January 1, 2019
We live in interesting times, a human world in deep conflict. Will our interest in life itself win over mankind’s idolatry of continuous growth and profit? We will explore both sides of that coin.
But first the news.
Action Alert! NY DEC is soliciting input
from stakeholders on air quality regulations
All breathers of air are stakeholders
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has developed a stakeholder regulation outline for new requirements in the oil and natural gas sector (the “rule”). The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published “Control Techniques Guidelines for the Oil and Natural Gas Industry” 1 on October 20, 2016.
The Control Techniques Guidelines (CTG) set minimum requirements in determining reasonably available control technology (RACT) for volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from select oil and natural gas industry emission sources. Some proposed requirements in this regulation outline go beyond the CTG to address methane emissions as well as New York air quality and nonattainment area concerns. This stakeholder document outlines what DEC is considering for a state regulation. In addition to the specific requests for feedback outlined in the document below, DEC will consider and evaluate all comments, general feedback and questions.
The NYDEC is considering requiring continuous monitoring of air emissions at compressor stations. This would be very good if it actually happens in a comprehensive manner. And actually it should occur at all gas infrastructure facilities, with data made available to the public. The technology exists now to do this, and it would contribute to a better understanding by state regulators, the public, and industry of the type, magnitude, and frequency of emissions. This should be encouraged
The DEC is soliciting comments on the oil and gas emissions stakeholder air regulation outline. To read the outline download at Oil & Natural Gas Sector Emissions in New York Stakeholder Regulation Outline (PDF)
The most effective Public Comment letters typically address shortcomings and omissions in DEC’s proposed regulation: what should be regulated, what should be the tolerances for emissions, what mechanisms or procedures should be required to reduce emissions.
Keith Schue and Dennis Higgins have written several comments which you can use to draft your own, or simply personalize these. Letters are in a shared googledrive:
- Regarding “letter on CNG transport,” We are in a crucial time when methane’s immediate impact on the climate cannot be over-stressed. In this letter, the writer stresses the imperative that all transport of methane be regulated, including the CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) transport sector. The 12 CNG transport truck accidents which have occurred during the past two years of operation are enumerated.
- In “Leak-detection-letter” the writer criticized the DEC’s proposal for quarterly leak inspections, making the point that this world cannot be nearly as leaky as it has been, and gas drilling, transport, distribution and municipal facilities must be under continuous monitoring. Sir David Attenborogh is quoted regarding the dire nature of the situation we face, “Right now we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.” The time for half measures is past.
- In the DEC’s document Gas Sector Emissions in New York Stakeholder Regulation Outline, page 2, the proposed requirements for methane-driven pneumatic controllers are:
- Continuous bleed natural gas driven pneumatic controllers.
“Proposed Requirements: Pneumatic controllers must have a natural gas bleed rate less than or equal to 6 standard cubic feet per hour (scf/h).”
- Natural gas-driven diaphragm pumps.
“Proposed Requirement: Routing of emissions from natural gas-driven diaphragm pumps to onsite control systems with a 95 percent emission control rate.”
These devices are likely to be found at all levels of methane handling, from well-head to pipelines, valves, compressor stations, as well as distribution and faclities. A leak rate of 6 cubic feet/hr translates to .83 tonnes of methane per year. Multiplied by thousands of these devices (or more), would result in 830 tonnes/year contribution to other more difficult-to-control leakage. Wherever possible these should be driven by inert gases such as Nitrogen.
- Continuous bleed natural gas driven pneumatic controllers.
[Editor’s note: There are quite a number of such gems in these documents. Please make use of them as you can. Each of these five letters address engineering details which might not occur to the general reader. Please make maximum use of these gifts from Keith Schue and Dennis Higgins. It is recommended that you copy and paste parts of these letters and send them in your own words to the extent your are able, one point per comment, for maximum impact. We want the DEC to understand how many eyes are on this issue!]
Responses should be received by January 31, 2019. Send comments by mail or email to:
Power Plant Accident Casts New Light
On New York’s Dirty Fuel Addiction
Power Plant Accident Casts New Light On New Yorkâs Dirty Fuel Addiction
ASTORIA, N.Y. ― The transformer explosion that illuminated the New York City skyline late Thursday night came from one of the state’s dirtiest plants, casting new light on the city’s dependence on antiquated oil-burning power stations and bolstering calls for cleaner electricity.
This densely-populated area of northwestern Queens provides nearly half the city’s electricity from aging plants that burn number 6 fuel oil, a thick, viscous oil blend considered one of the most polluting energy sources in the world.
The Astoria Generating Station, where the explosion occurred around 9 p.m., burns 3,039,000 gallons of number 6 fuel oil a year. The Ravenswood Generating Station, the towering four-smokestack facility on the East River in Long Island City, burns another 3,264,000 gallons per year and was ranked as the state’s largest carbon polluter in 2014.
The New York City Department of Health found higher air pollution levels in Astoria and Long Island City than the rest of the borough or city. According to the city’s most recent community health report for the neighborhoods, the levels of PM2.5 ― the most harmful type of particulate matter, fine-grain pollutants that wedge into lungs when inhaled ― hit 8.9 micrograms per cubic meter. That compared to 8.4 micrograms per cubic meter in Queens overall and 8.6 citywide.
Further reading: Astoria lawmakers call on power plant operators to stop burning dirty oil [December, 2016]
Local officials have long blamed the plants for higher levels of asthma, and last year the city council passed a bill requiring the utility operators to stop using fuel oil number 6 by 2020 and number 4 oil by 2030. But the explosion on Thursday night could add new pressure to go further, phasing out fossil fuel use altogether and converting the stations to renewable sources.
