Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/3/2023

The climate crisis is not a science problem. It is a human problem. The ultimate power to change the world does not reside in technologies. It relies on reverence, respect, and compassion—for ourselves, for all people, and for all life. This is regeneration. – Paul Hawken

Our Climate Crisis

The public is increasingly paying more attention to our climate crisis. This is changing the dominant strategy of fighting climate change through global treaties where it’s easy to dream up bold agreements but hard to make them stick. Public buy-in is enabling highly motivated governments and companies to invest in new technologies and business models. They can, in effect, run experiments and quickly learn what works in the drive toward a greener future.

This January was the warmest on record in seven states, including the entirety of New England. It was also the sixth warmest on record for the Lower 48 states and third warmest in Europe.  Five of the six warmest Januaries in the United States have occurred since 1990.

Rising tides are impacting coastal Virginia’s rural communities, which do not have the public infrastructure that urban areas have. This pushes more of the cost burden onto individual households. FEMA is helping people raise their houses but they still need to contend with waterlogged septic systems and water wells that turn brackish. Sea level rise in the Hampton Roads region is up roughly eight inches since 1970.

We have entered a new chapter in the climate and ecological crisis that presents us with difficult decisions. Severe climate events draw focus and resources from tackling the underlying causes of global warming and ecological loss—creating a possible doom loop. Our challenge is to navigate through the shocks while staying focused on creating a more sustainable world.

The megadrought made worse by climate change forced Texas farmers to abandon 74 percent of their planted crops last year. This especially impacted the global supply and price of cotton, made even worse by the cotton crops destroyed by the massive flood in Pakistan. The extreme drought in the American Southwest could re-create the dust bowl conditions of the 1930s.

Last fall, the Alliance for World Scientists published their “Warning of a Climate Emergency 2022” along with a 35 minute documentary. This marks the 30th anniversary of the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity,” signed by more than 1700 scientists in 1992. Since then there has been a roughly 40% increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.

Politics and Policy

The gas industry is under fire. It’s fighting back by creating a group dubbed Natural Allies for a Clean Energy Future and recruiting prominent Democratic politicians as spokespersons. Among them are former senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and former congressman Tim Ryan (D-Ohio). The argument they are making is that, while we need wind and solar power, gas is a needed abundant, cheap, and potentially “clean” energy source.

A new French law will require canopies of solar panels to be built atop all substantial lots in the country. Upon completion, this will generate as much electricity as 10 nuclear power plants and add as much as 8% to France’s current electrical capacity.

Michigan will be home to the $3.5 billion Ford battery factory that Virginia governor Youngkin rejected over his concern that a Chinese company is a partner in the venture. The 2,500 jobs the factory will create now go to Michigan instead of Virginia.

A Republican bill sponsored by Del. Tony Wilt, R-Rockingham, seeking to end a Virginia law tying the state to emissions standards set by California, that will ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles starting in 2035, died in the state Senate on a party line vote. Virginia Democrats have defended the law on the grounds that it puts Virginia at the front of the line to receive electric vehicles from automakers who are transitioning their fleets and it will improve air quality.


Texas is building utility scale solar faster than any other state and is expected to soon surpass California as the state with the most solar capacity. Utility-scale solar is surging ahead across the United States, which is forecast to add 29.1 gigawatts of new capacity in 2023.

Energy giant BP has reported record annual profits, which more than doubled to $27.7bn in 2022; other energy firms have seen similar rises. BP had previously promised to lower emissions 35-40% by the end of this decade. It has now cut that target to 20-30%, saying it needs to keep investing in oil and gas to meet current demands.

Methane from cow manure can be purified into a product being billed as “renewable natural gas” (RNG), which is virtually indistinguishable from fossil fuel natural gas. Major fossil fuel companies have inked deals with the dairy industry in California to build manure digesters. But is RNG carbon negative? It depends on if one calculates it as being derived from a waste product versus becoming an integral income stream in the very carbon intensive dairy industry.

The U.S. Department of Energy is providing funding for up to seven pilot projects that will test the efficacy and scalability of enhanced geothermal systems. Geothermal energy currently generates about 3.7 gigawatts of electricity in the U.S.; with the development of these enhanced systems it could provide 90 gigawatts of firm, flexible power to the U.S. grid by 2050.

Dominion Energy reports that its $9.8 billion wind farm 27 miles off the shores of Virginia Beach is on track and on budget. The installation, which could provide carbon-free power to more than 650,000 homes and businesses, is slated for completion by the end of 2026.

Last year European wind and solar production overtook natural gas in electricity generation.  That had seemed unimaginable one year ago on the cusp of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Solar capacity alone has doubled since 2018 and is on track to triple in the next four years.

Climate Justice

Prioritizing a transition to electric cars has an equity problem because low-income Americans cannot afford them and are more likely to use public transit. Sita M. Syal, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan, says that the EV transition should, therefore, be part of a broader shift to clean mobility that invests in public transit, walking, and biking, as well as systems like EV charging that support private car use.

Minnesota paid Enbridge, the company replacing the corroded Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline and doubling its capacity, $8.6 million to fund police and other agencies to respond to the acts of civil disobedience that the project would surely spark. Protestors, who then experienced mass arrests and detention, now contend that the financial arrangement created an unconstitutional police and prosecutor bias that violated their rights.

Climate Action

ACTION ALERT: Please submit your comments in support of keeping Virginia in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) on the Virginia Townhall website before March 31. Gov. Youngkin is continuing his effort to use regulation to withdraw the state from RGGI through the Air Pollution Control Board. To this end, they recently put this proposed regulation out for public comment. Let him know that there is broad public support for RGGI.

Using an inexpensive inverter, it’s now possible to power your home from your EV during a power outage. This is the leading edge of how EVs will be integrated into of our electrical power grid and become a key step in the transition to renewable energy. In the near future, with a bidirectional charger and a home integration system, your EV will be able to draw energy from the grid when there is ample supply and then resupply it during hours of peak demand.

Many in the younger generation are shunning getting a driver’s license or buying a car. In 1997, 43% of 16-year-olds and 62% of 17-year-olds had driver’s licenses. In 2020, those numbers had fallen to 25% and 45%.

The ability to commercially produce low carbon ethanol from rice and wheat straw, sugar cane, and corn stalks has been tantalizingly just beyond our grasp for decades. A big hurdle has been  collecting and distributing what is essentially a bulky waste product. Another has been processing this dirty, abrasive stuff after it reaches the plant. Now, after many fits and starts, we may be on the precipice of some significant breakthroughs that will make it viable.

Prince William County, the second largest school district in Virginia, is going solar. They will install solar power systems on the roofs of buildings at twelve school sites. The combined electric capacity will be 7.9 megawatts, which will save the district more than $16 million in energy costs over the next 25 years. Students will also be offered training and hands-on science experiments on energy.

The push is on to boost the production of sustainable aviation fuel. United Airlines recently launched a $100 million fund to support startups working to solve the supply problem. The goal is to increase production of sustainable aviation fuel from 1% today to 7.5% by 2030. Thirty-eight major airlines, including United, have committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 or earlier.

News and experiences from the Harrisonburg  Pollinator Program will be included in the new “Parks and Pollinators: Taking Action and Advancing Sustainability” resource put out by the National Recreation and Park Association. The program is enhancing the environmental health of the city and doing its bit to help reverse our climate crisis. Find out more and explore opportunities to get involved here.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Climate and Energy News Roundup 2/6/2023

The world will not be saved by conscientious “green consumers” who decide, one family at a time, to drive less or install solar panels on their roof. The problem is just too big for that. Instead, we all need to become “green citizens.” We need to focus, together, on a relatively small number of public policies that can, over time, bring about sweeping change. – Hal Harvey and Justin Gillis

Our Climate Crisis

The ocean has become an increasingly greedy neighbor, forcing parts of the Outer Banks in North Carolina to retreat more than 200 feet in the last two decades. Some beaches are now losing about 13 feet a year. Sea levels along U.S. coastlines are expected to rise as much as 12 inches by 2050, with the Southeast and Gulf Coasts seeing the most change.

The heat is on in the Chesapeake Bay. The average summer water temperature has increased about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1995. This is threatening to undo decades of efforts to restore the Bay by improving its aquatic habitat. Populations of native species like blue crabs and striped bass are declining while some southern species, such as white shrimp and red drum, are already moving into the Bay in increasing numbers.  

Half of the world’s glaciers could disappear by the end of the century even under the Paris Climate Accord goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Current global commitments to fight climate change are projected to lead to 2.7°C of warming, which would cause the near-complete deglaciation of entire regions in Europe, North America, and New Zealand.

Europe broke heat records last year and kicked off 2023 with a record-setting heat wave. A winter heat dome descended on the continent at the beginning of the year, crushing thousands of high-temperature records. One climatologist called it “the most extreme heat wave in European history.”

When scientists tagged a seal with an ocean sensor, he led them to signs of a potential climate disaster in Western Antarctica. The seal appeared just offshore, roughly half a mile below the surface of the vast oceanfront glacier called Denman. This provided early evidence that warm ocean currents are undercutting the glacier, which could be a major threat to global coastlines. If the glacier completely melts, it could raise global sea levels by nearly 5 feet.

Politics and Policy

A bill to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was recently defeated in the State Senate. The Youngkin administration is, however, continuing its effort to use regulation to withdraw through Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board. To this end, they recently put the proposed regulation out for public comment. Please submit your comments in support of RGGI and your opposition to the repeal on the Virginia Townhall website between now and March 31. They need to hear that there’s broad public support for RGGI.

The oil and gas industry donated millions of dollars to members of the House in the last election cycle. Eight of the top ten recipients were Republicans. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who received $616,563, raked in the most donations from the industry.

U.S. carbon emissions rose 1.3 % in 2022. Can clean energy get them on track with the goal of cutting them 50% by 2030? The clean-energy incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act should help by supercharging the cost advantages of renewable energy. Emissions dropped 1% in the electrical power sector and should start dropping significantly as solar, wind power, and battery storage continue to become significantly cheaper than fossil fuels.

Exxon’s internal models already predicted global warming accurately in the 1980s. Their public stance, however, remained hostile to any public discussion of climate research. Their leadership and marketing team worked to create a cloud of confusion around climate change and shifted the blame from fossil fuel producers to the carbon footprint of individuals.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill last month to legally redefine natural gas as a source of “green energy.” The new law is anything but homegrown. The Empowerment Alliance, a dark money group with ties to the gas industry, helped Ohio lawmakers push the narrative that the fuel is clean.

