.  According to a new report entitled “Creating Markets for Climate Business”, released by the International Finance Corporation, a subsidiary of the World Bank, at least one trillion dollars are being invested globally in ways to reduce the threat of climate change.  On the other hand, a report, co-authored by Corporate Accountability, asserts that global negotiations seeking to implement the Paris Climate Agreement have been captured by corporate interests and are being undermined by powerful forces that benefit from exacerbating climate change.

A new report published by World Resources Institute suggests that 49 countries have already seen their greenhouse gas emissions peak, representing around 36% of current global emissions.  Another 8 countries representing another 23% of emissions have commitments to peak in the next decade or so.  In addition, according to the latest Low Carbon Economy Index from PwC, the carbon intensity of the world’s economy fell 2.6% in 2016, although that falls well short of the 6.3% rate needed to keep temperature increases under 2°C.  Meanwhile, the Trump administration will promote coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy as an answer to climate change during a presentation at the UN’s COP23 climate talks Nov. 6-17 in Bonn, Germany.  Entitled “The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation,” it will have speakers from Peabody Energy, a coal company; NuScale Power, a nuclear engineering firm; and Tellurian, a liquefied natural gas exporter.

Climate

Tens of millions of people will be forced from their homes by climate change in the next decade, creating the biggest refugee crisis the world has ever seen, according to a new report from the Environmental Justice Foundation.  Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office has projected that by 2075 10 million Americans, most in coastal areas, will be impacted by climate change, causing government spending on disaster relief to increase.  Even more dire warnings have come from the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP), which released its annual emissions gap report this week.  The report warned that current pledges to cut emissions are only sufficient to hold warming to 3°C.  With that much warming, hundreds of millions of urban dwellers around the world face their cities being inundated by rising seawaters.  Writing at Carbon Brief, Zeke Hausfather summarized the UNEP report and discussed the six actions recommended to close the emissions gap.

This year Sri Lanka has faced what U.N. officials describe as the worst drought in 40 years.  With harvests expected to fall by as much as 50% and rice facing the worst harvest in a decade, the drought has accelerated migration from the countryside to the major cities.

A new study, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, found that as the winds around Antarctica intensify with rising global temperatures, they will enable warmer water from the depths to reach the base of the Totten Glacier’s floating ice shelf, accelerating its flow to the ocean.

The British medical journal Lancet has released a new meta-analysis that examines data from many studies to assess the impacts of climate change on health.  However, the analysis has been criticized because of its methodologies.

In a long piece in bioGraphic, Hannah Hoag writes “Years of sampling have shown that the Arctic Ocean is losing its distinctly Arctic traits and becoming increasingly more like the Atlantic. Its sea ice is melting, its water warming. In response, animals from warmer climes are encroaching, leading to a reorganization of its biodiversity.”  She then continues to describe research activities seeking to understand the changes occurring.

Driven by a combination of human activities and the El Niño weather phenomenon, concentrations of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere surged to a record high in 2016, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization said on Monday.  The 2016 increase was 50% higher than the average of the past 10 years.  On a related note, the length of the U.S. winter is shortening, with the first frost of the year arriving more than one month later than it did 100 years ago, according to more than a century of measurements from weather stations nationwide.

Energy

Wind Europe, which promotes wind power in Europe, said in a press release that European wind energy set a new record on October 28, producing over 24% of the EU’s electricity demand.

In 2015, Mark Jacobson, a Stanford University professor, and colleagues, published a widely-cited paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) asserting that the U.S.’s electrical needs could be met fully by solar, wind, and hydroelectric power by 2050-2055.  This year, Christopher Clack, previously with NOAA and the University of Colorado, Boulder, but now with Vibrant Clean Energy, and coauthors, published a critique in the same journal of the Jacobson et al. paper, challenging its conclusions, followed by a rebuttal by Jacobson et al. and a reply by Clack et al. to the rebuttal.  Now in an unusual move, Jacobson has filed a $10 million law suit against Clack and the NAS.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in a unanimous opinion that the Energy Department fulfilled its legal obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws when approving liquefied natural gas export terminals in Maryland, Louisiana and Texas.

The federal tax credit for electric vehicles will be eliminated under the tax reform plan introduced by Republicans in Congress.  Even if it survives, Tesla and Chevy Bolt buyers will soon face the limits built in to the current credit.

