Climate and Energy News Roundup 6/23/2017

Les Grady was out of town this week.  Thanks to CAAV member Bishop Dansby, who compiled this week’s Roundup.

Politics and Economics of Climate Change

On-air meteorologists owe it to their viewers to discuss climate change, says The Washington Post’s weather editor Jason Samenow. He quoted Raleigh, North Carolina meteorologist Greg Fishel, who said that even though broadcast meteorologists “have the least education [on climate change], we have [the] most responsibility to educate ourselves so we can educate the public in the right way.”

At a Citizens Climate Lobby reception to honor members of Congress for leadership on climate change, two Republicans and two Democrats issued a plea to their colleagues to depoliticize the climate issue and come together to forge solutions. “We need to get beyond this Hatfields versus McCoys brand of politics,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), after accepting the Climate Leadership Award from Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

More than 1,400 U.S. cities, states, and businesses have joined a growing coalition that vows to stay committed to the Paris Climate Accord. The groups, which include several Fortune 500 businesses, signed a statement called “We Are Still In” shortly after President Trump’s announcement that his administration plans to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Macron responds to Trump: ‘Make our planet great again’.

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication has, inter alia, a very interesting set of maps.

Exxon Mobil lends its support to a carbon tax proposal.

Climate Change Science

On current trends, the Arctic will be ice-free in summer by 2040.

Beyond organic: How regenerative farming can save us from global catastrophe.  “Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy.”

Eventually, we will need to not only reduce carbon emissions but also remove carbon from the atmosphere. Swiss firm Climeworks has built the world’s first commercial plant to suck CO2 directly from the air.

The evidence for the onset of climate change is compelling. But who and where is it hitting the hardest?

Energy

An Arizona utility signs a game-changing deal cutting solar power prices in half.  Tucson Electric Power will buy new solar power at under 3 cents per kWh, a “historically low price.”

In Virginia, the Carilion New River Valley Medical Center just finalized plans to install solar panels on its property. About 4,300 solar panels are now on site in one of the largest projects of its kind in Virginia. Land on which the solar system will be located doubles as sheep grazing land.

Nevada reverses the earlier harsh elimination of net metering. Governor Brian Sandoval signed a handful of new solar and energy related bills today in Carson City to help the state pivot away from the anti-consumer, anti-solar net metering regulation that forced SolarCity out of the state in late 2015.

Can the U.S. grid work with 100% renewables? There’s a Scientific Fight Brewing.

Leaving Paris Pact A Bad Idea

Daily News-Record, June 17, 2017
Leslie Grady Jr., Opinion (Open Forum)

Why did the delegates cheer when they adopted the Paris Climate Agreement? Was it because now they could stick it to the U.S. and ruin our economy? No! It was because for the first time in history almost all countries recognized that we face a global problem and agreed to work together to solve it.

And now President Trump wants to pull the U.S. out of it? What about the Pacific islander, whose home is vulnerable to rising seas? Or the African villager, whose crops have failed because of unprecedented drought? Or the Pakistani laborer, whose income is cut because he can’t work in the summer due to life-threatening heat and humidity? Evidently, Trump wants to tell them: “Tough luck; we want a better deal!” Get serious! That’s a foolish idea born out of ignorance.

So why should we act on climate? There are three main reasons: moral, economic and political.

Because the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is the main driver of climate change, the United States bears a particular moral responsibility. Why? Because we released more than 25 percent of it, even though we are less than 5 percent of the global population. We also have the highest per capita emission rate, more than double that of Europe. But, acting on our emissions won’t just benefit others, it will also help us. Smarter use of energy will improve our economy, save us money, improve our quality of life, and make us healthier.

The illogical thing about leaving the Paris Climate Agreement is that it flies in the face of economic progress. The big energy markets of the future will be in Africa, Southeast Asia and South America. They’re already embracing renewable energy, rather than just building centralized energy supplies based on fossil fuels. This trend will accelerate as better batteries and energy storage systems are developed. We could be selling those systems to the rest of the world, but instead, we’ll be viewed as turning our backs on them.

Global leadership is something the United States has embraced since the end of World War II, but leaving the Paris Climate Agreement brings that era to an end. “America First!” also means “Others Last!” That’s not the type of message that will resonate in today’s world. The Paris Climate Agreement was a shining example of global cooperation and the international response to Trump’s decision shows that the rest of the world doesn’t want to return to old “Me first!” policies.

Now, it’s up to us. We can lower our own carbon footprints. We can encourage our local governments to embrace energy efficiency and renewable energy. We can act to change energy policies at the state level to diminish the reliance on fossil fuels.

Embrace the spirit of the Paris Climate Agreement and act for a better tomorrow.

Mr. Grady lives in Harrisonburg.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 6/16/2017

On Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told the European Parliament that “The European Union will not renegotiate the Paris agreement.  The 29 articles of the agreement must be implemented and not renegotiated.”  At the end of a two-day summit in Bologna, Italy, the U.S. refused to endorse a joint communique with other G7 countries on climate change.  DOE is closing the office that works with other countries to develop clean energy technologies.  Analysts are beginning to detect the way the Trump administration will try to rescind the Clean Power Plan.  Meanwhile, the Swedish parliament passed a law committing the country to becoming a net-zero carbon emitter by 2045.