The United Arab Emirates chose Sultan Al Jaber, the head of their national oil company, to be the president of the Cop28 UN climate summit in Dubai. Climate activists, angered by the decision, see this as a clear conflict of interest. Some have likened it to putting a tobacco company head in charge of an anti-smoking treaty.

Defying the federal government, the Tennessee Valley Authority recently announced that it will stick with fossil fuels by replacing a retiring coal plant with a 1,450 MW natural gas plant. Clean energy advocates are also fighting an uphill battle to push Duke Energy in North Carolina away from its plan to build 3 GW of new gas-fired power plants.

Virginia state senator Chap Peterson insists that Dominion Energy must adjust to a new political reality. For years, Dominion has lavished donations on Virginia lawmakers who crafted its regulatory structure that locked in bloated base rates and other advantages. That has to end!


This year the U.S. is on track to export more liquefied natural gas (LNG) than any other country and the industry is planning for a surge of growth over the coming years. This flies in the face of efforts to fight global warming. The fracking boom allowed the U.S. to start exporting LNG in 2016.

Germany has agreed to join a new green hydrogen pipeline project between Spain, Portugal and France. The pipeline under the Mediterranean Sea between Spain and France will carry green hydrogen, made from water via electrolysis using renewable energy.

Renewable energy is projected to be 26% of U.S. electricity generation this year according to the Energy Information Administration. The growth in renewables is coming from wind and solar power, with wind responsible for about one-third of the growth and solar accounting for two-thirds. Coal has dropped dramatically in the last decade and natural gas, which is still highest at 37%, has also begun to decline in the past several years.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is helping Virginia lower its carbon emissions by driving down emissions from power plants by 12% annually during the last two years. This is happening even in the midst of rapid data center growth in Northern Virginia that’s expected to drive a 38% increase in electricity use by 2035.

Geothermal energy is drawing fresh interest after lawmakers boosted funding for it in the bipartisan infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act. While the next generation of geothermal projects are still in the early stages of development, they have the potential for a 15-fold jump in capacity in the United States by 2050.

Both Dominion Energy and Gov. Youngkin’s office have included small modular nuclear reactors in their plans for future energy, but expanding nuclear is not as timely and efficient as proponents claim. Wind and solar generate much cheaper electricity. The cost of unsubsidized utility-scale solar plus battery storage is about half the cost of new nuclear reactors.

A report from an energy nonprofit indicates that we may have already hit the peak in using fossil fuels to generate electricity and are entering a period of decline. Wind and solar power are experiencing substantial growth that follows the trend lines for the early stages of transformative products like automobiles, computers, and smartphones.

An advocacy group filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission accusing the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell of “greenwashing.” The company’s most recent annual report claims that it directed 12% of its capital expenditure to “Renewables and Energy Solutions” in 2021. Only 1.5% of that, however, went toward developing renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. The rest of the spending went toward gas.

Climate Justice

Even though California was inundated by unprecedented rain in January, it’s too early to declare an end to the region’s long-term drought. Some climatologists say the state is dealing with weather whiplash—extremes on the dry end and extremes on the wet end. The poor experience the worst of these extreme weather woes. They live in housing that was often poorly built and placed in some of the highest-risk areas for weather related disasters.

The super-rich are coming under increased scrutiny for the ways their lifestyles are baking our planet. While private jets and mega yachts are on the extreme end of the scale, cruise ships and commercial passenger planes are close behind. The 19% of adults who take more than four flights a year in the United States and Canada account for 79% of the flights taken. In contrast, just 2-4% of the global population gets onto a plane each year.

A peer-reviewed scientific study finds that gas stove pollution causes roughly 12.7% of childhood asthma in the United States. Children of color and those in lower-income neighborhoods are twice as likely to be hospitalized for asthma. Poor households are more likely to have smaller kitchens that lack proper ventilation.

A new study shows that pesticides are a key contributor to climate change. This comes from their manufacturing, transportation, and application, all the way to their degradation and disposal. Conventional farming methods don’t account for such environmental externalities, while organic food is more expensive because it does. All people, regardless of income level, should be able to afford food grown without using pesticides.

Climate Action

Cities across the U.S. are taking surprising and innovative community-driven climate action. This includes a resident-centered bike-share program, radical budget restructuring, equitable home heating plans, planting trees and eliminating heat islands, recycling waste water, and creating a long-term climate change advisory committee.  

A Tennessee-based utility scale solar company has an unusually holistic brand of solar development that can serve as a model for rural agricultural communities. Its self-owned projects incorporate regenerative land practices and recycle old solar panels. Instead of treating vegetation as a problem to be dealt with using chemicals and lawnmowers, it is exploring ways to graze livestock alongside and under solar panels and enhance the ecosystem.

Dine in rather than take out—it’s a simple climate action that you may not have considered. Harrisonburg restaurant owners Mikey Reisenberg of Mashita, a Korean theme restaurant, and Kirsten Moore of Magpie restaurant note the economic and environmental costs of disposable silverware, napkins, sauce containers, and the bag in take out orders. Moore said. “Dine-in is so much better for the workers, the business, the craft, and the environment.”

German rail and public transit infrastructure is far advanced to what we have in the U.S., even though it has some challenges. Things we can learn from them include: a.) How vital public transit is to reducing carbon emissions, b.) The justice issue of providing public transit to poor populations, and c.) The connection between dense, affordable housing and a reliable, affordable transit system.

How do we feed 8 billion people without frying our planet? One obvious answer is eating less meat. Our food system is responsible for about a third of our climate problem and most of our biodiversity and deforestation problems. Food and climate writer Michael Grunwald says we need to get over our squeamishness about high tech foods and meat substitutes. We’ll need to use them to avert a climate catastrophe.

More than 90% of the rainforest carbon offsets in Peru sold by Verra, the biggest provider of carbon credits, are worthless according to a study by Cambridge University and a team of investigative journalists. This raises questions about the credits bought by internationally renowned companies such as Disney, Shell, and Gucci so they can make the claim that their products are “carbon neutral.”

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Climate and Energy News Roundup 1/3/2023

No matter your field of work, no matter where you live or what role you play in your home, workplace, or community, you and the people around you are interacting with nature and society and have insights into how to solve the problems associated with climate change. So that’s where we start. Climate change solutions are not waiting for us at a fancy delegation of diplomats in a foreign country. They are at our kitchen table. –Andreas Karelas

Our Climate Crisis

Wildlife is disappearing at an alarming rate around the world, in the oceans and on land. The main cause on land is because humans are taking over too much of the planet, erasing what was there before. There has been at least 33% habitat loss for wildlife since 2001. Climate change and other pressures make survival even harder. “The biodiversity crisis presents a longer-term threat to the viability of the human species,” says Katharine Hayhoe, a prominent climate change researcher who also focuses on biodiversity.  

A bit of encouraging news is research showing that polar bears are surviving in Greenland despite decreasing sea ice. They have clung on thanks to freshwater discharge from glaciers, offering hope for the species.

Our current Holocene geologic epoch began 11,700 years ago with the end of the last big ice age. Now a working panel of geologists appears to be close to recommending that we have spent the past few decades in a brand-new time unit identified as the Anthropocene, the age of humans. This new epoch is characterized by human-induced, planetary-scale changes that are unfinished but very much underway.

A recent aerial survey in Oregon found that more than a million acres of forest contain fir trees that have succumbed to stressors exacerbated by a multi-year drought and global warming. The die-off is way beyond anything seen before and scientists are dubbing it “fir-mageddon”.

Politics and Policy

American cities have way too many cars and too little affordable housing. A prime culprit is zoning laws that mandate minimum parking requirements for commercial and residential development. Climate campaigners and public transport advocates are beginning to push back and this is finally, slowly beginning to change in some cities. Reducing minimum parking requirements preserves green space, allows for denser housing, makes cities more walkable, reduces traffic, and fosters downtown renewal.

Gov. Youngkin got one step closer to his goal of withdrawing Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) when the Air Pollution Control Board voted to advance the process of pulling the state from the program. Environmental advocates for RGGI argue that this is an illegal end run around the Virginia General Assembly which passed the 2020 law requiring Virginia to participate in RGGI.

The Senate blocked Sen. Joe Manchin’s permitting reform amendment for energy infrastructure from getting onto a defense funding bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act. Environmentalist Democrats supported the reforms for clean energy infrastructure but voted against the amendment because it also streamlines the permitting process for fossil fuel projects, especially the Mountain Valley Pipeline which Manchin has been trying to get approved. Most Republicans opposed the amendment for political reasons.

Wall Street’s biggest banks and mutual funds are backing off the climate commitments they made before the COP26 climate conference last year. Bank of America and JP Morgan say they’re concerned about being held liable for accidentally running afoul of United Nations climate rules. Blackrock and Vanguard, the world’s largest asset managers, then confirmed that their net zero commitments would not preclude them from investing in fossil fuels. Vanguard later announced that it is resigning from the global net-zero initiative.


U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm hailed a major breakthrough in creating fusion nuclear energy. Scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory were able to create a fusion reaction that generated more energy than it took to produce. This holds potential to provide constant energy without the pollution of fossil fuels or the radioactive risks of traditional nuclear power plants. It will, however, most likely be decades, if ever, before fusion energy can be technically and affordably used to generate electricity.

Natural gas is getting in the way of slashing carbon emissions from power plants in the U.S. Over the next few years, electric utilities are expected to build around 17 gigawatts of natural gas plants (enough to power close to 12.8 million homes). Unless those plants are closed early, they will operate for decades on an electric grid that still gets almost 60% of its power from fossil fuels.

Installing battery storage on the electrical grid increased rapidly in 2022. The federal government had estimated that 5.1 gigawatts of batteries would be added over the course of the year and it now appears that more like 5.4 gigawatts were added—about 11% of new power plant capacity. Battery manufacturers cannot keep up with the demand.

Dominion Energy demands have stalled a planned 1.2-megawatt community solar project in Augusta County. Their insistence on a high-speed fiber optic line between the solar array and the nearest substation would increase the cost by 50% and make it unaffordable. This demand,  which is inconsistent with industry standards, appears to be an effort by Dominion to restrict solar energy to its own utility solar.