Using the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus as a test case, New York will be experimenting with a new micro-grid pricing system for renewable electricity.  The system has been designed to encourage the campus to sell electricity from its onsite solar panels, batteries or other generators to doctors’ offices and businesses in the vicinity.  And on the subject of renewable energy, according to financial adviser Lazard Ltd., it is starting to become cheaper to build and operate solar and wind farms than to continue to operate aging coal-fired and nuclear power plants in parts of the U.S.

Argentina plans to start building two new nuclear reactors in 2018, a 720 MW reactor to be built by a Canadian company and the Argentinian state nuclear company, and a 1,150MW reactor to be built by the China National Nuclear Corp.

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.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/27/2017

Policy and Politics

A new report by the Government Accountability Office says that the extreme weather events of the last decade that scientists say were exacerbated by climate change added more than $350 billion in costs to taxpayers.  Furthermore, those costs threaten to increase by $12 billion to $35 billion each year by the middle of the century.  The Trump administration said Tuesday that next March it will sell leases for some 77 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas drilling, the largest sale of offshore leases in U.S. history.  Monday was the deadline for filing opening comments with FERC on Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal to boost coal and nuclear power, and the Commission was swamped with negative comments.  According to a new study published by Yale scientists in Environmental Research Letters, Americans are willing to pay a carbon tax that would increase their household energy bills by $15 per month.  Surprisingly, they would prefer that the money be spent to support the development of solar and wind energy or to fund infrastructure improvements, rather than having it returned to taxpayers.

A conference entitled “State of Narragansett Bay and Its Watershed” began Monday in Providence, RI.  It was newsworthy in part because at the 11th hour EPA prohibited two of its scientists (one the keynote speaker) and one contractor from speaking at the conference.  EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has claimed that the U.S. leads the world in the reductions of its CO2 footprint.  The Washington Post Fact Checker has given him three Pinocchios for that claim.  You may recall that Pruitt wants to subject climate science to a “red team/blue team” debate.  Well, the Heartland Institute has submitted a list of over 200 people they consider qualified to serve on the red team.  Nineteen Democratic senators issued a letter to Pruitt on Thursday, questioning his methodology and logic for repealing the Clean Power Plan.  Meanwhile, on Monday Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo announced that her country is set to join the Paris Climate Agreement, leaving the U.S. and Syria as the only nations outside the pact.

Climate

Three new research articles were published this week dealing with the melting of ice sheets and their impacts on sea level rise.  Writing in The Washington Post, Chris Mooney summarized them this way: “So in sum — new research is affirming that seas have risen quite rapidly in the planet’s past, and that major glaciers have retreated quickly because their enormous size makes them potentially unstable. Meanwhile, additional modeling projects these kinds of observations forward and suggests that the century in which we are now living could — could — see similar changes, at least in more severe global warming scenarios in which the world continues to burn high volumes of fossil fuels.”  On the subject of sea level rise, Climate Central has ranked the U.S. cities most vulnerable to major coastal floods using three different metrics.  No matter which metric is used, at least 20 of the top 25 cities are in Florida.  Naval Station Norfolk is particularly susceptible to “sunny day flooding”, but according to reporting by Inside Climate News, little is being done about itRolling Stone published an excerpt from Jeff Goodell’s new book, The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World, which was released on Tuesday.  The excerpt deals with Lagos, Nigeria, which is a delta city on the forefront of sea level rise.

A study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used computer modeling to examine the possible future impacts of hurricanes on New York City.  One conclusion was that flood height return periods that were ∼500 years during the preindustrial era have fallen to ∼25 years at present and are projected to fall to ∼5 years within the next three decades.  Brian Resnick had some questions about the 2017 hurricane season, such as was it normal to have so many strong storms in a row and what was the impact of climate change.  So, he called several climate and hurricane experts.  The answers he got were complicated.  Because of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, reinsurer Munich Re will report a fourth quarter loss of $1.7 billion and only a “small profit” for the year.

Calling droughts “misery in slow motion”, the World Bank said in a new report that droughts have “shockingly large and often hidden” consequences.  Furthermore, they annually destroy enough food to feed more than 80 million people every day for a year.  Sadly, droughts and hotter temperatures in India have been linked to suicides by farmers.  In a photo essay for The New York Times, Geeta Anand and Vikram Singh presented the stories of two Indian families.

According to the National Weather Service office in Los Angeles, Southern California has been scorched by an unseasonable heat wave, with temperatures in some areas breaking records by double-digit margins.  On Tuesday, a report issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council said that daily summertime high temperatures in the decade from 2007 through 2016 were hotter than the decades of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.

