Climate and Energy News 3/17/2018

Les Grady is away. This week’s roundup has been compiled by Joy Loving. 

We headline this week’s roundup with some words from the late Stephen Hawking, who died March 14:

A Call to Care and Do Something:   “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”

Caring for the Planet:   “Perhaps in a few hundred years, we will have established human colonies amid the stars, but right now we only have one planet, and we need to work together to protect it,” he wrote. “To do that, we need to break down, not build up, barriers within and between nations.”


1. The current Administration appears to be of multiple minds on whether and how to address risks from our warming climate.

Recently George David Banks, former Special Assistant to the President for International Energy and Environment, discussed the decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.  Although he advised against this action, he “personally thought the Obama administration’s pledge was just unattainable, and would have required burdensome regulations across their economy.”

Some current actions within the Administration point to a serious lack of interest in environmental protections and even active collaboration with fossil fuel interests:
Conflicts of Interest
Crank Bloggers

The Interior Department (DOI) gives its employees easy-to-follow directions about presenting its initiatives:

Actions by DOI and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) point to a move away from both mitigation and adaptation strategies:
DOI plans to accelerate its plans for Utah’s Grand Staircase, following the recent decision to greatly reduce the protected area.
FEMA’s strategic plan no longer mentions “climate change”.

On the other hand, within the President’s party there are proponents of a more climate-and-environment-friendly approach:
Young Republican campus push for a “carbon tax”

However, there is also debate about whether such a tax will come about:
What’s certain besides Taxes–

2. The Administration is facing several challenges to its policies and actions.

From the judiciary

From citizen groups

From the states This New York State action is of particular interest because Virginia is one of nine states whose emissions New York says are contributing to its pollution, despite its efforts to curb them.  The others are Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

From shareholders:

From environmental and social justice activists ;

From within the Administration itself:

Climate Change Report

Some officials Fighting Global Warming

EPA and Coal Ash–

EPA versus Chief of Staff Kelly–


1. What History Tells Us

Mass Extinction and Coal—Can It Happen Again?

What Do the Oceans Tell Us?

2. What about the Future?

    A. How Bad Is It Going to Be?

Pretty bad
But there’s hope—if we can wait 400 years:
Why Hurricane Harvey was so Wet: (Video)

    B. How About the Weather?

The Seasons

Spring, Anyone?



The Oceans:


Hampton Roads:


    C. And Then There’s Fire

3. Addressing What’s Coming

Can Technology Help?

Weather Satellites:

Geoengineering Polar Glaciers:

What about Trees?

Disaster Planning, Anyone?


Coal Ash

Getting Rid of It:

Virginia Legislature and Proposed Regulations

Dominion “Rate Freeze Repeal”:
Maybe Not a Good Deal for Every Virginian

Carbon Reduction:
Harrisonburg Speaks Up—  Supporters Back Carbon Regs

Offshore Drilling

Economic Benefits

Trump Rollbacks Target Offshore Rules ‘Written with Human Blood’
Clergy Opposition
Another BP Spill Could Happen-
“Economic and Ecological Folly”-
States Say No

Economically Beneficial or Not-
Scale Back
Florida Exemption
Georgia Pros and Cons:
Washington/Oregon/California Exemption:


Dominion “Loss” at SCC Hearing-
What the Pipelines Do for Virginia
Governor Moving to Protect Virginia Water-
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Enforcing Violations–

Baltimore Crude Oil Ban–



Future Parity:


Health risks:

Hopeful Closing

Will utilities finally embrace renewable energy?


To stop this climate lawsuit, get behind a price for carbon

The Washington Post
Letters to the Editor | Opinion
March 11, 2018

If the Trump administration wishes to stop a lawsuit by children and teenagers, all it needs to do is get behind a price on carbon [“Trump fails to halt 21 youths’ climate suit,” news, March 8]. There are several excellent proposals that most citizens would support. Similar proposals by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and by a group that includes James A. Baker III and George P. Shultz could make great progress toward reducing our carbon footprint and be a beginning bipartisan solution to climate change.

Having fasted in front of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission several years ago with one of the young people involved in the federal climate-change lawsuits, I am thrilled to see young people coming forth on issues that involve their future.

Charles Strickler, Harrisonburg, Va.

Link to the original posting is here:

Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/10/2018

Les Grady is away for the next two weeks. This week’s roundup has been compiled by Doug Hendren. 


Kids climate lawsuit moves forward. A federal court in San Francisco has rejected the Trump administration’s latest attempt to shut down Juliana v. United States. Says chief legal counsel for Our Children’s Trust: “The Ninth Circuit just gave us the green light for trial.”

Hard-hit by the two nor’easters in one week, Governor Charlie Baker is preparing to file a Massachusetts climate change bill. Speaking on WGBH radio, Baker stated: “We’re going to have to come up with a different strategy around resilience. And 35 Vermont communities have voted to support a statewide effort to combat climate change.

On March 21st, a federal court in San Francisco will hold the first-ever hearings on climate science. Oil giants, and the California cities suing them, will present “tutorials” about basic climate science, as well as who knew what, and when.

As Atlantic Coast Pipeline moves to construction, groups urge Northam to act. Northam has stated he is “confident in the public servants at the DEQ”, although the DEQ previously ceded the review of VA water crossings to the Army Corps of Engineers, and the DEQ’s performance has not inspired confidence in this process to date.

Wednesday, March 14th DEQ Air Pollution Control Board Hearing will take place at 4411 Early Road, Harrisonburg at 5PM. Hearing concerns the proposed carbon emissions cap for Virginia (joining the RGGI states).


The polar vortex strikes again.  The north pole has been warmer than Europe in recent weeks. Arctic regions are overheating, with areas up to 35-50 degrees (F) above normal temperatures. Springtime is coming to the north far earlier than in the past. A recent study proposes a simple rule of thumb: For every 10 degrees you go north from the equator, spring is now arriving four days earlier than a decade ago.

Snowpack has declined 15-30% in the American west over the past century, partly because what once fell as snow now falls as rain. The amount of water normally stored as the region’s snowpack is roughly equivalent to all the water stored in regional reservoirs, including Lake Mead. Parts of the southwestern US depend heavily on melting snowpack during summer months.

Is mainstream news starting to talk about rising sea levels? A forthcoming report reviewed by NPR asserts that “today’s storm will be tomorrow’s high tide… it’s coming.” NOAA calculations indicate that in many coastal areas (including Norfolk, VA), tidal flooding “is going to become chronic rather quickly… It’s not going to be a slow, gradual change.”  And this week the Boston Globe reported: “The storms we’re seeing now, people thought this was decades in the future”. Increased flooding risk applies to inland areas as well: A new study finds 41 million Americans living in flood zones, over three times larger than FEMA’s official estimate.