Federal regulators published a draft environmental review approving Dominion Energy’s planned 176-turbine wind farm off the coast of Virginia. This approval will take the largest proposed ocean renewable energy project in the U.S. one step closer to construction, scheduled to begin in 2024.

The Department of Energy is providing funding to projects that accelerate the deployment of small- and medium-sized wind turbines across the United States. The wind turbines, designed to be used by homeowners, farmers, and small businesses, can reduce costs, increase energy production, and enhance grid reliability.

Climate Justice

The mammoth bipartisan budget bill of roughly $1.7 trillion to fund the U.S. government includes roughly only $1 billion to help poor countries transition to clean energy. This is more than 10 time less than the $11.4 billion annually that  President Biden had pledged at the COP27 climate change summit in Egypt.

Many African countries are struggling with how to reconcile their desire to strengthen energy independence, the growing awareness of the climate and ecological crisis, and their desire to be part of a just energy transition. They insist that developing countries need clean energy technology transfers from developed countries, which they say has been slow to materialize.

Wealthy countries and banks will provide $15.5 billion to help Vietnam develop clean energy and transition away from coal. The funds, which will be disbursed over the next three to five years, will help Vietnam to peak its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 rather than 2035, as had previously been projected.

Historic flooding last year in Pakistan displaced nearly 8 million people. Such displacement is generally temporary but is increasingly becoming permanent as climate induced drought and flooding makes their homes uninhabitable. The UN estimates that there will be 2 million climate refugees in Pakistan by 2050. It takes a heavy toll both economically and socially when people are forced to migrate from the places where their families have lived for generations.

Climate Action

The Inflation Reduction Act climate bill allocates billions of dollars that people can use to go green. This includes 30% tax credit of up to $2,000 for the cost to switch to an energy efficient heat pump heating system. It also includes a tax credit of up to $7,500 to buy an electric vehicle, depending on where it is manufactured. Even more significantly, it allocates a 30% tax credit with no monetary limit for installing rooftop solar.

Protecting big wild herbivores roaming natural areas helps reduce global warming in various ways. According to a 2022 scientific paper in Current Biology, these animals “help prevent fires, decrease the amount of solar heat absorbed by the Earth’s surface, and contribute a lot to the long-term storage of carbon in soil.” Elephants, wildebeests and other big plant eaters may actually be helping, not hindering, our carbon storage efforts.

Nations at the COP15 biodiversity summit in Canada made a major conservation commitment to try to halt the loss of hundreds of thousands of plants and animals. Their “30 by 30” pledge seeks to stem the loss of nature worldwide by protecting nearly a third of Earth’s land and oceans as a refuge for the planet’s remaining wild plants and animals by the end of the decade. It remains to be seen if they will follow through by funding and implementing this commitment.

About a quarter of the cars bought in China last year have been battery-powered or plug-in hybrids. No other country comes close. Chinese automakers are poised to lead the EV industry in producing affordable EVs, not just in China but globally as their offerings become available overseas. This is a win for efforts to prevent the worst consequences of climate change.

After facing fierce backlash for plans to add thousands of gas guzzlers to its fleet, the US Postal Service has shifted course with a game-changing pledge to go electric. In the effort to change out their aging fleet, they are now committed to purchasing 66,000 EVs, making up 60% of their new truck purchases. This is way more than their original stingy commitment of 10%. The new plan will be almost like shutting down a gas powered power plant each year.

The overproduction of light is another human-made problem we urgently need to take responsibility for. Light pollution upsets the natural rhythms of insects and nocturnal animals. We humans need darkness too. Natural cycles of light and dark control our hormonal systems and only at night do we find true rest. Turning down lights in our house and putting bright outside lights on motion sensors not only saves electricity—it’s good for us and our environment.  

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Climate and Energy News Roundup 12/5/2022

As Lao Tzu wrote in the Tao Te Ching, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So it is with solving climate change. While transitioning to an equitable, sustainable economy powered by clean energy will be a massive undertaking, the process is made up of small steps. —Andreas Karelas

Our Climate Crisis

As more than 180 heads of state were converging in Egypt for the COP27 climate summit, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres opened the proceedings with this dire warning, “The clock is ticking. We are in the fight of our lives. And we are losing. Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing. Global temperatures keep rising. And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.”

Like the rest of the Caribbean, Cuba is suffering from longer droughts, more intense storms, and higher sea levels because of climate change. This is reducing agricultural yields, and putting farmers under intense financial pressure. It is also driving people to leave the island in the highest numbers in decades. Nearly 221,000 Cuban migrants have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border this year.

The Interior Department is giving three Native American tribal communities $25 million each to move their key buildings onto higher ground and away from rising waters, with the expectation that homes will follow. Eight more tribes will receive $5 million each to plan for relocation. This is most likely a precursor to forced relocation in response to climate change.

A century ago the residents of the town of Oyster on Hog Island off the coast of Virginia were forced to relocate their town to the mainland due to rising sea levels. Historically, the ocean has risen about a foot in a human lifetime, but estimates are that it will now increase to two or three feet because of climate change. These more rapidly rising sea levels are now challenging the relocated town to again relocate to higher ground.

Extreme weather events have caused an estimated $115 billion in insured financial losses around the world this year, which is 42% higher than the 10-year average of $81 billion. About $50 billion to $65 billion of the total losses are a result of Hurricane Ian, which pummeled Florida’s west coast in late September.

Politics and Policy

The COP27 U.N. Climate Summit in Egypt ended with a hard-fought deal to create a fund to help poor countries being battered by climate disasters. This includes  proposed reforms at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund that could attract trillions of dollars in private capital available to developing nations to mitigate the effects of climate change. The summit, however, did little to cut the use of fossil fuels and advance efforts to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees C.

The transition to clean energy does not always follow the partisan political divide in our country. South Dakota, a solidly “red” state, has now amassed enough renewable energy to fulfill its own electricity needs and then some. The state has a built in advantage with ample hydropower but wind energy has now surpassed it in-state electricity generation.

Climate leadership and promoting policies to transition to clean energy was a political win for three Midwest governors. Democratic governors Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Tim Walz of Minnesota, and Tony Evers of Wisconsin won reelection, beating three Trump-backed candidates who campaigned on turning back clean energy initiatives.

Some of the biggest oil and gas producers and consumers have committed to cut their emissions of methane at the COP27 climate summit. Methane molecules do not last as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide but heat the planet more than 80 times more, over their 20 years lifespan. Cutting methane pollution by 45% this decade would avoid 0.3 degrees Celsius of global warming by the 2040s and can be done with existing, inexpensive technologies.

In response to a surprise environmental order from the Youngkin administration, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is reviewing proposed stormwater regulations that would treat ground-mounted solar arrays the same as parking lots. This would likely require solar developers to acquire more land, driving up the cost of solar energy.


Green hydrogen fuel has always been the holy grail of clean energy but it has remained just beyond our reach. That may now change with the billions of dollars allotted to hydrogen research and development in the Inflation Reduction Act. This is especially important in intensive energy uses such as heavy manufacturing, long-haul trucking, international shipping, and aviation, which cannot easily be converted to electric battery power.

The US Energy Information Administration reports that nearly a quarter of the coal-fired electric plants currently operating in the US have plans to be retired by the end of 2029. Further data released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission indicated that the use of natural gas for electric generation may have peaked.

The world’s largest floating wind farm is now producing power off the coast of Norway. When completed, the wind farm will have 11 turbines and create 88 megawatts of combined capacity—more than half of all the floating wind capacity in place today. The development of offshore wind is surging globally as costs decline and countries adopt ambitious climate change policies.

The European Union burns more than half the wood it harvests for energy and also imports massive amounts of wood pellets from the U.S. Phasing out forest biomass as ‘renewable energy’ would yield massive benefits in terms of air pollution and climate protection. The forest products industry is opposing such reforms and has the ear of key European policymakers.

Prospect Power LLC, of Austin, Texas, applied for a special-use permit for Rockingham County’s first battery energy storage facility on a 24-acre tract of land. The proposed facility will be charged with energy from, and discharged back to Virginia’s electric grid, enabling grid operators to deal with supply and demand in a revolutionary way.

Canadian Pacific’s experimental hydrogen-powered locomotive made its maiden run in Calgary, Alberta in October. This is the first step in seeing if these locomotives utilizing clean energy can replace diesel locomotives. Canadian Pacific is producing green hydrogen with solar power.

Recent Virginia legislation allows certain customers of Dominion Energy to buy solar energy from independent providers of shared solar, also known as community solar. Dominion has however used the rulemaking process and its control over project interconnection to create hurdles including high minimum bills to drive away all but the most tenacious developers. Lawmakers have, however, included a provision exempting low- to moderate-income participants from the minimum bill requirement.

Climate Justice

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry unveiled a proposal at the COP27 climate summit for companies to buy carbon credits that fund the greening of power grids in developing countries. The proposal comes as part of the promise from rich countries to mobilize $100 billion a year in climate finance for poorer nations. Developing countries spokespersons countered that it appears to be an attempt by rich countries to avoid paying their fair share.

A recent study shows that more lower-income US households are adopting rooftop solar. Last year 22% of households installing solar systems in the U.S. could be considered low-income and an additional 21% could be considered moderate-income. This makes a total of 43% of households installing solar that, broadly speaking, fall into the lower-income category.

The Indonesia Just Energy Transition Partnership will mobilize $20 billion of public and private finance to help Indonesia transition to clean power and shut coal power plants, bringing the country’s peak emissions date forward by seven years to 2030. The international partnership “is probably the single largest climate finance transaction or partnership ever” according to a U.S. Treasury official.

Transportation pollution is the largest source of carbon emissions, which mostly affects poor communities—making it a matter of climate justice. That makes North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s executive order to press forward with a plan to cut pollution from medium and heavy-duty trucks across the state a big deal. While trucks are only 6.5% of the vehicles on the road in North Carolina, they contribute about 71.2% of pollution and 34.5% of greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.

Climate Action

The United States Postal Service is using a hard-won $3 billion infusion from Congress to jump-start its transition to 34,000 zero-emission mail trucks beginning next year. A substantial part of the money will be used toward the build-out of EV infrastructure to support the trucks. This goes a long way toward meeting President Biden’s directive to ensure all new government-owned vehicles are EVs by 2035.