On Tuesday, the EPA proposed a two-year delay in implementing a rule requiring oil and gas companies to detect and repair leaks of methane and other air pollution at new and modified drilling wells.  In addition, the Bureau of Land Management is seeking to delay implementation of a rule limiting methane waste at oil and natural gas drilling sites on federal lands.  EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has named energy industry attorney Patrick Traylor as a deputy in the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.  On Thursday Pruitt appeared before a House Appropriations subcommittee to defend the budget proposal for his agency that would cut its funding by 31%.  However, members of the subcommittee made it clear that they have no intention of approving the budget as proposed.  At the same hearing, he indicated that the Trump administration is not considering revoking California’s authority to set its own pollution standards for cars and trucks.  On a similar topic, the attorneys general from 13 states announced that they would mount a vigorous court challenge to any effort to roll back vehicle fuel-efficiency standards for 2022-2025 put in place by the Obama administration.

It turns out the Heartland Institute isn’t the only group giving “educational” materials to teachers about fossil fuels and climate change.  So are the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board, Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, and the National Energy Education Development Project, among others.  A longer article can be found here.  Federal judge James Boasberg, who sits on the D.C. district court, has ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to perform an adequate study of the Dakota Access Pipeline’s environmental consequences when it first approved its construction and ordered the agency to conduct new reviews.  On the subject of lawsuits, after district court judge Ann Aiken last week stood by her decision that the youth lawsuit against the federal government deserved a hearing, the Trump administration went over her head to the 9th circuit court of appeals to get the case dismissedChelsea Harvey put this all in perspective at The Washington PostGo here for a profile of one of the plaintiffs, a 14-year old girl from Louisiana.  What happens on the children’s lawsuit is of major importance, not just for them, but for other lawsuits that have been filed in the U.S.  Other countries are facing similar actions.

Climate

According to data released by NASA on Thursday, May was the second-warmest May on record.  The planet was 1.6°F (0.88°C) warmer than the 1951-80 average, trailing May 2016 by just a 10th of a degree.

A new paper in Nature Geoscience examined the warming that occurred during the Holocene epoch since the last ice-age.  It makes several important points, but two stand out: (1) climate models can simulate climate changes over the history of human civilization fairly accurately and (2) humans are causing global warming at a rate 20 times faster than Earth’s fastest natural climate change.

The mayor of Tangier Island, VA, in the Chesapeake Bay is concerned about the erosion of the island.  However, President Trump called to tell him not to worry: “your island has been there for hundreds of years, and I believe your island will be there for hundreds more.”  That’s not what the Army Corps of Engineers thinks, however.  Meanwhile, across the Bay, residents of Deal Island, MD, are struggling with a variety of questions, including what is the most appropriate way to respond to on-going changes.

A new paper, published Wednesday in the Geological Society of America’s bulletin GSA Today has found that the coast of Louisiana is sinking faster than had been thought.

A paper in Nature Communications has documented a two-week period of surface melting on the Ross ice shelf in West Antarctica in January 2016.  A series of confounding events, including the strong El Niño, acted together to cause the melting.  Such events contribute to concern for the stability of the West Antarctic ice sheet.  At this point we are still waiting for the release of the huge iceberg from the Larsen C ice shelf.  John Abraham provided some perspective on why that release is of concern.

Energy

The 2017 BP Statistical Review of World Energy has been released and Carbon Brief has provided a detailed look at its content.  The major points are that global CO2 emissions grew by only 0.1% while energy demand increased by 1.0%; non-hydro renewable energy sources grew by 14%; oil and gas use increased by 1.8%, but coal use fell 1.4%.  Bloomberg Markets summarized in five charts the shifts occurring in global energy.  Bloomberg New Energy Finance also released a new report, entitled New Energy Outlook 2017.  Because of the declining costs of solar panels, the report predicts that by 2040, 25% of Australia’s power will come from solar, as will 20% of Brazil’s, 15% of Germany’s, and 5% of India’s and the U.S.’s.  The report also projects that global CO2 emissions from the power sector will peak in 2026.  Among other projections, China’s renewable capacity will account for 63% of its overall power mix in 2040, compared with 33% last year.  Also, India’s cumulative solar PV capacity will rise from 10 GW in 2016 to 670 GW in 2040.  Inside Climate News also has an extensive report.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s monthly power report for March found that 8% of the electricity produced in the U.S. that month came from wind and 2% from solar, making March the first time that production from the two sources exceeded 10%.  The consulting firm M.J. Bradley & Associates released a report prepared for Ceres in which they found that since 2000, CO2 emissions from the U.S. electric power industry have dropped 19%, while GDP has grown 33%.  Looking to the future, an increasing number of solar-plus-storage projects have been cropping up around the country.  Nevada has reinstated net metering for residential solar customers after an 18-month absence.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance has reported that 34 of the 61 operating U.S. nuclear reactors are being paid less for their electricity than it costs them to produce it, due to competition from cheap natural gas.  Consequently, some states are working to subsidize nuclear power plants to keep them generating emissions-free electricity.

Many think that hydroelectric power is environmentally benign.  However, a paper published in the journal Nature has warned that the Amazon basin could suffer significant and irreversible damage if an extensive dam building program proceeds.  It said that more dams could affect the dynamics of the complex river system and put thousands of unique species at risk.