A new study finds it still possible to hold global warming to 1.5°C by 2100, if global emissions peak by 2020, decline rapidly thereafter, and massive amounts of carbon are removed from the atmosphere in the second half of the century. At our current rate of global emissions, our carbon budget of 230GtCO2 for a 1.5C future will be exhausted in six years.


California set a new state solar record this week, briefly supplying 49.95% of electric grid demand from solar sources. Investors are eager to supply more, but regulators may put on the brakes while they figure out how to manage such rapid growth.

March 5-9 has been CERAWeek in Houston, an annual conference once described as “The Burning Man of energy”.  This year’s conference agenda is here. Reporting on the conference, Ed Crooks (Financial Times) opines that oil industry leaders seem to think of the transition away from fossil fuels the way most people think about dying…”They understand it intellectually, but hope it is a long way off.” The CEO of Saudi Aramco feels renewables will not compete with oil in cost or scale “for some time”, and BP’s CEO says “the world will need a lot of oil for a long time to come”.  Environmental Defense Fund’s Mark Brownstein offers a different view: “Everyone here seems to be certain the energy transition will be steady and orderly…but in the past few years we have seen the shale boom, and the plunging cost of solar power…we should be prepared for the possibility that it will be sudden and chaotic. Complacency is a strategic mistake.”

As expected, the US remains an outlier, even in an audience of fossil industry leaders, all of whom acknowledge growing concern about global warming. According to Financial Times’ Ed Crooks, Rick Perry was clearly “out of step with the industry in his refusal to engage with the issue in any detail”.

These are heady days for the US shale oil industry, with production (10 million barrels per day) on par with Russia and Saudi Arabia. Thanks to a late-2016 agreement to cut back production signed by leading global oil producers (including Russia and OPEC nations), world oil prices are up 15-20% from a year ago. Current prices are adequate to support the higher costs of fracking for US shale oil, and the US may surpass Russia this year as the world’s largest oil producer.

Does all this mean “peak oil” is dead? Don’t bet on it, warns Richard Heinberg. While declining world oil production has been “rescued” by US shale oil production, it has been the result of some economic sleight-of-hand. The fracking boom, Heinberg explains, occurred in the context of the 2008 economic collapse, and a subsequent flood of nearly 10 trillion dollars created by central banks in the US, Europe, England and China, making essentially unlimited, very cheap money available to the nascent fracking industry. The industry is, Heinberg explains, unprofitable on the whole.  Heinberg sees a huge bubble of debt hanging over the industry, foreseeing it will burst at some point with far-reaching consequences.

Another message from CERAWeek was the wide range of opinions about the impact of climate policies and electric vehicles on oil demand. Mary Barra, General Motors CEO, assert GM’s “commitment to an all-electric, zero-emissions future…regardless of any modifications in fuel-economy standards”. Stiil, execs agreed they “weren’t losing any sleep”,  voicing confidence in the low penetration of EVs to date. [For a very different view on how fast EVs might take over, check out Stanford professor Tony Seba’s vision of “Clean Disruption”.]

My general impression from reporting on CERAWeek is to side with the views expressed by Brownstein and Heinberg.  The US shale oil industry is dependent for its survival on two things:1) continuing international production restraint to prop up oil prices, and 2) the continuing river of cheap money that began after the 2008 meltdown. Both are risky assumptions. In addition, in 2008, it took only a 5% drop in US oil demand to drop gasoline prices from $4 to $1.80 or so. The industry is exquisitely sensitive to small changes. The climate window is indeed closing fast, and we are unlikely to have a shot at 1.5°C. But a lot of exciting things are happening, too.

Solutions to Save Us: Educate for the Earth



The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV), is devoting series of forums to 5 of the top 100 climate change solutions Paul Hawkens and his fellow researchers enumerate in the new book, “Drawdown.” (You can read more about this research at

CAAV continues the spring 2018 series, “Solutions to Save Us” with a forum on how women & girl’s access to education and family planning can solve our climate crisis.

The Drawdown research calculates that educating girls is the 6th most promising solution to solving the climate crisis, while access to family planning comes it at 7th. However, when combined, these two strategies beat the top ranked solution, with the ability to reduce nearly 112 Gigatons of CO2 emissions by 2050.

This event, “Solutions to Save Us: Educate for the Earth” will be a chance for community members to learn more about the barriers to these two solutions and how they can promote them worldwide.

Featured speakers will include:

-Dr. Laura Desportes, College of Education, James Madison University
-Dr. Andrea Knopp, School of Nursing, James Madison University

We hope you will join us on Thursday, March 29 at 7PM in the Fire & Rescue Training Room at the Rockingham County Administration Center, 50 E. Gay Street, Harrisonburg.

Past “Solutions to Save Us” Event:
– “Eat for the Earth,” (February 28), focused on reduced food waste (Solution #3) and plant-rich diets (Solution #4).

Future “Solutions to Save Us” Event:
– “Cool it for the Earth,” (early May), focused on Refrigerant Management (#1 solution).

Explore the complete list of 100 solutions to climate change at


Support Cap & Trade for VA Power Plants


The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley joins Sierra Club/Virginia Chapter, Appalachian Voices, the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, Virginia Interfaith and Light, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network among other organizations, in urging you to raise your voice in support of the proposed regulations to establish a carbon reduction program for the Commonwealth. There are several ways you can make sure your concerns are heard.

1.      You can attend the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) public hearing at 4411 Early Rd, Harrisonburg, on March 14, from 5 to 7 pm and make your comments in person.

2.      You can go online and offer written comments to DEQ by April 9 or

3.      You can express yourself—and inform your Facebook friends:

4.      You can sign a petition:

5.      You can write a letter to the editor (LTE).

What’s very important is that you speak up—and do so SOON. The Clean Power Plan is pretty much dead for the next several years. There will likely be little if any effort at the federal level any time soon to lower carbon emissions and there will no doubt be federal actions to increase carbon emissions.  The VA General Assembly (GA) has declined to enact carbon reduction legislation that has been proposed during the last three sessions (including 2018). DEQ’s regulations represent the only viable avenue now available for Virginia to act.

