Time For U.S. To Choose The Future

Daily News-Record, October 2, 2017
H. Bishop Dansby, Opinion (Open Forum)

energy-1989341_960_720Progress in addressing climate change is, of course, held up by the interests vested in coal, oil and natural gas energy resources, and by those who fear that we cannot replace these energy sources without damaging the economy.

Coal, oil and natural gas are natural resource-based sources of energy. The prices of those products has tended to stay flat with some temporary spikes. Technology-based energy, by great contrast, will tend to go down in price over time.

We are not accustomed to thinking in terms of tech-based energy, but we have had some forms of it for a long time, such as nuclear and hydroelectric power. Today, we also have solar, wind, wave, geothermal, and eventually we’ll have fusion. These will not consume natural resources, except in the more limited way of fabricating technology. The “fuel” of tech-based energy is intellectual and informational. While the need to reduce greenhouse gases has hastened the rate at which we transition from natural resource-based energy to tech-based energy, we will reap the benefits to quality of life and standard of living earlier.

If the Apple iPhone X were implemented in vacuum tubes in 1957, the transistors alone would have cost $150 trillion in today’s currency (one and a half times today’s global annual product), taken up a hundred-story square building two miles long and wide, and drawn 150 terawatts of power — 30 times the world’s current generating capacity.

The last factoid is worth reemphasizing. A single computer in 1957 matching the computing power of today’s iPhone would have required 30 times the electricity generation capacity of the whole world!

The Apple iPhone is a metaphor of the future. We can have a higher standard of living for less cost while consuming fewer resources and using less energy. The necessity of mitigating climate change may be hastening arrival of the future, but the good news is that we will have this new world sooner rather than later.

The technologies that will reduce greenhouse emissions, including solar power, electric vehicles, advanced batteries, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles, 3-D printing, net zero energy buildings, and increased energy efficiency are creating a world consistent with the Apple iPhone metaphor.

Hanging onto fossil energy will put America more in step with North Korea than with the world of the future. Need I note that the U.S. is the only country in the world not part of the Paris Climate Agreement?

Although much of our private sector and many state and local governments are embracing the future of green energy, the federal government is dismantling environmental protections and propping up energy industries of the past. Meanwhile, China and Europe and the other 192 nations that entered the Paris Climate Agreement are choosing the future.

Mr. Dansby lives in Keezletown.

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Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/29/2017

The big news this week about Hurricane Maria is that aid has been incredibly slow getting to people on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  The devastation in both territories, in combination with their ongoing financial crises, has caused speculation about increased migration to the U.S., and what its effects might be, both for the islands and for U.S. cities receiving the migrants.  An article in Vox looked at how the large amount of rain associated with this season’s hurricanes is a sign of climate change.  Conversely, an article in The Atlantic explains why it is difficult to draw a definitive conclusion about long-term changes in hurricane activity.  On a related note, a new study from the Universal Ecological Fund concluded that the costs to the U.S. of stronger hurricanes, hotter heat waves, more frequent wildfires, and more severe public-health issues will reach almost $1 billion a day within a decade.  On a more positive note, some see the destruction of the power grids on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as an opportunity to redo them with less reliance on imported fuel oil and diesel.

In a chapter released ahead of the publication of next month’s World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund has told rich countries they must do more to help poor nations cope with climate change or suffer from the weaker global growth and higher migration flows that will inevitably result.  Meanwhile, suggestions that the U.S. might reduce its commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement have sparked outrage from developing countries.  In other international news, Ontario has joined California’s cap-and-trade program limiting CO2 emissions.  Quebec joined the program earlier.

The Trump administration is expected to release its plans for replacing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan ahead of an Oct. 7 court deadline.  The announcement is expected to have several key parts: a legal analysis detailing why they think the rule wasn’t justified; an economic analysis showing why they think it overestimated benefits and downplayed costs; and a signal about what the administration is planning to put in place of the Clean Power Plan.  Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke delivered a string of comments this week that caused conservation groups and public lands advocates to conclude that the Trump administration does not view renewable energy development as a priority.  He also is unhappy with the failure of Department of Interior employees to buy into the Trump administration plans to expand fossil fuel production from public lands.

Climate

Last week I devoted a paragraph to a new paper in Nature Geoscience that examined the possibility of limiting global warming this century to 1.5°C.  I indicated in that paragraph that several articles in the popular press misinterpreted some of the results in the paper and provided links to fact-checks of those articles.  Now, in a guest post at Carbon Brief, the authors of the original paper respond and “explain what the article did, and did not, do”.

A new study, published in the journal Carbon Balance and Management, found that global methane emissions from agriculture are 11% larger than previous estimates have suggested.  However, when Carbon Brief asked about the impact of this finding on the chances of holding global warming to 1.5°C, they were told that it would be marginal.

The Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica has calved another large iceberg, its fifth since 2000, increasing concern among scientists for the stability of the glacier.  Also, a new article in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters reported that four glaciers that feed into Marguerite Bay, on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula, have speeded up because water temperatures in the bay have increased, accelerating melting.

A new study in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society provided additional evidence concerning the “warm Arctic, cold continents” hypothesis, although the continent is this case is Eurasia, not North America.

An article in the journal Science reported that forest areas in South America, Africa, and Asia, which have historically played a key role in absorbing greenhouse gases, are now releasing 0.425 Gt carbon annually, which is more than all the traffic in the U.S.  This story of the Paiter-Suruí tribe, who live in the Amazon forest on the border between the Brazilian states of Rondônia and Mato Grosso, is a tragic case study of why preservation of forests is so difficult.

A new analysis by the World Weather Attribution group found that the scorching temperatures across Europe’s Mediterranean nations this summer were made at least 10 times more likely by climate change.  They also analyzed the heatwave that struck southeast France, Italy and Croatia in early August and found it was made at least four times more likely.

Energy

Last week I included an article about the decision of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in the Suniva/SolarWorld America solar panel trade case.  The hearing for potential remedies is set for Oct. 3, after which the ITC will make a recommendation to the president.  SolarWorld America is not waiting for Trump’s decision, however.  On the basis of the ITC ruling, it announced that it will immediately increase production and hire more workers.  Nevertheless, most of the solar industry is opposed to the decision and predicts dire consequences if tariffs are imposed.  Utility Dive presented a summary of the positions being taken in the case, while GreenTech Media offered six ways to boost U.S. solar panel manufacturing without imposing a tariff.

Global emissions of CO2 remained static in 2016, due to less coal burning and increasing renewable energy, according to data published on Thursday by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.  The Washington state Department of Ecology has denied a water quality permit to a company that wants to build a coal export terminal near the city of Longview.

The Indian government has pledged to provide solar power and battery storage by the end of 2018 to the 300 million people without power in rural and remote towns and villages.  And speaking of renewable energy, many people still think it is too expensive, particularly for developing countries.  Well, in her newest video, climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe tackles that misconception.  A new study in Environmental Research Letters found that the benefits of renewable portfolio standards (RPSs) substantially outweigh their costs.

Two articles about H2-fuel cell vehicles appeared this week, one in The Economist and the other in Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN).  The Economist article concentrated on comparing fuel cells to battery-powered and traditional internal combustion engine-powered vehicles, whereas the C&EN article focused more on how fuel cells operate.  Neither article, however, addressed the issue of how the production method for the H2 impacts the carbon footprint of the vehicle, which is a shame.  Speaking of battery-powered cars, British inventor Sir James Dyson, the billionaire who revolutionized the vacuum cleaner, announced plans to build an electric car that will be “radically different” from current models and go on sale in 2020.  Traditional auto manufacturers appear to see 48V mild hybrids as a bridge to more efficient vehicles, because such systems can easily be added to conventional power trains.  Finally, Rocky Mountain Institute announced that based on the experience of seven participating trucks that drove a combined 50,107 miles during a 17-day event, it is possible for long-haul trucks to achieve 10 mpg using technologies available on the market today.

In an effort to spur an industry that has flourished in Europe but sputtered in the U.S., a bipartisan team of senators is proposing a 30% investment tax credit for the next 3 GW of offshore wind built in U.S. waters.  So, what are the issues surrounding offshore wind energy?  Last week, a panel at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, convened as part of Climate Week NYC, addressed that question.  Sarah Fecht summarized the discussion.

Remarks by a Dominion Energy executive suggest that the developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline plan to extend it into South Carolina.  The pipeline will deliver natural gas, composed primarily of methane.  On the topic of methane, ExxonMobil said on Monday that it will take a series of steps to cut methane emissions from its U.S. onshore oil and gas production.

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 9/22/2017

For the second time in two weeks, a hurricane (this time Maria) hit the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and other islands in the Caribbean, causing major damage to Puerto Rico’s electrical power system.  One thing unique about this year is that four hurricanes in a row have undergone “rapid intensification”, which makes it difficult to properly warn people.  Consequently, Eric Holthaus at Grist wondered if we had entered a new era of tropical storms, while climate scientist Kerry Emanuel argued that our policies have added to the cost of such disastersThe Washington Post fact-checker examined President Trump’s claim that “We’ve had bigger storms than this” when questioned about Harvey and Irma.  While the political climate may make it hard to discuss the impacts of climate change on hurricanes and other storms, one area that people are talking about is resiliency planning and implementation.

In a speech to the U.N. general assembly, British prime minister Theresa May argued that Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement ranks alongside North Korea’s nuclear missile tests as a threat to global prosperity and security.  Meanwhile, Nicaragua announced it will sign the Paris agreement, leaving the U.S. and Syria as the only two countries not participating in the global accord.  On the other hand, President Trump has indicated he might stay in if he can negotiate a better deal for the U.S.  The question is, just how will he do that, particularly in light of French President Emmanuel Macron’s assertion that the agreement “will not be renegotiated.”  Brad Plumer of The New York Times addressed the question of what the states can do to fight climate change in the face of President Trump’s plans.

Speaking at a climate change conference hosted by former Secretary of State John Kerry at Yale University, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called for a “price on carbon.”  Also, Arizona Senator John McCain delivered recorded remarks calling for the federal government to act on climate change.  On the other hand, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has asked the Heartland Institute for a list of researchers who have a “non-alarmist” approach to climate science and some of the possible candidates for positions on EPA’s Science Advisory Board have questioned mainstream climate research.

Climate

A new paper in Nature Geoscience examined the possibility of limiting global warming this century to 1.5°C.  In it, the authors state “limiting warming to 1.5°C is not yet a geophysical impossibility, but is likely to require delivery on strengthened pledges for 2030 followed by challengingly deep and rapid mitigation.”  In a guest column at Carbon Brief, senior author Richard Millar concluded “Our results indicate that based on the current understanding of the Earth system, the window for achieving 1.5°C is still narrowly open. If very aggressive mitigation scenarios can be implemented from today onwards, they may be sufficient to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.”  A number of climate scientists were surprised by the results and think that they need additional study to be fully understood.  Unfortunately, some articles in the popular press ignored the main conclusion and focused on another aspect of the work to claim that climate models are overestimating the amount of warming associated with a given level of CO2 emissions.  In a “Factcheck” column at Carbon Brief, climate scientist Zeke Hausfather countered that claim, explaining why it is incorrect, as did Millar and another author of the Nature Geoscience article in a Guardian article.  Finally, four climate scientists critiqued one of the misleading papers at Climate Feedback.

Preliminary figures from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center indicate that Arctic sea ice for 2017 reached its minimum extent on September 13.  The area covered was 4.64 million sq km, the eighth lowest in the satellite record.  According to the UK Met Office, after slightly slowing from 1999-2014, global average surface temperature is once again rising more quickly, due to a “flip” in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from its cool phase to its warm phase.  Meanwhile, Australia had its warmest winter on record.

An article in the journal Science Advances argued that Earth appears to be on course for the start of a sixth mass extinction of life by about 2100 because of the amount of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere.

The New York Times posted answers to 17 questions about climate change that you might find of interest.  However, in a farewell column, journalist Justin Gillis said that the biggest question of all concerning our future climate is how much carbon we will pump into the atmosphere before we take climate change seriously.

Ever heard of kernza, a perennial wheat variety?  I hadn’t, until I listened to this 1.5-minute clip from Yale Climate Connections.  Sounds like it has some very important climate benefits.

Harvey and Irma may not be 2017’s deadliest U.S. disaster.  Rather, over the last 30 years, increasingly broiling summer heat has claimed more American lives than flooding, tornadoes, or hurricanes, according to the U.S. National Weather Service.  This raises the question of the link between climate change and extreme weather.

Energy

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has voted 4-0 in favor of proceeding with the Suniva solar panel trade case, having seen enough evidence to convince them that imports are the major cause of injury to U.S. solar manufacturers.  The verdict of the four commissioners means the case will now proceed to the ‘remedy’ phase whereby the ITC will decide what measures, such as tariffs on imported panels, to recommend to the White House, which has the final say.  This article, while primarily about a Wall Street lender, provides some background on the importance of this decision.  And speaking of solar, roofing manufacturer GAF has introduced its own solar roof.

On Tuesday, a coalition of global corporations (EV100 Coalition) launched a campaign to accelerate the shift to electric vehicles.  On the subject of electric vehicles, Mercedes-Benz plans to start producing them in Alabama as part of a $1 billion expansion, which includes a massive new battery production facility near the auto assembly plant.  Electric-bus startup Proterra set a world record by test-driving an electric bus for 1,100 miles on a single charge.  The previous world record was 632 miles for an electric bus and 1,013 for an electric car.  As sales of electric cars and electrical storage systems increase, so will the demand for lithium, an important component of modern battery technology.  This raises the question of the environmental and human costs of lithium mining.  Unfortunately, the answer is not all that encouraging.

A team of engineers from Australian National University has identified 22,000 potential pumped hydro energy storage sites across Australia.  Those sites can be developed to allow up to 100% renewable energy in the Australian grid.  Speaking of storage, a test and demonstration facility operated by South Africa’s main utility Eskom will test Primus Power’s flow batteries.  Primus Power’s EnergyPod2 system utilizes zinc-bromine flow batteries, which can store energy for longer periods than lithium-ion batteries.

In the wake of President Trump’s announcement that he was going to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, many cities pledged to reduce their carbon emissions anyway.  In order to do that, most will have to step up enforcement of their energy efficiency codes for buildings and/or adopt stricter codes.  Sixty-two of the world’s 100 largest companies consistently cut their emissions on an annual basis between 2010 and 2015, with an overall 12% decline during that period, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.  In a commentary at HuffPost, Carl Pope, former head of the Sierra Club, summarized U.S. progress on cutting carbon emissions, in spite of the Trump administration.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission has taken an important step in regulating the electric power industry in the state by requiring utilities to include the “social costs’’ of carbon when planning future energy resources.  A new report released by Oil Change International, Public Citizen, and the Sierra Club examines how a new wave of gas pipeline construction threatens to shunt serious risks and costs onto utility ratepayers.  In addition, a federal appeals court in Denver told the Bureau of Land Management that its analysis of the climate impacts of four gigantic coal leases was economically “irrational” and needs to be done over.

Westinghouse Electric Company has announced that it is exiting the nuclear reactor construction business.

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.

Fred Kniss

F.Kniss.9.19.17.an

Fred Kniss

We were delighted to have Eastern Mennonite University Provost Fred Kniss as our Steering Committee speaker this month.  He brought a surprise in the form of Doug Graber Neufeld of the EMU Biology Department, who has recently been named Director of the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions (CSCS).  CAAV committee members have been greatly anticipating more information about how the Center is developing, and what the role of the Center is expected to become.  We learned all that and a great deal more that has transpired in the past year from Dr. Kniss who has been the interim director for the CSCS.

A very important meeting was held last spring and several important partners have joined on the CSCS venture.  Right now those include not only the founding collaborators (EMU, Goshen College, and Mennonite Central Committee), but also representatives from various other Anabaptist stakeholder groups, including Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Mennonite Mission Network, Everence, and the Mennonite Creation Care Network.

Begun with a generous gift from EMU alumnus Ray Martin, as a “visible statement to the larger world that Mennonites are serious about climate change,” the Center is intended to advance thinking and action in faith communities to mitigate climate change through fostering research, innovation, education and collaboration to promote sustainable living on earth in the context of environmental justice and creation care.

Dr. Kniss pointed out that a sustainability component is already a part of all majors at EMU.  An energy audit by Siemens Corp. found little at the university to critique, as they have been working on energy efficiency and renewable energy for years, installing the first solar panels on their library before other universities in the area found that impetus.   They have completed a broad survey of 33,000 Mennonites, starting with clergy, on behaviors and practices.  They describe the results in terms of Yale University’s  “Six Americas” with the 6,000 responses in categories ranging from “alarmed” about climate change to “dismissive”, but were pleased to learn that Mennonites already appear more concerned than other faith groups or Americans in general in surveys of a similar nature.

A big question for both staff and the oversight board is the role of advocacy in the Center.  This is a school where students and donors don’t all agree, and there will have to be work to bring them along. Also should they focus on mitigation (the founding donor’s intent) or, at this point, adaptation or both, since the climate has already changed in many parts of the world?  Should they focus on one or two things where they might have a real impact, or spread resources more widely?–focus on their own efforts or on supporting those of others?  These are big and important questions, and it is obvious that the necessary focus and study—and probably a lot of prayer—have been put into beginning to discern the answers that will guide the future of the Center.  We congratulate all those who have brought the Center this far in a very short time, and feel thankful for major help in the endeavor to fight Climate Change in still beautiful but increasingly challenged Earth.

D.Graber.9.19.17.anNew CSCS Director Doug Graber Neufeld (photo at right) had just one remark to make at the end of the meeting.  He has recently returned from a two year sabbatical and research period in Kenya, and says “There are no climate change deniers there”.

There is a wonderful website at www.sustainableclimatesolutions.org where many questions may be answered; you are encouraged to check it out.  A lovely and informative brochure is also available upon request.

– Anne Nielsen, for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, September 2017

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 9/15/2017

On Saturday, ministers and representatives of up to 30 major economies will convene in Montreal for the first climate talks since the U.S. announced its plans to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.  In what some described as a changing of the climate guard, the meeting was co-convened by the EU, China, and Canada.  After the U.S. withdrew its financial support for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Canada and other nations increased their contributions to ensure funding.  Working Group 1 of the IPCC has revealed the chapter outline for the 6th Assessment Report, due in 2021-22.  In advance of the annual UN General Assembly meeting in NYC, President Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, is planning to meet with top energy and climate officials from major foreign countries.  Another indicator of change is a new report by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, which found that more than 1,200 global businesses are moving to embrace a carbon price as a way to analyze current business practices and prepare for the future when global carbon pricing is the norm.  Finally, Environmental Defense Fund attorney Ben Levitan discussed four facts about climate law and science that help counter the distortions from EPA administrator Pruitt.

Early this week, the news was again dominated by a hurricane, this time Irma.  I am providing a link to Carbon Brief’s summary of media reaction, rather than trying to cover the articles.  Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) came under criticism for not doing more to prepare his state for the consequences of climate change.  Alexander Burns of The New York Times wrote that some in Congress think the conversation on climate change is shifting in the wake of Harvey and Irma, in spite of Scott Pruitt’s comments that talking about climate change now would be “very, very insensitive.”  In Bloomberg Politics Jennifer Dlouhy wrote “Research shows monster storms may only harden people’s position, underscoring already entrenched beliefs about the role humans play in warming the planet,” and in The Washington Post, researchers Llewelyn Hughes and David Konisky said “Our research shows that people who experience severe weather are only modestly more likely to support the types of efforts we need to build resilience to climate change.”  Perhaps this is due in part by the way the press has handled climate change and its impacts.  Indeed, Peter Dykstra commented on the total lack of the “C-word” during the otherwise excellent TV coverage of Harvey and Irma.  Meanwhile, in an interesting article at Nieman Reports, Michael Blanding wrote about how some “news outlets are bringing innovation, urgency and new audiences to stories on climate change.”

Climate

Last week I provided links to articles about how climate change is impacting hurricanes.  This week, Chris Mooney of The Washington Post considered some less-discussed hurricane attributes that could plausibly change in a warming world: season length, regions of formation and intensification, intensification rate, and storm size.  Also, Chelsea Harvey considered the impacts of declining coral reefs on the damage caused by wave action against the shore line.

A new paper, published in Nature, reported that two-thirds of the glacial ice in Asia’s high mountains could vanish by 2100 if we continue to emit CO2 at current rates.  Those glaciers provide water to at least 800 million people living in Asia.  On the other hand, if steps are taken to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above preindustrial times, only one-third of the glacial ice will be lost.  Another paper, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), asserts that the loss of mountain ice creates a host of problems for the people who live downstream.  Meanwhile, in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, the largest concentration of glaciers in the American Rocky Mountains is melting.  Unfortunately, the Wind River glaciers remain some of the least understood ice sheets in North America.

Writing in Eos, the magazine of the American Geophysical Union, a group of scientists argued that ocean heat content and sea level rise are much better indicators of global warming than average surface air temperature, primarily because they are much less subject to natural variability.  And speaking of “natural”, climate scientists Katherine Hayhoe explained in a new video why natural cycles can’t explain current warming.

There have been many studies on the impact of rising CO2 levels on plant yields, i.e., the amount of grain produced per acre, but there have been few on how rising CO2 impacts the nutritional quality of the plants.  Politico senior food and agriculture reporter Helena Bottemiller Evich wrote an interesting article about this question and the quest of a mathematician to study it.  Although the answer to the question is uncertain, it is now beginning to receive more attention.  Meanwhile, a new paper in PNAS, by authors associated with Scripps Institution of Oceanography, reports that some plants appear to become more efficient at using water as atmospheric levels of CO2 increase.

Another new paper in PNAS by authors associated with Scripps Institution of Oceanography has asserted that there is a 5% chance that the impacts of climate change within the 30 years will be catastrophic, meaning that most people would have trouble adapting.  In an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune, the senior author stated that few people would get on an airplane if they thought there was a 5% chance it would crash.

The costs of fighting U.S. wildfires topped $2 billion in 2017, taking wildfire suppression from 15% to 55% of the Forest Service budget.

After running for a decade beyond its planned life, the satellite-based Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), which has helped scientists track the melting of ice around Earth, is nearly out of fuel and will soon make its final science run, NASA announced late Thursday.  In a rather long article in The New York Times Magazine, Jon Gertner explored the various satellites employed by NASA and NOAA to keep track of what is happening with our weather and climate, while also examining the potential impacts of federal budget cuts on the programs dependent on those satellites.

Energy

Carbon Tracker Initiative has issued a new report that found that energy consumers in the US could be paying an extra $10bn a year by 2021 to prop up ageing coal-fired power plants.  Interestingly, Dominion Energy is listed as facing the highest percent of potentially stranded assets of any U.S. electric utility.  Meanwhile, in the UK, off-shore wind won contracts at record-lows of $76 per MWh, making them among the cheapest new sources of electricity generation there, joining onshore wind and solar, with all three cheaper than new gas-fired power plants.  Note, that’s a 50% decline since a similar auction two years ago.

In a new report released Thursday, the U.S. Energy Information Agency projected that worldwide emissions of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels would grow 16% by the year 2040 from the levels of 2015.  The report shows coal on a 20-year-long plateau, natural gas plentiful and growing, wind and solar growing rapidly in percentage terms but not fast enough to bring emissions down in absolute terms, and petroleum holding its own as the main source of energy for transportation, despite the arrival of electric vehicles.

Two lawsuits, one filed in Virginia and the other in the District of Columbia, are challenging FERC’s eminent domain authority under the Natural Gas Act.  They, along with other potential lawsuits in other jurisdictions, address the question of what constitutes a public necessity.  The outcomes may have impacts far beyond the natural gas pipelines involved.  North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration has delayed until mid-December its decision on whether to permit the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection has rescinded its water quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.  And on the subject of pipelines, the Minnesota Department of Commerce recommended this week that a major tar sands oil pipeline should not be expanded and that the old, existing line should be shut down because the state’s refineries don’t need additional crude oil.  Minnesota was just one of several states closely examining new pipelines.

In its 2011 SunShot Initiative, the Obama administration set the goal of reducing the cost of utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems by 75% by 2020.  The Trump administration recently announced that the goal has been met.  While the rest of the solar industry is doing well, GTM Research has forecast that residential solar PV will experience its first down year ever in 2017, shrinking by 3% compared to 2016.  There are several reasons for this, as explained by Julia Pyper.

GE Renewable Energy unveiled its largest onshore wind turbine this week, a 4.8 MW turbine that can generate enough electricity at low to medium wind speeds for the equivalent of 5,000 homes.

In New York City, Daimler AG unveiled its new Fuso eCanter, an electric light-duty truck produced under the Mitsubishi Fuso brand.  Daimler is supplying a fleet to several New York City non-profits and United Parcel Service Inc. has signed on as the first commercial customer in the U.S.  At the Frankfurt auto show, Volkswagen AG announced that it plans to build electric versions of all 300 models in the 12-brand group’s lineup by 2030.  Also at the show, Mercedes Benz announced that it would begin selling the GLC F-Cell in the U.S. by late 2019.  The car is a plug-in hybrid, except that instead of an internal combustion engine it has a hydrogen-powered fuel cell for hybrid operation.

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 9/8/2017

Once again, hurricanes were the major news items this week, with three hurricanes simultaneously in the Atlantic for the first time in seven years.  Irma was moving through the Caribbean and heading toward Florida as I wrapped up this week’s Roundup.  Ironically, its formation and strength may have been associated with the failure of El Niño to form in the Pacific.  Many are concerned that multiple large hurricanes represent the new normal.  Writing at Inside Climate News, Sabrina Shankman addressed six questions about Irma, Harvey, and climate change, including whether the U.S. had experienced a hurricane “drought”.  Chris Mooney of The Washington Post examined the question of the “drought” in more detail while Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic explained the difficulties of hurricane forecasting.  Nothing seems to have swayed climate change deniers, who remained steadfast in their denial.  Climate scientist Michael Mann and colleagues wrote an opinion piece in the Post calling for sensible policies to protect citizens in the face of climate change and two Stanford scientists published an opinion piece in The New York Times outlining the lessons we should learn from HarveyAxios presented an interesting graphic summarizing all of the Atlantic hurricanes over the past 30 years.  It helps put things in perspective.  Finally, writing at the World Resources Institute, Christina Chan and James DeWeese discussed how Houston can rebuild with resilience.  Such ideas may prove important for many cities.

As hurricanes continued to dominate the news, it is interesting to note that a paper in the journal Climatic Change estimated the fraction of the current rises in global average temperature and sea level that can be attributed to the CO2 and methane emissions from the 90 major fossil fuel and cement producing companies.  In an accompanying commentary, Henry Shue, Professor Emeritus of Politics and International Relations, and Senior Research Fellow Emeritus at Merton College, Oxford, concludes that “The time has come for the major carbon producers to face the reality of the unsafe products they persist in marketing and the safer world they could help to create.  Otherwise, they risk turning themselves into enemies of humanity.”  Two of the authors of the paper wrote an opinion piece for The Guardian calling for the fossil fuel industry to pay for the impacts of storms like Harvey.  If hurricanes exacerbate your climate anxiety, then you should read Eve Andrews article in Grist about how to manage it.

If you can stand to read it, the article by Washington Post investigative reporter Robert O’Harrow, Jr. will tell you a lot about the people who worked to get the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord.  Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 16 to 14 to restore funding for the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change in the State Department appropriations bill.  The House’s version of the State funding bill does not fund the U.N. climate agency, so the two will have to negotiate regarding the final outcome.  President Trump has nominated three-term Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma to oversee NASA, a job that often goes to astronauts or scientists.  He faces a contentious Senate confirmation over his past comments dismissive of climate change as a man-made problem.  If you would like some positive political news, then read this article about the respectful approach taken by Citizens’ Climate Lobby in its work on behalf of a carbon fee and dividend as a solution to climate change.

Climate

If you have a child (or grandchild) in school who is beginning to learn about climate and climate change, then you might look at this article about teachers and the challenges they face teaching about it.  The article mentions some really good resources that you might pass on.

The libertarian Niskanen Center filed an amicus brief in the 9th Circuit Court case Juliana vs United States, or the “Children’s Climate Case.”  The brief supports the lower court’s finding under the public trust doctrine and argues that the government’s responsibility extends to climate change.

A new paper published in the journal Science Advances reported on the fate of parasites in a warming world.  The study found that many parasites could face extinction, which sounds like a good thing, except that the loss of parasites could destabilize many of the world’s ecosystems.  On the subject of ecosystems, a study carried out by experts from the British Antarctic Survey found that as the Antarctic seafloor warms over the next century, four out of five marine species living there are predicted to decline in numbers.

While California has experienced its hottest summer on record, at least 81 large fires were blazing across 1.5 million acres of the U.S. West, from Colorado to California and north to Washington.  Meanwhile, across the Canadian border, British Columbia has already had a record-breaking fire season.  This raises the question of whether climate change is making the wildfire season longer and more intense through increased drought.  Certainly, this year’s flash drought is having a big impact on agriculture across Montana and North Dakota.

Previously, I have provided articles about a link between climate change and the Syrian civil war.  The evidence for such a link came from a 2015 paper that suggested that a severe drought beginning in 2006 acted as a catalyst for the conflict by sparking vast waves of migration, and that climate change made such droughts in the region more than twice as likely.  Now, a new paper in Political Geography disputes that link, finding that there is “no clear evidence” that human-driven climate change contributed to the 2006 drought.

Initial figures suggest that Greenland may have gained a small amount of ice over the 2016-17 year.  If confirmed, this would mark a one-year blip in the long-term trend of year-on-year declines over recent decades.

Energy

Jaguar Land Rover announced that all new cars produced from 2020 will have only hybrid and electric drive trains.  The article also contains a section on the state of electric cars.  Nissan has introduced a new version of the all-electric Leaf.  It is rated for 248 miles in Japan, 235 miles in Europe, but only 150 miles in the US, due to different range tests for electric vehicles in different countries.  And next month Tesla plans to unveil an electric big-rig truck with a working range of 200 to 300 miles, Reuters has learned.  Meanwhile, Scotland announced plans to end the sale of new gasoline- and diesel-powered cars by 2032 and fast-track the development of a country-wide charging network for electric vehicles.

A 4.5GW solar-thermal project planned in the Tunisian desert would send electricity to Malta, Italy, and France using submarine cables in the largest energy export project since the abandoned Desertec initiative.

A new poll by researchers at the University of Michigan found strong support among Americans for net metering policies for homeowners with solar panels or wind turbines.  For those without solar panels, Dominion Energy Virginia will offer the opportunity to buy solar-generated electricity from community-based solar facilities.  The company has also identified two sites, a long-closed coal mine in Wise County and a 4,100-acre site in Tazewell County, for possible pumped hydroelectric storage facilities and has paused development of a fifth reactor at its North Anna nuclear power plant.

Fully 80% of energy company respondents to a survey indicated that they are currently implementing or considering energy storage to defer grid investments.  When people think about energy storage, they typically think about batteries and indeed, a record number of such systems was installed in the second quarter of this year.  However, under certain applications thermal energy storage makes more sense than batteries, even though it is less well known.  Writing for Greentech Media, Julian Spector provided an interesting tutorial on the technology.  One method not covered in Spector’s article is storing excess energy as heat in silicon, but it is discussed in this article.  Another type of energy storage is conversion of excess electricity to hydrogen, which is covered here.

Air conditioning is expected to use a greater amount of energy as the world warms and more people use it.  Thus, it is heartening to note that Stanford engineers have come up with a simple, passive radiative system to improve air conditioning efficiencyThis short article gives a more complete picture of its construction.

Early next year, a tanker owned by Maersk and a passenger ship owned by Viking Line will be outfitted with rotor sails developed by Norsepower Oy Ltd., based on an idea of German engineer Anton Flettner in the early 20th century.  If all goes as expected, the sails will reduce fuel consumption by around 10%.

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.

2017 Virginia Solar Congress

VA-Solar-Congress-600-x-150


All about the 2017 VA Solar Congress including notes, PowerPoint presentations, photos and more from Solar United Neighbors of Virginia here.


Join solar energy enthusiasts from across Virginia for the 2nd annual Virginia Solar Congress, hosted by our partner organization, Solar United Neighbors of Virginia (formerly VA SUN). RSVP here to attend.

2017 Virginia Solar Congress
Saturday, October 14
9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
James Madison University – ISAT-CS Building
701 Carrier Dr., Harrisonburg, VA 22807

The Virginia Solar Congress is a free public conference that brings together solar supporters from across the state to learn and discuss the current state and future for solar energy in Virginia. The day will include presentations about solar technology and policy topics as well as ways to get involved with growing solar in Virginia. We will also hold a participatory open forum discussion for all attendees to discuss the priorities that solar supporters in Virginia should focus on in the coming year.

This event is FREE and open to the public. Everyone is welcome to attend!

RSVP here to attend.

We’re excited to announce that we’ve finalized our agenda for the 2nd Annual VA SUN Solar congress in Harrisonburg on October 14th.

You’ll see from the agenda below that this year’s conference will have something for everyone! We look forward to seeing you there!

9:30 to 10:00 – Registration, breakfast refreshments

10:00 to 10:35 – Opening Remarks

10:45 to 11:45 – Workshops – Session 1

1. Solar 101 Information Session
Learn the basics of how solar works on a home or small business, the economics behind solar, and the incentives available to you. If you are new to solar or considering going solar, this is the session for you!

2. Growing Solar in Your Community
Solar homeowners will share their experiences spreading the word about solar in their community, from hosting solar open houses and solar tours to writing articles in local papers and tabling at community events. You’ll leave this session with tangible ways to share your experience going solar and bring more solar to your community.
Facilitated by Climate Action Alliance of the Valley member Joy Loving

3. Electric Vehicles and Solar
Learn why electric vehicles are the perfect match for solar. The presentation will focus on technology, costs, charging and other practical considerations so that you can ‘fuel your vehicle with solar’. The session will also cover information for business owners interested in installing an EV charger at their business.

12:00 to 1:00 – Lunch and informal networking – lunch will be served

1:15 to 2:15 – Workshops – Session 2

1. Solar Jobs in Virginia
The expanding solar industry is creating new opportunities for the Virginia workforce. Learn about the range of solar jobs in Virginia, the skill sets needed to be successful in the industry, training opportunities, and how to break into the field.

2. Case Study: Local DIY Solar and Barnraising Initiatives
Learn about how a group of community members in Harrisonburg took solar into their own hands by creating and implementing multiple non-traditional models for solar, including a pool of community resources for several DIY solar installations and a ‘barnraising’ crowdfunding initiative to solarize local non-profit, Gift & Thrift.

3. Solar and Energy Storage
Learn the latest on battery storage for residential, commercial and municipal solar installations. A panel of experts will discuss emerging technology, costs and the applications for battery storage in Virginia.

2:30 to 3:30 – Participatory Open Forum Discussion:
Discuss and weigh in on practical policy steps we can all take to expand access to rooftop solar in Virginia.

3:30 to 3:40 – Closing remarks

4:00 to 5:30 – Post-congress Happy Hour at Three Notch’d Brewing Company

We hope you will consider attending this exciting event!

Facebook event page here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/1/2017

I’d like to give a big thank you to Erik Bahnson, Bishop Dansby, Dave Pruett, and Doug Hendren, each of whom prepared a Roundup while Joni and I were in New York and Canada.  It was really nice to turn off climate news for four weeks and just enjoy ourselves.  We particularly enjoyed Tadoussac, Quebec, where we saw Beluga, Minke, Fin, and Blue whales.  I’d also like to give a shout out to our Toyota Prius, which averaged over 60 mpg during the trip.

Of course, the big news this week was hurricane Harvey and its impact on the Texas Gulf Coast.  I’m sure you are fully aware of Harvey, so I won’t link to the numerous news articles about it.  Rather, I’ll provide a few articles about the impacts of climate change on Harvey.  Carbon Brief summarized media reaction to possible links between Harvey and climate change, Climate Signals had a good summary of the climate impacts on Harvey, The Washington Post looked at the debate over the effect of climate change on hurricanes, and David Leonhardt of The New York Times presented a thoughtful Op-Ed piece entitled, “Harvey, the Storm That Humans Helped Cause.”  At Vox, David Roberts reported nine things you can say about Harvey and climate change.  One good that could come from Harvey is that politicians and planners will give more attention to where and how people build.  Bloomberg had a couple of good articles on the subject, one looking at building codes and the other about the National Flood Insurance Program.  Amazingly, on Tuesday the EPA rejected a contention by scientists that the historic rainfall from Harvey was linked to climate change, calling it “an attempt to politicize an ongoing tragedy.”  As to the question of just who is politicizing climate change, I suggest you read this item.  Finally, we should bear in mind that the U.S. Gulf Coast isn’t the only area experiencing devastating flooding.

Climate

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to eliminate the positions of the special envoys for climate change and the Arctic.  Their duties will be shifted to other programs within the State Department.

A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists has found that chronic inundation (defined as flooding events that cover at least 10% of the community and happen at least twice a month) will occur in about a dozen North Carolina towns and cities within the next 20 years.  If you would like to read a longer article about the report, go here.

The water level in the Caspian Sea has dropped 5 feet since 1996.  Now, a new paper in Geophysical Research Letters has reported that the drop was caused by increased evaporation rates associated with warmer air temperatures.

Yale Climate Connections provided a review of Al Gore’s new movie, An Inconvenient Sequel.

A new study, published Thursday in the journal Current Biology, suggests that rising temperatures at the Antarctic sea-floor will have a much greater impact on biodiversity than thought previously.  Certain species responded much more to increased temperature than others, causing them to dominate, thereby decreasing biodiversity.

I will admit that I had never thought about climate change causing landslides, but that is what is happening in Switzerland.  Once one has been exposed to the idea, it is entirely logical.  It turns out that many of the steep mountain faces that are iconic of Switzerland have been stabilized by permafrost, which is now melting as the climate warms.

The southern pine beetle kills pitch, red, and jack pine trees by laying its eggs under the bark, in much the same way that the mountain pine beetle killed trees in the Rocky Mountains.  The northern limit of the southern pine beetle is where tree bark temperatures drop to 14°F.  Now, as temperatures increase due global warming, the latitude at which that occurs is moving northward, and so are the beetles, according to a new paper in Nature Climate Change.

Energy

Writing at Yale Environment 360, Jacques Leslie analyzed the changing relationship between electric utilities and the solar industry.  He found that it is more complex than typically portrayed in the typical us vs. them scenario.

Southern Co. and other utilities building the Vogtle nuclear expansion project in Georgia are prepared to finish the reactors, but laid out a set of assurances that must be met in a filing with state utility regulators on Thursday.  If the Georgia Public Service Commission approves the project, Plant Vogtle will be the only set of nuclear reactors under construction in the United States, since Duke Energy just cancelled plans to build reactors in Florida and South Carolina.  Duke Energy also said it won’t help restart construction on the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in South Carolina.  Desmog examined why construction of the Vogtle plant ran into difficulties.

China Civil Engineering Corp. will build a $5.8 billion hydro-power station in Nigeria’s eastern Mambila region with a capacity to generate 3,050 MW.  The project requires the construction of four dams and includes 435 miles of transmission lines.

While I was away, DOE released the results of its grid study.  PV Magazine interviewed Mark Dyson, a manager at Rocky Mountain Institute’s electricity practice, about the content of the report and the disconnect between the recommendations and the evidence presented.  Also, Dr. Susan Tierney expressed her opinion of the report.

One Houston-area facility which appears to have survived Harvey intact is Net Power’s $140 million, 50-MW natural gas power plant, which will capture effectively all of the CO2 it produces, without significantly higher costs.  The plant is expected to be fired up for the first time later this year, and if all works as planned, it could be a real game-changer for carbon capture technology.

Over the past several years, the International Energy Agency and similar organizations have consistently underestimated the growth in solar energy globally.  A new paper in the journal Nature Energy examined why that has occurred and the lead author of the paper prepared a commentary on it.

The latest issue of the U.S. Energy Information Agency’s Electric Power Monthly revealed that renewable energy sources and nuclear power each are providing roughly 20% of the U.S. electricity supply.  However, coal again supplied the greatest amount of electricity, displacing 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.

Fracking Is A Public Health Hazard

Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA) – Aug 29, 2017

The natural gas industry claims their methods are safe, but science shows us otherwise. Many harmful chemicals are released in fracking and pipeline leaks, including arsenic, mercury, radon, benzene, toluene and hundreds of others. Many can cause childhood leukemia. Pipelines leak with depressing regularity. Land and water affected by these leaks will never return to normal in the lifetime of anyone reading this newspaper, or their children or grandchildren.

Physicians For Social Responsibility, of which I am a member, has published two high-quality sources of scientific information on the public health risks of fracking: “Compendium” and “Too Dirty, Too Dangerous.” Both are available free online.

The public health risks associated with the natural gas industry are high. The industry has long used cash settlements, gag orders and other strategies to hide this fact from us all. We can no longer plead ignorance.

Douglas Hendren
Harrisonburg

Climate and Energy News Roundup 8/25/2017

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

CLIMATE:

Climate change sets the world on fire. Canada has had the worst wildfire season in its history. Europe has seen 3 times the average number of fires this summer. Even Greenland is burning. Longer, hotter seasons from climate change are an important ingredient. In the American west, there is no longer a “fire season” – now it’s year ’round. And in related news, A Russian tanker has traversed the Arctic for the first time without an ice-breaker. Its cargo? Liquefied natural gas.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Corpus Christi, Texas late Friday with “catastrophic flooding” predicted as it moves northeast toward Houston over the next few days. Over 200,000 are currently without power. Governor Abbott has advised Houston residents to “strongly consider” evacuation. Hurricanes are fueled by ocean heat, and sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are 1.5 to 4 degrees C above average. More heat also significantly increases the rainfall in hurricanes.

EXXON KNEW all along, concludes a peer-reviewed Harvard study, demonstrating a “quantifiable discrepancy” between Exxon’s internal communications and what they told shareholders and the public. This analysis of Exxon’s own materials should bolster the NY and MA Attorneys General case against Exxon-Mobil. Unsurprisingly, Exxon has already attacked the study and its authors.

US CO2 emissions have fallen 14% since 2005, about 2/3 of which is from coal’s declining share of electricity generation (55% to 33%). Most of coal’s share has gone to gas, and whether gas is actually better or worse than coal from a climate standpoint is not clear. However, wind (19%), solar (3%) and efficiency gains (18%) have also contributed to reducing emissions.

How to win the climate wars – talk about local pollution, not global warming. “Pollution” is tangible, not politicized, and something everybody cares about.  Amory Lovins captures this beautifully in his interview by Tom Friedman at last week’sRMI Energy Innovation Summit (from 4:20 to 6:00 in the video): “Talk to people where they’re at…Some care about profits, jobs, competitive advantage… some about climate, creation care, stronger families, communities, national security. It doesn’t matter. Focus on what we can agree ought to be done, for whatever reason. And don’t argue about the reasons.” The entire 45-minute interview is loaded with optimism and inspiring stories. Strongly recommended, and a breath of fresh air!

ENERGY: 

Nearly 70% of the world’s countries, including China, US and UK could be powered entirely by renewables by 2050. Stanford researchers point out this will prevent millions of premature deaths, create 24 million long-term jobs and $20 trillion in saved health and climate costs.

New Battle Cry: 100 Per Cent! Bill McKibben notes that environmentalists have been “better at opposing than proposing”, and urges the Climate Movement to rally around the call for 100% renewable energy. Orlando, FL has joined the cause, now the 40th US city to commit to a 100% clean energy future. Even 72% of Republicans, McKibben notes, want more clean energy.

Nuclear power plants are ‘bleeding cash’, writes Joe Romm. “Let it be written that environmentalists did not kill the nuclear power industry. Economics did.” After the abandonment of one of the last remaining nuclear plant projects in the US, 80% of South Carolina voters think the state should trade nuclear for solar. They are not alone in this view. Solar panel capacity (not generation yet) is about to overtake nuclear energy capacity worldwide. Coal is likewise in rapid decline worldwide, including AustraliaIndia and China, being replaced mainly with renewables. Sixteen percent of US coal plants have retired since 2012, and it looks doubtful that the US will ever build another big coal plant.

Despite coal’s and nuclear energy’s failing economics, last week’s highly anticipated DOE Report recommends policies (read ‘subsidies’) to boost these dying industries. Contradicting Trump’s claims, the report does acknowledge that the coal industry dying from market factors (displaced so far mainly by cheaper gas, wind and efficiency gains).

Renewables are good for the grid. Though some predicted trouble, the US power grid passed Monday’s solar eclipse testwithout a hitch. Joe Romm opines that Energy Secretary Rick Perry may have “stumbled upon the solution to going 100% renewable“: Far from Perry’s claim that renewables jeopardize the US grid, the DOE report finds that renewables do not destabilize the grid, but do help stabilize electricity prices for American consumers. Further, plug-in electric vehicles can provide greater grid flexibility by balancing demand and generation.

ON THE POLICY FRONT:

Cap-and-Trade growing: Northeast strengthens carbon goals as Federal rules fade. The nine states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative have resolved to step up their cap-and-trade program, now on pace to greatly exceed Obama administration targets. The RGGI states represent the 6th largest economy in the world, and five of the nine states are run by Republicans. As Gov. Terry McAuliffe positions VA for more aggressive climate policy, the possibility of VA joining the RGGIis once again on the table. On the West Coast, meanwhile, the California state GOP is divided over whether to stick with current cap-and-trade or tack right to align with the Trump camp.

Solar Tariffs? A case brought by two US solar panel manufacturers is now before the US international Trade Commission. A decision about whether to impose tariffs on solar panel imports would ultimately fall to President Trump. An import tariff would double the price of solar panels, putting half of the US market and 88,000 US solar jobs at risk. It would have major economic impact in Georgia, and also North Carolina, where Republicans are rallying to protect the state’s solar industry,

 Pipeline issues are getting hot:  The Rover pipeline (714 miles from Michigan to WV) is in the news for multiple water quality violations in West Virginia. It comes at a time when public pressure is mounting on Virginia’s DEQ to slow down pipeline water approvals, including from state Senators Hanger and Deeds, and Delegates Bell and Rasoul.  Gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam was booed in Fairfax County for suggesting that the ACP and MVP could move forward pending approvals from DEQ, FERC and COE.

Putting FERC on notice?  A federal appellate court rejected approval of a gas pipeline on Tuesday, saying FERC must give an estimate of greenhouse gas emissions that would result from burning the gas delivered by proposed pipeline projects to Florida. The Tuesday ruling sets a legal precedent that could affect the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines.

PEOPLE’S PIPELINE PROTEST, September 12, 13, 14. CCAN is organizing statewide protests at DEQ office throughout Virginia.

Trump disbanded federal climate advisory panel. These are the folks who recently leaked their major climate change report. A wise move, it appears. Mr. Trump continues to try to deal with climate by not talking about it: Another US agency deletes references to climate change.

Just for fun: If you’ve gotten this far, relax for a minute and turn up the volume. My latest 2 musical pieces: THE SUNSHINE STATE tells how Floridians reined in their utility, which sounds a lot like Dominion. And THE ANTHROPOCENE, a friendly reminder about where we are.