Put this one down as one of those developments you hope will be commercialized someday.  Researchers in Australia have developed a solar paint that splits water vapor in the atmosphere into hydrogen gas and oxygen, using energy provided by sunlight.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has released a new report entitled the 2017 Utility Energy Efficiency Scorecard.  The report evaluated the 51 largest electrical utilities in the U.S. on their energy efficiency programs.  Dominion Energy in Virginia ranked 50th.  Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has signed Executive Directive 11, instructing the Department of Environmental Quality to begin the process of establishing regulations that will reduce carbon emissions from power plants.  One provision in the regulations will be a mandatory cap-and-trade program.

The administration’s plans for energy research run counter to the rest of the world’s.  Last week I supplied a link to an article about the Trump administration’s proposed elimination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy.  Now, at the behest of Congress, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine issued a report evaluating the program.  It found that the program “is not failing” and doesn’t need reform.

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 6/9/2017

Although it is an opinion piece and should be read as such, the blog post by Jerry Taylor of the Libertarian Niskanen Center lays out clearly the irrationality of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement.  As to why that irrationality prevailed, several authors expressed opinions: Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money, in The New Yorker; Coral Davenport and Eric Lipton in The New York Times; and Naomi Oreskes in The Guardian.  Also, Marianne Lavelle, writing at Inside Climate News, analyzed the five shades of climate denial on display at the White House.  The article has a great graphic.  Pushback against the decision has come from many places, with 12 states, 279 cities, and hundreds of companies, universities, and organizations vowing to meet the U.S. pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by the year 2025.  (Go here to read Ivy Main’s report on reaction to Governor McAuliffe’s order to DEQ to develop a rule capping carbon emissions from power plants.)  Michael Bloomberg promised to provide up to $15 million of his own money to pay the U.S. share of the operating costs of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.  On Tuesday, Hawaii became the first state to pass a law aligning itself with the greenhouse gas reduction goals of the Paris Agreement.  In addition, the U.S.’s top diplomat in China resigned his position over the withdrawal and a former EPA administrator said that if the U.S. is going to withdraw, it should just get out of the way and not interfere in future negotiations regarding the agreement.

In an interview on Breitbart News on Monday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt voiced support for a “red team-blue team” exercise to debate key climate science issues.  Marianne Lavelle fact-checked his defense of President Trump’s withdrawal from Paris, while The World Resources Institute fact-checked President Trump on climate finance.  On Tuesday, President Trump nominated Jeffrey Bossert Clark to serve as the Justice Department’s top environmental lawyer.  Bossert has repeatedly challenged the scientific foundations of U.S. climate policy and was part of a legal team that represented BP in lawsuits stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.  It is worth noting that as of June 6 President Trump had only nominated persons to fill 7 of 46 top science posts that require Senate confirmation.

Climate

In his announcement of his plan to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, President Trump claimed the Agreement would avoid just 0.2°C of warming.  Writing at Carbon Brief, Zeke Hausfather analyzed that assertion, providing evidence that it is incorrect and that the Agreement would avoid around 1°C of warming compared to a business-as-usual scenario.  Carbon Brief also analyzed the impact of the U.S. withdrawal on future global temperatures.

A new study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, has found that along all of the US coastline, the average risk of a 100-year flood will increase 40-fold by 2050 under a business-as-usual emissions scenario.  However, the range of increases was from 1- to 1314-fold, depending on location.

Polar bears must continually move to stay in their territory because of the constant movement of the sea ice beneath them.  As sea ice has thinned due to global warming, it has begun to move faster.  This requires the bears to move faster, expending more energy.  As a result, they must find more food, and this is a challenge.  And speaking of Arctic ice, Annie Sneed interviewed two experts to learn how changes in this northern region are driving the oceans to new heights.

Research reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) suggests that increasingly strong summer storms in the midwestern U.S. will penetrate the stratosphere and result in the increased depletion of ozone, thereby reducing its protection against UV radiation in sunlight.  Another paper in PNAS studied the impacts of Greenland melting, under a business-as-usual emission scenario, on the flow of the Gulf Stream, and its subsequent effect on weather in the Sahel of Africa.  They found that with a meter or more of sea level rise, a significant decrease in precipitation would occur in the western Sahel, with up to a 30% reduction in rainfall between the years 2030 and 2060.  This would have a devastating effect on agriculture.

A study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances found that the probability of India experiencing a major heatwave with over 100 deaths has increased by 146% since 1960, despite just a 0.5°C increase in average temperatures in India.

Another study, this one in Environmental Research Letters, has found that many places on Earth face new climates as temperatures rise.  At 2°C of warming, about 21% of Earth’s land area would see climates that are different from anything observed anywhere today.  At 1.5°C of warming, this drops to about 15%, but at 4°C of warming this increases to more than a third of the global land surface (34-44%).

Energy

A new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) has found that meeting the aims of the Paris Climate Agreement is technically feasible with existing technologies and those in development, without the need for breakthrough innovation.  However, this requires “net zero” emissions by 2060, resulting in many fossil-fueled power plants being closed before they reach the end of their natural life, causing lost earnings and creating “stranded assets”.  The IEA also said that only three out of 26 assessed technologies – electric vehicles, energy storage and mature variable renewables (solar PV and onshore wind) – are on track to meet climate targets.