New research, published in Nature Communications, has found that eradicating extreme poverty globally (by moving the 770 million people in extreme poverty up into “poor”) would add only 0.05°C to global temperatures by 2100.  However, moving them and the current poor into a “global middle class” income group, which earns a modest $2.97-8.44 a day, could add 0.6°C.

A team of international scientists has studied the impact that 20 “natural climate solutions” (NCS) could have on meeting the goal of keeping warming below 2°C.  As reported in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they found that NCS can provide over one-third of the climate mitigation needed between now and 2030 to meet that goal.

An eight-year study, carried out by the Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification group, a German network of researchers, has found that many organisms that could withstand a certain amount of acidification are at risk of losing this adaptive ability because of pollution from plastics and the extra stress from global warming.

Energy

An analysis published Thursday by the nonprofit ShareAction argued that BP and Shell continue to put both their businesses and shareholder capital at risk by failing to grasp the pace of change as the world moves towards a low carbon economy.  Nevertheless, the world’s major oil companies more than doubled the number of acquisitions, project investments, and venture capital stakes in renewable energy, to 44 in 2016 from 21 the year before, according to research published Tuesday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Full lifecycle analyses by Belgium’s VUB University have revealed that electric vehicles (EVs) have significantly less greenhouse gas emissions than diesel-powered cars, even when the EVs are charged with the most carbon intensive electricity.

A new paper in the journal Reviews on Environmental Health, written by scientists at the non-profit Center for Environmental Health who reviewed studies on chemicals found at fracking sites, said that the presence of pollutants ranging from airborne particulates to heavy metals could affect the neurodevelopment of babies and children in the area.  However, researchers at the University of Michigan conducted a comparative analysis of the harmful health effects of electricity produced by both shale gas and coal and found that the lifetime toxic chemical releases were 10 to 100 times greater from coal than shale gas.

In a commentary released Monday, the International Energy Agency concluded that about 40% to 50% of current methane emissions from the oil and gas sector worldwide could be avoided at no net cost.

The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia has just launched RVA Solar Fund to provide grants of $20,000 to $100,000 to local governments and K-12 public school districts that install solar energy systems at their facilities.  Valley Elementary in Bath County is the first school in Virginia to get 100% of its electricity from roof-top solar panels.

According to projections released this week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top-growing job classification over the next nine years will be solar photovoltaic installers.  Wind turbine service technicians came in at No. 2.  The median worker employed installing solar panels made $39,340 last year, while the median salary for a wind turbine technician was $52,260.

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.

CAAV Hosts CCL State Conference in Harrisonburg

ccllogosnipCitizens’ Climate Lobby Virginia State Conference
Saturday, November 18, 10AM-4PM
Fire and Rescue Training Room
Rockingham County Administration Building
20 E. Gay St., Harrisonburg

Please join the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) on Saturday, November 18th for the 2017 statewide Virginia Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) meeting. We’ll be building on recent CCL successes and on the growing support in Virginia and nationally for sensible nonpartisan climate policy. Get to know other CCL members from Virginia, share ideas, strategize, and change the political will on climate change!

The meeting agenda can be found here. It is built around our recent successes — the addition of two Virginia GOP Members of Congress to the CCL Climate Solutions Caucus and also the addition of new CCL groups in Blacksburg, Prince William County, Roanoke, Hampton Roads, and (in progress) Charlottesville.

We’ll share information and develop strategies together. How can we gain new members in Virginia? How can we increase support for carbon fee and dividend? How can we reclaim democracy by modeling respectful civic conversation? We are kindred spirits. If you attend this meeting, you’ll be among people you appreciate and enjoy.

addminbuilding.400

Rockingham County Administration Building

There is no registration charge. A boxed lunch (including vegetarian options) will be available, at an estimated cost of $10-15 (you can pay at the door on Nov 18). The meeting will wrap up by 4:00 pm, so most of you will be able to make the drive home before dark.

Also consider joining CAAV members at the Golden Pony two blocks away immediately after the conference. The Golden Pony, CAAV and the Shenandoah Group of the Virginia Sierra Club are collaborating on a fundraiser to help Puerto Ricans rebuild some of their hurricane-ravaged power grid with solar energy through the work of Resilient Power Puerto Rico. More HERE.

Please let us know you are coming by RSVPing to Cindy Burbank cindy.burbank [at] comcast.net by Monday, November 6.