Researchers in China are working to create perennial, climate friendly rice that requires much less labor, dramatically reducing a farmer’s costs while producing about the same amount of grain. Another advantage is that its long-lived roots may deliver big environmental benefits by preserving vulnerable soil and enriching natural ecosystems. Thousands of Chinese farmers have now started to grow this remarkable new version of rice with good results.

The Covid pandemic led to a bike riding boom. The spike in people using bikes has now faltered in places that didn’t build bike-friendly infrastructure but it survives in cities that have stepped up. The city of Tucson, for example, established a “Slow Streets” walk- and bike-friendly program that restricts car traffic in some places and prioritizes walking and biking over other modes of transport.  

A Pew Research poll shows that highly religious Americans are far less likely to be concerned about global warming. The main driver of public opinion about the climate, however, is political party rather than religion and highly religious Americans are more inclined to identify with the Republican Party. What the poll does not show, according to the executive director of GreenFaith, a global multi-faith environmental organization, “is the role that religion, when utilized effectively, can play in moving people who are concerned but inactive into public action on the climate’s behalf.”

Do you know that about 90% of the energy your washing machine uses goes towards heating the water? Washing in cold water saves money (as much as 64¢ a load), saves your clothes, reduces your energy consumption, and contributes toward saving our planet. Newer detergents clean clothes just as well in cold water.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Climate and Energy News Roundup 11/7/2022

Ultimately, climate change will not be solved by climate scientists and engineers calculating how many solar panels we need installed. It will be solved by citizens sitting down and talking to each other over a glass of iced tea about how we need to start taking care of each other, trusting each other, and working together to save this place and everything we love. —Andreas Karelas

Our Climate Crisis

Scientists are finding an alarming global drop in biodiversity. One study shows that monitored populations of vertebrates have declined an average of 69% from 1970 to 2018. That’s more than two-thirds in only 48 years.  The top driver on land is agriculture, as we turn forests and other ecosystems into farmland. At sea, it’s fishing. Unless we’re able to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, preferably 1.5 degrees, climate change will become the leading cause of biodiversity loss in coming decades.

Extreme drought in the American Midwest has pushed water levels in the Mississippi River and its tributaries to drop to record lows this month. This has both constrained barge cargo traffic on the Mississippi and is allowing salt water from the Gulf of Mexico to creep up the river.

So-called ghost forests are stretching across eastern U.S. coastal communities. The miles of gray, barren trees in once-healthy wetlands are the result of sea rise and saltwater infiltration, which are the direct products of climate change. This is happening right now in our region, not by the end of the century or in some far off polar region.

A study by the World Meteorological Organization shows that the amount of methane in the atmosphere is racing ahead at an accelerating pace, threatening to undermine efforts to slow climate change. A worrisome part of the finding is that the bulk of the increased methane is coming from wetlands and other natural systems as a result of global warming.

Some 20 million people are already being displaced every year by natural disasters. All signs point to even more people being forced from their communities by weather-related disasters as well as slow-onset catastrophes like drought and sea-level rise. The World Bank projects that 216 million people will be forced to migrate because of climate change by 2050 if we do not take serious efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Politics and Policy

The Amazon rainforest was on the ballot in Brazil’s presidential election runoff, which former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva narrowly won over President Jair Bolsonaro. Deforestation skyrocketed under Bolsonaro and Lula made climate and protecting the Amazon part of his election campaign. Even so, it will be a tough fight because Bolsonaro won the popular vote in half the states that make up the rainforest.

The Inflation Reduction Act allocates $141 billion to wind and solar energy. This is the first time that subsidies and tax credits for renewable energy in the United States have exceeded subsidies to fossil fuel companies. Still, these renewable energy subsidies are only about two-thirds of what the petrochemical companies have received from the government over the past decade.

Germany is in the process of phasing out its nuclear reactors. Now, in response to the energy crisis created by the war in Ukraine, it is gearing up coal power plants to help meet energy needs for the winter. Climate activist Greta Thunberg created a heated political argument by chastising Germany for cutting already operating nuclear power for coal. Chancellor Olaf Scholz then ordered Germany’s three remaining nuclear plants to remain in operation at least until next April.

More than 20 major universities have pledged to stop investing their endowment funds in fossil fuel stocks. Getting them to stop taking donations from fossil fuel companies has been a harder sell. They need to stop doing so to protect the integrity of their climate research. It was therefore a major breakthrough when Princeton University recently committed not just to divest but also to disassociate from 90 fossil fuel companies. This puts pressure on other major universities to do the same.

The World Bank has come under fire for investing nearly $15 billion in fossil fuel projects despite its commitment to addressing climate change. One of those projects is a natural gas pipeline, which will stretch across the entire country of Turkey to deliver gas from Azerbaijan to Europe. The World Bank is pushing back on the criticism by saying they have “delivered a record $31.7 billion for climate-related investments, to help communities around the world.”

A report from the National Center for Science Education and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund gives the Virginia science standards for public schools a failing grade in teaching climate change. It received an F grade along with only two other states, Pennsylvania and Texas.


“Energy markets and policies have changed as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, not just for the time being, but for decades to come,” according to the executive director of the International Energy Agency. The spiraling energy costs caused by the war and various other factors could be a turning point toward cleaner energy. Worldwide investment in wind and solar is set to outpace oil and gas drilling for the first time this year.

Record wind and solar production in Europe offset 11 billion euros in natural gas costs this year. This softened the blow of limited natural gas supply and soaring energy prices caused by the war in Ukraine. Even so, this is too little to end the energy crisis or to completely supplant the continent’s appetite for fossil fuels.

The House speakers in Virginia and West Virginia recently announced that they are working together to bring advanced small, modular nuclear reactors to the rural and economically challenged regions of their states. The energy hub in Virginia would be located on former coal mine sites in the Southwest part of the state. Residents there say they were not consulted on the proposal to locate a nuclear reactor in their community.

This is part of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s push to make Virginia an innovative energy hub with a focus on emerging technologies such as nuclear, hydrogen, carbon capture, and battery storage—strangely omitting offshore wind. Environmental critics say the plan focuses on unproven technologies that are not necessarily green. This is kicking the climate can down the road.

Australia will build the world’s largest battery to help position the country to shut down its biggest coal plant. Australia has more than doubled its renewable electricity generation in the last decade thanks to rapid growth in solar and wind production. The battery will help the electric grid to store and evenly distribute this intermittent energy.

Climate Justice

Twenty poor countries most vulnerable to climate change say they are caught in a trap of spending money for climate change mitigation that will increase their debt payments. They are pushing for the creation of an international fund that would compensate them for losses and damage caused by climate change. Therefore, whether wealthy countries like it or not, climate reparations will be on the agenda at the United Nations climate change conference, or COP27, in Egypt this month.

A study, recently published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, shows that climate anxiety is spreading all over the planet, not just in wealthy countries. A related study shows that “45 percent of teens and young adults said that climate anxiety was affecting their daily lives and ability to function.” They are taking various actions “like going to a protest, becoming an advocate for mass transit, or trying to get an environmental champion elected.”

Climate Action

The transportation sector accounts for 27% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., making it the largest single emitter. Tackling those emissions will necessarily include better public transit that utilizes microtransit, demand-response transit, and specified commuter routes in addition to fixed circular routes. Cities and local governments can utilize $3 billion in the Inflation Reduction Act climate law to create such efficient transportation systems.

Under a new federal program, nearly 400 school districts across the United States are receiving roughly $1 billion in grants to purchase about 2,500 electric school buses. This will benefit the health of children, who will no longer be exposed to noxious diesel fumes, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Protected bike lanes can help cities cut greenhouse gas emissions. It, however, requires a full network of protected lanes to make biking a viable, safe alternative for more people. Bogota’s $130 million investment in protected bike lanes proves that it works.

Two of our biggest problems globally are hunger and climate change. Food waste accounts for 8 to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. When it rots in a landfill, it produces methane that quickly heats up the planet. At the same time, 31% of food that is grown, shipped or sold is wasted. This is where governments and resourceful local people are stepping in to help feed hungry people, while cutting down on food waste. 

Many homes in the U.S. are ill-prepared for the increasing stresses of climate change. The Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program helps low-income homeowners save on utility costs, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Activities covered under WAP include adding insulation, replacing heating and/or cooling systems, air sealing, replacing doors and windows, as well as various repairs.

There are roughly 50 million acres of lawn in the U.S.; they take up as much land as all our national parks combined. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, our sod-obsessed, grow, mow and blow culture relies on three trillion gallons of water, 800 million gallons of gasoline, and 59 million pounds of pesticides per year. Louise Washer discovered that her lawn was a food desert for bees and other wildlife so she is transforming it into a pollinator friendly landscape.

Eight states are launching their own Civilian Climate Corps programs after funding was stripped out of the Democrats’ landmark climate bill this summer. Using the AmeriCorps program and additional state funding, these efforts range from home energy conservation in Maine to composting and edible food recovery in California. Advocates hope that these programs will eventually provide a powerful model for a Civilian Climate Corps at the federal level.

Solar panels were recently installed on the roof of the Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Center as supporters gathered to celebrate with a solar picnic. The Harrisonburg Carpenters’ Guild had earlier carried out weatherization improvements on the building. An energy efficient electric HVAC system will also be installed. These upgrades will make the center more effective at achieving its core mission while contributing to environmental solutions.

The second annual Rocktown Energy Festival was held in downtown Harrisonburg on Saturday, Oct. 29, near the farmers market. It was a great place to learn more about efforts to combat climate change through converting to clean energy. Local non-profits and clean energy companies were there promoting practical solutions such as home weatherization, installing solar panels, transitioning to EV cars, and offering ways to get politically involved. There were also forums where speakers discussed various clean energy related matters. 

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/11/2022

“Like other countries, the United States needs to embark on a decades-long course of cutting its [greenhouse gas] emissions. And no matter how much help comes from Washington, much of the work will need to be done by state and local communities.” –Hal Harvey and Justin Gills, The Big Fix: Seven Practical Steps to Save Our Planet

Our Climate Crisis

After pummeling Cuba, Hurricane Ian was among the most powerful and devastating hurricanes to make landfall in the US. The destruction of property alone appears to be among the worst recorded. According to Michael Wehner at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “Climate change didn’t cause the storm but it did cause it to be wetter.” Warming oceans caused it to absorb and dump 10% more water than it otherwise would have, creating a significant multiplying effect.