One of the things that has been driving the cost of wind energy down is the increasing capacity of offshore wind turbines.  The latest increase has come from Vestas, which launched a 9.5 MW offshore turbine this week.  Another factor decreasing costs is increased reliability.  In the 1990s, the expected lifetime of offshore wind parks was only 15 years; now it is closer to 25 years.  A new report from McKinsey & Company has found that several factors are driving down the cost of offshore wind energy in Europe, making it at grid parity without subsidies.  Meanwhile, on Tuesday in London, the energy ministers from Germany, Denmark, and Belgium joined chief executives from 25 companies to issue a statement pledging to work together to install 60 GW of new offshore wind power next decade, more than five times existing capacity.

President Trump’s budget has proposed cuts of 36.5% in nuclear research, 58% in fossil fuel technology, and 35% in science and energy innovation.  It has also proposed elimination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy.  Now, a group of business leaders has urged Congress to “invest in America’s economic and energy future by funding vital programs in energy research and development at the Department of Energy.”  Trump’s budget also called for a 77% cut in carbon capture and storage research funding.  Coal company executives are calling on Congress to save that program as well.  A new report from the CNA Military Advisory Board has warned that the U.S. has fallen behind its rivals in developing new, clean energy technology, posing a major risk to long-term security.  Finally, both President Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt are on record warning the American people that if coal power continues to decline, the lights could go out.  However, experience and research suggest that is an exaggeration.

There will likely always be a need for liquid fuels, such as for airplanes.  One idea is to create those fuels by taking CO2 from the atmosphere and converting it into fuel.  Then, when the fuel is burned the CO2 will be returned to the atmosphere, from which it can be removed again to form more fuel.  The problem with this scheme is the energy required to convert the CO2 and the high costs of the catalysts involved.  Now, Swiss researchers have found a way to convert CO2 using sunlight and a catalyst made of inexpensive copper and tin, and at twice the efficiency of previous efforts.

The U.S. solar market added 2,044 MW of new capacity in the first quarter of 2017, with utility-scale system prices dropping below the $1 per watt barrier for the first time.  However, industry analysts have forecast that U.S. solar installations will fall 16% this year.

If you’ve been thinking of buying an electric vehicle (EV) or a plug-in hybrid, the Union of Concerned Scientists has a new version of its report on EV global warming emissions.  If you have a particular vehicle in mind, you can check out its emissions with their EV emissions tool.

The first quarter of 2017 was the biggest in history for the U.S. energy storage market, according to GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association’s latest report.  At the June 6 meeting of Tesla shareholders, Elon Musk announced that the company would be building at least 10 more Gigafactories.  But what do you use if the amount of energy that must be stored is larger than batteries can provide?  Diane Cardwell reviewed the options in The New York Times, with great graphics by Andrew Roberts.

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.

SVEC Members: Demand More Solar Options!

SolarSupportSVEC6.8.17.cs

Do you get your electricity from the Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC)? If so, you can speak out so all SVEC members can benefit from solar. SVEC’s mission statement is “We Exist to Serve Our Member-Owners,” yet its management has ignored repeated requests for more solar options from its member-owners. Further, SVEC refuses to firmly support policies ensuring the right of solar producers to get the full value of the energy they produce with solar. SVEC management has a duty to respond to member-owners interested in expanded solar options so that we can all benefit from the energy choice, job creation and grid resilience that solar provides.

Here’s what you can do:

Contact SVEC Leadership, including members of the Board of Directors, now to let them know you support solar!
Let them know, as a co-op member, you demand solar options. Call CEO Michael Hastings, 540-434-2200 or mhastings@svec.coop. Contact Barbara Frye, Manager of Consumer Services, 540-574-7241 or bfrye@svec.coop. At the end of this message, there is suggested language which you may find useful.

Attend June 8th SVEC Annual Meeting and Speak out for Solar!
Make your voice heard for solar on Thursday, June 8 at the SVEC annual meeting in Harrisonburg. The meeting will be from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. at the JMU Convocation Center, 895 University Blvd, Harrisonburg, VA 22807.
Members get a free dinner and could win a variety of prizes, including gift certificates for electricity bills. Tickets will be mailed to members in mid-May.
As part of the agenda, there will be a question and answer session for members. This will be your opportunity to make it clear that SVEC member-owners demand their solar rights. See below for suggested language and questions.

Suggested Language for Use in Contacting SVEC and When Attending June 8 Member/Owner Meeting:

“I’m an SVEC member who values solar energy because of its benefits in energy choice, job creation and grid resilience. SVEC should ensure that every co-op member/owner can benefit from solar in a variety of ways. “

“As a member-owner, I want SVEC to guarantee that homes, farms and businesses in SVEC territory will retain their right to the full value of the energy they produce through ‘net metering’.”

“As a member-owner, I want real options for shared ‘community solar’, allowing SVEC member/owners with sites not suitable for solar to benefit from a central solar installation.”

“As a member-owner, I ask SVEC management to install solar on the new SVEC headquarters building. I recommend that SVEC join the Mountain and Valley Solar Co-op by July 15, 2017, to receive the pricing benefits from bulk purchase that this co-op can provide.”

“As a member-owner, I strongly believe that any SVEC support for policies that would short‑change solar ‘net metering’ customers, or oppose community solar is unacceptable.”

