Environmentalists Just Gained New Enemy In Fight Against Natural Gas Pipelines

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By Mark Hand for Think Progress – The electric utility sector’s top lobbying group is teaming up with fossil fuel trade associations as part of an effort to intensify the industry’s campaign against citizen and environmental groups opposed to fracking and new natural gas pipelines. A senior official at the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) said at a recent conference in Pittsburgh that her trade group has grown “very aware of the ‘Keep It in the Ground’ movement” as its member companies have become more reliant on natural gas. These activists are opposed to the extraction of all fossil fuels, not just coal, said Karen Obenshain, senior director of fuels, technology, and commercial policy, according to Matt Kasper, research director at the Energy and Policy Institute, who attended the conference. (Kasper worked at the Center for American Progress from 2012-2014. ThinkProgress is an editorially independent project of CAP.) From Keystone XL to Dakota Access to ongoing efforts to curtail oil and gas drilling, anti-fossil fuel activists caught the attention of energy companies and their representatives in Washington years ago. Aside from only a small number of victories, however, the activists have largely been unable to stop pipelines or slow down fracking. And yet the gas industry isn’t taking any chances; it wants to ensure its winning percentage remains strong.

How Fossil Fuel Allies Are Tearing Apart Ohio's Embrace Of Clean Energy

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By Brad Wieners and David Hasemyer for Inside Climate Change – COLUMBUS, Ohio—On March 30, Bill Seitz, a charismatic Republican, took to the floor of the Ohio House to make a case for gutting a 2008 law designed to speed the adoption of solar and wind as significant sources of electricity in the state. The law, he warned, “is like something out of the 5-Year Plan playbook of Joseph Stalin.” Adopting a corny Russian accent, he said, “Vee vill have 25,000 trucks on the Volga by 1944!’” Nine years before, Seitz and his colleagues, Republicans and Democrats alike, had voted overwhelmingly for the measure he now compared to the work of a Communist dictator. It made Ohio the 25th state to embrace requirements and inducements to lure utilities away from coal, a major contributor of the gases fueling global climate change. Studies suggested the law would help create green energy jobs and boost the Ohio economy—and it has. Now, Seitz said, it was obsolete. Natural gas, rapidly displacing coal, was the resource Ohio ought to foster, he said. He also argued the law gives an unfair advantage to wind and solar when the state’s last nuclear plant is fighting for its life. Most important, Seitz insisted, the government had no business telling anyone what kind of energy to buy.

These City Bus Routes Are Going All-Electric ― And Saving Money

Nashville is one of several cities that have started integrating electric buses into their routes. The buses are more expensive up front but save cities money on fuel and other costs. Credit: Proterra

By Lyndsey Gilpin for Inside Climate News – Two years ago, the Transit Authority of River City (TARC) in Louisville, Kentucky, bought 10 electric buses to replace its aging diesel fleet. The agency installed two on-route chargers, where the buses now stop to recharge in less than 10 minutes before continuing their downtown route. TARC officials liked the buses so much, they’ve since ordered five more. A few hours to the south in Nashville, Tennessee, nine electric buses have been running fixed routes around the Music City since 2015. And across the country in Park City, Utah, the local transit authority recently purchased six electric buses to help reach a goal of a net-zero carbon footprint by 2022. In all, 40 transit authorities in the United States have looked to Proterra, an electric bus manufacturer based in South Carolina and California, to help them transition away from diesel buses and toward a solution that can save cities money and lower their emissions. Since 2004, Proterra has sold more than 400 buses to city transit authorities. The company has a waiting list of orders, and it recently opened a new manufacturing facility outside of Los Angeles that will employ 100 people and ramp up production to 400 buses a year. It’s also pushing the envelope for what electric power might do for public transit. Last month, Proterra broke world records by test-driving an electric bus 1,100 miles on a single charge. The trip put the previous record for an electric bus―632 miles―to shame, and was more than triple the average mileage of a Tesla.

Time To Shine: Solar Power Is Fastest-Growing Source Of New Energy

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By Adam Vaughan for The Guardian – Solar power was the fastest-growing source of new energy worldwide last year, outstripping the growth in all other forms of power generation for the first time and leading experts to hail a “new era”. Renewable energy accounted for two-thirds of new power added to the world’s grids in 2016, the International Energy Agency said, but the group found solar was the technology that shone brightest. New solar capacity even overtook the net growth in coal, previously the biggest new source of power generation. The shift was driven by falling prices and government policies, particularly in China, which accounted for almost half the solar panels installed. The Paris-based IEA predicted that solar would dominate future growth, with global capacity in five years’ time expected to be greater than the current combined total power capacity of India and Japan. Dr Fatih Birol, the executive director of the IEA, said: “What we are witnessing is the birth of a new era in solar photovoltaics [PV]. We expect that solar PV capacity growth will be higher than any other renewable technology up to 2022.” The authority, which is funded by 28 member governments, admitted it had previously underestimated the speed at which green energy was growing.

General Motors Is Going All Electric

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By Alex Davies for Wired – AFTER MORE THAN a century peddling vehicles that pollute the atmosphere, General Motors is ending its relationship with gasoline and diesel. This morning, the American automotive giant announced that it is working toward an all-electric, zero-emissions future. That starts with two new, fully electric models next year—then at least 18 more by 2023. That product onslaught puts the company at the forefront of an increasingly large crowd of automakers proclaiming the age of electricity and promising to move away from gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles. In recent months, Volvo, Aston Martin, and Jaguar Land Rover have announced similar moves. GM’s declaration, though, is particularly noteworthy because it’s among the very largest automakers on the planet. It sold 10 million cars last year, ranging from pickups to SUVs to urban runabouts. “General Motors believes the future is all-electric,” says Mark Reuss, the company’s head of product. “We are far along in our plan to lead the way to that future world.” Reuss did not give a date for the death knell of the GM gas- or diesel-powered car, saying the transition will happen at different speeds in different markets and regions. The new all-electric models will be a mix of battery electric cars and fuel cell-powered vehicles. To be sure, GM’s sudden jolt of electricity is planned with its shareholders in mind. The Trump Administration may be moving to roll back fuel efficiency requirements in the US, but the rest of the world is insisting on an electric age.

California Considers Following China With Combustion-Engine Car Ban

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By Ryan Beene and John Lippert for Bloomberg – The internal combustion engine’s days may be numbered in California, where officials are mulling whether a ban on sales of polluting autos is needed to achieve long-term targets for cleaner air. Governor Jerry Brown has expressed an interest in barring the sale of vehicles powered by internal-combustion engines, Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, said in an interview Friday at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. The earliest such a ban is at least a decade away, she said. Brown, one of the most outspoken elected official in the U.S. about the need for policies to combat climate change, would be replicating similar moves by China, France and the U.K. “I’ve gotten messages from the governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’” Nichols said, referring to China’s planned phase-out of fossil-fuel vehicle sales. “The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California.” Embracing such a policy would send shockwaves through the global car industry due to the heft of California’s auto market. More than 2 million new passenger vehicles were registered in the state last year, topping France, Italy or Spain. If a ban were implemented, automakers from General Motors Co. to Toyota Motor Corp. would be under new pressure to make electric vehicles the standard for personal transportation in the most populous U.S. state, casting fresh doubts on the future of gasoline- and diesel-powered autos elsewhere.

China Has Already More Than Doubled Its 2020 Solar Power Target

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By Jing Yan and Lauri Myllyvirta for Eco Watch – China has more than doubled its end-of-decade solar power target, with new installations dramatically outstripping expectation, according to the government’s energy agency. By the end of July this year, China’s solar PV capacity topped 112GW, after installing a stunning 35GW in just seven months—more than twice as much as installed by any other country in all of 2016. As a result, total solar PV capacity now exceeds the government’s 2020 goal of 105GW, set as recently as last year. This could have created a very confusing situation for the industry—after years of record-setting installations, there was no target to hit—but the National Energy Administration (NEA) responded by setting new, ambitious annual installation targets. These targets would take capacity to 213GW in 2020—which is five times larger than current capacity of the U.S. That would mean covering an area of land equivalent to greater London—1500km2—with solar panels. Current growth rates suggest China could even surpass that new, higher target.

In Chicago And Iowa, Contrasting Tales Of Building A Clean Energy Economy

Michelle Kemeer

By Yana Kunichoff for Midwest Energy News – As former industrial communities seek to rebuild their economies around clean energy, two cities in the Midwest provide examples with starkly different outcomes. Chicago’s Southeast Side and Newton, Iowa both used to house thriving industries, keeping residents with a solid toe in the middle class through well-paid and steady factory work. In Chicago it was steel, while Newton boomed under the all-encompassing attentions of the Maytag family and their washing machine factories. Thirty years later, those core industries have left both areas and a handful of different businesses have taken their place. In Newton, the Maytag sites have been reborn to manufacture wind turbine bodies and blades. But in Chicago, the jutting land formerly housing U.S. Steel remains empty. While urban Chicago and rural Iowa are different in obvious ways, experts say there are still common factors that influence how a green economic development transition takes place. Greg Carlock, a climate researcher with the World Resources Institute, says that sustainable development is a wide-ranging and complicated process, but he has seen some essentials emerge.

Ohio’s Anti-Wind Regulation Comes At A Serious Cost

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Wind turbines in Blue Creek Township, Ohio

By Harvey Wasserman for The Progressive – In the corporate war against renewable energy, a single Ohio regulation stands out. It is a simple clause slipped into the state budget without open discussion, floor debate, or public hearings. The restriction is costing Ohio billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. The regulation demands that wind turbines sited in the Buckeye State be at least 1,125 feet from the blade tip to the nearest property line, about 1300 feet total—nearly a quarter-mile. Ohio’s setback rule is similar to one in Wisconsin, where progress on wind power has atrophied. Lincoln County in South Dakota just passed a requirement that turbines be at least a half-mile from any residence. And Vermont is pondering a rule change to require a setback of ten times the turbine height, which in the case of a 500-foot turbine would be nearly a mile. Such regulations threaten to kill wind power, thus protecting corporate investments in nuclear power and fossil-fuel generators. The situation is Ohio is especially egregious. FirstEnergy, owner of Ohio’s two dying reactors at Perry and Davis-Besse, is now strong-arming the legislature and regulators for $4.5 billion in handoutsto sustain two money-losing nukes whose electricity is far more expensive than what would come from currently approved wind projects, and whose 1,400-odd jobs would be dwarfed by the new turbine construction.

Cheap, Clean Energy Pushes California Electricity Prices Below Zero

California has been a leader in renewable energy. How it manages energy over-abundance may determine whether other states follow its clean-energy lead. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

By Leslie Kaufman for Inside Climate News – For a time this spring in California, as the snow melted above hydroelectric dams, the sun shone on solar arrays, and the wind whipped through turbines, the state was confronted with both a blessing and a curse. It arrived as an overwhelming flood of cheap, clean electricity. At times it drove wholesale prices below zero. And it has left grid operators in California, and in other parts of the country, wondering how to cope with the upending of power markets by abundant renewable energy. California has led the pack in adding renewable energy to its grid. How it manages the challenges of energy over-abundance may determine whether other states follow in its clean energy footsteps. Some worry that if California bungles the transition to clean energy, it could undermine the state’s own incredibly rapid solar build-out—from 300 megawatts on the grid in 2008 to nearly 15,000 megawatts today—which has put California well ahead of its milestones toward deep decarbonization. The crux of the issue that arose this spring is that in the middle of some days, California produced so much renewable energy it drove wholesale electricity prices below zero…

Coal To Solar Switch Could Save 52,000 US Lives Per Year

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By Brian Bienkowski for The Daily Climate – Swapping out coal energy for solar would prevent 52,000 premature deaths in the United States every year, according to a new analysis from Michigan Technological University. Amid all the talk from the Trump Administration that regulations targeting coal are hurting people, this shows “many more lives are saved by phasing out coal,” said Liz Perera, climate policy director for the Sierra Club, who was not involved in the study. In addition the savings in health care costs added to the value of the solar electricity could in some cases bring in money, offsetting the costs of the switch. “Evolving the U.S. energy system utilizing clean, alternative technology will allow the U.S. to prevent thousands of premature deaths along with becoming a global leader in renewable technology adoption,” the authors wrote in the study published in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. Michigan Tech University researchers analyzed peer-reviewed health studies and calculated lives lost per kilowatt hour to coal each year—finding approximately 51,999 people die due to coal pollutants that spur respiratory, heart and brain problems. “Coal-fired pollution harms human life. It kills people,” said senior author Joshua Pearce, a researcher and professor at Michigan Tech University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering. “From an American perspective this transition [from coal to solar] makes complete sense.”

Electric Cars Could Save Billions In Healthcare Costs

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By Stephen Edelstein for Green Car Reports. It’s entirely obvious that internal-combustion cars pose a threat not only to the environment, but also to human health. Exhaust from gasoline and diesel cars contributes to air pollution that can lead to deleterious health effects after long exposure. Now a new study from the American Lung Association in California aims to quantify the health costs related to those exhaust emissions. It estimates that in 2015, the costs of internal-combustion cars on the health of residents in 10 selected states totaled $24 billion. Researchers analyzed health costs in the 10 “Zero-Emission Vehicle states” that have adopted California’s stricter emissions limits. Besides California, these states are Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

New York Building The Renewable Energy Grid Of The Future

Climate policies help create sustainable jobs with a long-term future and spur technology innovation, the OECD says. Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

By Leslie Kaufman for Inside Climate News. New York State is making a $5 billion bet that by making its power cleaner, it can become a magnet for the clean energy jobs of the future. Its efforts stand out among the many states racing to integrate more renewables into their power grids—such as Massachusetts, Hawaii and California—not necessarily for the technology but because of what’s happening behind the scenes: New York has launched a Herculean effort to turn around an antiquated system that has deterred innovation for generations by rewarding utilities for selling more electricity. The state is so gung-ho that its rules require utilities to come up with demonstration projects that test out a new business model, in partnership with at least one private sector company. The result, say the state’s regulators, is that New York is already attracting hundreds of innovative companies of all stripes. The plum opportunities are not only in installing wind turbines and solar panels, which are generating new employment opportunities across the country, they are also in emerging technologies related to smart grid management and storage.

Restoring The Heartland And Rustbelt

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By Steve Ongerth of the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus. The world faces a crises of enormous proportions. Global warming, caused by the continued burning of fossil fuels, threatens life on Earth as we know it, and yet, those most responsible for causing the crisis, the fossil fuel wing of the capitalist class, seems hell bent on doubling down on business as usual. One might think, given all of these situations, that…well, to put it mildly…we’re doomed. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in spite of the bleakness of these circumstances, a deeper look behind them reveals that fossil fuel capitalism is in terminal decline, that their hold over the our lives hangs by a thread, so much that we the people, the workers and peasants of the world, have the ability to transform the human existence to one based not on plundering the Earth and exploiting the masses for the profit of a few, but one based on true grassroots democracy, free of suffering and want, and one that exists in harmony with the Earth.

U.S. Wind Energy Installations Surge: A New Turbine Rises Every 2.4 Hours

The wind energy industry supports more than 100,000 jobs, and the past three months have kept workers busy with installations, according to AWEA. Credit: U.S. Department of Energy

By Phil McKenna for Inside Climate News – The significant increase this past quarter, when 908 new utility-scale turbines came online, is largely a result of the first wave of projects under the renewable energy tax credits that were extended by Congress in 2015, as well as some overflow from the prior round of tax credits. The tax credits’ gradual phase-out over a period of five years incentivized developers to begin construction in 2016, and those projects are now beginning to come online. A recent AWEA-funded report projects continued steady growth for the wind energy industry through 2020. Energy analysts, however, say that growth could slow after 2020 as the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) expires. “We are in a PTC bubble now between 2017 and 2020,” said Alex Morgan, a wind energy analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which recently forecast wind energy developments in the U.S. through 2030. “Our build is really front-loaded in those first four years. We expect that wind drops off in early 2020s to mid-2020s, and then we expect it to come back up in the late 2020s.