Former Governor McAuliffe issued Executive Directive 11 ( ) in May 2017 directing DEQ to develop regulations that they issued in draft, for public comment, in Jan 2018 ( In brief, “ED11, or the VA Carbon Reduction Plan, is designed to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel-burning power plants by 30% by the year 2030, and give rise to a generation of clean energy jobs. ED11’s approach is the same one that is being successfully used in 9 other states that are a part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).” [Sierra Club VA Chapter] The draft regulations provide a way “to ensure that Virginia’s regulation is ‘trading-ready’ to allow for the use of market-based mechanisms and the trading of carbon allowances through a multi-state trading program.” [Appalachian Voices, Lena Lewis]

To help you offer your comments, we’ve provided talking points, background information, a list of the areas DEQ wants addressed, and sample LTEs below. Be sure to include your own personal statement as to why you believe these regulations are needed–i.e., why and how reduced carbon emissions will benefit you and your family.


– Joy Loving
Chair, Legislative and Elections Committee
Climate Action Alliance of the Valley

Background information

Appalachian Voices Front Porch Blog: Virginia inches closer to a carbon market
By Lena Lewis, student in the Master of Public Policy program at the Batten School for Leadership and Public Policy, University of Virginia, July 2017

The Daily News-Record‘s Nolan Stout covers the issue in this March 7, 2018, article: Carbon Emissions Hearing On Tap

This Augusta Free Press article from March 7, 2018, gives more viewpoints: DEQ public hearings to cut carbon in Virginia

Environmental journalist Chris Bolgiano lays out the case for why forest carbon offsets should be part of the VA cap-and-trade plan in the March-April issue of Virginia Wildlife Magazine: Seeing the Forest for the Carbon

Concerns that cap-and-trade plans promote fracking are described here: Don’t Let RGGI Frack Us Over

Carbon Cap-and-Trade Talking Points by Lena Lewis

Carbon Cap-and-Trade creates a financial incentive to reduce carbon dioxide pollution. Businesses that reduce their carbon emissions can earn revenue, while polluters have to pay.

How Cap-and-Trade Works

1. CAP: The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) sets a cap, or limit, on the total carbon emissions allowed by power plants.

2. ALLOWANCES: The DEQ creates allowances to emit carbon. Each allowance permits its owner to emit one ton of carbon dioxide. Then that allowance is used up.

3. ALLOCATION/DISTRIBUTION: The DEQ distributes allowances. In most cap-and- trade programs, this is done through an auction. The price determined by the auction is the “clearing price” which all bidders pay for their allowances.

4. TRADE: Allowance holders can buy and sell allowances. This creates an incentive to lower carbon emissions. If a power plant can reduce its carbon emissions, it can sell its allowances to increase revenue. If a power plant emits a lot of carbon, it loses profit because it has to buy more allowances.

5. LOWER THE CAP: Each year, the DEQ lowers the amount of emissions allowed and offers fewer allowances. This raises the price of allowances, and creates even more incentive for power plants to reduce their carbon emissions.

Virginia could reduce carbon emissions from our power plants by 30% over 10 years.

The nine member states of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) cap-and-trade program have set a goal of reducing their power plant emissions by 30% of 2020 levels by the year 2030. If Virginia links with RGGI, we would lower our cap at the same rate as RGGI states.

RGGI states have already reduced their power plant carbon emissions by 30% since the program began in 2008. They have achieved this goal while their economy has increased faster than the rest of the country (25% economic growth in RGGI states compared to 21% in other states). RGGI states have also lowered their average electricity rates by 3.4% while the rest of the country’s electricity bills have increased by an average of 7.2%.1

Carbon Cap-and-Trade levels the playing field for zero-carbon and low-carbon energy sources.

Fossil fuels have so far had an unfair advantage in the competition with zero-carbon energy sources: they have not had to pay for the damages caused by their carbon pollution. Putting a price on carbon levels the playing field for solar, wind, and other zero-carbon energy sources.

Carbon Cap-and-Trade is simple and reduces the need for government intervention.

Carbon Cap-and-Trade works to lower carbon emissions without the need for further government regulation of carbon emitted by power plants. With a cap-and-trade program in place, we do not need a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to mandate that a certain percent of electricity be produced by renewable sources. An RPS would be redundant, because the incentive to reduce carbon is already created through cap-and trade.

Carbon Cap-and-Trade works to lower carbon emissions without mandating how revenue from allowances sales is spent. Though it is tempting to demand that revenue be spent on investment in zero-carbon energy, such mandates are not necessary to reduce carbon. Companies already have the incentive to invest in more zero-carbon energy because doing so makes good business sense.

Carbon Cap-and-Trade is not a magic solution for everything.

A cap on carbon emissions from power plants does nothing to limit carbon emissions from transportation and other sources. We need to work toward comprehensive limits on all sources of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Reducing carbon emissions has the additional benefit of reducing other types of pollution and environmental destruction caused by the fossil fuel industry. However, a cap on carbon may not be sufficient to limit those negative impacts. A cap on carbon does not excuse the power sector from limiting other pollutants and environmental degradation. Communities near power plants will not be harmed by carbon cap-and-trade, and will likely enjoy cleaner air as a result. Yet we need to remain steadfast in our insistence that these communities and others affected by fossil fuel extraction have the right to clean air and safe neighborhoods.

Allowances should be distributed based on energy output, not historic carbon emissions.

Creating carbon allowances turns something that was once free into something that can be sold. Carbon allowances become a valuable commodity and an additional source of revenue. If allowances are given to power plants based on historic carbon emissions, it will still achieve the goal of carbon emissions. But it will not provide a new source of income to zero-carbon energy generators. Instead, allowances should be distributed based on updated energy output. This method gives some allowances to zero-carbon energy sources, who can sell the allowances as a new source of revenue.
1 Source: Acadia Center. Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Status Report. July, 2016

Written by Lena Lewis, who is researching carbon market policy while earning her master’s degree at the Frank Batten School for Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia. Lena [at]

Sample Comment by Becca Summers, Virginia League of Conservation Voters

Background: Virginia is working on a plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants and invest in clean energy – the Clean Energy Virginia Initiative, commonly referred to as Executive Directive 11. Six public hearings are being held across the state, giving us an opportunity to make our voices heard for a clean energy future in Virginia.

We need to pack the house at these hearings to counter the influence of Virginia’s utilities, and show overwhelming public support for Virginia’s plan to cut carbon pollution from power-plants.

Suggested Language: ‘I’m writing today to voice my support of a regulation in Virginia that cuts carbon pollution from power plants and allows us to trade carbon allowances with other states.

With no help coming from the federal level in addressing climate change, it’s up to states like Virginia to act. By cutting carbon emissions in Virginia, we have the opportunity to protect public health and safety while also creating jobs in the carbon-neutral renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors.

And because we’re joining up with a coalition of other states with carbon caps, action we take here in Virginia is greater than the sum of its parts.

I urge you to proceed with a strong regulation that shows Virginia is a leader in addressing climate change and takes its responsibility seriously.’