 

https://citizensclimatelobby.org/ccl-regional-conferences/

Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/20/2017

Policy and Politics

California recently enacted the Buy Clean California Act, which will serve as a first attempt to address the question of how best to handle the emissions imbedded in goods transferred over state lines or national borders.  The act requires the state to set a maximum “acceptable lifecycle global warming potential” for different building materials, such as steel, glass, and insulation, and prohibits the purchase of materials with imbedded emissions above that potential.  It is odd, therefore, that the oil produced in California has a carbon footprint almost equal to that of the oil from the Alberta tar sands.  Perhaps cleaning it up would have as big an impact as the Buy Clean California Act.  Speaking of California, five of the state’s biggest newspapers published editorials clearly connecting the dots between this year’s out-of-control wildfire season and climate change.

Beginning on Nov. 6, representatives from the nearly 200 countries that signed the Paris Climate Accord will gather in Bonn, Germany, for the annual meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  The U.S. plans to send a small delegation, but what exactly they will do there is unclear.  In contrast to President Trump’s actions, at the opening of the Communist Party congress in Beijing on Wednesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China has taken a “driving seat in international cooperation to respond to climate change.”  DOE Secretary Rick Perry evidently wants the U.S. to drive backwards.  In response, eight former members of FERC, including five former chairmen, have filed a letter with the commission opposing his proposal that would give coal and nuclear power plants credit for resilience, so that they would have a better chance of beating solar, wind, and natural gas competitors.  EPA is also looking backwards, having removed dozens of online resources that could help local governments adapt to climate change.  Not to be outdone, GOP leaders in the House and Senate explored ways to expand drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) through budget rules that allow them to pass major policy changes on simple majority votes.  For example, on Thursday the Senate rejected an amendment that sought to block the Energy and Natural Resources Committee from raising revenue through drilling in ANWR.  Finally, if you wish President Trump would resign and let Mike Pence take over, you might consider that he was a strong proponent of the “No Carbon Tax” pledge that led to the scuttling of cap and trade legislation in 2009.

Seth Heald, Chair of the Virginia chapter of Sierra Club, wrote the cover article of the Nov./Dec. issue of Environment.  The subject is climate silence and moral disengagement, a problem that prevents us from having open and candid conversations about the impending climate crisis.  Upon reading it, my wife commented: “Best article I’ve read in a long time…”.  Peter Sinclair has another video at Yale Climate Connections, this one on climate change communication.  The Richmond Times-Dispatch published a three-part series about Dominion Energy and its impact on Virginia politics.  Blogger Ivy Main offered her take on the series.

Climate

A new study, published in the journal PLOS One, found that the abundance of flying insects in nature reserves all across Germany has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years.  Although the cause of the decline is unclear, it is thought that climate change may have played a role.

Phoenix, Arizona’s, hot season — when temperatures exceed 100°F — starts an average of almost three weeks earlier than it did 100 years ago and lasts two to three weeks longer in the fall.  This has many people hurting and has the city working on ways to reduce the heat island effect, such as planting trees and painting roofs white.

A giant polynya, an ice-free zone surrounded by sea ice, with an area of almost 30,000 square miles appeared in September off of Antarctica.  Scientists are uncertain whether its appearance is related to climate change, but it is releasing a lot of heat from the ocean into the atmosphere.

In a moving piece in The Atlantic about Puerto Rico, author Vann R. Newkirk II wrote: ”Maria blew through the island in a matter of hours, but what was left behind wasn’t just traditional hurricane damage. The storm uncovered and intensified long-term environmental challenges that have long blighted Puerto Rico and now threaten its future.  And securing a viable future for the island will mean more than just rebuilding what was lost from the wind and rain—it will require addressing those challenges in sustainable ways.”  Writing at Yale Climate Connections, Bruce Lieberman reviewed ways in which Puerto Rico’s electrical system could be made more resilient.

According to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, planting trees, restoring peatlands, and managing land better could play a major role in limiting global warming under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.  However, managing CO2 through forests can be tricky, as illustrated by the results of a NASA study.  During the 2015 El Niño event, atmospheric CO2 concentrations surged because of increased emissions from three tropical forest regions, each of which responded to the rising temperatures in very different ways.  But then, there are some who argue that increased CO2 levels will be beneficial because of its stimulatory effect on plant growth.  The bulk of evidence, however, suggests that increased temperatures and altered rainfall patterns will result in a net negative effect.

