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A coalition of graduate students urges support for clean energy programs deemed critical to American prosperity.
by Kris Holz and Ben Serrurier
January 18, 2017
Kristofer Holz is a joint MBA/MEM candidate at the Yale School of Management and the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies focusing on financial and policy innovation in the energy sector. He recently co-authored “The 2017 Inauguration: Empowering a Clean Energy Nation” with Nancy Pfund of DBL Partners.
We are now just days away from the inauguration, and beyond boisterous campaign pledges to arrest the coal industry’s decline and withdraw from the Paris Agreement, President-elect Donald Trump’s scant energy and climate policies remain frustratingly obscure and inscrutable. But what we have not heard is just as worrisome. The Trump administration has given little indication of its support for perhaps the strongest economic driver in the American economy today: clean energy.
While China opened the new year with a pledge to invest $361 billion in clean energy by 2020, the Trump administration has been largely silent on clean energy -- including the continuity of critical federal support for the ongoing clean energy boom. This is particularly troubling for energy-focused graduate and undergraduate students who will be the future leaders of America’s clean energy revolution. In the months since the election, concern that we would miss such a great economic opportunity has echoed throughout our campus, and throughout campuses across the country. To voice this concern, we have joined students representing the energy clubs of the business and public policy programs from across the country in an open letter to the Trump administration calling for greater leadership in supporting the jobs, businesses and benefits of clean energy.
The Trump administration must recognize the economic power of clean energy. The industry now employs over 2.5 million people, 1.7 percent of the American workforce. The solar industry alone provided American workers with more than 200,000 well-paying jobs in 2015, growing 20 percent over 2014 and accounting for 1.2 percent of all new U.S. jobs created in 2015. A recent Department of Energy report puts the number of solar jobs even higher.
The growth in employment was driven in part by increasing global investment in clean energy, which amounted to more than $329 billion last year, twice the investment in conventional power generation. This level of private-sector investment is even more remarkable considering that falling renewable energy costs make it cheaper to install the same amount of power as in previous years -- solar power costs have fallen 60 percent in the last 10 years.Share This Post
Cabinet candidates aren't calling climate change a 'hoax,' but they're taking on climate science by emphasizing a lack of modeling precision and disagreements among scientists.
JANUARY 19, 2017 WASHINGTON—The people poised to handle the federal government’s environmental portfolio appear to be trying to have it both ways on climate change: They are denying that it’s a “hoax,” but they are questioning the ability to measure humanity’s contribution with “precision.”
At first blush, the comments appear to be a departure from President-elect Donald Trump’s comment that climate change is a China-made fiction. In that way, Mr. Trump’s picks to head the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, and the State Department have sounded more aligned with the scientific consensus that humans are driving climate change.
But they’re not actually embracing that conclusion.
Instead, they’re pointing to models that show some variation on emissions, temperature, and sea-level rise projections and amplifying those small disagreements to discredit or sow doubt about the widely held conclusion that humans are driving emissions higher and raising temperatures, largely from burning fossil fuels.
To most climate scientists, the comments are “deliberately misleading,” says Susan Joy Hassol, director of Climate Communication.
The nominees’ statements point to Republicans’ struggle to oppose climate science without dismissing it entirely, she and others say.Share This Post
By CORAL DAVENPORT and DAVID E. SANGERJAN. 18, 2017
Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas and the nominee for energy secretary, at Trump Tower in Manhattan in November.
Todd Heisler/The New York Times
WASHINGTON — When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state.
In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.
Two-thirds of the agency’s annual $30 billion budget is devoted to maintaining, refurbishing and keeping safe the nation’s nuclear stockpile; thwarting nuclear proliferation; cleaning up and rebuilding an aging constellation of nuclear production facilities; and overseeing national laboratories that are considered the crown jewels of government science.
“If you asked him on that first day he said yes, he would have said, ‘I want to be an advocate for energy,’” said Michael McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist who advised Mr. Perry’s 2016 presidential campaign and worked on the Trump transition’s Energy Department team in its early days. “If you asked him now, he’d say, ‘I’m serious about the challenges facing the nuclear complex.’ It’s been a learning curve.”Share This Post
Posted by FuelFix.com Date: January 19, 2017
Chronicle Staff and Wire Services
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry began his hearings to be confirmed as energy secretary Thursday morning, prepared to tell the Senate and Energy Natural Resources Committee that the regretted calling for the elimination of the Department of Energy during his failed presidential bid in 2011.
“After being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination,” Perry said in his prepared testimonty.
The hearings are the latest and most consequential step in Perry’s transition form smooth-talking politician-in-chief to studied presidential deputy, up to the task of managing billions of dollars in federal research dollars and the nation’s nuclear missile arsenal. A former Air Force pilot and cotton farmer who admits his college career at Texas A&M was sidetracked by fraternity life, Perry would be the first energy secretary in more than a decade without a PhD. President Obama’s first energy secretary, Steven Chu was a Nobel laureate.Share This Post
The SoCal Gas Company's Aliso Canyon Oil Field and Storage Facility, pictured in an aerial photograph taken Sept. 28, 2016. (Maya Sugarman/KPCC)
By KPCC Staff with Associated Press
JANUARY 18, 2017
State oil and gas regulators say they completed a safety review of a Los Angeles gas storage facility where a blowout spewed methane for nearly four months. Based on that, they are setting some strict conditions for Southern California Gas Co. to reopen the underground field that blew a huge leak in 2015.
For starters, the field may hold only about one-third as much gas as it did before the leak, according to a statement Tuesday from the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources.
The agency said Tuesday that it would hold public hearings in February before deciding whether to let Southern California Gas Co. resume storage of natural gas at its Aliso Canyon facility.
The underground Aliso Canyon gas storage field near Porter Ranch has the capacity to hold 83 billion cubic feet, the statement said, but the amount of gas the company could put into the field available for delivery to customers would be limited to a maximum 29 billion cubic feet. That is in addition to an amount of gas necessary to maintain minimum pressure on the field.
Less gas in the field means it would operate at lower pressure levels. That lower pressure translates into less stress on the gas field’s aging, but recently overhauled, wells.
Aliso Canyon, the region’s largest underground gas storage field, has been closed since a gas well disastrously blew out in October 2015. The leak drove 8,000 families from their homes and led to mass complaints of nosebleeds, nausea, headaches and other maladies.
At its peak, the leak doubled the methane emissions rate for the entire Los Angeles basin.Share This Post
State Sen. Henry Stern (File photo by Dean Musgrove/Los Angeles Daily News)
|By Gregory J. Wilcox, Los Angeles Daily News
POSTED: 01/18/17, 7:34 PM PST | UPDATED: 5 HRS AGO
A state senator from the San Fernando Valley said Wednesday that he’s trying to delay a decision on whether Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility can re-open until after officials conclude what caused a massive discharge of methane.
State Sen. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park, has introduced urgency legislation that would block regulators from making a decision on Aliso Canyon’s fate until a private oil and gas industry firm completes its “root cause analysis” of well site SS-25’s rupture high on Oat Mountain above Porter Ranch.
The well is responsible for the nation’s largest natural gas discharge.
“We’re going to be having some conversations with the administration and the gas company to emphasize the importance of slowing down until we get to the bottom of the cause,” Stern said. “If we have to move a bill all the way through (the Legislature) we will.”
He hopes to set up a discussion with the gas company soon.
The leak erupted in late October 2015 and was not plugged until 112 days later. It pumped more than 100,000 tons of the greenhouse gas methane into the air.
A year ago the California Public Utilities Commission ordered SoCalGas to hire Frisco, Texas-based Blade Energy Partners to conduct the analysis of what caused the well failure.
Officials with the CPUC and the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources said that Blade now needs to extract the tubing and casing from the well and is deciding the best way to do it.
That process might not be completed until the fourth quarter of this year, regulators said. And they also said it’s possible a decision on whether to allow injections and withdrawals of gas at Aliso could be made before Blade’s work is finished.
But Stern said that there is no need to rush a decision.
“If we don’t know what went wrong, how can we prevent it from happening again?” Stern said. “We need to get to the bottom of this before we even think about re-opening this facility.”
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JANUARY 18, 2017 4:04 PM
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator-designate, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, testifies Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. J. Scott Applewhite AP
BY STUART LEAVENWORTH
During a contentious confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Donald’s Trump nominee to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said he’d open up a review of new federal auto emissions standards and also review waivers granted to California to enact auto standards stronger than those of the federal government.
The remarks by Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general, immediately drew rebukes from Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, including California’s newly seated senator, Kamala Harris.
“I have real concerns on where he will go on that issue, and others,” said Harris in an interview following the first half of the hearing. She said “it could do real harm to California” if Pruitt were to revoke California’s longstanding authority to limit auto pollution and greenhouse gases.
I HAVE REAL CONCERNS ON WHERE HE WILL GO ON THAT ISSUE, AND OTHERS.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
Pruitt, who has filed numerous lawsuits against the EPA while taking contributions from industries supporting those lawsuits, has long argued that states should have more authority to manage environmental issues. But when questioned by Harris and other senators about California’s waivers, he declined to say if he would uphold them.
“Administrators in past have not granted the waiver and have granted the waiver,” Pruitt said in response to questions from Harris. “That is a review process that will be conducted. . . ”
“What is your intention?” Harris shot back, interrupting him.
“I wouldn’t know without going through the process and would not want to presume the outcome,” Pruitt replied.
California started regulating air pollution in the 1960s, before the federal Clean Air Act was passed and signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970. That law allowed the Golden State to obtain waivers to enact its own pollution rules, including tailpipe standards, that are stronger than national thresholds, pending EPA approval.
Historically, the EPA has approved California’s waiver requests, except during the administration of George W. Bush, when his EPA administrator, in 2008, rejected California’s proposal to mandate fuel efficiency standards to reduce greenhouse gases.
One year later, the incoming Obama administration granted the waiver, and the federal government later adopted California’s rules as a national standard. Although the U.S. auto industry had long objected to the standards, it reluctantly agreed to them as part of a bail-out deal with Obama.Share This Post
By JUSTIN GILLISJAN. 18, 2017
Ice in the Arctic Ocean’s Chukchi Sea region. “What’s going on in the Arctic is really very impressive; this year was ridiculously off the chart,” said Gavin A. Schmidt, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016, trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.
The findings come two days before the inauguration of an American president who has called global warming a Chinese plot and vowed to roll back his predecessor’s efforts to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases.
In reality, the Earth is heating up, a point long beyond serious scientific dispute, but one becoming more evident as the records keep falling. Temperatures are heading toward levels that many experts believe will pose a profound threat to both the natural world and to human civilization.
In 2015 and 2016, the planetary warming was intensified by the weather pattern known as El Niño, in which the Pacific Ocean released a huge burst of energy and water vapor into the atmosphere. But the bigger factor in setting the records was the long-term trend of rising temperatures, which scientists say is being driven by increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
“A single warm year is something of a curiosity,” said Deke Arndt, chief of global climate monitoring for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It’s really the trend, and the fact that we’re punching at the ceiling every year now, that is the real indicator that we’re undergoing big changes.”Share This Post
Fulfilling pledge to boost fossil fuels will mean US misses out on huge market for clean energy, experts say
Donald Trump holds a coal miner’s protective hat while addressing his supporters during a rally at the Charleston civic centre on 5 May 2016. Modified image. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Thursday 19 January 2017 04.17 EST
First published on Wednesday 18 January 2017 15.00 EST
Leading climate change experts have urged Donald Trump not to turn his back on the biggest global challenge facing mankind, arguing that he can make America great again – and the world safer – by standing up to global warming and embracing the trillion-dollar green tech revolution.
As new data showed that 2016 was the hottest year on record, scientists, government advisers and people closely involved with global climate talks said it would be self-defeating for Trump to pull the US out of the global Paris climate change deal as he has threatened.
Reversing action on climate change would mean the US gets left behind in the fast-growing, trillion-dollar market for clean energy, transport and infrastructure, experts told the Guardian, with one warning that this course of action would instead “make China great again”.
“The best way to make America great again is by owning the clean technologies of the future,” said Michael Liebreich, who has advised the UN and World Economic Forum on energy. “Not only will this create countless well-paid, fulfilling jobs for Americans, but it will also lock in the US’s geopolitical leadership for another generation.”
“I would say to [Trump], if you want to make China great again, you have to stay the course you have promised,” said John Schellnhuber, a climate expert who has advised Angela Merkel, the pope and the EU.
Lord Stern, a former UK government adviser, added: “If you want to make America great again, building modern, clean and smart infrastructure makes tremendous commercial and national sense. In the longer term, the low-carbon growth story is the only growth story on offer. There is no long-term, high-carbon growth story, because destruction of the environment would reverse growth.”Share This Post
By ELISABETH MALKINJAN. 18, 2017
Isidro Baldenegro López in 2003.
Pablo Aneli/Associated Press
MEXICO CITY — Isidro Baldenegro López, an indigenous activist whose struggle to protect the pine-oak forests of Mexico’s Sierra Madre range won him the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, has been killed by a gunman, the authorities said on Wednesday.
A leader of the Tarahumara people who live among the jagged peaks of the western Sierra Madre, Mr. Baldenegro defended the area’s old-growth forests against powerful local strongmen allied with drug traffickers and loggers.
The killing was the second of a Goldman prizewinner in less than a year. Last March, gunmen attacked and killed Berta Cáceres, who led her Lenca people of Honduras against a proposed dam.
Seven people have been arrested in her killing, but in a statement on Sunday, her family said that the Honduran government had yet to investigate who had ordered it.
The death of Mr. Baldenegro, coming so soon after Ms. Cáceres’ murder, highlights the danger faced by environmental defenders in Latin America, where mining, energy, agribusiness and logging interests have generated violent conflict with local communities.
His fight to protect his community’s ancestral lands went back decades, and his father, Julio Baldenegro, was assassinated in 1986 for his opposition to logging.Share This Post
We’ve got the pretty pictures to prove it.
Charging, wirelessly. (Javier Zarracina)
Electricity is amazing. You spin a coil of wire through a magnetic field and next thing you know everyone with access to an outlet has clean, quiet, instantaneous, and virtually unlimited power at their fingertips, whenever they need it. Wild.
It does have a couple of drawbacks, though.
One, mobile electronic devices — lawnmowers, phones, electric vehicles (EVs), drones, what have you — still have relatively big batteries and limited range. Two, electronic devices that aren't mobile have to be plugged in, leading to a tangle of wires behind every computer, TV, and kitchen appliance.
Wouldn’t it be cool if all those devices could be continually charging, without wires or cables?
That brings us to wireless charging.
Charging electronic devices at a distance seems a little bit like magic, but it’s now on the verge of a whole new range of commercial applications, which will be rolling out over the next few years. It’s entirely possible that you’ll never have to plug in your next laptop or EV.
Wireless charging is already hereShare This Post
ECONOMIC SCENE JAN. 17, 2017
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York this month announced plans to close the Indian Point nuclear power plant north of New York City by 2021. When that happens, the state will lose almost one-quarter of its zero-carbon energy.
Uli Seit for The New York Times
Is there a more environmentally conscious state than California? It has been at the forefront of climate policy for decades — from demanding stringent fuel economy and emissions standards to wholeheartedly embracing renewable energy from the sun and wind.
It has fighting words for the incoming administration of Donald Trump. “We will not deviate from our leadership because of one election,” the State Senate leader, Kevin de Leon, told The New York Times. Last fall, the state legislature committed to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below their 1990 level by 2030. “California is doing something that no other state has done,” proclaimed Gov. Jerry Brown.
State policies were always bound to play a central role in the decarbonization of the American economy. But with a president-elect who has asserted that climate change is a Chinese hoax, promised a bright future for fossil fuels and vowed to undo President Obama’s climate strategy, their choices have become more important than ever.
And yet for all the pluck of the Golden State’s politicians, California is far from providing the leadership needed in the battle against climate change. Distracted by the competing objective of shuttering nuclear plants that still produce over a fifth of its zero-carbon power, the state risks failing the main environmental challenge of our time.
Mark Muro, director of policy at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, has compiled a ranking of progress toward decarbonization within the United States. In 2014, he found, California had the third-lowest carbon dioxide emissions per person, behind only the District of Columbia and New York.
Its progress of late, however, has been less than stellar: Despite its aggressive deployment of wind turbines and solar panels, the carbon intensity of California’s economy — measured by the CO2 emissions per unit of economic product — declined by only 26.6 percent between 2000 and 2014. That put it in 28th place. In New York, which came in seventh, carbon intensity declined 35.4 percent.
It is not entirely California’s fault. Persistent drought has drastically cut its supply of hydroelectric power. Still, the state’s carbon emissions were also driven by its own choices: Added to the hydroelectricity slump, the 2012 closing of the San Onofre nuclear plant north of San Diego left a void in the power supply that even a vast increase in solar and wind generation could not replace. So it was mostly filled with natural gas.
Jeanne Shaw walking back from protesting in front of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Mount Kisco, N.Y., residence in February 2016. Ms. Shaw was opposing the planned expansion of a natural gas line on the property of the Indian Point nuclear plant.
Yana Paskova for The New York Times
New York, by contrast, left its nuclear plants running. It even offered upstate generators subsidies similar to those available to renewable energy generators, to help them survive the cutthroat competition against cheap power fueled by natural gas.Share This Post
JAN 17, 2017 @ 01:49 PM
Jared Anderson , CONTRIBUTOR
I analyze energy-related market, policy, and environmental issues.
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
A worker controls a Consol Energy Horizontal Gas Drilling Rig exploring the Marcellus Shale outside the town of Waynesburg, PA on April 13, 2012. (Photo credit: MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
In an ironic twist, fracking has been cited as a prime reason for shutting down New York’s Indian Point nuclear power plant, as cheap natural gas eroded the economics of generating nuclear power in the region. New York’s Governor Cuomo is a fracking critic who supported banning the practice, a step taken by the state in 2015. But Cuomo has also opposed Indian Point – located about 30 miles north of New York City – on safety grounds for years. Last week’s announcement that the plant would close 14 years early is being touted by the governor as a major victory, but his unlikely ally in that win is natural gas produced from the Marcellus and Utica shale resources located in nearby Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.
Hydraulically fracturing wells to produce natural gas has unleashed new supplies of the fuel in volumes that have turned the power generation business on its ear. Natural gas has flooded the US market and consistently depressed natural gas, coal and wholesale power prices. Power generation companies typically turn to the least expensive fuel to produce electricity and that’s been natural gas in recent years. As their feedstock prices have come down so have wholesale power prices, which account for the bulk of the revenue they receive from selling power.Share This Post
By CLIFFORD KRAUSSJAN. 17, 2017
More oil rigs are going up in the Permian Basin, which straddles Texas and New Mexico.
HOUSTON — Domestic oil production remains in a deep two-year slump, but a rash of multibillion-dollar deals are flashing sparks of recovery in the shale fields of the Permian Basin straddling Texas and New Mexico.
Exxon Mobil announced on Tuesday that it was acquiring 275,000 acres in New Mexico from the Bass family of Fort Worth for up to $6.6 billion in stock and cash. The deal came one day after another oil producer, Noble Energy, agreed to pay $2.7 billion to buy Clayton Williams Energy, giving it 120,000 oil-rich acres nearby in West Texas.
The deals are among the largest of more than $25 billion of mergers and acquisitions in the Permian since June, representing roughly one-quarter of the total spent by the oil and gas industry on such transactions worldwide over the last year. Companies like Anadarko Petroleum, SM Energy and EOG Resources are selling assets in other domestic fields to snap up parts of several fields that make up the basin, which is roughly the size of South Dakota.
“The Permian Basin has now become the crown jewel of the world’s oil and gas industry,” said Scott Sheffield, the executive chairman of Pioneer Natural Resources, a large producer in the area.Share This Post
New report asks Trump admin to invest in military microgrids and help enable “energy security as a service.”
January 17, 2017
The U.S. military could save hundreds of millions of dollars each year by switching its bases from diesel backup generators to more efficient microgrids. Furthermore, the military can enhance security against the threat of grid outages from extreme weather or cyberattacks, achieve its efficiency and renewable energy commitments, and even make money from microgrid-generated power in some states.
That's according to a new report entitled Power Begins at Home, which earned accolades from outgoing military officials at a presentation last week in Washington, D.C. In one of their final public events, assistant secretaries for the Army, Navy and Air Force made the case for continuing investments in military energy security and efficiency -- and opening partnerships between bases and surrounding utilities and communities -- to an incoming Trump administration that’s likely to be more focused on cost savings than on promoting clean energy.
“I cannot comprehend an administration that would say, ‘Increase your costs, consume more energy and water…and be less resilient and less ready to deploy our troops,’” Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, said at Thursday’s unveiling of the report, which was commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts and conducted by the nonprofit research firm Noblis.
The U.S. military is already the country’s leader in microgrid development, with roughly one-third of U.S. capacity expected through 2020, according to GTM Research. But the potential remains far greater, the report noted. With threats of cyber-induced or weather-related outages on the increase, it’s an issue that's becoming more pressing as well.Share This Post