Burning fossil fuels has left a toxic legacy of pollution across Virginia’s land, air and water. Reducing carbon emissions from power plants and incentivizing renewable energy will lower electric bills, create jobs, improve air quality, improve public health and protect and preserve Virginia’s environment.

Sierra Club Guidance on What DEQ and VA Air Quality Control Board Want from Public Comments

Whether the initial Virginia CO2 Budget Trading Program base budget for 2020 should be 33 million tons or 34 million tons, and declining accordingly by 3% per year.
● Whether any fossil fuel power generating unit owned by an individual facility and located at that individual facility that generates electricity and heat from fossil fuel for the primary use of operation of the facility should be exempt from the requirements of the regulation.
● The potential for DEQ to directly auction carbon allowances in addition to the proposed consignment auction format.
● The costs and benefits of the proposal, the potential impacts of this regulatory proposal and any impacts of the regulation on farm and forest land preservation.
Impacts on small businesses as defined in § 2.2-4007.1 of the Code of Virginia. Information may include 1) projected reporting, recordkeeping and other administrative costs, 2) probable effect of the regulation on affected small businesses, and 3) description of less intrusive or costly alternative methods of achieving the purpose of the regulation.

Sample Letter to the Editor and LTE Talking Points
In the Daily Press, February 12, 2018

Follow Northam’s lead

As a native Virginian and former elected official who cares deeply about the impacts of global warming on our beautiful state, it was refreshing to see Gov. Ralph Northam, tweet about climate change during his first days in office:

“As a native of the Eastern Shore, a scientist, and a resident of Hampton Roads, I can tell you personally that, no matter what politicians in Washington say, climate change is real. Sea levels are rising. It affects us every day.”

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the southern Chesapeake Bay region is sinking, making it one of the most vulnerable in the nation to the rising seas. Gov. Northam clearly understands these problems.

He and his predecessor, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, proposed a legislative agenda that would enable Virginia to join a multi-state effort which has cut global warming pollution in half since 2005. This bipartisan partnership, led by five Republican governors and four Democratic governors, has cleaned up the air, invested billions in the clean energy revolution, and lowered utility bills throughout the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic regions.

Unfortunately, there are some lawmakers in the General Assembly who are attempting to derail climate process by thwarting the governor’s plans to link Virginia with this successful climate program. We need our elected leaders to follow Gov. Northam’s actions to cut the pollution that is putting our communities at risk.

Andrea McGimsey
Global Warming Director
Environment Virginia

Climate and Energy News 3/2/2018

Policy and Politics

Robert J. Samuelson devoted his weekly economics column in The Washington Post this week to the BP report I linked to last week.  His message was not a happy one.  Without a price on carbon, the best that can be achieved by the reductions in fossil fuel use projected by BP is to keep up with population and economic growth.  Therefore, it is interesting that on Wednesday, a coalition of 34 student groups from around the country announced the formation of Students for Carbon Dividends, a bipartisan group calling for adoption of the Baker-Schulz carbon fee and dividend plan.  A new report by the Stockholm Environment Institute argues that it is insufficient to try and limit demand for fossil fuels.  Rather, it will be necessary to limit supply.  Using California as a case study, they illustrate the impact of supply limitation.  One factor influencing fossil fuel extraction is government subsidies.  A new report from the OECD combined figures obtained by them and by the International Energy Agency to provide a more comprehensive estimate of global subsidies.  The estimate is $373 billion for 2015.  While this value is substantial, it is less than the estimate for 2014.

Time has a detailed look at what the EPA website looks like after a year of climate change censorship.  Last October the EPA quietly released a report on the development of a Climate Resilience Screening Index (CRSI) that looks at a number of factors that influence resilience.  The report examines the CRSI of each county in the U.S.  A Silicon Valley startup will use new and better modeling techniques to help companies anticipate the impacts of climate change in their business decisions.  Generation Z has been in the news a lot recently about gun control, but they are also active about climate change, planning a nationwide series of climate marches on July 21.

Department of Interior emails obtained by The New York Times reveal that the location and availability of fossil fuel reserves was a key factor in the Trump administration’s decision to roll back protections for the Bears Ears National Monument.  Congress must pass a new spending bill by March 23 to avoid a government shutdown.  More than 80 anti-environmental-policy riders are included in either the House-passed version of the new bill or in Senate drafts.  I have referred to Virginia’s interest in joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).  Now Environment America, in collaboration with the Frontier Group, has analyzed the economic impact of RGGI and found it to be highly successful.


A new report published in February by the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station cautions that “Forests in Vermont and across the northeastern United States are under increasing stress from changing temperatures and precipitation regimes and increasing prevalence of invasive insects and disease.”  One way precipitation is changing is by becoming more intense.  For example, analyses done by Climate Central showed that nationwide trends of days with one-, two-, and three-inch rainfalls are increasing.

The weather continues to be strange, with Europe being colder than many places in the Arctic.  Warming has been unprecedented there, causing some to ask whether it has reached a tipping point.  Meanwhile, in the U.S., spring is running 20 days or more ahead of schedule in parts of the Ohio River Valley and the Mid-Atlantic.

Articles this week examined the possible impacts of climate change on two charismatic penguins: Adélie and king penguins.  Adélie penguins living along the Antarctica Peninsula’s western side are having difficulties because of climate change, but the recent discovery of a huge colony in the Danger Islands on the Peninsula’s eastern side holds out hope for the species.  King penguins breed on islands that are far enough north to be ice free, but travel to the Antarctic Polar Front (APF) to obtain food for their chicks.  As the planet warms, the APF will move south, increasing the distance they must travel, ultimately making that travel untenable.  Thus, they will be required to move to new breeding grounds, but their availability is an open question.

According to a new paper in Nature Climate Change, 2% of global mangroves, which are excellent carbon sinks, were lost between 2000 and 2012.  Furthermore, the amount of carbon released by clearing mangroves amounts to 27m tons of CO2 per year, equivalent to the annual emissions of Myanmar.

According to a new report released Monday by the Center for Climate and Security, more than 200 coastal military installations had been flooded by storm surges, compared to about 30 in 2008.  One place with a U.S. military connection being impacted by rising seas is the Marshall Islands in the Pacific.  Life there is difficult for many reasons.  In a three-part series, Mashable follows several Marshall Islanders as they grapple with an uncertain future: Part I, Part II, Part III.


The Virginia legislature has passed a bill that brings Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power under a new rate review scheme that also imposes new restrictions on their regulators at the State Corporation Commission.  The legislation allows the two utilities to offset profits above their authorized rate of return with spending on eligible projects, which must be approved by the commission in advance.  In a guest post at Power for the People VA, Thomas Hadwin explained why it is important for Virginia to get those projects right.