Solar radiation management (SRM) is a very controversial form of geoengineering to manage climate change.  Most research being done on it is happening in wealthy nations, but now a fund is being set up to provide grant money to scientists in developing nations to investigate the potential impacts of SRM on their countries.

Energy

Even though the number of people without electricity around the world has shrunk by 600 million since 2000, over a billion people still lack access.  A new report on energy access by the International Energy Agency has found that the number will shrink by a third by 2030, with 60% being supplied by renewables.  If the world commits to universal access by 2030, 90% of the additional two-thirds will be supplied by renewables.

On Wednesday, the world’s first floating offshore wind farm began delivering electricity to the Scottish grid.  The 30 MW installation will be coupled with a 1MWh lithium-ion battery to help regulate power delivery and optimize output.  The wind farm employs several innovative technologies, both in the anchoring devices and the turbines.  On a related topic, you’ve heard of the Jones Act and the necessity to wave it to expedite emergency relief to Puerto Rico.  Now Emma Foehringer Merchant has written about how it is hindering development of the U.S. offshore wind industry.  In a rather poetic essay, Paula Cocozza explored various aspects of the wind and our attempts to harness it.

Solar panels have proliferated in California, flooding the grid with power in the middle of the day when the sun’s out, and then quickly vanishing after sunset.  This making it increasingly difficult to maintain the reliability of the transmission system.  Now First Solar Inc. has proposed a pricing scheme that it claims will help solve the problem.  On the subject of solar panels, ConnectDER is a new technology that allows rooftop solar panels to be connected to the grid without the installer having to enter the home and rework the service panel, thereby reducing installation costs.

Late in the day on Friday of last week, FERC issued its approval of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley natural gas pipelines.  On Monday of this week, the U.S. State Department approved a permit covering a three-mile segment of Enbridge Inc’s Line 67 crude oil pipeline, allowing the company to nearly double capacity of the Alberta Clipper pipeline.  An Indigenous activist from the Secwepemc Nation in central British Columbia was in Europe this week to deliver a message to European banks based on a report by the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade.  She warned that the Secwepemc Nation will oppose expansion of the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline through their “unceded” territory.

A new study, published on Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, used airplane surveys to measure methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure in two regions in Alberta, Canada.  It found that the oil and gas industry could be emitting 25 to 50% more methane than previously believed.  According to energy experts at UK-based Wood Mackenzie, world demand for gasoline will peak by 2030, thanks to the impact of electric cars and more efficient internal combustion engines.

On several occasions I have provided links to articles about battery chemistries that are alternatives to lithium-ion.  Writing for Greentech Media, Jason Deign explored the possibility that the huge size of the lithium-ion infrastructure will make it impossible for alternative technologies to survive in the marketplace, even when they are less expensive, technologically superior, and more environmentally friendly.

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.

Matthew Wade

Matt.10.17.17

Matt Wade at the October 17 CAAV meeting.

About the biggest thing to happen lately in the world of Virginia Clean Cities (VCC) is the allocation of $14 million from the Volkswagen emissions scandal settlement to establish a network of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in Virginia. This dramatic expansion of the state’s EV infrastructure stands to support and encourage putting a million EVs on the state’s roads over the next decade.

But this was an aside to the discussion Matt Wade, Deputy Director of VCC, brought to the CAAV meeting on Tuesday, October 17 as our invited Coalition Building partner of the month. Matt brought us up to speed on the current use of ethanol in fuels for gasoline engines. Ninety-seven percent of all fuels at the pumps are at least a 10% blend of ethanol with gasoline (E10). All cars made since 2001 can use E15, a fuel blend with 15% ethanol. E85-enabled vehicles have a yellow gas cap and can accept any blend up to 85% ethanol.

The use of ethanol in gasoline offers a locally made product that utilizes the carbon short term cycle and therefore reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

E85pumpsSince 2015, VCC has been involved with the Mid-Atlantic Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership which was granted $5.8 million in federal funds to expand the number of E15 and E85 fueling stations in Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC. Waynesboro and Mt. Jackson each have an E85 pump at a Sheetz Store. These are the closest to Harrisonburg. Find them all here.

Hopewell, VA, on the James River about 20 miles south of Richmond is home to the only ethanol plant on the east coast. It operates 24 hours a day using corn grown by Virginia and Maryland farmers.

Thanks to Matt for his work on climate-friendly transportation and for sharing his enthusiasm for clean air with CAAV.

