“Scale” has become something of a buzz word in climate movement circles. When we see something inspiring, we often ask: “How do we quickly replicate this everywhere, so we are acting in a way that feels commensurate with the scale and urgency of the climate crisis?” As a climate organizer, I’ve often noticed myself seesawing between smaller spaces where I can build deeper relationships and work at a more global scale. The latter forces my mind and body to overstep its limits to do things that feel more commensurate with the all-pervasive nature of the climate crisis. But is the conflation of “scale” with “bigger” and “faster” undermining our efforts to usher in the deep and transformative change required to confront a challenge as complex as climate change?
There is a widespread view that nuclear energy is necessary for decarbonizing the electricity sector in the United States. It is expressed not only by the nuclear industry, but also by scholars and policy-makers like former Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who recently said that the choices we have “…when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine” are “fossil fuel or nuclear.” I disagree. Wind and solar are much cheaper than new nuclear plants even when storage is added. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimated the cost of unsubsidized utility-scale solar plus battery storage in 2021 was $77 per megawatt-hour — about half the cost of new nuclear as estimated by the Wall Street firm Lazard. (An average New York State household uses a megawatt-hour in about seven weeks.)
A new report from International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) at this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 27, reviews energy targets set around the world and how they are progressing. The findings show that countries are falling short on their energy transition targets. The report also notes that only 12 of the 194 parties in the Paris Agreement have a commitment for a specific percentage of renewables in their total energy mixes. In Renewable Energy Targets in 2022: A guide to design, the research shows that globally, countries’ energy transition ambitions are not enough to limit global warming to 1.5°C. By 2030, countries are currently targeting to meet 5.4 terawatts (TW) of renewable energy capacity, but the world needs to meet 10.8 TW of installed renewable energy capacity by the end of the decade to keep warming within the 1.5°C target.
It seems the mainstream narrative is that the IRA (Inflation Reduction Act) is a big step toward addressing the climate crisis while the side deal is a step backwards, but we may not be able to stop it. I disagree; from my perspective, the giveaways to the fossil fuel and nuclear industries in the IRA make it most likely a net negative for the environment. Renewable energy has been outcompeting fossil fuels in most places; they are much cheaper than nuclear power everywhere. Won’t giving subsidies to all three help the previously losing industries most? In any case, subsidies for buying outsize electric vehicles, and for expanding renewable energy will not reduce emissions. These projects will require mining, usually connected to environmental injustice, and much burning of fossil fuel to power the construction, transportation and installation, so in the short run they will increase emissions.
Athens, Greece – The blades of the wind turbines on the mountain range opposite my window are turning especially energetically today. Last night’s storm has abated but high winds continue, contributing extra kilowatts to the electricity grid at precisely zero additional cost (or marginal cost, in the language of the economists). But the people struggling to make ends meet during a dreadful cost-of-living crisis must pay for these kilowatts as if they were produced by the most expensive liquefied natural gas transported to Greece’s shores from Texas. This absurdity, which prevails well beyond Greece and Europe, must end.
Texas is known for fiercely promoting its oil and gas industries, but it’s also the No. 2 renewable energy producer in the U.S. after California. In fact, more than a quarter of all the wind power produced in the United States in 2021 was generated in Texas. These projects benefit from a lucrative state tax incentive program called Chapter 313. That incentive program expires on Dec. 31, 2022, and the rush of applications for wind and solar energy projects to secure incentives before the deadline is providing a rare window into a notoriously opaque industry. By reviewing the applications and ownership documents, we were able to track who actually builds and owns a large portion of the nation’s renewable energy, when and how those assets change hands, and who ultimately benefits from the tax incentives.
Environmental groups today celebrated the enactment of Massachusetts’ new climate law, An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind, which will expand clean energy development and end renewable energy subsidies for wood-burning power plants. The new law makes Massachusetts the first state in the nation to remove woody biomass from its Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS). While there are only two small biomass plants that currently qualify for MA’s RPS, that number was poised to balloon as a result of imminent changes to the program advanced by the Department of Energy Resources (DOER). By removing woody biomass from the RPS program altogether, the new law will prevent DOER’s rule changes from going into effect.
Washington - A proposed climate and energy package would require massive oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, reinstate an illegal 2021 Gulf lease sale and mandate that millions more acres of public lands be offered for leasing before any new solar or wind energy projects could be built on public lands or waters. The provisions, in sections 50264 and 50265, are buried near the end of the 725-page Inflation Reduction Act. The bill was released Wednesday after Sen. Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced they had agreed to the $370 billion package. “This is a climate suicide pact,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s self-defeating to handcuff renewable energy development to massive new oil and gas extraction.
In May 2022 temperatures in India and Pakistan reached 50°C. Heat this fierce causes chaos to infrastructure, water security and also triggers irreversible cell damage within the human body. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) reported that this extreme event, which plunged nearly a billion people into heat stress, was made 30 times more likely due to climate change. And with extreme heat comes the need to keep cool. As the heat waves in India and Pakistan showed, the response for those that can afford it, is to buy an air conditioner (AC).
The world needs to rapidly purge fossil fuels from its energy mix if it is to have any hope of limiting global warming enough to avoid disastrous climate impacts, according to a prominent climate scientist. University of Manchester professor Kevin Anderson is lead author of Tuesday's report from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research detailing how quickly countries must phase-out oil and gas to cap global temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the more ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement. As the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meets to approve a handbook for eliminating carbon pollution, Anderson talked to AFP about the deep social change needed to address the climate crisis, the tendency to sugar-coat the science, and the dangers of short-term politics.
On July 28, French President Emmanuel Macron landed in Tahiti and said that France owed a “debt” to French Polynesia. The debt was related to approximately 200 nuclear tests France conducted in the 118 islands and atolls that comprise this part of the central South Pacific, which France has controlled since 1842. These tests were conducted between 1966 and 1996. Macron did not apologize for the environmental and human damage caused by these tests. He remained stoic, acknowledging that the tests were not “clean.” “I think it’s true that we wouldn’t have done these same tests in the Creuse or in Brittany,” he said, referring to parts of territorial France. “We did it here because it was farther away, because it was lost in the middle of the Pacific.”
Washington, DC— More than 650 national advocacy and grassroots groups sent a letter today calling on Congress to develop a truly clean, renewable and just energy standard for electricity as part of an evolving infrastructure package. To meet its climate goals, the Biden administration is expected to back a national Clean Electricity Standard, or CES, which some advocates argue can pass under existing budget reconciliation rules. But existing CES proposals from prominent Democrats allow for filthy and false solutions such as fracked gas, carbon capture and storage, and factory farm biogas, warn the groups, which include Indigenous Environmental Network, Friends of the Earth, the Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch, Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, California Environmental Justice Alliance, Oil Change International and The Democracy Collaborative.
Something new is happening this Thursday, February 18 at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). A person will be chairing a FERC Commissioners meeting who has written publicly that he appreciates why some consider FERC to be a rubber-stamp agency. Richard Glick has done more than this in his three-plus years as a FERC Commissioner. He has openly opposed and written strong dissents, primarily but not only on climate grounds, to majority decisions approving new gas pipelines, LNG terminals and compressor stations. Those dissents likely helped lead the DC Court of Appeals to strike down last year, FERC’s “Kafkaesque” (their words) decades-long abuse of...
It seems like nearly every day another hopeful article touts the potential of using hydrogen as a fuel to tackle climate change. What’s known as “green hydrogen” — which relies on renewable power for production — is getting the bulk of that attention. In December, ABC News ran an article with the headline “Why green hydrogen is the renewable energy source to watch in 2021.” And as Bloomberg has reported, Airbus is betting big on hydrogen as a fuel for its planes. Meanwhile, South Korea’s SK Global just announced an investment in U.S. hydrogen fuel cell producer Plug Power; in the past year, the company’s stock value has increased ten-fold.
You could say that the Green New Deal died when the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force recommendations came through, or perhaps that was the moment we knew that the Jemez Principles and the principles of a Just Transition had been abandoned more than a year before? Perhaps they were abandoned shortly after John Washington’s straight forward, perfectly articulated warning to New Consensus? Or perhaps they were abandoned as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey prepared the Green New Deal resolution with it’s “clean” and “net zero” language replacing the language of fossil fuel phase outs and 100% Renewables?