According to a recent scientific report, global warming above 1.5 degrees Celsius will most likely set off several climate “tipping points.” This includes the collapse of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, abrupt thawing of Arctic permafrost, the loss of mountain glaciers, and the collapse of ocean currents in the North Atlantic. This will have long-term effects such as unrelenting sea level rise, the release of more heat-trapping gasses in the atmosphere, and more extreme weather.

South Asia’s monsoon, which brings life-giving water to nearly a quarter of humanity, is becoming more extreme. This includes erratic periods of drought punctuated by heavy rainfall events. Climate change induced warmer air holds more moisture, which can stay in the atmosphere for longer periods and then dump it in a short period of time.  A normal week’s or month’s rainfall can fall in a few hours to a few days, creating severe flooding as recently experienced in Pakistan.

Politics and Policy

Environmentalists fear that the side deal on federal energy permitting reform that majority leader Chuck Schumer agreed to with Sen. Joe Manchin could be a giveaway to the fossil fuel industry. Others see it as necessary for building out necessary clean energy infrastructure. Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine sharply criticized such permitting reform if it is used to force completion of the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline, saying that “it could open the door to serious abuse and even corruption.”

Chevron is exploiting a news desert created by the closure of local newspapers to serve up a mixture of local news and energy propaganda in Texas. This copies the tactics of right-wing operatives who used a sprawling network of 28 fake news sites to publish almost 5,000 articles about teaching critical race theory in schools to influence the Virginia governor’s race in 2021.

Sixty-one Virginia Democrats signed onto a letter opposing Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposed regulatory route to remove Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The letter states that participation in RGGI is mandated by law, making it a decision for the General Assembly. This makes Gov. Youngkin’s proposed regulatory route improper and illegal. Even so, Youngkin says he supports flood mitigation even though RGGI funds are used for this purpose.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s Virginia Energy Plan takes an all-of-the-above approach to energy and regulatory reform. It calls for looking beyond solar- and wind-powered generation of electricity by supporting the development of hydrogen fuel, geothermal energy, small modular nuclear reactors, and carbon sequestration. It also seeks to roll back aspects of the Virginia Clean Economy Act. Climate activists are concerned about its reliance on unproven technologies and fear that it is little more than a thinly veiled attempt to support the fossil fuel industry while obstructing our transition to a clean energy economy.

Current Virginia laws regulating electric utilities hinder an affordable and equitable clean energy transition in Virginia. The regulatory system rewards utilities for capital-intensive investments rather than cost-saving measures for customers. Additionally, they’re able to pass along 100% of fuel costs to customers, incentivizing them to sell as much energy as possible instead of prioritizing energy efficiency, which saves money and reduces pollution.


There’s a surge in electric vehicles in India but not necessarily electric cars. Instead, electric powered mopeds and three-wheeled rickshaw taxis that sell for as little as $1,000 are zipping along India’s congested urban streets. This is providing a template for how developing countries can get rid of combustion engines and combat climate change as well as urban smog.

Renewable energy (including wind, hydropower, solar, biomass and geothermal) now powers 24.8% of U.S. electricity generation, leap frogging past coal last year. Natural gas remains the leading fuel for electricity, with 37.9% of the country’s total; coal contributes 18.5%; and nuclear, 17.9%. It will be a while until renewables dethrone natural gas, but that day is coming.

The notion that switching to clean energy sources will be expensive has been stood on its head by rising fossil fuel prices and the dropping costs of wind and solar energy. An Oxford University study shows that switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy could save the world as much as $12 trillion by 2050.

Building large-scale, high-power EV charging centers across the U.S. is rapidly moving forward. The startup company Terawatt Infrastructure has raised $1 billion to roll out charging depots for electric cars and trucks. To date, more than $6.4 billion toward this effort has been raised by equity and debt financing through various private-sector efforts. In a related development, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced the approval of the first 35 states to build out EV charging infrastructure across 53,000 miles of highway. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes $5 billion available for this effort over five years.

The Inflation Reduction Act will make clean energy much more competitive in the next decade according to analysis from ICF Climate Center, a global consulting firm. The cost of solar energy could fall 20 to 35% and the cost of wind energy could fall 38 to 49%. The cost of green hydrogen could fall a whopping 52 to 67% and become cost-competitive with new natural-gas-powered facilities by 2030.

The nations of the world recently committed to drastically lower greenhouse gas emissions from the world’s airplanes in an effort to reach net zero by 2050. Airline companies have previously relied on offsetting aviation’s emissions growth through tree-planting programs or through investing in yet unproven technology to pull carbon dioxide out of the air. Reaching net zero will, however, require them to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in increasingly efficient planes and cleaner fuels to sharply reduce emissions from air travel.

The United States now gets about 40% of its electricity from carbon-free sources and researchers have a pretty good idea of how to cost-effectively get to about 90%. But there’s little agreement about how to get to the last 10%. Some researchers say we can do it with wind and solar power along with battery storage. Others think it will take options like nuclear and hydrogen, with perhaps fossil fuels connected to carbon capture.

The US Department of Defense is the single largest institutional fossil fuel user in the world, being responsible for 77 to 80% of federal energy consumption. While the Pentagon looks at the world in terms of threats, it fails to see its own role in increasing greenhouse gas emissions as part of a massive global threat.

Climate Justice

Some $60 billion in environmental spending recently passed by Congress has been earmarked for environmental justice. Robert Bullard, a scholar at Texas Southern University known as the father of environmental justice, sees this as a reason for celebration, but also caution. Never before has so much been at stake. Too often, federal money and relief funds are “doled out inequitably by state and local governments, and away from people of color and poor communities, who are the most afflicted by pollution and most vulnerable to climate change.”

Africa is most disproportionally affected by the impact of climate change even though its contribution is historically negligible. Around 15% of the world’s population lives on the continent but they contribute less than 3.8% of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming.

Vanessa Nakate, a 25-year-old, thoughtful, smart and quietly spoken climate activist from Uganda, comments, “Africa is on the frontlines of the climate crisis but it’s not on the front pages of the world’s newspapers. Every activist who speaks out is telling a story about themselves and their community, but if they are ignored, the world will not know what’s really happening, what solutions are working. The erasure of our voices is literally the erasure of our histories and what people hold dear to their lives.”

Rising sea levels, heatwaves, wildfires, and increasingly intense hurricanes are putting more Americans in harm’s way. People looking for places to live have flocked to areas vulnerable to such disasters, leaving some 40 million people at risk. Now local, state, and federal officials are increasingly considering managed retreat, or buyouts, as a way to get people out of such areas. But this raises questions of equality? What gets lost, and who gets left behind?

Climate Action

California’s power grid was strained to the limit by record-high demand in the beginning of September during a searing heat wave.  Californians saved the grid by responding to a call from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services asking them to “conserve energy now to protect public health and safety.” The state should, therefore, go all in on smart thermostats, solar-charged batteries, EVs and other devices that can help shore up the grid when it is stressed.

Various ways to combine solar power with agriculture are being tested. The most common and successful combination is grazing sheep under and around solar installations. A farmer in Maine is also experimenting with growing wild blueberries under a solar installation on his farm. Researchers at the University of Vermont are successfully growing saffron between solar panels.

Virginia schools are among the top in utilizing solar energy in the US. The solar capacity of Virginia’s K-12 schools has more than doubled over the past two years, saving them millions of dollars. This progress was largely spurred by a policy change in Virginia allowing tax-exempt entities like schools and localities to use third-party power purchase agreements.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/7/2022

The future is a replay of the past—a combination of admirable advances and (un)avoidable setbacks. But there is something new as we look ahead, that unmistakably increasing (albeit not unanimous) conviction that, of all the risks we face, global climate change is the one that needs to be tackled most urgently and effectively. —Vaclav Smil

Our Climate Crisis

A third of Pakistan has been flooded and more than 1,000 people were killed in a “monster monsoon” that has swept away lives, homes, crops and bridges. Local climate experts are drawing a direct line to human-made climate change, saying their country has made a negligible contribution to global warming but is now suffering from its effects.

Scientists have known for some time that the Arctic is warming faster than other regions. Recent research shows that it’s occurring four times faster than average, not the two to three times that has been previously reported. One result is the even faster melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which one study shows will cause the ocean to rise about 12 inches by the end of the century even if greenhouse gas emissions were halted today.  It also influences weather, like extreme rainfall and heat waves in North America and elsewhere in the northern hemisphere.

A severe heatwave and drought has caused China to suspend production in several major manufacturing regions to conserve electricity. It is also pushing them to expand their use of coal for energy as they have had to cut back on hydroelectricity. The extreme heat and drought that has been roasting a vast swath of the country for at least 70 straight days has no parallel in modern record-keeping in China.

In the American Southwest, a climate exacerbated historic drought is forcing severe reductions in water taken from the Colorado river. Together with historic heat, drought, and flooding in other places around the world, this is making climate change a secret driver of inflation by disrupting both manufacturing supply chains and agriculture.

Drought conditions and extreme weather have wreaked havoc on agriculture across the United States, but especially in the Central and Southern Great Plains, reducing yields by as much as a third compared with last year. The poor yields are likely more than a one-year blip, as climate change alters weather patterns across the country.

Saltwater intrusion from rising sea levels is threatening coastal agriculture on the Delmarva Peninsula and in the Carolinas. Thousands of acres are already unable to be farmed and it’s projected that an additional tens of thousands of acres will be unusable within the century. The Nature Conservancy is promoting conservation easements to facilitate a transition of cropland to salt marsh, providing numerous ecosystem services and up to 90% of the market value for farms.

Politics and Policy

Democrats delivered a dramatic win in the effort to fight climate change.  The Inflation Reduction Act will accelerate U.S. emission cuts and put the country on a path to reduce greenhouse gases by 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.  This will significantly narrow the gap in our goal, under the Paris climate agreement, to cut emissions by at least half by that date.

The landmark Inflation Reduction Act amends the Clean Air Act by defining carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels as “air pollutants.” This language was written specifically to address the Supreme Court’s justification for reining in the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year by arguing that Congress had never given the E.P.A. the authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

Other states are poised to follow California’s lead in banning the sale of new gas-powered cars beginning in 2035. It will halt the sale of such vehicles in Virginia because a 2021 law, pushed through by state Democrats, links the state to vehicle emissions standards and electric car sales targets set by California. This year, Republicans tried but failed to repeal the law, which is supported by the influential Virginia Automobile Dealers Association.