– Adrie Voors, for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, October 2017

Photo below is from the Harrisonburg July 4, 2017, celebration at Turner Pavilion. CAAV and VCC along with members of Renew Rocktown showed off EVs and staffed tables with information about renewable and clean energy initiatives.

vcc.caav.7.4.17


Most months, the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee invites a community member or group to present to the CAAV steering committee about projects with which they are involved. We are grateful to be working with so many other groups and individuals passionate about creating a more resilient, healthy and just world.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/13/2017

Policy and Politics

On Tuesday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed the notice starting the process of scrapping the Clean Power Plan, arguing that it exceeds the agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act.  In contrast, on Thursday the UK released its “Clean Growth Strategy”, setting out how it hopes to meet the nation’s legally binding climate goals.  In a portent of things to come, EPA’s decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan was based on an analysis that greatly reduced the “social cost of carbon” by limiting the benefits of combating climate change to the U.S. alone and sharply increasing the discount rate used to calculate the “opportunity cost” of fighting climate change.

An unusual coalition of business and environmental groups opposes DOE’s plan to boost nuclear and coal power plants, and are pressuring the Trump administration to scrap it.  An energy policy think tank also opposes itFrontline has released a documentary entitled War on the EPA, which details the Trump administration’s effort to cater to the fossil fuel industry’s demands and roll back environmental regulations.  In spite of the actions of the Trump administration, the states of the U.S. Climate Alliance are moving forward with plans and actions to reduce their carbon emissions.  And, the recent ten-year extension of California’s cap and trade program gives it important stability.

President Trump has nominated Barry Meyers, the CEO of AccuWeather, to serve as the Commerce Department’s undersecretary for oceans and atmosphere, which oversees NOAA.  Mr. Myers has served as CEO of AccuWeather since 2007, but is not a scientist.  Trump also has nominated Kathleen Hartnett-White, a former chairperson of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which plays a central role in the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act.

Climate

A commentary paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters argues that the temperature limits in the Paris Agreement should be understood as changes in long-term global averages attributed to human activity, which exclude natural variability.  Two of the three authors of the paper had a guest post at Climate Brief to further explain the implications of their paper.  Many scientists believe that it will be impossible to limit warming to 1.5°C, or even 2°C, without removing CO2 from the atmosphere, which is one type of geoengineering.  While CO2 removal is not controversial, other forms of geoengineering are, so a conference was held this week in Berlin to discuss what the emerging field of geoengineering might mean for the planet.  Daisy Dunne of Carbon Brief attended and summarized the proceedings.

A new paper in Geophysical Research Letters reported that the Dotson ice shelf, which receives ice from the Kohler and Smith glaciers in Antarctica, is not melting uniformly on its underside, which may speed up its disintegration.  Be sure to watch the short video.

The impacts of climate change take many forms.  Melting ice and permafrost in the Arctic are causing all sorts of problems for coastal villages, requiring expensive actions to protect or relocate them.  Further south, in Japan, the increasing frequency of intense rainstorms has officials concerned that the huge system they have built to protect Tokyo from flooding may not be enough to contain future deluges.

The destructive and deadly wildfires in California are being driven by the Diablo winds, which normally occur this time of year and are a result of the unique geography of California, Nevada, and Utah.  While the impacts of climate change on the winds are uncertain, it is likely that the prolonged drought, followed by a wet winter and a hot dry summer, has contributed to the devastation.  This has caused some to conclude that wildfires will only get worse.  Relatedly, more than half of Americans are linking extreme weather and climate change (either mostly or in part).

Energy

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt wants to eliminate the Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit, both of which greatly benefit wind and solar energy.  David Roberts, writing at Vox, has done a deep dive into the federal subsidies that the fossil fuel industry receives in the U.S.  The findings might surprise you.  On a global scale, according to a report from Oil Change International, funding for fossil fuel projects from the six main international development banks totaled at least $5bn in 2016.  A second report, from analysts at E3G, found that some funding agencies have given similar levels of funding to fossil fuels as to climate-friendly energy projects.  The funding agencies strongly disagreed with the analyses in the reports.

The Washington Post’s Peter Holley listed three developments that make him think 2017 may go down as the year that electric vehicles (EVs) became an industry-wide inevitability.  He then went on to list five ways a shift to EVs will affect our economy and our society.  Certainly, China is counting on EV production as a key component in their plan to transform the country into a high-tech industrial power.  India wants all new passenger car sales to be electric by 2030, but it faces many hurdles in achieving that goal.  Meanwhile, Paris authorities have announced that they plan to prohibit all gasoline- and diesel-fueled cars from the city by 2030.