A new paper published Tuesday in the journal Energy and Environmental Science shows that a conversion to an 80% solar and wind-based energy system is possible in the U.S., but it will require significant advancement in energy storage technologies or hundreds of billions of dollars of renewable energy infrastructure.  Renewable energy resources were as important as natural gas in driving down CO2 emissions in the U.S. over a seven-year period beginning in 2007, according to a new peer-reviewed study in the journal Energy PolicyData published on Tuesday by the not-for-profit environmental impact researcher CDP found that 101 of the more than 570 cities on its books sourced at least 70% of their electricity from renewable sources in 2017, compared to 42 in 2015.  Utility Dive’s “2018 State of the Electric Utility Survey” of more than 600 U.S. and Canadian electric utility professionals shows utilities expect to add more solar, wind, and natural gas resources, while nuclear stagnates and coal declines.  Rocky Mountain Institute released a new report on the benefits of community-scale solar.

Statoil’s floating wind farm achieved a capacity factor of 65% from November through January.  For comparison, the U.S. on-shore wind fleet had an average capacity factor of about 37% last year.  General Electric will develop a new off-shore wind turbine in France.  The new turbine will be the largest on the market, will produce 12 MW, and stand 853 ft tall.  One concern with wind farms, whether off-shore or on-shore, is bird mortality.  New research using satellites is providing better data about flyways and bird hotspots on the U.S. east coast that can be used by wind farm developers to reduce mortality.

New analysis from The Brattle Group concludes the U.S. market for energy storage could reach 50 GW, as long as battery prices continue their decline and state and federal policies encourage the resource.  One problem with lithium ion batteries is that they perform poorly when they are cold.  A team of Chinese scientists has developed a new battery that works well at temperatures as low as -70°C, but it produces only a low voltage.

Silicon-based solar cells have a theoretical maximum efficiency of 29%.  Consequently, because perovskite absorbs solar energy in another part of the spectrum, layering silicon and perovskite solar cells has the potential to harvest more energy from the sun.  Adam Vaughan explored this and other ideas about what might happen next in the solar power industry.

China used 0.4% more coal in 2017 than in 2016, the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday in its annual National Social and Economic Development communique.  This was the first increase since 2013.  However, as a portion of total energy consumption, coal usage fell 1.6% to 60.4% last year, while clean energy, including natural gas and renewables, rose 1.3% to 20.8% from 2016.

Last week the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute sponsored a panel discussion entitled “The Future of Energy Infrastructure in the U.S. and Implications for Clean Energy” and the Energy News Network summarized the major points, which help explain why building long-distance electric transmission lines is so complicated.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Adam Fletcher

adam.fletcher.2.20.18At the steering committee meeting of February 20, our guest was Adam Fletcher, currently the Director of Community Development in Harrisonburg.  He has also been City Planner, so he has a grasp of much of what is happening in Harrisonburg just now.  WARNING!  Adam speaks very very fast!  So what follows may only resemble what he had to say!

His department has much to do with regulations:  with property, land use, engineering, planning and zoning as well as building inspections.  They are the ones who help us all avoid nasty surprises in public places as well as on private property.

They have adopted International Building Codes as well as Virginia Building Codes to ensure that what’s put up doesn’t fall down.  There are 25 people working in the department.

Listed in the Department’s section of the City of Harrisonburg website are both “By Right” uses as well as those closely regulated by the Commonwealth.  Virginia is a “Dillon Rule” state:  established in the 1860s and never overturned:  Whatever the state says you can do is OK.  If there is no mention, no ruling applicable to your question, you can’t!  Other states reverse that.

By state code, localities have the ability to control land use (zoning: 1939) i.e. what you can or cannot do.  “We list permitted uses.”  All others are prohibited, governed by zone:  residential, commercial, industrial. This includes set-back regulations, how close you can build to the property line.  However, state institutions like JMU don’t have to abide by local zoning:  observe how close the new Madison Hotel/parking lot is built to the curb and property lines.  Streets and water/sewer are controlled, so they have to abide by rules of interconnection.  All have to abide by environmental rules that come from the state, such as storm water management, air quality, etc.

Zoning such as “R-1“ means that to create a new lot, there must be at least 10,000 sq.ft. of land, and no more than 4 units/acre may be built.  B-1 (such as downtown) has the highest density, mixed use, in that you can both live and work in the area with no minimum space requirement. In B-1 zone there are no set back requirements and no parking requirements.   “Special use” permits may be requested and issued in an area zoned for another use.  That is a rule that is circumstantial, based on the characteristics of the property as well as the surrounding neighborhood.

Annexation is the only way political entities may grow.  In 1983 the state outlawed “hostile annexations” after Harrisonburg annexed the most highly valued commercial area of the county: Valley Mall. But if both entities agree, “friendly annexations” still occur.

Following a question about the Comprehensive Plan for the City, Mr. Fletcher replied that the current required periodic update is expected to be completed by late fall of this year.  These recommendations are only suggestions.  The voting is left to elected officials.  Updates of data, on the other hand, are staff originated.  Then the community gets involved.  Community involvement is aspirational and may run into legal barriers and previous regulations.  “Ordinance amendments” are of critical importance.  Pay attention!

Planning staff do respond to community groups that persist in petitioning change, and staff reports are an important “change detection tool”, posted online.  At the state level, “loopholes” are more often created by specific entities rather than community groups.

In closing he said “The democratic process does work if people get involved.”

– Anne Nielsen, for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, February 2018

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 2/23/2018

Policy and Politics

California, Ontario, and Quebec have held their first auction of greenhouse gas emission credits under their joint cross-border cap-and-trade system.  Meanwhile, New Jersey has joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of 15 other states and Puerto Rico vowing to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement.  In a letter released on Tuesday, 236 mayors from 47 states urged EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt not to repeal the Clean Power Plan, saying they need its emissions rules to fight climate change and protect their cities.  In an interview published Thursday, Pruitt spoke about how his religious beliefs inform his views on the environment and environmental policy.  Physicist Mark Buchanan published an opinion piece about geoengineering at Bloomberg View.  In it he said that we should not “be lulled into thinking that humanity can engineer its way out of global warming, that we can get around it without radically changing the way we live.”