A Republican led effort in the Virginia General Assembly would have prevented cities and towns from restricting access to gas utility service and propane. The bill was defeated in the House by environmentalists and Democrats because it would have stripped local governments of their ability to set climate policy.

In turn for Sen. Joe Manchin’s support for the Inflation Reduction Act, congressional Democratic leaders agreed to advance legislation to streamline the approval process for infrastructure projects such as the Mountain Valley Pipeline.  Manchin’s political maneuvers in support of the pipeline are, however, not necessarily certain to succeed. Environmental activists are committed to continuing the fight. Despite such opposition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently granted the company a four-year extension to complete the pipeline.


The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act climate and health bill includes a big win for the solar industry by including a 10-year extension of the 30% investment tax credit. The tax credit had dropped to 26% this year and was going to go to 22% next year. After that, it was going to end for residential projects, and go to 10% for large-scale projects.

New York City announced a $70 million initiative that will install 30,000 electric heat pumps to bring climate-friendly comfort to residents of its aging public housing units. This is part of a broader effort by New York state and city governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings 40% by 2030.

The 835-acre solar farm that Dominion Energy plans to build at the Dulles International Airport will be the largest airport-based solar and battery development in the United States. At peak production it will provide enough energy to power about 37,000 Northern Virginia homes.

Fervo Energy, a leading geothermal energy startup, just raised $138 million to build and run a fleet of power plants fueled by the Earth’s heat. They will use the same drilling techniques as the oil and gas industry, to access geothermal resources that are otherwise too expensive or technically complex to reach. Their first commercial project now under construction will produce 5-megawatts of power to support Google’s data center operations in Nevada.

Virginia now has more acres in solar energy production than in tobacco. We’re now creating energy in Virginia that we previously had to import as fossil fuels from other places. This is a big gain to the state economy, saving electric customers close to $50 million.

Climate Justice

The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act climate and health bill includes up to $60 billion in environmental justice initiatives. These initiatives include: 1.) reducing greenhouse gas emissions in low-income and disadvantaged communities, 2.) cleaning up industrially polluted Superfund sites that disproportionately affect communities of color and low-income residents, 3.) block grants for community-led environmental and climate projects, and 4.) funds to help make affordable housing more energy efficient.

RCF Connects, a nonprofit in Richmond California, restores abandoned homes and facilitates first-time home ownership among the city’s Black and brown residents. Now, working with a grant from the California Energy Commission, they are turning these houses into a source of green energy for the grid by making each house part of a “virtual power plant.” Each house will have solar panels, energy efficient appliances, and battery storage, allowing the owner to not only enjoy low energy bills but even sell energy back to the grid.

The recent catastrophic floods in eastern Kentucky, one of America’s poorest areas, have exacerbated the brutal cycle of poverty. That’s because low-income people are more likely to be located in flood zones, and less likely to access relief funds to repair the damages. People most often have no option other than rebuilding in the same flood prone area.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is trucking millions of tons of contaminated coal ash from an inactivated power plant. This involves huge dump trucks rumbling through the historically black community of south Memphis for the next 8-10 years to dump it in a nearby landfill. And residents have discovered that there is nothing they can do to stop it.

Climate Action

Former vice president Al Gore, a tireless crusader against climate change, couldn’t believe that it took Congress so long to respond to the crisis. That changed when President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law several weeks ago. Gore ecstatically exclaimed, “It will create jobs, lower costs, increase U.S. competitiveness, reduce air pollution and, of course, tackle the climate crisis. We have crossed a major threshold, and it’s going to have significant impacts on international climate action.”

Spending hours in a commercial kitchen standing over the open flame and heat of a gas-burning stove can be suffocating. That’s why chef Christopher Galarza has become such a big proponent of switching to induction electric ranges that he and a friend started a consultancy called Forward Dining Solutions. Switching to electric cuts down on fossil fuel consumption while improving the physical and mental toll of working in a commercial kitchen.

Harrisonburg recently added the first two EV cars to its fleet. The city has also secured grant funding for a pilot program for two electric school buses and infrastructure for the first 10 electric school buses. Councilwoman Laura Dent says next steps in cutting down the city’s carbon footprint includes shifting “the entire city fleet, and transit buses, and school buses” to become electric.

Moving to a four-day workweek could be a net plus for the environment by cutting down on transportation and other energy consumption but this depends on what people do during their time off work. The move to remote work also has environmental pros and cons but appears to be a net positive by cutting down on the use of fossil fuels and improving air quality.

Universal cycling could roughly erase one-fifth of CO2 emissions from using passenger cars. To do that we need to start bicycling like the Dutch. The transformation will depend on designing our communities to make it easier for people to get around by public transportation, on foot, and on bicycle.

The Virginia Clean Energy Plan, developed every four years, establishes a plan to achieve a “net-zero carbon energy economy” by 2045. Comments on what should be included in the 2022 plan are welcome through October 1, 2022.

  1. You can email your comments to:
  2. Or you can fill out the survey at:

Harrisonburg Electric Commission’s Friendly City Solar program now offers customers the opportunity to participate in a community solar partnership that supports renewable energy without the high upfront costs or ongoing maintenance of installing solar panels on their home. You can find out more here.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Climate and Energy News Roundup 8/3/2022

Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things. — Lao Tzu

Our Climate Crisis

Ancient giant sequoias in California, once considered impervious to flames, are again under threat from wildfires, this time in the Yosemite National Park. The wildfire has grown into the state’s largest of the season. Bristlecone pine trees in Death Valley, which have lived for more than 1,000 years, are likewise under threat from climate change induced drought and bark beetle infestations.

Europe experienced a bout of exceptional heat across Britain, France, Spain and Portugal that then moved east across central Europe. Temperatures surged to as high as 117 degrees Fahrenheit over the Iberian Peninsula, and the United Kingdom saw the hottest temperatures ever recorded there. People have been evacuated from their homes across southern Europe due to heat related wildfires blistering the landscape.

Deadly climate induced summer heatwaves and the war in Ukraine are pushing European countries—but also other countries like China and India—into a desperate scramble to secure energy for electricity. This is upending plans to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. In effect, our ability to slow down climate change is being undermined by the producers of the very fossil fuels that are responsible for climate change.

Politics and Policy

President Biden has made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 52% below 2005 levels by 2030. A study by an independent research firm, however, reveals that our country is on track to reduce emissions by only 24 to 35% below 2005 levels by 2030.  It will take substantial additional policy action to reach the goal of reducing emissions 50% by 2030.

In a fast moving story, after months of negotiations, Sen. Joe Manchin announced that he could not support climate legislation, leaving President Biden with the option of making some climate related executive actions. Then, after lots of urging from corporate CEOs, other senators, climate activists, and labor unions, Sen. Manchin announced that he and senate leader Chuck Schumer had agreed on the outline of a bill involving $369 billion in climate incentives in the newly dubbed Inflation Reduction Act, H.R. 5376 (117). If enacted into law, this promises to be a huge climate action game changer.

A conservative climate advocate says the recent Supreme Court decision in West Virginia vs. EPA demonstrates the need to further incentivize clean energy innovation rather than relying on regulations to slow greenhouse gas emissions. Empowering innovators will play to America’s comparative advantage and provide cleaner choices at lower prices.

California’s aggressive policy of cutting back on the use of fossil fuels is experiencing pushback from localities that depend heavily on tax revenue from oil, gas and coal to fund their schools, hospitals and roads. Because California is ahead of other states in the fight against climate change, this struggle portends similar future struggles across the country.

Rising temperatures in heavily populated countries like Indonesia and India are encouraging more and more people to invest in home air conditioning, which is still relatively uncommon in their countries. This creates a vicious cycle because these countries still rely largely on inefficient, carbon emitting coal-fired electric power plants, which inordinately contribute to global warming. Breaking out of this cycle will require major policy changes and clean energy investments.

Mainstream economic and political thinking assumes that social stability and rising standards of living depend on economic growth. Our pursuit of growth is, however, causing great ecological harm and incurring more costs than gains. Economist Herman Daly, therefore, advocates a steady-state economy, which forgoes the environmentally destructive drive for growth. It’s also why Virginia conservationist Brian Czech founded the Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy in 2003.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has received lots of public reaction against the request by Mountain Valley Pipeline to extend the project for an additional 4 years. Submissions opposing the extension include a letter from 27 Virginia state legislators, a sign-on letter by 270 participating organizations, as well as thousands of individual comments. Alternatively, it appears that Sen. Joe Manchin has received a pledge from Democratic leaders that they will support finishing this contested pipeline as part of his agreement to support the $369 billion climate bill.

The Sierra Club Virginia Chapter has given our area state legislators a failing grade on energy policies. Here’s the score: Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-24), Del. John Avoli (R-20), Del. Tony Wilt (R-26), Del. Chris Runion (R-25) and Del. Ronnie Campbell (R-24) all received an “F” rating.


A Consumer Reports survey finds that more than a third of Americans would consider buying or leasing an EV. Respondents who said they would not consider an EV, raised concerns about charging logistics, vehicle range, and the overall cost. While some of these worries are perhaps justified, they may have more to do with perception than reality.

Buying an EV is now a better deal than a comparable car that runs on gasoline, due to much lower fuel and maintenance costs. For example, comparing the numbers on a 2022 Nissan Leaf and a 2022 Nissan Sentra, the Leaf will pay for itself in 5 years even with its higher sticker price. It will pay for itself in less than one year with a $7,500 tax credit.

The fastest way to slash greenhouse gas emissions is to switch as many buildings as possible to using electricity as their sole power source for heating and cooling. The fastest way to achieve that is through installing two-way heat pumps that both heat and cool. The cost of manufacturing them is only a few hundred dollars per unit more than a central air-conditioner. We should, therefore, encourage the federal government to incentivize manufacturers to make that simple switch.

Walmart announced that they agreed to buy 4,500 electric vans from manufacturer Canoo. The vans will be used to deliver online orders in a way that’s environmentally sustainable, beginning next year.

Buoyed by stronger than expected demand, Ford has set ambitious global production targets to manufacture over two million EVs by 2026. For perspective, Tesla, the largest EV manufacturer at this time, built 936,000 EVs in 2021. Ford’s line of EVs will include cars, pickup trucks, and commercial vans.