Toshiba has developed a new anode for its Super Charge ion Battery that allows it to store twice as much electricity per unit weight as the original version.  If incorporated into a compact EV, it would allow for a range of 186 mi after just six minutes of ultra-rapid charging, which is around three times the range offered by a standard, similarly charged lithium-ion battery.  Amazon was granted a patent for roving drones that can latch onto EVs and extend their range with an infusion of energy.

Barclay’s Bank has examined what the boom in EVs, along with gains in fuel efficiency, might mean for oil demand.  Their research suggests that by 2025 oil demand could drop by an amount almost equal to Iran’s total production, and if EVs seize a third of the car market by 2040, the drop in demand would be nearly as much as Saudi Arabia produces.

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that wind power generation over some ocean areas can exceed wind power generation on land by a factor of three or more.

Using data up to May 2017 published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Carbon Brief has prepared interactive maps for all states in the U.S. showing the type and capacity of electric power generating facilities.  They have also analyzed the information, including planned facilities.  Also this week, an analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists found that 19% of coal-fired power plants are economically unviable compared to alternative energy sources such as renewables and gas.

Royal Dutch Shell will purchase a top European operator of electric vehicle charging stations, Netherlands-based NewMotion, in a push to roll out the technology at many of its 45,000 service stations around the world.  Virginia has issued a request for proposals to create a statewide, public, EV charging network while Colorado and six other western states plan to install fast charging stations along eleven interstate highways.  All of these developments will require adaptation from the electric power industry according to a report from the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Research on carbon-capture and storage is still moving forward and has reduced the cost of the technology from $100 per metric ton to around $40 per metric ton.  As part of the tax overhaul, advocates would like to increase the carbon-capture tax credits from $10 or $20 per metric ton, depending on use, to $35 or $50.

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.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/6/2017

Policy and Politics

On Thursday, President Donald Trump named Andrew Wheeler, a coal industry lobbyist and former congressional staffer, as his pick for deputy administrator of the EPA.  Reuters reported that reaction to the nomination was “mixed”.  The EPA will propose repealing the Clean Power Plan, according to an EPA document seen by Reuters.  The agency now intends to issue what it calls an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to solicit input as it considers “developing a rule similarly intended to reduce CO2 emissions from existing fossil fuel electric utility generating units.”  The New York Times has additional information, including some background.  The CPP joins a long list of environmental regulations (many related to climate change) that the Trump administration has overturned (or tried to).  In contrast, on Thursday Stephen Badger, Chairman of the food company Mars, Inc., published an Op-Ed in The Washington Post that concluded with “This is a call to action for all in business to double down in support of the Paris agreement and the sustainable development goals.”

The Department of Interior was in the news this week.  First, a group that, without invitation, listened-in remotely to an invitation-only Bureau of Land Management meeting and webinar gave their notes to The Washington Post.  Among the items discussed was how to weaken the National Environmental Policy Act, a 1970 law that has been called an environmental Magna Carta, to facilitate fossil fuel development.  In addition, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was expected to issue a proposal to delay a BLM rule requiring oil and gas companies operating on federal and tribal lands to capture methane that would otherwise be vented or burned off, using a different legal provision than the one blocked by a federal judge on WednesdayJoel Clement, a senior Interior Department official, resigned on Wednesday, stating in his resignation letter to Zinke “You and President Trump have waged an all-out assault on the civil service by muzzling scientists and policy experts like myself.”  You can read his full letter here.  Meanwhile, the Department of Energy announced additional loan guarantees for construction of the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia and asked FERC to adopt new regulations concerning the way in which base-load power plants (i.e., coal and nuclear) recover costs.  However, E&E News reported that energy industry experts disputed the claim of the need for such action.

Climate

Yale Climate Connections presented a sobering video of glaciology professor Jorgen Peder Steffensen of the Neils Bohr Institute in Denmark discussing the risks of abrupt climate change.  The most disturbing revelation is that we simply don’t know what will trigger abrupt events like those that occurred in the past.  Even without abrupt changes, however, climate change represents an extreme threat to the future of wildlife, according to Jim Murphy of the National Wildlife Federation.  A new paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters reported on a comprehensive seabed mapping project of Greenland.  A major finding of the study is that the Greenland ice sheet is far more exposed to the warming oceans than previously known.  In fact, more than half of Greenland’s ice lies in or flows through areas that could be influenced by warming seas, accelerating their melting.