President Trump’s plan to phase out funding for the Energy Star program and fund it through fees charged to the companies that use it is meeting strong opposition by groups that represent manufacturers, retailers, utilities, environmentalists, and others who benefit from the program.  A coalition of business associations, conservative pundits, and Republican lawmakers is working to ensure that the Senate ratifies the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which calls for the phase out of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) because of their strong greenhouse effect.  Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill that would authorize EPA to ratchet down the production of HFCs.  The New York Times has reported that the Trump administration is considering Donald van der Vaart, the former secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, to be head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.  In an interview, van der Vaart expressed skepticism about the extent to which humans have contributed to climate change.  Regardless of U.S. participation, countries that ratified the Paris Climate Agreement will meet in Poland in December, where they are expected to put the finishing touches on transparency and verification measures that will ensure that industries and economies abide by emission rules.  Unfortunately, countries aren’t doing enough to live up to their Paris pledges.

A shift in public opinion, however gradual, has moved toward acceptance of human-caused global warming.  Livia Albeck-Ripka of The New York Times interviewed dozens of people to understand what is driving the change and presented six of their stories in a recent article.  One prominent person who changed his mind is Jerry Taylor, who is the focus of this month’s “This is Not Cool” video from Yale Climate Communications.  Last week I provided a link to an article about the “valve turners”.  This week Huffington Post has an article about how some consider such actions to be ecoterrorism.  Last fall author Megan Herbert and climate scientist Michael Mann launched a Kickstarter campaign to publish a children’s book they had written about climate change.  If you have children or grandchildren you would like to be aware of climate change and actions against it, then you may want to check out The Tantrum That Saved the World.  Or, you may want to give a copy to your local library.


A new study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, estimated how climate change could affect the risk of flooding, drought, and heatwaves in 571 European cities by the second half of the century.  The research showed that under a business-as-usual emissions scenario, every city studied will face an increased risk of extreme weather events as the climate warms.

As reported in the journal The Cryosphere, NASA scientists have greatly improved their ability to track and measure ice loss from Antarctic glaciers.  Their results have shown that the vast majority of the increase in ice loss has been from West Antarctica, whereas the ice flow from East Antarctica has been relatively stable.  In another new paper, this one in Nature Communications, scientists examined the effects of delaying present-day reduction of CO2 emissions on the amount of sea level rise as a result of melting Antarctic glaciers.  They found that each five-year delay in peaking of CO2 emissions will increase sea-level rise in 2300 by about 8 inches on average.  A research team led by a USGS scientist has found that west coast wetlands are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise because they are constrained by natural barriers and man-made obstacles from migrating inland with the rising tides.

In just eight days in mid-February, nearly a third of the sea ice covering the Bering Sea off Alaska’s west coast disappeared, so that the area covered by ice is now 60% below its average from 1981-2010.  As the Arctic was flooded with warm air, on Monday and Tuesday the northernmost weather station in the world, Cape Morris Jesup at the northern tip of Greenland, experienced more than 24 hours of temperatures above freezing.  Furthermore, high temperature records were shattered all along the east coast of the U.S. on Tuesday and Wednesday.  And in Siberia, melting permafrost has led to a “megaslump” that provides an opportunity for scientists to access up to 200,000 years of historical climate records.

Ocean acidification due to increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere is a threat to sediments that form the base for coral reefs, as well as to the reefs themselves, according to a new paper in the journal Science.  The paper said it was “unknown if the whole reef will erode once the sediments become net dissolving” and whether reefs “will experience catastrophic destruction” or merely a slow erosion.

Two authors of a recent paper in Nature Plants explain in Carbon Briefenhanced weathering” of silicate rock as a technique for removing CO2 from the atmosphere, while also decreasing ocean acidification and stimulating plant growth.

Writing in his column in The Guardian, climate scientist John Abraham explained how pollen data collected from sites across North America and Europe were used to show that Earth’s temperature had been cooling for around 2000 years before humans started burning sufficient fossil fuels to reverse the trend and warm Earth.


For the first time, BP’s Energy Outlook projects a peak in oil consumption, driven in part by the rise of shared and autonomous electric vehicles (EVs).  The peak is seen as coming in the late 2030s, by which time they project over 300 million EVs will be on the world’s roads.

Fueled by increased efficiency, consumer spending on electricity fell to 1.3% of personal consumption in 2017, the lowest in records dating to 1959, according to a report Thursday from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.  The drop in emissions from the energy sector in 2017 was due more to renewable energy and energy conservation than to the nation switching from coal to natural gas for electricity generation.  Nevertheless, according to data from the Sierra Club and the Energy Information Administration, more coal capacity closed in the first 45 days of 2018 than in the first three years of the Obama administration.

On several occasions, I’ve provided links to articles about using hydrogen (H2) as a fuel for cars.  But what about using H2 to heat homes, to cook with, and to heat water, in the place of natural gas (methane)?  Well, a UK gas company is planning to use the city of Leeds to test the idea at full-scale.  Ahshat Rathi at Quartz explains the idea, the plans, and some possible problems.  In addition, HyTech Power, a company in Redmond, WA, has some unique and innovative ideas for using H2 in transportation and energy storage.  David Roberts at Vox described their step-by-step approach.

Having gained experience in East Africa, off-grid, pay-as-you-go solar companies are now moving into West Africa.  They can provide solar panels and a battery that will produce 4 kWhr of electricity for less than the cost of kerosene, which most people without electricity use for lighting.  On the other hand, in Nigeria more minigrids are being put in place, using solar panels, batteries, and backup power.

Tim Profeta, Director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, had an essay at The Conversation arguing that to meet its climate goals, the U.S. needs to address the economic problems facing nuclear power, perhaps by instituting a carbon tax.  The U.S. Department of Energy is conducting research and working with utilities seeking permission from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to allow nuclear reactors built in the 1970s to keep operating to 2050 and beyond.

Although Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appears determined to replace the Obama-era BLM methane rule, on Thursday night a federal judge struck down his latest attempt.  According to a survey by the Energy Institute, most energy executives underestimate how much they can cut methane emissions as they extract and transport natural gas.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 2/16/2018

Policy and Politics

Under a new policy, the EU will refuse to sign trade deals with countries that do not ratify the Paris Climate Agreement and take steps to combat global warming.  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said on Wednesday that energy taxes in major advanced economies are not doing enough to reduce energy use, improve energy efficiency, and drive a shift towards low-carbon sources.  In addition, the world’s biggest banks are failing to take climate change seriously in their business plans, according to research published Thursday by Boston Common Asset Management.  Business lobbies in Europe and the U.S. are pushing for a distinct, direct and formalized “business channel” into UN climate negotiations.  The nation’s intelligence agencies are warning, in the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment, of global instability if climate change continues unabated, according to a report submitted for a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

After the Paris Climate Agreement adopted 1.5°C as an aspirational goal for the maximum amount of global warming, the IPCC was charged with preparing a report on the feasibility of achieving that goal.  Now the draft report by the IPCC has been leaked and it says that the world has only 12 to 16 years’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions left, from the start of 2016, if it wants a better-than-even chance of meeting the goal.  However, since it would be impossible to curb emissions that fast without damaging the global economy, the report notes that it’s virtually unavoidable that the planet will “overshoot” 1.5°C.  Megan Darby has summarized 11 takeaways from the draft report at Climate Home.  Writing in The New York Times Magazine, Michelle Nijhuis presented an interesting profile of the Valve Turners, the five activists who took civil disobedience in the climate change battle to a new level by shutting down several oil pipelines.  As one said, “I’m not courageous or brave.  I’m just more afraid of climate change than I am of prison.”