“What is SVEC doing to guarantee that homes, farms, and businesses in SVEC territory will retain their right to the full value of the energy they produce through ‘net metering’?”

“What is SVEC doing to provide real options for shared ‘community solar’ allowing SVEC members with sites not suitable for solar to benefit from a central solar installation?”

“What is SVEC doing to install solar on its new headquarters building?”

“Why shouldn’t SVEC join the Mountain and Valley Solar Co-op by July 15 to obtain the discounted pricing for solar panels that this co-op can provide?”

More about this effort from VA SUN here: Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative Member Energizes Push for Solar

Top photo by Cathy Strickler of members of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley showing support for solar initiatives outside SVEC’s 2017 Annual Membership Meeting at JMU’s Convocation Center in Harrisonburg on Thursday, June 8.

Paris: We’re Still In!

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Thanks to everyone who participated in this rally and to Christopher Clymer Kurtz and WMRA for covering it: Harrisonburg Citizens Affirm Paris Climate Accord!

Scroll down for more photos.


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Join CAAV and Renew Rocktown at Pale Fire Brewery, THIS Saturday, June 10, 1-2 pm

PARIS, WE’RE STILL IN!–Make the Planet Great Again—Show the Valley we care!

Even though the President withdrew the U.S. from the U.N.’s 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, Americans are standing up to SHOUT that we still want to see our country take major steps to mitigate today’s greatest global threat: Climate Change.

Residents of Harrisonburg City & the Shenandoah Valley will be doing just that when they rally in Downtown Harrisonburg on Saturday to demonstrate our commitment to serious climate action. Hosted by the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley and Renew Rocktown, the event will include speakers from local government and action groups highlighting examples of what we have been doing and can continue to do to make Harrisonburg a regional leader in climate action.

Together, we can make our community, state, and country climate resilient. Join us on Saturday to celebrate our successes, learn what else we can do, and enjoy the music of local bands. And if you missed the first Postcard to Paris celebration, you can sign that postcard Saturday!

PARIS, We’re Still In!
MAKE THE PLANET GREAT AGAIN: A RALLY TO RENEW OUR COMMITMENT TO THE PARIS CLIMATE ACCORD
When: Saturday, June 10th, 1 – 2pm
Where: Pale Fire Brew Pub
Who and what: timeline and line up
1 pm Music—Doug Hendren, Dave Pruett, Carol Snell-Feikema, Nancy Beall
1:10 Pete Bsumek with opening remarks, history of Postcard, request to sign Postscript and letter
1:15 Speaker—activities of local groups—Charlotte Shristi
1:20 Speaker: City Councilman Richard Baugh
1:25 Music
1:30 Speaker–Kai Degner for Brent Finnegan (Wilt was invited)
1:35 Gov. McAuliffe’s and mayors’ statements (Joni Grady)
1:40 Speaker–Les Grady
1:45 Jeff Heie with closing words, call to actions—signing Postscript and letter to City Council, etc
1:50 – 2:00 Music for celebrating taking action!


Photo at top and photos below by Carl Droms:

 

Trump Is The Climate Threat, Not China, Not India

Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA) – June 5, 2017

“Why should the U.S. act on climate change?” some ask. “China and India aren’t.” Recent developments show that such ideas are false.

For the third year in a row, China’s CO2 emissions have dropped, suggesting they have peaked 10 years earlier than pledged. Also, China recently canceled construction of more than 100 coal-fired power plants.

India has 6,700 MW of new nuclear power under construction and last week its cabinet approved plans to build an additional 7,000 MW. Furthermore, India will install 8,800 MW of solar power in 2017 and power companies bid to sell electricity from a new solar farm at 20 percent less than the cheapest coal-fired power. These actions put India on track to obtaining 40 percent of its electricity from non-fossil fuel sources eight years ahead of schedule.

China and India are moving rapidly to fulfill their climate pledges. It’s the U.S. that’s back-pedaling under President Trump.

Leslie Grady Jr.
Harrisonburg

Climate and Energy News Roundup 6/2/2017

The big political news this week was that President Trump decided to begin the process of pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, a decision based on an economic analysis many consider to be flawed.  As Michael Shear of The New York Times wrote: “…Mr. Trump’s decision is a remarkable rebuke to fellow heads-of-state, climate activists, corporate executives and members of the president’s own staff, all of whom failed this week to change Mr. Trump’s mind with an intense, last minute lobbying blitz.”  In response to Trump’s decision, both China and India pledged to honor their own commitments and encouraged other countries to do the same.  Furthermore, dozens of U.S. states and cities promised to keep working to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, while three states, 30 cities, and numerous business and academic institutions were working to submit a plan to the U.N. pledging to meet the U.S. commitment to the Paris Agreement.  The journal Nature published the responses of several scientists to the announcement while the news staff at the journal Science compiled the reactions from a variety of sources.  In addition, David Brooks had a very insightful column in The New York Times while Jules Kortenhorst, CEO of Rocky Mountain Institute, had a particularly appropriate response to Trump’s decision.  Finally, PolitiFact fact-checked Trump’s announcement and Carbon Brief provided an interactive grid that looked at reactions from a number of sources.