China installed eighty percent of the world’s new offshore wind capacity last year. Even though that percentage is expected to drop significantly in the future, China is expected to dominate the sector for years to come.

President Biden’s plan to open up more than 700,000 acres in the Gulf of Mexico to commercial wind farms is receiving surprising support from the oil and gas industry in the region. That’s because they see their infrastructure and skills used for oil rigs in the Gulf as transferable to the offshore wind industry.

After intense pressure, the US Post Office has pledged to electrify at least 40% of its new delivery fleet. This is a significant change from its earlier commitment to have only 10% EV trucks in its new fleet. This reversal goes a long way toward President Biden’s goal for the entire government fleet to be EVs by 2035.

Heatwaves in Texas have broken records for energy demand at least 11 times this summer. What prevented the state from experiencing rolling blackouts is that it has nearly tripled its solar capacity in the past year.

Climate Justice

Caribbean nations are trapped between being indebted to the global financial system and a looming climate disaster. The legacy of colonialism that syphoned resources to rich countries and the post-colonial experience of being indebted to foreign banks shapes the crisis. Mia Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados, is fighting for a way out through tough negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to equitably restructure her nation’s debt. The goal is finding the necessary financial resources needed to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The Presbyterian Church USA voted to divest from five oil companies that it believes are not doing enough to address climate change. These companies join a divestment list of 85 other companies, most with ties to the military or weapons industry. A spokesman for the denomination said, “Divestment is never the goal. Corporate change is the goal.”

The climate anxiety discussion has a whiteness problem because the perspectives of  marginalized people are often not included in the conversation. Climate anxiety as a term can be very privileged. People experiencing climate induced trauma in places like the Philippines and India may not even have words for such trauma. The hope is that the conversation will evolve to include marginalized people and their experience.

Climate Action

Searing heatwaves in urban centers are an increasingly common and deadly manifestation of our warming planet. In response, the cities of Phoenix, Miami, and Los Angeles have recently hired  a “chief heat officer” to help them focus on the risks posed by sweltering temperatures and to seek opportunities for adapting.

Faith leaders in West Virginia are trying to change minds about the climate crisis by moving the conversation to a moral imperative instead of the typical political discourse. They begin small by advocating for planting native species and energy efficiency in places of worship but also recognize the importance of public advocacy.

The US Department of Energy recently hosted the Carbon Negative Shot Summit, which explored low-cost, clean and innovative ways to store huge amounts of carbon. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said that the Biden administration’s priority continues to be preventing emissions from entering the atmosphere as she insisted, “Carbon dioxide removal is key to restoring our climate.” Carbon removal technology is in its infancy and remains prohibitively expensive.

California keeps scaling up battery storage in its effort to convert to renewable energy. It now has 3,100 megawatts of utility-scale battery storage systems but this is still small compared to other energy sources. For perspective, a large coal, gas or nuclear power plant has a capacity of about 2,000 megawatts. Natural gas power plants continue to regularly provide more than 13,000 megawatts to the California grid.

A consortium of construction firms, property developers and building engineers have pledged to increase the proportion of ​“low-emissions” concrete that they use to 30% by 2025 and 50% by 2030. One way to do that is by adding aggregates such as fly-ash, slag and rice hulls to cement mixes. The bigger challenge is cutting down the emissions used to make Portland cement, which is manufactured by heating limestone to temperatures of greater than 1,400 degrees Celsius (2550°F)—a level of heat that’s hard to achieve without burning fossil fuels.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Climate and Energy News Roundup 7/5/2022

Whether we and our politicians know it or not, nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do. Wendell Berry

Our Climate Crisis

Unprecedented floods in South Asia and China have forced mass evacuations and left millions miserable. In our country, the destructive flooding along the Yellowstone River in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming was a 500-year event. At the same time, parts of Europe, Japan, China, and the US have been experiencing intense, record breaking heatwaves. Furthermore, heat and drought have contributed to devastating, widespread wildfires in Alaska and New Mexico. The wildfire in New Mexico was accidently set by a controlled burn by the Forest Service. Increased heat and a drier climate has narrowed the window of time for safely doing such burns.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased again this year. “Watching these incremental but persistent increases in CO2 year-to-year is much like watching a train barrel down the track towards you in slow motion. It’s terrifying,” says climate scientist Andrea Dutton. CO2 in the atmosphere now averages 421 parts per million compared to 280 parts per million before the industrial revolution.

The Great Salt Lake has already shrunk by two-thirds and the surrounding area is facing an environmental nuclear bomb as it continues to dry up. The lake’s flies and brine shrimp are on the verge of dying off, threatening the 10 million migratory birds that stop at the lake annually to feed on the tiny creatures. Even more alarming, the dried-up lake bottom will most likely create a bowl of toxic dust that would poison the air around Salt Lake City.

Virginia could lose 42 percent of its coastal wetlands to sea level rise by 2100. These wetlands are critical ecosystems that serve as a home to an array of fish, plants, birds and other species. They also store carbon and protect communities from encroaching seas. Acting now to conserve coastal land into which these wetlands can migrate is a ‘decisive factor’ in offsetting future losses.

In many coastal cities around the world, land is subsiding, due to groundwater extraction, even faster than the sea level is rising. Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, is sinking at an alarming rate and one-third of the city will be underwater by the middle of this century. Many other major cities, such as Manila, Tampa, and Alexandria will similarly experience coastal flooding much sooner than predicted by models of sea level rise alone.

Climate anxiety is widespread among young people. More than half of those surveyed in a recent study agreed with the statement “humanity is doomed.” Almost half said such anxiety interferes with their sleep, their ability to study, to play, and to have fun. They have grown up on a different planet with tougher choices than their parents had. Some are finding that accepting this is the first step to avoiding despair and leading productive lives.

Politics and Policy

A Supreme Court ruling last week severely limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate climate pollution by power plants. The case was part of a coordinated strategy by Republican attorneys general, conservative legal activists, and their fossil industry funders to use the judicial system to rewrite environmental law and weaken the executive branch’s ability to tackle global warming. Even so, Biden can turn to other avenues in the effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The Supreme Court ruling will most likely not greatly affect utility companies’ already considerable commitment to transition to clean energy. Furthermore, across the country, states, cities, and local governments are accelerating their efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, even as federal climate fighting tools are being taken away.  An example of this is the City of Harrisonburg’s “Environmental Action Plan” as noted in the Climate Action section below.

Years-long waiting times and potentially project-killing upgrade costs are creating an expensive process of connecting new solar, wind and battery projects to U.S. electrical transmission grids. In response, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently proposed a host of major regulatory changes meant to unclog these bottlenecks to building the carbon-free electrical grid needed to forestall the most catastrophic harms of climate change.

Virginia Gov. Youngkin recently issued an executive order on curbing food waste and boosting recycling across Virginia. It might pass environmental muster, by keeping leftovers out of landfills and doubling down on composting efforts statewide, if it didn’t simultaneously get rid of the previous administration’s single-use plastics phase-out.

Climate activists and some House Democrats are urging President Biden to push for a transit fare holiday instead of a gas tax holiday if he’s serious about tackling climate change. Biden is appealing for Congress to suspend the federal gasoline and diesel tax for three months in response to rising gas and diesel prices. This will incentivize the use of fossil fuels in the transportation sector which accounted for 27% of carbon emissions in our country in 2020.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled against Mountain Valley Pipeline’s request that it draw a new three-judge panel to reconsider permits for the embattled project that have repeatedly been struck down by the present panel hearing the cases. Because of these delays, the pipeline developers then asked federal regulators for an additional four years to complete the project that is way over budget.


Solid-state sodium-sulfur batteries have recently made a leap toward mass production. They will allow EVs to run much longer on a charge than is possible with present lithium-ion batteries. Solid-state batteries also show lots of promise for long-duration energy storage in electrical grids and other applications. The advantages of solid-state batteries is that they are low cost, easy to build, have a high degree of mechanical stability and are chemically stable.

Roughly only one percent of public buses in Virginia run on electricity. Thanks to federal funding through the recently passed Infrastructure Law, that’s set to more than double this year. The challenge, moving forward, is how rapidly bus fleets can be converted to electric energy given the challenges of startup costs and needed infrastructure. Conversely, the reduced operating costs of electric buses is a huge incentive during a time of high fuel prices.

Amogy, an energy startup company, has raised $46M to develop green ammonia as a fuel to decarbonize tractors today and ocean freighters in the near future. Their goal is to develop technology to decarbonize industries that are the highest emitters of greenhouse gases but cannot run on battery power alone.

Arrays of floating solar panels on reservoirs and other large bodies of water have the potential to solve several problems plaguing conventional solar energy. Among them are limiting the use of prime land, more accessible energy distribution, and the added benefit of cutting down environmentally destructive heat buildup on large river reservoirs.

Climate Justice

Gov. Youngkin has been doing everything possible to dismantle the popular Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which collects carbon emissions dues from power utilities and uses the millions of dollars generated to augment coastal resilience against sea-level rise and in energy efficiency home upgrades for low-income residents. Check out this inspiring article by the Southern Environmental Law Center about how the Collins family in Blacksburg was able to use RGGI funds to reduce their energy bill last winter from an average of $330 to just $112 a month.

Bringing the benefits of solar power to low and middle-income households is a matter of equity and justice. Virtual power plants, which coordinate solar power generated and stored by individual rate payers, could be part of the solution. An ambitious plan by the city of Richmond, CA,  includes a VPP that directs electric bill savings to low-income residents along with increased grid reliability, safety, and efficiency. The plan also includes energy-efficient rehabs for abandoned homes, which will be sold to low-income home buyers.

As a new hurricane season begins, Native Americans along the Louisiana coast are still struggling to recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Ida when it roared through their communities last year. Centuries of colonization have pushed Native people into this fragile, deteriorating coastal ecosystem. The tribes most affected by Ida still do not have federal recognition, even though they have been engaged in a decades long process seeking it. This makes it difficult to get desperately needed federal disaster relief resources.

Another looming catastrophe is that some insurance companies in Louisiana have gone bankrupt from massive claims related to Hurricane Ida. Other companies are fleeing the state, leaving many homeowners without storm insurance at the beginning of another hurricane season.

Climate Action

Fed up with poor electrical utility infrastructure, residents of Puerto Rico have more than doubled the installation of rooftop solar since Hurricane Maria hit the island in 2017. They have done this without meaningful support from government or their electrical utility. It’s a bottom-up movement that’s changing Puerto Rico’s energy landscape.