The budget bill passed last week by Congress contains an extension and expansion of the tax credit for the capture and storage of CO2 underground.  Even though a president’s budget is just a blueprint that is often ignored by Congress, there are some items in President Trump’s proposed budget that could have important negative impacts on the U.S. capacity to understand, prepare for, and respond to climate change.  Furthermore, the proposed budget for DOE would give a big boost to nuclear energy at the expense of renewables and weatherization.  Meanwhile, on Thursday a federal judge in San Francisco ordered DOE to end a one-year delay on rules developed by the Obama administration to combat climate change by tightening energy-efficiency standards for portable air conditioners, building heaters, and other appliances.


The relationship between climate change and conflict is a topic that is being hotly debated.  A new paper in Nature Climate Change reports on a meta study that reviewed the literature on the subject.  Unfortunately, it appears to have inflamed the debate more than clarified it.  Writing at The Atlantic, Robinson Meyers looks at both sides of the argument.

A ship has made a winter crossing of the Arctic without an icebreaker for the first time.  This was possible because climate change has caused the region’s ice sheets to melt and thin.  A federal appeals court ruled on Monday that Arctic ringed seals must be protected under the Endangered Species Act because of their reliance on the disappearing sea ice.  Melting land-based ice in Greenland and Antarctica is a major contributor to sea level rise.  A new analysis of sea level data from satellites, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has revealed that the rate of sea level rise is accelerating.  According to a paper published in the journal Plos One, a combination of climate change and industrial-scale fishing is threatening the krill population in Antarctic waters, with a potentially disastrous impact on whales, penguins, and seals.  Yale Climate Connections presented descriptions of 13 books dealing with either the Arctic or the Antarctic.

Over the past year several papers have explored the need for negative emissions of CO2 to meet desired limitations on global warming.  One technique that has been proposed is “bioenergy with carbon capture and storage,” or BECCS.  It can have many impacts on a region, so a team of scientists has begun a study of the Upper Missouri River Basin to learn exactly what those impacts will be.  A paper published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances stated that even with countries meeting their pledges to the Paris Climate Agreement, we’re likely to see “substantial and widespread increases in the probability of historically unprecedented extreme events.”  Furthermore, the effects of this extreme weather will be seen “across human and natural systems, including both wealthy and poor communities.”

A new paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters helps explain why the Southeastern U.S. has been cooling in winter and spring even though CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have been increasing.  As you might expect, given weather reports in the past few years, it all has to do with the location of the jet stream.  Another example of regional weather changes is the Midwest, which has experienced cooler temperatures and more rainfall in summer than expected from climate models.  Now, a team of scientists at MIT has shown that this is due to the heavy agriculture in the region, which pumps more moisture into the atmosphere than would otherwise be there.

A new paper in the journal Global Change Biology reported that the arrival date of migrating bats at their summer home in Texas is around two weeks earlier than it was in 1992.

Most of the papers about the effects of climate change on corals have dealt with warm-water corals.  However, cold-water corals are also impacted by CO2 emissions, but in a different way.  Cold-water corals are found in deep, dark parts of the world’s oceans where they can thrive at depths of up to 2 km and water temperatures as low as 4°C.  The main threat to them is from ocean acidification caused by dissolution of CO2 from the atmosphere.  A paper in Nature reported that as the oceans acidify, more cold-water corals are being exposed to acidified waters, which can cause their hard outer layers to dissolve.


For the fourth time since 2002, the Edison Electric Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council have issued a joint statement at a meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.  The statement supports an accelerating clean energy transition that is defined by energy efficiency, reducing carbon emissions, and empowering states and customers.  Thus it is not surprising that the latest edition of Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Sustainable Energy in America Factbook stated that electricity generation from renewables reached its highest level ever in 2017, at 18% of the overall energy mix.

Four east coast states are pursuing off-shore wind farm projects.  Such wind farms use larger turbines than are used on land, but the U.S. does not yet have facilities for manufacturing large turbines.  Each of the various states would like to become the hub for large turbine manufacturing, but their competition could drive up manufacturing costs, putting the economics of the projects in jeopardy.  The world’s first floating wind farm was installed off the coast of Scotland last year.  Now Statoil, one of the project’s developers, has reported that not only has the farm survived winter storms, it has produced more electricity than expected.

Methane leaks from oil and gas sites in Pennsylvania could be five times greater than industry has reported to state regulators, according to a new analysis by the Environmental Defense Fund.  On the subject of methane leaks, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is seeking to wipe out the requirements that oil and gas well operators on BLM land monitor and detect leaks of methane, and capture and sell it instead of flaring it off or venting it to the atmosphere.

FERC voted unanimously on Thursday to remove barriers for batteries and other energy storage systems on the grid.  The new rule, first proposed in November of 2016, will require most grid operators to come up with a plan to amend their rules to fully integrate energy storage and allow it to compete.  Meanwhile, many consumers and businesses in areas that frequently experience severe weather are considering solar plus storage for the resiliency it provides.  Out in the desert southwest, Arizona Public Service was looking for a way to deliver power during peak evening hours in the summer.  First Solar’s bid with solar plus storage beat out conventional renewables, standalone batteries, and natural-gas peaking plants.

A new study in Nature Communications looked at the climate impact of a shift from truck-based to drone-based package delivery. It found that while small drones carrying packages weighing less than 1.1 lb would reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to diesel or electric trucks anywhere in the U.S., the same is not true for larger drones carrying heavier packages.