The U.N. Ocean Conference is scheduled for June 5-9 in New York City, but the Trump administration is resisting plans to highlight how climate change is disrupting life in the oceans.  On Wednesday, EPA said it has placed a three-month suspension on parts of Obama administration efforts to curb methane gas emissions, following failure of Congress to rescind the rules under the Congressional Review Act.  Juliet Eilperin and Dennis Brady of The Washington Post published a profile of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt that helps explain some of his actions.

A paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters documented the embedded greenhouse gas emissions associated with the consumption of products by an average citizen across 177 regions in 27 EU countries.  Such consumption-based data are important for getting citizens to examine their personal actions in relation to global impacts.  A while back I provided a link to an article about material the Heartland Institute was sending to K-12 teachers with a cover letter suggesting that students would be “better served” if they are taught about the “vibrant debate among scientists on how big the human impact is, and whether or not we should be worried about it” [italics in original].  Well, Yale Climate Connections reported that many teachers have pushed back via social media and other outlets.

Climate

The growing crack in Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf has taken a sharp right turn and in headed toward the Southern Ocean, which is only 8 miles away.  Because the crack grew by 11 miles in the week between May 25 and May 31, scientists expect an iceberg roughly the size of Delaware to be released soon.  Carbon Brief presented a guest post by two Australian scientists discussing whether the eventual collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is already unstoppable.

Last week I linked to an article that stated that the goal of improving the natural heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef is no longer attainable.  Now this week, a paper in the journal Nature argues that reef conservation must no longer attempt to restore reefs of the past, but rather identify the parts of reefs that are essential to their continued existence, and protect them.  On the subject of the Great Barrier Reef, the damage last year due to elevated water temperatures was greater than originally thought.  Similarly, in the U.S., NOAA scientists have found that strict conservation measures in Hawaii have not spared corals from a warming ocean and have warned that U.S. reefs could largely disappear within just a few decades because of global warming.

Earlier this week, NOAA announced that its greenhouse gas index, which indicates the heating effect of all combined greenhouses gases in the atmosphere, increased by 2.5% in 2016.  In addition, they reported that 2016 recorded the second-biggest annual jump in atmospheric CO2 on record.  A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that melting permafrost can release more nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more powerful than CO2, than had previously been thought.

Widespread flooding and devastating mudslides have hit Sri Lanka following torrential rains over the weekend.  At least 150 people were killed and almost a half a million were displaced.

Energy

On Monday, the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition released a report by a group of economists, chaired by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Lord Nicholas Stern.  The key conclusion of the report is that meeting the world’s agreed upon climate goals in the most cost-effective way, while fostering growth, requires countries to set a strong carbon price.  Suggested target prices were $40-$80 per metric ton of CO2 by 2020 and $50-100 per metric ton by 2030.

Sixty-two percent of ExxonMobil shareholders voted for the company to begin producing an annual report that explains how it will be affected by global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement.  This is just the latest in a growing trend among shareholders in the U.S.

Although it is small and the CO2 captured will not be stored, the carbon capture system that has just started up in Zurich, Switzerland, is significant because it is the first to operate at commercial scale to remove CO2 directly from the atmosphere.

The last big coal-fired power plant in New England shut down permanently on Wednesday, and on Thursday the largest energy provider in New Jersey closed its final two coal-fired power plants, all as a result of cheap natural gas.  Further south, TVA said on Thursday that it expects to continue cutting carbon emissions and reducing energy costs by producing more power with natural gas, while shutting old coal plants.  But coal-fired power plants aren’t the only ones succumbing to cheap natural gas, as another nuclear power plant plans to shut down.  Another impact of cheap natural gas is that 35 states already comply with the 2022 interim requirements of the Clean Power Plan.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, renewable energy sources like wind, solar, hydroelectric, and geothermal power accounted for 19.35% of total electricity generation in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2017.  In addition, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency, 777,000 Americans are now employed in the renewable energy sector.

Overall, oil producers say their industry will enjoy decades of growth as they feed the energy needs of the world’s expanding middle classes.  Bloomberg asks, “But what if they’re wrong?” and sets about examining some of the assumptions that go into that rosy assessment.

There were two blog posts this week related to Dominion Virginia Power.  One, by Jim Pierobon, focused on the company’s slow embrace of solar energy, particularly in Virginia.  The other, by Ivy Main, examined the implications of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval of a Combined Operating License for Dominion’s third nuclear power plant planned for the North Anna site in Surry County.

40 MW floating solar farm has gone online in Huainan, China.  To date, it is the world’s largest floating solar farm.

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 5/26/2017

On Tuesday, President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal was released and it includes deep cuts in climate science and clean energy research.  These cuts are consistent with the Administration’s emphasis on “energy dominance”, rather than “energy independence.”  Brad Plumer at The New York Times provided an analysis of how budget cuts at DOE will impact climate change.  On Wednesday, Trump met with Pope Francis, who gave Trump a copy of his 2015 encyclical letter on the environment and climate change, which Trump promised to read.  Meanwhile, back in the U.S., 40 Senate Democrats sent Trump a letter urging him to stay in the Paris Climate Agreement, but 22 Senate Republicans urged him to pull out.  However, law experts said that the Republicans got their legal arguments wrong.  The National Association of Manufacturers filed court documents on Monday saying it no longer wanted to join the federal government in the lawsuit against it by 21 children who claim that they have been harmed by the government’s failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming.  On Thursday, both the American Petroleum Institute and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers followed suit.  We can expect more lawsuits about climate change in the future since the number of cases is increasing.