On September 22, Australia experienced its hottest September day since records began more than a century ago, reaching an average maximum temperature across the continent of 92.2°F, breaking the previous record set nine years ago.  In a special climate statement, the Bureau of Meteorology said climate change played a role.  Even worse, a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters has found that even if the Paris Agreement goal of limiting average global warming to 2°C is met, summer heat waves in major Australian cities are likely to reach highs of 122°F by 2040.

Zeke Hausfather at Carbon Brief examined how well climate models have projected future warming and concluded: “Climate models published since 1973 have generally been quite skillful in projecting future warming.  While some were too low and some too high, they all show outcomes reasonably close to what has actually occurred, especially when discrepancies between predicted and actual CO2 concentrations and other climate forcings are taken into account.”

Data published on Thursday by the EPA showed that greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S.’s largest industrial facilities fell 2% in 2016, to 2.99 billion tonnes, led by a large cut from the power sector.  On the other hand, an analysis by an Australian think-tank revealed that Australia’s annual emissions reached an all time high.

Scientists at the U.S. Marine Biological Laboratory, with contributions from scientists at the Universities of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, conducted a 26-year study in the Harvard Forest of the impact of soil warming on CO2 emissions from the soil.  The results supported projections of a long-term, positive, carbon feedback loop wherein warming leads to more carbon emissions, which increases warming, leading to more emissions, etc.

The Associated Press analyzed 167 years of federal storm data and found that no 30-year period in history has seen this many major hurricanes, this many days of hurricanes in the Atlantic, or this much overall energy generated by those powerful storms.

A report released Tuesday by the Food Climate Research Network at the University of Oxford found that cattle fed on grass release more greenhouse gas emissions than are offset through soil carbon sequestration by root growth associated with the plants on which they feed.  In other words, grass-fed beef is “in no way a climate solution”, according to the lead author of the report.

Writing at Yale Environment 360 about the connection between climate change and increased wildfires, Nicola Jones stated: “Globally, the length of the fire weather season increased by nearly 19 percent between 1978 and 2013, thanks to longer seasons of warm, dry weather in one-quarter of the planet’s forests.  In the western United States, for example, the wildfire season has grown from five months in the 1970s to seven months today.”

Energy

The International Energy Agency issued a new forecast indicating that global renewable energy capacity will rise by 43% by 2022.  This forecast is largely driven by increasing expansion of solar energy in China and India.  The report also said that in 2016, almost two-thirds of new power capacity came from renewables.  Illustrating this is the increased interest in battery-backed local energy systems, such as solar, in response to the recent spate of hurricanes.

A new study, published in the journal Nature Energy, found that, at recent oil prices of $50 per barrel, tax preferences and other subsidies at the state and federal level push nearly half of new, yet-to-be-developed oil investments into profitability, potentially increasing U.S. oil production by 17 billion barrels over the next few decades.  Using that oil would put the equivalent of 6 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.  This is one of the reasons Tim McDonnell argued in The Washington Post that the solution to climate change is in the U.S. tax code.

For the past two weeks, I have included articles about the decision of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in the Suniva/SolarWorld America solar panel trade case.  This week, Bloomberg Technology reported that the trade dispute has stalled solar-energy projects across the U.S.  However, Bloomberg Technology also reported that “[g]rowing demand for more resilient power supplies will spur $22.3 billion of global investment in battery-backed local energy systems over the next decade, according to Navigant Research.”  Also Ivy Main wrote about a new study by the Solar Foundation that showed that over 50,000 jobs could be created in Virginia if it commits to building enough solar energy in the next five years to provide just 10% of its electricity supply.

Two items from Rocky Mountain Institute dealt with energy efficiency in homes and the real estate market.  One was about an mpg-like rating for homes that are for sale.  It provides insights into things like the expected cost of maintaining the home, the environmental impact of the home, and how comfortable the home is likely to be.  The other explained how residential property assessed clean energy (R-PACE) financing could be used to allow people to buy net-zero energy homes with no additional upfront costs.

On Monday General Motors announced that it would rollout at least 20 all-electric vehicles by 2023, including two within the next 18 months.  The new models will be a mix of battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.  In addition, Ford Motor Co has formed a team to accelerate global development of electric vehicles.  A current impediment to adoption of battery electric vehicles is a lack of charging stations and charging time.  This situation is changing, however, with a big push underway to install more stations with fast chargers.

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.