The debate over the Renewable Fuel Standard has heated up again.  Oil interests have claimed that ethanol mandates hurt profitability and have caused a major refinery to declare bankruptcy.  The ethanol industry has said that the program is working as intended.  In addition, the NHTSA is looking at a range of options to lower future fuel economy standards, including one that would permit an average fleetwide standard of 35.7 mpg by 2026, down from the 46.6 mpg under rules put in place by the Obama administration.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 2/9/2018

Policy and Politics

A new paper, published in Environmental Research Letters, found that if all coal-fired power plants that are planned or under-construction were built and operated for their design lifetimes, while existing coal-fired power plants continued to operate, it would be impossible to hold global warming below 2°C.  After failing to get FERC approval for a plan to bail out some coal-fired power plants, DOE officials are considering having Rick Perry use his authority as energy secretary to grant emergency compensation for plants run by First Energy Solutions that may be at risk of shutting down.  Ted Nordhaus, Executive Director of The Breakthrough Institute, had an interesting essay in Foreign Affairs arguing that the 2°C goal is a delusion because climate change is not a problem that can be solved, but rather, must be managed.

In a formal comment submitted Wednesday to the docket for the repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), four Democratic senators wrote that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is unfit to oversee the repeal of the CPP because of his history of lawsuits against the plan and the Obama administration when Pruitt was attorney general of Oklahoma.  Hence, he should recuse himself.  On an 11-10 party line vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday, former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler’s nomination to be Deputy Administrator of the EPA was sent to the full Senate for a vote.  Over the weekend, the White House withdrew its nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White to head the Council on Environmental Quality.  The compromise federal spending bill that Congress passed early Friday includes an array of tax credits for renewable energy, along with a controversial tax break for carbon-capturing technologies that will benefit the fossil fuel industries.

Ivy Main summarized the recent energy happenings in the Virginia General Assembly (GA).  As of Thursday, the electric utility regulation bill pushed by Dominion Energy was advancing through both chambers of the GA.  Meanwhile, in South Carolina, Dominion Energy was having disagreements with the Public Service Commission and the legislature over its proposed takeover of SCANA and how refunds related to the defunct Summer nuclear power plant should be handled.  The University of Edinburgh announced that it is divesting its £1bn endowment fund of all fossil fuel investments.  Climate change art made the news this week.  An article at CityLab featured the work of Hannah Rothstein, who reimagined seven historic National Park posters, originally designed for the WPA, to show what the parks might look like in 2050 after being damaged by climate change.  In addition, a feature article at Thomas Reuters Foundation News introduced several climate change museums around the world, including one in New York City showing pictures and a film of ice cores.


According to a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), there may be more than 874,000 tons of mercury buried in the permafrost of the Northern Hemisphere — roughly “twice as much mercury as the rest of all soils, the atmosphere, and ocean combined.”  The danger is that as the permafrost thaws, the mercury could be released and make its way into the food chain.  Another article in the same journal raised another issue to consider as we act against the root causes of climate change.  A significant part of the warming that has occurred since 1970 has been driven by CO2 emissions from new coal-fired power plants in China, India, and other developing countries.  Many of those power plants have no scrubbers on them so they are emitting aerosols, thereby causing severe air pollution in many cities.  Because aerosols block incoming sunlight, they act to cool Earth, counteracting some of the warming associated with the CO2 emissions.  According to the paper in GRL, the removal of the aerosols from the power plant stacks and other sources could induce a global mean surface heating of 0.5–1.1°C, an impact that needs to be considered in planning.

According to an analysis by reporters at The New York Times, 2,500 facilities in the U.S. that handle toxic chemicals are in locations that face a high or moderate risk of flooding.  Those risks are likely to increase as rainfall becomes more intense in a warming world.  A new study published in the journal Climate examined how the risk of flooding will change in Europe due to climate change.  At all levels of warming studied (1.5°C, 2°C, and 3°C), there is a substantial increase in flood risk over most countries in Central and Western Europe, but a smaller increase in Eastern Europe.

A controversy has erupted among marine scientists over the amount of carbon stored as a result of the growth of seagrass meadows (so-called “blue carbon”).  Late last year a team from Fisheries and Oceans Canada published an article in Environmental Research Letters claiming that blue carbon researchers are overestimating how much carbon is being stored in ocean sediments.  Tuesday, a group of Australian scientists published a response in the same journal.  This is an example of how science progresses and ultimately will drive research to the correct assessment.

David Kirtley had an interesting blog post on Skeptical Science about what changed the minds of several climate change skeptics.


On several occasions I have linked to articles about the debate over whether it is possible to decarbonize the electrical grid by using only renewable energy.  Now David Roberts at Vox has provided a primer on the issues involved in the debate.

Ionic Materials Inc., a battery-material developer, raised $65 million to build a production line and commercialize its technology, which involves a polymer electrolyte material for solid-state alkaline batteries, a concept that will compete with the dominant lithium-ion technology.

On Wednesday, Navigant Research released its latest report, “Offshore Wind Market and Project Assessment 2017”, which analyzed the offshore wind energy market around the globe, and found that 3.3 GW worth of new wind energy capacity was installed in 2017, bringing the global capacity up to almost 17 GW.  The UK accounted for more than half of the installations across Europe.  Vestas Wind Systems will offer combined wind, solar, and storage technologies, allowing the world’s biggest turbine maker to sell hybrid renewable plants that generate electricity around the clock.

On Tuesday, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its 2018 Annual Energy Outlook, which projected that the carbon emissions of the U.S. will barely go down for the foreseeable future and will be slightly higher in 2050 than it is now.  If that occurs, the U.S. would almost single-handedly exhaust the whole world’s carbon budget by midcentury.  In a new climate risk report requested by investors, ExxonMobil said that keeping global warming below 2°C might mean cutting the use of oil by 20% between now and the year 2040, although it insists it would still be able to produce all the oil in its existing fields and keep investing in new reserves.

New research from Applied Economics Clinic, commissioned by Consumers Union, concluded that a greater investment in energy efficiency by Dominion Energy in Virginia would reduce new household energy demand by nearly 60% and help significantly cut the need to build additional capacity, which could save customers up to $1.7 billion over the next decade.

The state of South Australia is continuing its development of energy storage systems with the announcement of a 1350 MWh pumped hydro energy storage plant in addition to Tesla’s recently awarded 675 MWh virtual power plant.  In the UK, a Scottish engineering company has received a grant from the government innovation agency to explore the commercial viability of using abandoned mine shafts for energy storage.  Rather than pumping water, as others have proposed, Edinburgh-based Gravitricity would suspend a huge weight in the mine shaft and raise it when there is excess electricity available, then lower it to generate electricity when needed.

From the end of 2016 to the end of 2017, the U.S. solar industry lost 9,800 jobs, marking the first drop ever recorded in the “National Solar Jobs Census” since it started collecting data in 2010.

Last week, the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee unanimously rejected the Northern Pass transmission project, which was to have moved power from Hydro-Quebec dams in Canada to a substation in Deerfield, N.H.  The developers plan to appeal.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.