Citizen’s Climate Lobby, which advocates for a carbon fee and dividend, received some good press this week.  If you aren’t familiar with their work, you may want to read the article, or watch the segment about them from “Years of Living Dangerously”.  A survey of more than 8,000 people in eight countries – the United States, China, India, Britain, Australia, Brazil, South Africa and Germany – found that 84% of people now consider climate change a “global catastrophic risk”.  So, that raises the question, “Why is it so difficult to act against climate change and other disruptions to Earth’s ecosystem?”.  A new review in Science examined that question and helps us see what to do.

Climate

Following his confirmation hearings, now EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt stated in written comments: “over the past two decades satellite data indicates there has been a leveling off of warming.”  A new paper, published in Nature Scientific Reports, tested that statement using three different data sets and found that they did not support the statement.

The Great Barrier Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan, released in 2015, has the goal of improving the natural heritage values of the reef.  However, experts have told the Reef advisory committee that due to the extensive damage associated with back-to-back coral bleaching episodes in 2015 and 2016, that goal was no longer achievable.

A paper in the journal Nature Communications reported that the number of frost-free days in the contiguous U.S. has increased in the past 100 years: 13 days in the north, 10.7 days in the west, 8.6 days in the central region, and 7.7 days in the south.  In addition, a new paper in Nature Climate Change reported that by midcentury, half of the global population (primarily those in the tropics) are likely to experience climatic conditions that are virtually unheard of for the region in the present climate.

New research, published in the Journal of Hydrometeorology, has found that heavy rainfall events in the spring and fall in the northeastern U.S. were 84% more common from 1996 to 2014 than from 1901 to 1995.

Sea ice in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea is melting a month earlier than usual, in part due to the Arctic’s record-warm winter.

A new paper, just out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reexamined sea level records from 1901 to 1990 considering what we now know about global variation in sea level rise and concluded that the average annual rate over that period was 1.1 mm/y, which is in good agreement with a 2015 study, but lower than others.  They then estimated the rate of sea level rise from 1993-2012 using modern techniques and found it to be 3.1 mm/y, indicating a large acceleration.  A second paper related to sea level rise, in Nature Scientific Reports, included authors from USGS.  When they submitted a press release to the Department of Interior (DOI) for approval, DOI deleted a line that discussed the role climate change played in sea level rise.

Energy

A new paper in the journal Energy Economics calls into question a key assumption in the business-as-usual emissions pathway (RCP 8.5) used by the IPCC in projecting possible future climate change.  According to the paper, RCP 8.5 was based on all geologically identified coal, not the fraction it may be possible to dig up.  However, Noah Kaufman, a climate economist at the World Resources Institute said, “This seems like a plausible emissions pathway to consider, and perhaps the heavy use of coal is just a proxy for advances in high-carbon technologies that will enable this pathway,” such as tar sands or frozen methane sheets in the ocean, called hydrates.

On Monday, Tucson Electric Power, an Arizona utility company, announced that it had reached an agreement to buy solar power for 3¢/kWh, a “historically low price” for the U.S.  Meanwhile, the International Trade Commission launched an investigation into whether the U.S. government should impose tariffs on certain imported solar panel technology.

Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality admitted Wednesday that it provided inaccurate information nearly seven weeks ago about how it plans to handle the review of potential water quality impacts of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines.  In other Virginia news, Dominion Virginia Power filed for permission from the State Corporation Commission to offer 100% renewable energy to commercial and industrial customers with peak loads of over 1,000 kilowatts.

Over time, I have provided links to several articles about carbon capture and storage (CCS), many of which have focused on the challenges of applying the technology.  NET Power, a start-up company in Houston, TX, has a unique approach to CCS, by burning natural gas in the presence of pure oxygen, thereby producing an exhaust gas stream of pure CO2, which they compress to supercritical conditions and use to drive a generating turbine before sending the CO2 down a well.  An article from Science provided a good explanation of their process, which promises to provide zero-emission power from a fossil fuel.  Unfortunately, the fate of NET Power may have less to do with the efficiency and innovativeness of their technology, than with the electricity generating overcapacity resulting from the glut of natural gas.  Unfortunately, CCS research will likely suffer from the 87% cut proposed in President Trump’s 2018 budget.  Also, supercritical CO2 research is in danger, even though it offers great promise for a number of generating technologies.

Daimler AG, which makes Mercedes-Benz cars, is planning to build a lithium-ion battery factory in Germany to rival Telsa’s gigafactory.  In addition, battery factories are being planned in Sweden, Hungary, and Poland.  The output from these factories will be used in electric cars and for energy storage.

A report by the Netherlands government’s Environmental Assessment Agency said that off-grid renewable electricity could be the lowest cost option for providing electricity to the more than 600 million Africans who currently live without it.  However, Kenya has signed a $2 billion contract with Chinese company Power Global to finance a new coal-fired power plant adjacent to a UNESCO world heritage site.