Harrisonburg’s updated Environmental Action Plan prioritizes converting city vehicles to EVs because its cars, trucks and public transit make up 35% of municipal greenhouse gas emissions. Related goals include building more EV charging stations, improving traffic signals to decrease time spent waiting at stoplights, increasing the use of public transit by optimizing bus routes, and encouraging walking and biking by adding sidewalks and bike lanes.

Protecting our local natural resources is a crucial part of climate action. An article by Erin Burch describes what the Alliance of the Shenandoah Valley is doing to protect our part of the Chesapeake Bay. These efforts include stream bank restoration along Mossy Creek, planting a streamside forest and initiating sustainable grazing practices along a creek that flows into the Middle River, and putting a 432-acre property along the South Fork into a conservation easement.

‘Elder power’ is becoming a force in Virginia as more retirees step up and get involved in climate action. One example is a recently formed state chapter of environmentalist Bill McKibben’s recently formed group called Third Act. They organized a two-week “Walk for Appalachia’s Future” to protest the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and are pressuring big banks to shut off funding for the pipeline and other fossil fuel infrastructure.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Climate and Energy News Roundup 6/6/2022

We all face real-world challenges and tough choices that complicate the effort to completely decarbonize our lives in a system that is still reliant on fossil fuel infrastructure. We must change the system. Individual efforts to reduce one’s carbon footprint are laudable. But without systemic change, we will not achieve the massive decarbonization of our economy that is necessary to avert catastrophic change. – Michael Mann

Our Climate Crisis

Thousands of firefighters in New Mexico are presently battling a colossal wildfire that has become the largest in state history. In a recent PBS interview, Michael Mann, a professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University and author of The New Climate War, says that such wildfires are a function of heat and how dry the climate has become. We need to address the problem at its core—our consumption of fossil fuels.

A World Meteorological Organization report shows global temperatures above pre-industrial levels could temporarily hit the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold within the next five years. While a single year of temperatures above the 1.5°C threshold set by the Paris Climate Agreement does not mean we have breached the agreement, it will reveal that we are edging ever closer to a situation where it could be exceeded for an extended period.

Climate change is exacerbating rising temperatures combined with high humidity beyond levels the human body can endure. The threshold of human endurance is 95 degrees Fahrenheit combined with wet bulb or 100% humidity. The Persian Gulf, India, Pakistan, Southeast Asia, Mexico and Central America are all careening toward this threshold before the end of the century. People should be advised that any temperature above 86 degrees Fahrenheit, especially when combined with high humidity, can be dangerous and deadly.

A recent analysis finds that extreme heat that used to occur every 300 years in northwest India and Pakistan may now happen about every three years. Related news is that a recent heat wave has decimated the mango harvest in India.

Heavy pre-monsoon rains have washed away train stations, towns and villages, leaving millions of people homeless in India and Bangladesh. Both countries are particularly vulnerable to such events exacerbated by global warming because of their proximity to the warm tropical waters of the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. This extends a pattern where extreme rainfall and landslides washed away a sprawling Rohingya refugee camp overnight last year. Torrential rains submerged at least a quarter of Bangladesh in 2020.

Politics and Policy

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, the Shenandoah Group of the Virginia Sierra Club, and 50 by 25 Harrisonburg are proposing that the Harrisonburg City Council add the words “environmentally sustainable” to the mandate of the Harrisonburg Electric Commission, Harrisonburg’s municipal utility. They are also asking council members and candidates to publicly state their response to the proposal. A recent article in the Harrisonburg Citizen explains how this will help the city to reach its goal of having 100% renewable energy on our local electrical grid by 2035. To view the letter that was sent to the candidates, click here. To view candidate responses, click here.

Most of the past three decades have been a painful slog for Australian climate activists. The conservatives, who ran Australia under Prime Minister Scott Morrison, have unabashedly promoted the fossil fuel industry and scoffed at concerns about climate change. This has now changed dramatically when the Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, trounced the conservatives in the last election with the promise to make Australia a “renewable energy superpower.” While supporting renewable energy and EVs, Labor’s strategy, however, largely leaves Australia’s huge fossil fuel energy sector untouched. That makes especially significant the surge of votes for Green Party candidates and others outside the two-party system who make it a priority to combat global warming by reducing consumption of fossil fuels.

Electric heat pumps are two to four times more efficient than competing fossil fuel devices and can dramatically reduce indoor air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. A recent Senate bill, introduced by Amy Klobuchar, would incentivize manufacturers to build two-way heat pumps that both heat and cool. This has the potential to quickly cut emissions while saving consumers money. The bill has the potential of gaining needed bipartisan support in the Senate.

There is a boom in large-scale solar electric farms in Virginia.  The number of large-scale solar farms in Virginia has grown from zero in 2015 to 51 today. Furthermore, 279 applications for large-scale facilities have been, or are being, reviewed across the Commonwealth. This is pushing the need to develop comprehensive land plans governing the size, location, and environmental impact of solar farms.

A Charlottesville clean energy company has applied for a permit to build a 138-megawatt solar farm on approximately 650 acres in southeast Albemarle County. The site is on a 2,300-acre property with pine trees that have been heavily industrially timbered over the past 80 years. The installation would supply electricity to 25,000 homes in the area.  The Albemarle County Climate Action Plan supports utility scale solar energy and prioritizes placing them on roof tops, parking lots, brownfields, landfills and post-industrial or other open lands over forested or ecologically valuable lands.

New York state’s landmark 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act commits the state to reaching 100 percent zero-emissions electricity by 2040. A major obstacle is that 85% of New York City’s electricity comes from fossil fuels. State regulators accordingly recently approved two clean energy projects that will reduce the city’s reliance on fossil fuels by more than 50 percent over the next 10 years. The first project will supply the city with wind and solar power from upstate. The second, more controversial project—opposed by some environmental and community groups—will supply the city with hydro-power from Quebec, Canada.


Green hydrogen has the potential to become a key energy source—especially for heavy industry and trucks. That’s why a $9.5 billion package for the development of hydrogen as a fuel was wrapped into the 2021 federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Alleyn Harned, the executive director of Virginia Clean Cities, is a proponent of green hydrogen. In an interview with Elizabeth McGowan, a reporter for the Energy News Network, he explains how it can benefit Virginia’s economy and environment.

A recent report by Energy Innovation demonstrates that EV models are competitive or cheaper to purchase and maintain than their gasoline-fueled equivalents over the life of a six-year auto loan. The real savings comes after the loan has been paid off. Depending on the EV model, the annual comparative savings is between $800 to $1,400.

A new generation of electric trucks is beginning to hit cost and range targets that makes them competitive for short-haul U.S. freight-moving. To facilitate the transition to electric trucks, the Port of Long Beach in California, one of our country’s busiest freight hubs, is installing 26 high-speed electric truck charging bays as part of its push to reach a zero-emissions fleet by 2030.

Climate Justice

Climate modeling at NASA and other agencies is increasingly focusing on the impact that global warming is having on food production. It’s becoming increasingly clear that climate change is a “threat multiplier,” making hunger emergencies worse. The United Nations reports that a record number of 283 million people in 80 countries went hungry or were at high risk of going hungry last year and that this number is expected to increase in the future. Global warming is creating much more year-to-year variability in food production. A major worry is climate-induced “food shocks” in many countries.

Climate anxiety is now part of the zeitgeist, as evidenced by data from Google Trends. Stanford University researcher Britt Wray’s newly released book Generation Dread dives into the hard emotional truths of the climate crisis. It’s also about real, acute mental health impacts of disasters in frontline communities such as what’s happening to Indigenous people who live very close to the land.

The Hadza people in Tanzania, one of Africa’s last hunter-gatherer tribes, are embracing environmentalism. They are doing so by selling carbon credits generated from conserving their forests and using the revenues to employ their youth as scouts to protect their land. The Ujamaa Community Resource Team, a local NGO, has helped the Hadza secure legal title to their territories and works in concert with The Nature Conservancy to secure carbon credits to fund the effort.

Climate Action

ACTION ALERT: Many of us who live, work, or volunteer in Harrisonburg, have participated in Phase 1 in-person meetings and/or the online survey to get community input on how our city should allocate the $23.8 million it will receive in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds in response to the Covid pandemic. We now have the opportunity to fill out a Phase 2 survey here for more targeted responses (the survey will be open for two weeks). This is a great opportunity to advocate for responding to human needs in ways that help to combat climate change and enhance our natural environment. There is more opportunity to do so in this Phase 2 survey than there was in the Phase 1 survey.

Making the transition to solar energy is easier and more affordable than ever, thanks to Solarize Virginia. Sign up through June 30 to access discounted prices and get connected with a vetted installer. Experts will be by your side to answer any questions and take the guesswork out of the process. Get started at and find out if your home is solar-ready.

You can also register at this link for Solar United Neighbors (SUN) Ready Set Solar program, happening online on June 15 at noon. You can also attend a SUN in-person session at Massanutten Regional Library (174 S Main St, Harrisonburg) on July 17 at 6 pm. These programs are for Shenandoah Valley residents.

Community Housing Partners Energy Solutions and the Harrisonburg Electric Commission (HEC) are partnering to provide no-cost weatherization services for income-qualifying households to help lower utility bills and improve energy efficiency. The first 25 HEC customers to complete their application will receive a $100 bill credit. Click here or call 888-229-3714 to see if your household qualifies.

Donate to the Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project’s Energy Efficiency and Solar Effort. CAAV supports helping SVBHP reduce its energy costs; we hope you will too.

The loss of bee populations is a harbinger of the impact of climate change. The extinction rate of bees and other insects is eight times greater than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. Scientists have, therefore, begun mapping the genomes of dozens of different bees to bolster our knowledge of bee biology and behavior. They can then use this information to tackle big picture questions like how to protect bees and how they’ve evolved alongside us over time.

Dominion Energy investors recently supported a resolution calling on the utility to reevaluate its natural gas investments in response to climate change. Ruth Amundsen, a solar project financier who is a Dominion shareholder, said that “Dominion cannot keep investing in natural gas while saying they’re going for net-zero by 2050.”

Washington and Lee University is partnering with a solar energy developer to build a solar farm in North Carolina to purchase enough solar energy to match 100% of the university’s annual electricity consumption.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee