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Climate Action Alliance of the Valley climate, energy news roundup: Feb. 14

Climate Action Alliance of the ValleyClimate Action Alliance of the Valley produces The Weekly Roundup of Climate and Energy News. Excerpts from a recent Roundup follow; full Roundup is here.

Politics and Policy

The White House convened cabinet secretaries and acting heads of 21 federal agencies to begin fulfilling Biden’s promise to mobilize the federal government to confront climate change.  Some believe Biden wants to rethink the country’s economic posture: seeking to promote certain sectors to not cede them to Europe and Asia.  Gina McCarthy said Biden will likely issue more executive orders on climate change.  The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin and colleagues updated their report tracking Biden’s environmental actions; Dino Grandoni looked ahead to coming climate legislation.  Senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee voted 14-6 to advance to the full Senate the nomination of Michael Regan to lead the EPA.  The Biden administration indicated it would look for its own solution to limit power plant CO2 emissions rather than reuse the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.  Frustration among Republicans with Biden’s climate policies has coalesced around Interior Secretary Nominee Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM).

Nine years after Michael Mann’s defamation lawsuit against the Competitive Enterprise Institute and National Review, he wants the court to affirm the truth of his science.  Laura Tenenbaum, former senior science editor for NASA’s Global Climate Change website who witnessed firsthand the impact of science suppression during the Trump administration, wrote about her experiences.  Lawyers for the 21 children and young adults in Juliana v. United States announced plans to file a Supreme Court petition after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit refused to revive their claims that the federal government has violated their constitutional right to a stable climate system.  The FERC chairman said the panel will create a senior position on environmental justice.  Following a Biden administration request, the federal D.C. appeals court paused litigation on whether California can set its own vehicle emissions standards.

House Ways and Means Committee Democrats put forward a sweeping green energy bill.  Wyoming is waking up to the end of fossil fuel use, causing consternation about the future funding of local and state government.  Bill McKibben made the case for not building any new fossil fuel infrastructure.  A battle is underway in Arizona about who has authority to establish the types of electricity generation that utilities in the state may use.  On a bipartisan 67-32 vote, the Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill to allow renewable energy firms to compete with utilities to supply customers with clean power.  Democrats want the Securities and Exchange Commission to set financial disclosure rules on climate risk to force thousands of businesses to divulge information to investors; pushback is likely.  The Federal Reserve is beginning to incorporate climate change impacts into its regulatory writ.

Canada sees hydropower exports as an opportunity in Biden’s push to achieve a carbon-free US electrical grid by 2035.  China will force regional grid firms to buy at least 40% of their power from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.  Big-emitting Australian businesses that export to Europe could soon face carbon levies of more than $70/metric ton unless the federal government imposes emissions reduction policies.  Many adaptation projects can make people more, rather than less, vulnerable to climate change.  The International Energy Agency has projected that, although India’s CO2 emissions are expected to grow by 50% during the next 20 years, solar, hydrogen, and carbon capture could get its energy sector to net-zero emissions by the mid‑2060s.  The pledges countries made to reduce emissions as part of the Paris Climate Agreement (PCA) are woefully inadequate; the world must nearly double its greenhouse gas-cutting goals to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

Climate and Climate Science

A sudden flood devastated a Himalayan valley in India’s Uttarakhand province.  News reports said a glacier’s collapse into a glacial lake caused it; subsequent analysis suggested a landslide was to blame.  As the world warms and glaciers melt, collapse of debris dams holding back glacial lakes pose severe risks for those downstream.

Fossil fuel pollution causes one in five premature deaths globally, suggesting the health impacts may be far higher than previously thought…

Northern California remains in one of the worst two-year rainfall deficits since the 1849 Gold Rush, with current precipitation at only 30% to 70% of what the state would expect normally.  Ocean heating has led young great white sharks to move 370 miles northwards off California’s coast since 2014, with a dramatic rise in the number of sea otters they kill.

Although banned in 2010, an unexpected and persistent increase in global atmospheric concentrations of CFC-11 (7,000 times more effective at warming the planet than CO2) was detected in 2018.  Investigation concluded roughly half the observed increase resulted from its illegal production in Eastern China, leading the Chinese government to crack down.  Two businessmen argued the Senate should ratify an amendment to the Montreal Protocol of 1987, which sets targets for the global phase-down of HFCs.

Energy

Renewable sources’ share of the national electricity generation mix is set to double from 2020’s 21% to 42% in 2050.  The integration of wind, solar, and storage into US grid systems will bring many changes; Jeff St. John provided a glimpse in his report.  The National Renewable Energy Laboratory launched its “Storage Futures Study” to create a framework for a “dramatic increase in deployment” and “answer the big questions around the role of storage in our future grid.”

Many challenges face auto companies in moving to a world of electric vehicles (EVs).  Dan Gearino recounted how Norway became the world leader in EV sales as a percent of new vehicles sold.  Global sales of zero‑emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles will outstrip those of internal combustion engine vehicles for the first time in 2047; global oil demand will fall by just under a quarter by 2050 due to slow phase-out of fossil fuel vehicles.  This year:

  1. Amazon’s new electric delivery vans will appear in 15 more cities starting this year.
  2. Toyota will roll out two new battery‑EVs and one plug-in gas-electric hybrid in the US this year.
  3. A Spanish company will build a plant in Chattanooga, TN, to make axle components for VW’s EV production there.

The US is behind Asia and Europe in the race to produce high-tech batteries that power EVs and store solar and wind energy.  The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that SK Innovation (SKI) was making lithium-ion batteries with trade secrets stolen from LG Chem and restricted SKI from importing certain batteries and components for the next 10 years.  Microvast, which builds rapid-charging EV lithium-ion batteries, will renovate and expand a facility in Clarksville, TN.

Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas announced launch of its new offshore wind turbine, displacing GE’s 14MW Haliade-X as the world’s largest offshore wind turbine.  Europe invested $31.9Bn in new offshore wind farms in 2020, providing 7.1GW of new capacity.  South Korea unveiled a $43.2Bn plan to build the world’s largest offshore wind farm by 2030.  One of Europe’s most abundant bats may be attracted to wind turbines; this could be why so many are found dead around the continent’s wind farms.

Several companies are developing the capability to produce “turquoise” hydrogen—hydrogen made from natural gas by pyrolysis, which converts the carbon in the gas to solid elemental carbon while freeing the hydrogen as a gas.  Global Energy Ventures (GEV) and Ballard Power Systems signed a memorandum of understanding; Ballard will design and develop a hydrogen fuel cell system for GEV’s compressed hydrogen shipping vessel.

The oil and gas industry has been the worst-performing sector on Wall Street for a decade; in 2020 it had the worst performance of any sector since before the Great Depression.  Royal Dutch Shell outlined the details of its near-term and long-term plans to transition to cleaner energy, saying its oil production and total carbon emissions have already peaked.  Conversely, the world’s state-owned oil companies are poised to invest about $1.9Tn during the next decade in projects that would destroy any prospect of meeting the PCA goals.

Potpourri

Americans who think global warming is happening outnumber those who think it is not, by a ratio of more than 5:1 (72% versus 13%). On his podcast, Ezra Klein interviewed Elizabeth Kolbert about her new book, Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, with a focus on solar geoengineeringGrist’s Shannon Osaka reflected on humans’ inclination to mess with nature; astrophysics professor Adam Franks reviewed the book for NPR.  Amy Brady interviewed Julie Carrick Dalton about her debut novel, Waiting for the Night Song, a mystery in which climate change is almost a character.  Lisa Colton organized a virtual “Big Bold Jewish Climate Fest”; 5500+ people showed up.  Bill McKibben wrote of Connor DeVane who hiked the Continental Divide Trail and talked with people working on climate action, stating: “The resulting movie is free to stream online, and lovely.”  Yale Climate Connections compiled a list of five climate-related documentaries from the Wild & Scenic Film Festival.  After 16 years working for ExxonMobil, Dar-Lon Chang said the company would not address climate change, so he quit the sector for good and began a new low-carbon life.

Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee


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