Canada plans to phase in tougher regulations on the emission of methane over the next six years.  Rules requiring companies to control methane leaks and the release of methane from compressors are to take effect starting in 2020, whereas regulations on methane venting and its release from pneumatic devices would come into force in 2023.  Meanwhile, in the U.S., the EPA has announced it will delay rules aimed at cutting methane emissions from landfills.

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.

Andrew Grigsby

LEAP—Local Energy Alliance Program
Executive Director Andrew Grigsby’s Presentation May 23, 2017

AndrewGrigsby-e1487166309633Andrew Grigsby began with an overview of his organization’s history and current activities.  From the LEAP website:

Our story began in the fall of 2009, when the City of Charlottesville and County of Albemarle jointly applied for and won a competitive grant to fund a community-based energy efficiency organization. After the formation of our Governance Board, the Local Energy alliance Program (LEAP) was incorporated as a 501c3 nonprofit in 2010. LEAP began its highly successful path of home energy upgrades by launching its Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program in July 2010, followed by a program for commercial property owners in 2011, and the start of renewable energy services with the first Solarize campaign in 2014.

In 2012, LEAP added a second office in northern Virginia and began offering a variety of services there. While our focus is on the greater Charlottesville and Northern Virginia regions, we’ve worked with partners and provided services and programs across most of Virginia. As we like to say, “every community needs a LEAP.” So, we go where we’re needed.

Since its inception, LEAP has established itself as a trusted leader in Virginia for home and business energy efficiency and renewables thanks to the relationships we have developed with our customers, contractors, local governments, and many other partners.

Residents struggling with high energy bills or uncomfortable homes and business owners seeking to cut energy costs come to LEAP for building science expertise and, when available, special rebates and loans to make energy upgrades more affordable.

LEAP’s mission is to lead the effort in local communities to implement energy efficient and renewable technologies in buildings; to promote cost savings for families and businesses, job creation, energy self-reliance, and local economic development; and to mitigate climate change.

At this point, with the ending of the stimulus funding from the Recovery Act, LEAP is down from 23 employees to 7 but has added an office in NOVA.  Instead of being fully funded with federal grant money, only 8% of its income is from grants and it is following a more entrepreneurial model.  Now the majority comes from acting as a ‘contractor’ for Dominion and other local utilities and its home energy audit rebate program and weatherization program for low income residents.  It also serves as a sub-contractor for Community Housing Partners (CHP).  Grigsby is hopeful that Dominion will re-establish its home energy checkup program later this year.  If so, he expects greater incentives for both LEAP and Dominion customers—e.g. recovery by LEAP for both walk-through and for direct installs and no income limit for customers.  He noted that for Dominion an advantage to a customer’s improving a home’s energy efficiency is reduction in demand, often during peak load times.

When called up by a customer, LEAP sends a specially trained “energy analyst” to any home more than 4 years old. In addition to the usual Dominion practice of switching out incandescent bulbs, wrapping water heaters, and adding weather stripping to doors, with the rebate covering the basic costs, LEAP gives a separate audit report to the customer with an itemized list of needed improvements in increasing order of cost and suggests competent reliable contractors.  Apartment buildings can be made more efficient through the VA Multi-family Energy Efficiency Coalition of the Virginia Housing Alliance.  As LEAP tells the landlords, doing this “will improve your property, make your renters happy and better able to pay their bills.”  Grigsby also noted two other entities with a focus on energy efficiency:  VA Housing Alliance and Energy Efficiency for All.

Grigsby suggested that what is needed now are companies that would offer turn-key services from audit to weatherization plus financing.  Some solar energy companies such as Sigora Solar and Altenergy are beginning to offer financing and the idea may spread.  Both companies are also including energy efficiency audits as part of their business models.

One of LEAP’s goals for the future is to get all municipal utilities to put money into energy efficiency incentive programs like Appalachian Power has in southwest Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee. Grigsby noted that Elkton is one of the several municipal utilities in VA, and, of course, Harrisonburg Electric Commission (HEC) is another.

When asked about building codes (for new construction), Grigsby said the meaning and enforcement of “air-tight” is at the crux of the matter. Currently, “air-tight” can be determined either by a blower door test or by visual inspection and the usual choice is obvious.  However, inspectors in the Blacksburg area are requiring builders to supply real data, the kind that doesn’t come from a quick visual examination.  He added that the VA Building Code is currently undergoing revision and he is watching this closely as well as making recommendations.

Attendees asked about utility service areas and, following the meeting, Grigsby provided one. Find it here.  We also told him about the VA SUN campaign to ask Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative member/owners to encourage the co-op to improve its use of solar and its renewable energy policies.  In addition, we told him we were working with Renew Rocktown on ways to propose some win-win ways for HEC to do the same.  Further, we made him aware of Renew Rocktown’s current energy audit project.

From what we learned thanks to Andrew Grigsby’s presentation and responses to our many questions, attendees concluded that LEAP has been an admirable addition to the Charlottesville area and would make huge difference in Harrisonburg if the city could be convinced it was in their best interests to forego the additional income from the HEC that arises from wasted energy sales and require energy efficiency incentives to be offered.  We also think that LEAP’s having an office in Harrisonburg would facilitate efforts such as CAAV’s weatherization promotion program and Renew Rocktown’s energy audit project, if we can make any headway with HEC and the city through our upcoming collaborative effort noted above (that kicks off May 31).

Joni Grady and Joy Loving, for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, May 2017