“This is a very old and very polluting power plant that should have been shut down quite a while ago,” Judith Enck, the former Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator for New York, told HuffPost late Thursday. “It’s a reminder that New York needs to accelerate efforts to phase out fossil fuels.”…—Alexander C. Kaufman, “Power Plant Explosion Casts New Light On New York’s Dirty Fuel Addiction,” Huffington Post, 12/28/18
Virginia air board delays decision on ACP compressor station
in African-American community
Va. air board delays decision on ACP compressor station in African-American community > Appalachian Voices
The Virginia Air Pollution Control Board today delayed a highly anticipated vote on the controversial proposed compressor station in the largely black community of Union Hill in Buckingham County. In a packed meeting room of mostly opponents of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the board adopted several technical amendments to the draft permit. The board also voted to open a new public comment period for the public to respond to new information submitted to the board by the Department of Environmental Quality over the past month.
The DEQ presented new demographic information today, attempting to call into question Union Hill’s status as an environmental justice community. However, community residents say the agency based its findings on flawed methodology. Anthropologist Lakshmi Fjord had previously provided an analysis to the DEQ and the board about the demographics of the community using the Environmental Protection Agency’s preferred research methods.
The public is awaiting further information about the start of the public comment period and how long it will last. Governor Northam’s two new appointees to the board, Gail Bush and Kajal Kapur, did not attend the meeting, and the seventh member of the air board, Roy Hoagland, stated long ago that he would abstain from voting on the project, citing a conflict of interest.…—Peter Anderson, “Va. air board delays decision on ACP compressor station in African-American community,” Appalachian Voices, 12/19/18
Too Late to Get Earnest?
Thesis versus Antithesis
Thesis: The Miraculous Hope of Climate Realists
The Miraculous Hope of Climate Realists
We’re stepping into a new year in the climate fight. The turning of the year is a milestone both for stoking our resolve, and for noting how deep we now are into climate overtime. In 2018 there was a lot of talk of diminishing odds and despair, and not without reason. So if, like me, you’re heading into 2019 discouraged or even despairing, I have three things to say: you’re not wrong; the fight from here on out is not the one you signed up for; but there’s more to hope, even your own, than meets the eye.
A climate scientist and dear friend told me back in 2008 that she had moved into a “post-hope” stage of her life. She wasn’t despondent, more matter-of-fact, as she left her job here at UCS for a 6-month “breather” in Antarctica. I didn’t understand her at the time; what comes after hope? A few months later, though, through my work analyzing climate impacts and following climate science, I had my first paralyzing run-in with climate grief and since then have gone a few times round the grief cycle. And today, we have the latest science and most recent abdications of leadership underscoring how dire things are. I understand better now.
But I think she misunderstood hope.
I don’t have some hopeful gospel to preach to you; I’m not even going to encourage you to be hopeful. But since my teens, through my work and personal passions, I’ve been wandering a path from climate awareness to climate anxiety to climate anguish and I couldn’t help but learn something about the true nature of hope after all these years of running it over with a bus. That knowledge – not optimism or determination, or any virtue on my part – has become my superpower over climate despair. In recent years, in fact, I’ve realized that I’m just immune to it; it lands but can’t stick. You may be the same, though you might describe it differently or not even know it yet.
You’re not wrong
You’re not wrong: it’s bad. There’s this great, intricate weaving – the one we’re all walking around on – and someone’s been snipping intermittent threads that attach it to the loom. Things are starting to unravel in obvious, abrupt patches, sending us scrambling. Other changes are coming through gradual but widespread loosening of strands. We race about hastily tying threads back together, but we’re not as good as the weaver. The patterns are starting to become disorderly. How many more strands can be cut before they’re unrecognizable? And why haven’t we taken away the scissors?
But who needs metaphors when we have science. As 2018 wound down, science walloped us. The IPCC 1.5 degree report, the U.S. National Climate Assessment, and other scientific works were released with stark assertions about the things that are all but lost, the things we can fight for if we bring our strongest ambitions to bear, and the waning gap between such ambitions and where we are headed. We saw the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) come and go in Poland with progress made, but vastly insufficient to the long-term goals.…—Erika Spanger-Siegfried, “The Miraculous Hope of Climate Realists,” Union of Concerned Scientists, 12/30/18
Big Oil vs. the planet is the fight of our lives
Big Oil v the planet is the fight of our lives. Democrats must choose a side | David Sirota
The industry has political supremacy even in left-leaning states, but immediate action can hold off an environmental state of emergency
The world’s leading scientists issued a report warning of total planetary dystopia unless we take immediate steps to seriously reduce carbon emissions. Then, oil and gas corporations dumped millions of dollars into the 2018 elections to defeat the major initiatives that could have slightly reduced fossil fuel use.
Though you may not know it from the cable TV coverage, this was one of the most significant – and the most terrifying – stories of the midterms. For those who actually care about the survival of the human race, the key questions now should be obvious: is there any reason to hope that we will retreat from “drill baby drill” and enact a sane set of climate policies? Or is our country – and, by extension, our species – just going to give up?
Before answering, it is worth reviewing exactly what happened over these last few months, because the election illustrates how little the fossil fuel industry is willing to concede in the face of a genuine crisis. While the dominant media narrative has been about Democratic voters euphorically electing a House majority and yelling a primal scream at Donald Trump, the loudest shriek of defiance was the one bellowed by oil and gas CEOs. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that we have only 12 years to ward off an ecological disaster, those oil and gas executives’ message to Planet Earth was unequivocal: drop dead.
That message was most explicit in Colorado, where a drilling and fracking boom is happening in the middle of fast-growing suburbs. With oil and gas companies seeking to put noxious derricks and rigs near population centers, local activists backed a ballot measure called Proposition 112 that aimed to make sure new fossil fuel infrastructure is set a bit farther away from schools, hospitals, residential neighborhoods and water sources.…—David Sirota, “Big Oil v the planet is the fight of our lives. Democrats must choose a side,” The Guardian, 11/15/18
Dilemma: Will the world act on climate change
before it’s too late?
Will the world act on climate change before it’s too late? – David Suzuki Foundation
When our children and grandchildren and those of us still here in 20 years look back to this time, will we say it was when the world finally got serious about the climate crisis? Or will we mark a tragic time when political and business leaders prioritized short-term economic gain over the future of humanity?
Listening to Canada’s minister of environment and climate change respond on the radio to the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, Global Warming of 1.5°C, didn’t raise my hopes. Despite outlining good policies such as pricing carbon pollution and phasing out coal power, the government representative who should know the most about climate issues repeated numerous debunked and false talking points.
She floated the excuse for inaction I’ve been hearing for at least 30 years: “We aren’t going to get off fossil fuels overnight.” She skirted around a question about the climate impacts of burning the increasing amounts of bitumen government plans to ship to foreign markets. She touted Canada’s biggest fossil fuel venture, a $40-billion, foreign-owned liquefied natural gas project, as a “climate solution” because it could replace coal power. That’s despite research and advice from scientists about how the project impedes meeting our climate targets, the substantial and under-reported release of the potent greenhouse gas methane from LNG and fracking, and the fact that LNG is as likely to slow renewable energy development as to replace coal-fired power.
She also repeated the tired refrain of politicians from across the spectrum, that economic considerations are as important as environmental ones — equating the relatively new, human-created, outdated economic system with the timeless natural systems on which our health, well-being and survival depend.
It could be worse. The U.S. president’s response to the IPCC report was, “I want to look at who drew it. You know, which group drew it. I can give you reports that are fabulous and I can give you reports that aren’t so good.” Beyond its inarticulate nature, the comment displays a profound lack of understanding of climate change, the IPCC and the work of climate scientists worldwide whose research informs its reports.
Listening to these politicians could lead people to think global warming isn’t an urgent challenge or that the science and its well-known, already observable effects are up for debate. The only issues we should be debating are the best ways to confront the crisis.
The IPCC special report, prepared by 91 researchers from 40 countries and based on more than 6,000 scientific resources, is clear: “Limiting global warming to 1.5ºC would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” Temperatures have already risen close to 1 C.
The report warns we have about 12 years to act decisively if we are to avoid a dramatic increase in impacts we’re already experiencing: extreme weather events, droughts, floods, rising sea levels, diminishing polar ice and subsequent feedback loops that accelerate warming, and ecosystem collapse among them.…—David Suzuki, “Will the world act on climate change before it’s too late?” David Suzuki Foundation, 10/18/18
Antithesis: New E.P.A. Plan Could Free Coal Plants to Release More Mercury Into the Air
New E.P.A. Plan Could Free Coal Plants to Release More Mercury Into the Air
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration proposed on Friday major changes to the way the federal government calculates the benefits, in human health and safety, of restricting mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants.
In the proposal, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a finding declaring that federal rules imposed on mercury by the Obama administration are too costly to justify.
It drastically changed the formula the government uses in its required cost-benefit analysis of the regulation by taking into account only certain effects that can be measured in dollars, while ignoring or playing down other health benefits.
The result could set a precedent reaching far beyond mercury rules. “It will make it much more difficult for the government to justify environmental regulations in many cases,” said Robert N. Stavins, a professor of environmental economics at Harvard University.
While the proposal technically leaves the mercury restrictions in place, by revising the underlying justifications for them the administration has opened the door for coal mining companies, which have long opposed the rules, to challenge them in court. The rules, issued in 2011, were the first to restrict some of the most hazardous pollutants emitted by coal plants and are considered one of former President Barack Obama’s signature environmental achievements.
In announcing the proposed rule, the E.P.A. said that the costs to industry in installing pollution controls ranged from $7.4 billion to $9.6 billion annually, while the health benefits of cutting mercury ranged from $4 million to $6 million annually. In other words, it said that the costs of the rule outweigh the benefits.…
Further reading: Life Versus Money When Companies Weigh Up Consequences
In a statement, the E.P.A. said the cost of cutting mercury from power plants “dwarfs” the monetary benefits and argued that the current limits can no longer be justified as “appropriate and necessary” under the law.
The proposal, which the acting E.P.A. administrator, Andrew Wheeler, signed on Thursday, is expected to appear in the federal register in the coming weeks. The public will have 60 days to comment on it before a final rule is issued..…—Lisa Friedman, “New E.P.A. Plan Could Free Coal Plants to Release More Mercury Into the Air,” The New York Times, 12/28/18
Thesis: Heading for extinction
and what to do about it
Courage is the ability to do well without the assurance of a happy ending—Kate Marvel
This talk by Gail Bradbrook of Extinction Rebellion will cover two main things: The ecological crisis- the latest science on what risks there are and our current trajectory which includes the possibility of abrupt (i.e. near term dramatic climate change) and human extinction Understanding our emotional response and about appropriate responses.
The basic premise of this talk is to tell the truth and ask us all to act accordingly and consistently with the information, including our understanding of what actually enables change to happen in the world. Sign up to get involved in the XR here: https://goo.gl/forms/mlxaGUqIvwScfzg53—Gail Bradbrook, “Heading for extinction and what to do about it,” Extinction Rebellion|YouTube, 9/18/18
Antithesis: Trump Administration to Grant Mining Leases
That Will Benefit Landlord
of President’s Daughter Ivanka Trump
Trump Administration to Grant Mining Leases That Will Benefit Landlord of President’s Daughter Ivanka Trump
The Trump administration said Friday it will renew mining leases to extract copper and nickel adjacent to a Minnesota wilderness area, reversing an Obama administration decision and giving a victory to a Chilean billionaire who is renting a mansion to the family of the president’s elder daughter.
The Democratic administration of former President Barack Obama in its waning days blocked a plan by a company controlled by the family of Andrónico Luksic to build a giant copper-and-nickel mine adjacent to a Minnesota wilderness area, citing environmental concerns.
In a 19-page opinion made public Friday, ahead of the Christmas holiday weekend, Daniel Jorjani, the principal deputy solicitor of the Department of Interior, said Mr. Obama’s administration acted “improperly” in not renewing two key leases for the mine adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a 1.1 million-acre tract of lakes and forest first protected by the government in 1926.
The announcement continues a rollback by President Donald Trump’s administration of Obama-era environmental decisions. Mr. Trump, a Republican, ran on a pro-business platform, promising to promote jobs and lessen what he called burdensome regulations on industry.
Mr. Trump’s elder daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner—both top White House advisers—are paying $15,000 a month to rent their six-bedroom home in the nation’s capital from Mr. Luksic. The Chilean billionaire bought the house just after the November 2016 election for $5.5 million.
The opinion reversing the Obama move was signed by Mr. Jorjani, a Trump appointee who previously worked for groups connected to the billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, owners of a conglomerate that sells coal, gas and other products. In the legal opinion dated Friday, Mr. Jorjani said renewal of the leases was a “nondiscretionary right.”…— James V. Grimaldi, Mark Maremont, “Trump Administration to Grant Mining Leases That Will Benefit Landlord of President’s Daughter Ivanka Trump,” The Wall Street Journal, 12/22/17
Thesis: For the first time, a major US utility
has committed to 100% clean energy
For the first time, a major US utility has committed to 100% clean energy
The energy world got some big news earlier this month: Xcel Energy, one of the biggest utilities in the US, committed to going completely carbon-free by 2050 (and 80 percent carbon-free by 2030).
#BREAKING: We’re rolling out a #cleanenergy vision to serve all customers with #zerocarbon electricity by 2050 and cut carbon emissions 80% by 2030 company-wide – all while delivering affordable and reliable energy. https://t.co/CQiUEcDJNE pic.twitter.com/WjIFalGdiI
— Xcel Energy Colorado (@XcelEnergyCO) December 4, 2018
Xcel, based in Minneapolis, serves 3.6 million customers across eight states — Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin. Its CEO, Ben Fowke, is part of the leadership at the Edison Electric Institute, the main utility trade group.
It is the first major US utility to pledge to go completely carbon-free. And two days later, Platte River Power Authority, one of Xcel’s competitors in Colorado, announced it would eliminate all carbon emissions by 2030.
So make no mistake: This is industry-shaking news. Here’s our explainer, first published December 5.
Greater ambition is in Xcel’s political and economic interests
Xcel has been a leader on clean energy for a while. According to the company, it has reduced its carbon emissions by 35 percent since 2005.
Earlier this year, it announced plans to, by 2030, reduce carbon emissions 60 percent (from 2005 levels), increase the level of renewable energy in its fleet to 55 percent, and shut down 50 percent of its coal capacity — in the state of Colorado. Those goals were enough to win the company Utility Dive’s Utility of the Year Award for 2018.
But the new goals go much farther. And they cover Xcel’s entire eight-state territory.
So what pushed the company’s ambition so much higher?…—David Roberts, “Xcel Energy is first major US utility to commit to going 100% carbon-free,” Vox, 12/5/18
Dilemma: Risks of ‘domino effect’ of tipping points
greater than thought, study says
Risks of ‘domino effect’ of tipping points greater than thought, study says
Policymakers have severely underestimated the risks of ecological tipping points, according to a study that shows 45% of all potential environmental collapses are interrelated and could amplify one another.
“The risks are greater than assumed because the interactions are more dynamic,” said Juan Rocha of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. “The important message is to recognise the wickedness of the problem that humanity faces.”
The study collated existing research on ecosystem transitions that can irreversibly tip to another state, such as coral reefs bleaching and being overrun by algae, forests becoming savannahs and ice sheets melting into oceans. It then cross-referenced the 30 types of shift to examine the impacts they might have on one another and human society.…—Jonathan Watts, “Risks of ‘domino effect’ of tipping points greater than thought, study says,” The Guardian, 12/20/18
Thesis: Uprising Spreads Across Globe,
Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky Among Signers
of Open Letter Backing Extinction Rebellion
As Uprising Spreads Across Globe, Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky Among Signers of Open Letter Backing Extinction Rebellion
After starting in the United Kingdom just months ago with a mere 10 members dedicated to pressuring their elected officials to urgently confront the climate crisis, the Extinction Rebellion has quickly ballooned into a global movement spanning an estimated 35 countries—a testament to the growing disaffection with the deadly climate status quo and hunger for transformative change among the world’s population.
“In the two months since our first action, we have expanded more than we imagined,” Liam Geary Baulch, a U.K.-based Extinction Rebellion activist, told The Guardian. “We are now planning to change our structure so it can accommodate up to two million people.”
In a sign of the movement’s rapid spread beyond the streets of London, Extinction Rebellion banners have been seen over the past several days at rallies in Katowice, Poland, the site of the ongoing COP24 climate conference. According to the movement’s principal organizers, the goal is to build up to a massive international day of action next April.
We are at the #COP24 climate talks, building global alliances in preparation for International #Rebellionweek – a global uprising that will begin 15th April 2019 We were so grateful to be invited to speak from the platform at the Climate March yesterday. #ExtinctionRebellion pic.twitter.com/Qxvk5OlZqV
— Extinction Rebellion (@ExtinctionR) December 9, 2018
Further evidence of the movement’s growing size and reach came in the form of an open letter signed by journalist Naomi Klein, academic and renowned dissident Noam Chomsky, and around 100 other prominent international progressives calling on “concerned global citizens to rise up” and join the Extinction Rebellion.
“We must collectively do whatever’s necessary non-violently, to persuade politicians and business leaders to relinquish their complacency and denial,” reads the letter, which appeared in major newspapers across the globe. “Their ‘business as usual’ is no longer an option. Global citizens will no longer put up with this failure of our planetary duty.”
Climate Emergency: An Open Letter to Concerned Global Citizens
In our complex, interdependent global ecosystem, life is dying, with species extinction accelerating. The climate crisis is worsening much faster than previously predicted. Every single day 200 species are becoming extinct. This desperate situation can’t continue.…—Jake Johnson, “As Uprising Spreads Across Globe, Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky Among Signers of Open Letter Backing Extinction Rebellion,” Common Dreams, 12/10/18
Antithesis: The Oil Industry’s Covert Campaign
to Rewrite American Car Emissions Rules
The Oil Industryâs Covert Campaign to Rewrite American Car Emissions Rules
Marathon, the country’s largest oil refiner, has backed the Trump administration proposal to roll back car efficiency standards. Credit Erin Kirkland for The New York Times
When the Trump administration laid out a plan this year that would eventually allow cars to emit more pollution, automakers, the obvious winners from the proposal, balked. The changes, they said, went too far even for them.
But it turns out that there was a hidden beneficiary of the plan that was pushing for the changes all along: the nation’s oil industry.
In Congress, on Facebook and in statehouses nationwide, Marathon Petroleum, the country’s largest refiner, worked with powerful oil-industry groups and a conservative policy network financed by the billionaire industrialist Charles G. Koch to run a stealth campaign to roll back car emissions standards, a New York Times investigation has found.
The campaign’s main argument for significantly easing fuel efficiency standards — that the United States is so awash in oil it no longer needs to worry about energy conservation — clashed with decades of federal energy and environmental policy.
“With oil scarcity no longer a concern,” Americans should be given a “choice in vehicles that best fit their needs,” read a draft of a letter that Marathon helped to circulate to members of Congress over the summer. Official correspondence later sent to regulators by more than a dozen lawmakers included phrases or sentences from the industry talking points, and the Trump administration’s proposed rules incorporate similar logic.
|Further reading||The Dirty Scheme to Make Americans Buy More Gasoline|
|ALEC’s Climate Change Denial|
The industry had reason to urge the rollback of higher fuel efficiency standards proposed by former President Barack Obama. A quarter of the world’s oil is used to power cars, and less-thirsty vehicles mean lower gasoline sales.
In recent months, Marathon Petroleum also teamed up with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a secretive policy group financed by corporations as well as the Koch network, to draft legislation for states supporting the industry’s position. Its proposed resolution, dated Sept. 18, describes current fuel-efficiency rules as “a relic of a disproven narrative of resource scarcity” and says “unelected bureaucrats” shouldn’t dictate the cars Americans drive.…—Hiroko Tabuchi, “The Oil Industry’s Covert Campaign to Rewrite American Car Emissions Rules,” The New York Times, 12/13/18
Dilemma: World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity:
A Second Notice
World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice
Twenty-five years ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists and more than 1700 independent scientists, including the majority of living Nobel laureates in the sciences, penned the 1992 “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” (see supplemental file S1). These concerned professionals called on humankind to curtail environmental destruction and cautioned that “a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.” In their manifesto, they showed that humans were on a collision course with the natural world. They expressed concern about current, impending, or potential damage on planet Earth involving ozone depletion, freshwater availability, marine life depletion, ocean dead zones, forest loss, biodiversity destruction, climate change, and continued human population growth. They proclaimed that fundamental changes were urgently needed to avoid the consequences our present course would bring.
The authors of the 1992 declaration feared that humanity was pushing Earth’s ecosystems beyond their capacities to support the web of life. They described how we are fast approaching many of the limits of what the biosphere can tolerate without substantial and irreversible harm. The scientists pleaded that we stabilize the human population, describing how our large numbers—swelled by another 2 billion people since 1992, a 35 percent increase—exert stresses on Earth that can overwhelm other efforts to realize a sustainable future (Crist et al. 2017). They implored that we cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and phase out fossil fuels, reduce deforestation, and reverse the trend of collapsing biodiversity.
Further reading: World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice (full text PDF)
On the twenty-fifth anniversary of their call, we look back at their warning and evaluate the human response by exploring available time-series data. Since 1992, with the exception of stabilizing the stratospheric ozone layer, humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse (figure 1, file S1). Especially troubling is the current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change due to rising GHGs from burning fossil fuels (Hansen et al. 2013), deforestation (Keenan et al. 2015), and agricultural production—particularly from farming ruminants for meat consumption (Ripple et al. 2014). Moreover, we have unleashed a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century.… —William J. Ripple, Christopher Wolf, Thomas M. Newsome, Mauro Galetti, Mohammed Alamgir, Eileen Crist, Mahmoud I. Mahmoud, William F. Laurance, 15,364 scientist signatories from 184 countries,”World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice,” BioScience|Oxford Academic, 12/1/17
Thesis: “The Times They Are A-Changin”
Still Speaks To Our Changing Times
‘The Times They Are A-Changin” Still Speaks To Our Changing Times
This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.
Imagine you are 13 years old, on the cusp of adolescence. You are sitting in a comfortable suburban home, watching a news program about a civil rights protest. Young people, not much older than you, are being beaten with water from fire hoses and attacked by police dogs. The images shatter your comfortable world. You feel angry, confused. You want to do something, but you’re not sure what.
That 13-year-old was me. And right around that same time, I discovered Bob Dylan. Pretty much nothing was ever the same after that.
When Dylan first hit the music scene, Joan Baez was the reigning queen of folk. She would soon fall in love with both the man and his music — but even today, Baez doesn’t pretend to know what went on in Dylan’s head when he wrote the song “The Times They Are a-Changin’ ” in 1963. Though it may have become an anthem, she doubts that’s what he set out to create.
“It’s impossible to write an anthem. I would never attempt it,” Baez says. I mean, I think there are a lot of well meaning, politically intelligent musicians who’ve written a lot of songs. But to get people to really relate to it and sing along and have this sort of universality of time and place, that’s different, you know? That’s difficult.”…—Lynn Neary, “The Times They Are A-Changin” Still Speaks To Our Changing Times,” NPR, 9/24/18
Antithesis: The Depravity of Climate-Change Denial
Opinion | The Depravity of Climate-Change Denial
The Trump administration is, it goes without saying, deeply anti-science. In fact, it’s anti-objective reality. But its control of the government remains limited; it didn’t extend far enough to prevent the release of the latest National Climate Assessment, which details current and expected future impacts of global warming on the United States.
True, the report was released on Black Friday, clearly in the hope that it would get lost in the shuffle. The good news is that the ploy didn’t work.
The assessment basically confirms, with a great deal of additional detail, what anyone following climate science already knew: Climate change poses a major threat to the nation, and some of its adverse effects are already being felt. For example, the report, written before the latest California disaster, highlights the growing risks of wildfire in the Southwest; global warming, not failure to rake the leaves, is why the fires are getting ever bigger and more dangerous.
But the Trump administration and its allies in Congress will, of course, ignore this analysis. Denying climate change, no matter what the evidence, has become a core Republican principle. And it’s worth trying to understand both how that happened and the sheer depravity involved in being a denialist at this point.
Wait, isn’t depravity too strong a term? Aren’t people allowed to disagree with conventional wisdom, even if that wisdom is supported by overwhelming scientific consensus?
Yes, they are — as long as their arguments are made in good faith. But there are almost no good-faith climate-change deniers. And denying science for profit, political advantage or ego satisfaction is not O.K.; when failure to act on the science may have terrible consequences, denial is, as I said, depraved.…—Paul Krugman, “The Depravity of Climate-Change Denial,” The New York Times, 11/26/18
Dilemma: Scientists’ Warning to Humanity:
First Warning, 1992
Scientists’ Warning to Humanity & Business as Un-usual
On the first day of COP-24, the annual UN climate negotiations, Stuart Scott and Victoria Hurth teamed up to discuss the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity (http://ScientistsWarning.org/) and then the part that business can and must play to reverse disastrous current ecological and climate trends that threaten life on Earth.—Stuart Scott, Victoria Hurth, “Scientists’ Warning to Humanity & Business as Un-usual,” ScientistsWarningt.tv|YouTube, 12/27/18
Thesis: Ecuador Walks Back
Oil Drilling Plans in Amazon Rainforest
Ecuador Walks Back Oil Drilling Plans in Amazon Rainforest
Ecuador’s Energy Minister, Carlos Pérez García, announced on Monday that the government will not pursue oil drilling in protected areas of Yasuní National Park, at least for now, reversing plans revealed last month in a leaked draft decree. The minister indicated that the decision was made after meeting with Amazonian indigenous women and environmental group Yasunidos, who oppose drilling in the “buffer zone” of Yasuní, a zone created to protect the Tagaeri and Taromenane, nomadic indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation. Minister Pérez did indicate that the government will continue to pursue oil drilling outside the buffer zone.
The Minister also revealed that the government no longer plans to hold the “Southeast Round” oil auction during President Moreno’s tenure, another walk-back of previous plans. Pérez also made what appears to be the Moreno administration’s first public acknowledgement of its dispute with Andes Petroleum over Blocks 79 and 83 in the Amazon. The administration and Andes, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chinese state-owned companies, disagree over the terms of the company’s desire to withdraw from its current exploration contract. The area covered by the two blocks is home to the Sapara people, who have waged massive resistance to drilling there.
Minister Pérez’ announcement sends a clear message: civil society pressure to defend rights and ecosystems works, and expanding the fossil fuel frontier deeper into Ecuador’s Amazon presents risks to companies and problems for the state. This is an important victory for our collective work to keep fossil fuels in the ground from California to the Amazon.
It seems, however, that the Minister believes that the pressure and risks will subside if the administration simply postpones the decision about drilling in Yasuní’s buffer zone. What he doesn’t understand is that the resolve of the Amazonian indigenous women, Yasunidos, and their allies like Amazon Watch to defend territorial rights and protect the Amazon rainforest is unwavering.—Kevin Koenig, “Ecuador Walks Back Oil Drilling Plans in Amazon Rainforest,” Amazon Watch, 12/19/18
Old coal mines ‘perfect’ food farms
Old coal mines ‘perfect’ food farms
Abandoned coal mines across the UK could be brought back to life as huge underground farms, according to academics. Mine shafts and tunnels are seen as “the perfect environment” for growing food such as vegetables and herbs.
The initiative is seen as a way of providing large-scale crop production for a growing global population. Advocates say subterranean farms could yield up to ten times as much as farms above ground. President of the World Society of Sustainable Energy Technology, Prof Saffa Riffat, believes the scheme would be a cost-effective way of meeting the growing need for food.
It could also breathe new life into many mines that have been closed since the decline of the UK coal industry in the late 1980s and offer a cheaper alternative to vertical farming in giant greenhouses. The idea has already gained support from mine owners, including the Land Trust and Coal Authority, while the Chinese government has also expressed an interest.
There are an estimated 150,000 abandoned shafts and 25,000km-sq of disused mines and tunnels in the UK.
|Further reading||Could we start farming underground?|
|London farming goes underground|
“I’m very excited about the enormous potential. Rather than import so much food by air, rail and sea, we could grow a lot of it here and in huge quantities,” said Prof Riffat.…—Matt Lloyd, “Old coal mines can be ‘perfect’ underground food farms,” BBC News, 12/2/18
Antithesis: Science Under Siege
at the Department of the Interior
Science Under Siege at the Department of the Interior (2018)
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his political appointees have overseen relentless attacks on science and put our nation’s parks, health, and wildlife at risk.
During the first two years of the Trump administration, Secretary Ryan Zinke and his political team have unleashed constant—and ongoing—attacks on science, from sidelining the work of the agency’s own scientists to systematically refusing to acknowledge or act on climate change. These actions have far-reaching and serious implications for our health, the environment, and the future of our public lands.
Science under Siege at the Department of the Interior reviews nearly two years of actions by the DOI under Secretary Zinke and identifies the most damaging and egregious examples of anti-science policies and practices.
Systematically suppressing science
Secretary Zinke’s DOI has stifled politically inconvenient research, undermined science-based rules and regulations, and consistently put the interests of coal, gas, and oil companies ahead of public health. Some of the more glaring examples include:
- Cancelling a scientific study evaluating the health effects of mountaintop-removal coal mining
- Stopping research designed to improve safety at offshore drilling sites
- Mandating that scientific grants be reviewed by a political appointee with no science background
Failing to acknowledge or act on climate change
Secretary Zinke has systematically ignored, sidelined, and blocked efforts to research, communicate about, or respond to climate change. At the same time, he has actively promoted policies that run counter to what science shows is the most important step the nation must take to address global warming and prevent its most catastrophic impacts: a massive and rapid reduction in our use of fossil fuels.
This deliberate sidelining of climate science has taken several forms:
- Refusing to acknowledge reality by striking climate change from the agency’s strategic vision and rescinding policies that factor climate change into future planning
- Covering up bad news by delaying and burying reports dealing with climate impacts and censoring established science in press releases
- Moving backwards by taking actions that are almost certain to increase global warming emissions and fossil fuel extraction on public lands
Further reading: Download Full Report “Science under Siege at the Department of the Interior” (PDF)
Silencing and intimidating agency scientists and staff
Under Secretary Zinke, not only is science a target but so too are the scientists and staff who carry out the department’s crucial work.
Many recent policies restrict the ability of DOI scientists and other staffers to fulfill the department’s mission, while other actions contribute to a hostile work environment. These include:
- Freezing out advice from science advisory committees
- Restricting DOI scientists from communicating about their work
- Removing, reassigning, and intimidating scientists and other DOI staff
Attacking science-based laws that protect wildlife
Ignoring science sets Secretary Zinke free to ignore decades of practice and convention—and it puts America’s treasured wildlife at risk, both today and for future generations.
In particular, the Fish and Wildlife Service, working jointly with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service, has proposed changes that would undercut the scientific basis of the Endangered Species Act. The proposed rule would undermine decades of science-driven practice and increase the likelihood of some species’ extinction by suggesting that the economic impacts of listing a species should factor in the scientific assessments of the species’ viability.…—”Jacob Carter, Adam Markham, Joel Clement, Matt Heid, Pamela Worth, “Science Under Siege at the Department of the Interior (2018),” Union of Concerned Scientists, December 2018
Thesis: More Republicans Than You Think
Support Action on Climate Change
Opinion | More Republicans Than You Think Support Action on Climate Change
New polls suggest Republicans’ views on global warming may be at a tipping point.
Democrats and Republicans have clashed fiercely on many issues — the Mueller investigation, immigration, gun control — but can the two parties come together on climate change, the biggest issue of all?
Most analysts say no. After all, since President Trump took office, the terms “global warming” and “climate change” have been expunged from some government websites. Mr. Trump says his “very high level of intelligence” has led him to reject the findings of 13 federal agencies, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Meteorological Organization.
But how many of his fellow Republicans agree? If we compare the extremes in each party — liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans — as the media often does, the split is clear. But if we compare all Republicans with all Democrats, we see a new and encouraging overlap.
In March, well before the most destructive wildfires in California history, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication polled 1,067 registered voters on climate change. The study found that while they disagree on the cause, majorities in both parties agree that the world is experiencing global warming and call for government action to address it.
The poll asked whether the United States should “set strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants to reduce global warming and improve public heath,” even if “the cost of electricity to consumers and companies would likely increase.” Eighty-seven percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans said yes.
Should the United States require fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax and use the money to reduce other taxes (such as income tax) by an equal amount? Eighty-four percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans said yes.
Asked, “When there’s a conflict between environmental protection and economic growth, which do you think is more important?” 85 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans said that environmental protection should come first.
The survey also found that majorities in both parties think the government should fund research into solar and wind energy, offer tax rebates to those buying energy-efficient vehicles and solar panels, and encourage schools to teach children about the causes and consequences of global warming, and potential solutions. A majority of Democrats and Republicans believe the United States should participate in the Paris climate accord and reduce greenhouse gas emissions regardless of what other countries do.…—Arlie Hochschild and David Hochschild, “More Republicans Than You Think Support Action on Climate Change,” The New York Times, 12/29/18
Arlie Hochschild is a professor emerita of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right.” Her son, David Hochschild, is a member of the California Energy Commission, the state’s energy policy and planning agency.
Antithesis: Coastal GasLink files injunction
against First Nations road blockade
Coastal GasLink files injunction against First Nations road blockade | Pipelines & Transportation | JWN Energy
Coastal GasLink, the TransCanada Corp. subsidiary that is building the $6.2 billion natural gas pipeline for the LNG Canada project, has filed for a court injunction against the Unist’ot’en protest camp south of Houston, B.C.
As part of a permanent occupation that has been in effect since about 2010 to block a number of pipeline projects, the Unist’ot’en have blockaded Morice River Bridge, which is part of a public access road.
Coastal GasLink says it needs to get across the bridge to begin work on the pipeline, the corridor for which is about one kilometre from the Unist’ot’en occupation camp.
The large map, provided by the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, shows the tentative routes of five major pipeline proposals (natural gas in red, oil in blue) that if approved, would run straight through Wet’suwet’en territory. The small map, pasted in the corner by Vancouver Observer, is a rough outline of Wet’suwet’en land. Click for full size.
The company has named leaders of the camp in their injunction application, which is to be heard December 10 in Prince Rupert.…
According to a Unist’ot’en news release, the company has also filed what they call a “SLAPP suit” (strategic lawsuit against public participation) against the occupation’s leaders in the form of a claim for damages.
The Unist’ot’en are a clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, which has a benefits agreement with TransCanada on the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
But the Unist’ot’en themselves remain vigorously opposed to any pipeline development in what they say are unceded lands.
“The Unist’ot’en Camp is not a blockade, a protest, or a demonstration – it is a permanent, non-violent occupation of Unist’ot’en territory, established to protect our homelands from illegal industrial encroachments and to preserve a space for our community to heal from the violence of colonization,” the group said in a press release.
The most recent addition to the Unist’ot’en occupation camp is a three-storey healing lodge.…Nelson Bennett, “Coastal GasLink files injunction against First Nations road blockade,” JuneWarren-Nickle’s Energy Group, 12/22/18
Estuary of River Affall – WATER SHAPES EARTH
Where the Affall River meets the Atlantic Ocean, there is a confluence of three coloured tributaries that wind through various farmlands. Together they casually flow to the ocean across the black sandy beach. Landeyjar area, Southern Iceland
Affall is a small and clear spring water stream located just east of Hvolsvöllur, about 120 km from Reykjavik. Due to a connection with the Markarfljót River, the Affall was formerly very glacial colored. After blocking up the connection some years ago, it has become a clear spring water stream.
The river is about 20 km long with about 77 pools designated for fishing. Salmon has been bred in the Affall River since 2002, and annually about 700 salmon are caught.
Long long time ago the whole Earth was covered with water. Water flows, shapes its way, and passes off, influencing our life. Starting from melting glaciers, water searching his way to find a sea. Through the rocky mountains, muddy marshes and the dry areas rivers finish their ways in beautiful estuaries.
The aerial point of view reveals the real character of landscapes. Coastal plains and tidal areas become masterpieces in abstraction, often unknown to those who only see them from usual perspective. In the lagoons we can see beautiful shapes made by flow, and in the same time we can observe how water influencing agriculture, industry, tourism, architecture, natural habitats of animals and our lives in general.
If we don’t act responsibly, one day water will disappear, and we will see only the traces of it.
This is what the WATER.SHAPES.EARTH is about. It is art of the water shaped planet.
Our goal is to open new perspectives while sharing stories, revealing places, and changing a minds a bit.—Milan Radisics, “Estuary of River Affall: Art of water shaped planet,” Water.Shapes.Earth, 8/29/18
Thesis: Nine Coastal States Join Lawsuit
to Ban Offshore Air Gun Blasts Okayed by Trump
Nine Coastal States Join Lawsuit to Ban Offshore Air Gun Blasts Okayed by Trump
The war against offshore drilling continues to pit basically the entire U.S. against the Trump administration and its plan to open vast swaths of the ocean to fossil fuel interests. On Thursday, nine attorneys general from coastal states joined the opposition by signing onto a lawsuit looking to invalidate seismic testing permits.
The suit was filed by environmental groups in federal court last week and argues that five companies that recently received permits from the Trump administration are illegal under a number of federal acts, including the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act, over the use of what’s known as seismic air guns. In order to determine if there’s oil in them there ocean tracts, companies will trawl the ocean and blast compressed air underwater. How that air interacts with the ocean bottom and rock beneath can provide a pretty good idea if there are oil and gas deposits to tap.
The blasts are also incredibly disruptive, and can stress out and kill everything from huge whales to tiny zooplankton (to say nothing of the climate impacts of burning whatever comes out of the ground). The suit itself specifically calls out impacts more testing could have on a number of species, including the endangered North Atlantic right whales that migrate and breed in or around the area covered by the permits. Listen to sound of a blast and you may see why these air guns are likened to air canons.
The environmental groups that have sued argue these permits were issued without companies doing their due diligence around impacts. And now the weight of nine attorneys general offices will be backing them up. The chief lawyers of Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina asked to join the suit and file a complaint on behalf of the states the represent.…—Brian Kahn, “Nine Coastal States Join Lawsuit to Ban Offshore Air Gun Blasts Okayed by Trump,” EARTHER, 12/20/18
Dilemma: Climate Education is Screwed Up!
Climate Education is Screwed Up!
We present 3 young women from International Schule Berlin whose research project revealed just how screwed up climate education is in the developed world. In their survey of texts from different nations, the *least effective* supposed ‘climate solutions’ were presented the most often (recycling and changing light bulbs) and the single most effective means of reducing emissions (having one less child) was never mentioned *at all*. In fact, any of the important solutions that would offend any established industry (eating less meat, living without a car, avoiding non-essential flights) were seldom if ever mentioned. In short, our youth are being trained for ‘Business-As-Usual’ in a world that will be anything BUT usual. Current education is screwed up in more than just climate. But waking up at all to the problem will help.—Stuart Scott, “Climate Education is Screwed Up!” Scienistswarning.tv|YouTube, 12/13/18
Undersea Robot Just Delivered
100,000 Heat-Resistant Baby Corals
to the Great Barrier Reef
Undersea Robot Just Delivered 100,000 Heat-Resistant Baby Corals to the Great Barrier Reef
In a world first, a small robot was deployed to plant thousands of baby coral in a mass re-population project for the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
The LarvalBot is a briefcase-sized underwater drone that recently dispersed over 100,000 microscopic heat-resistant coral larvae across damaged segments of reef.
In a bid to protect the marine life from climate change, the coral larvae was derived from species that have been shown to be especially tolerant of warmer waters. Scientists will monitor the reefs during the coming months to ensure that the larvae grows properly – and if it proves to be successful, researchers plan on developing the LarvalBot so that it can deploy millions more coral larvae in the future.
Furthermore, they hope to deploy a small army of LarvalBots that will be able to repopulate coral reefs around the world.
“This year represents a big step up for our larval restoration research and the first time we’ve been able to capture coral spawn on a bigger scale using large floating spawn catchers then rearing them into tiny coral larvae in our specially constructed larval pools and settling them on damaged reef areas,” said Professor Peter Harrison from Southern Cross University, one of the colleges that helped to develop the project.…Vol 5 No 1: —”Undersea Robot Just Delivered 100,00 Heat-Resistant Baby Corals to the Great Barrier Reef,” Good News Network, 12/24/18
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