The Enviva plant in Northampton county, North Carolina. Photograph: SELC
Questions about biomass are not new, but increasingly urgent as a social justice issue as well as an ecological one:
Many scientists and environmental campaigners question the industry’s claims to offer a clean, renewable energy source that the planet desperately needs
Thick dust has been filling the air and settling on homes in Debra David’s neighborhood of Hamlet, North Carolina, ever since a wood pellet plant started operating nearby in 2019. Continue reading
BREAKING: After a decade of constant pressure by students, faculty, and alums,
IS FINALLY DIVESTING FROM FOSSIL FUELS.
While Rupert Murdoch is not even worthy of the “too little too late” moniker, Harvard University is worthy of “better late than never:”
The richest university in the world capitulates after a decade of activism
The end came, as ends often do, quietly: at midafternoon today Harvard president Larry Bacow released a letter to Harvard students, faculty, and alumni. He didn’t use the word ‘divestment’–that would have been too humiliating–but he did say that the richest university on earth no longer had any direct investments in fossil fuel companies, and that its indirect investments through private equity funds would be allowed to lapse. “HMC has not made any new commitments to these limited partnerships since 2019 and has no intention to do so going forward. These legacy investments are in runoff mode and will end as these partnerships are liquidated.” Continue reading
The world’s first floating wind farm 15 miles offshore of Aberdeenshire, in Scotland. The 30 megawatt installation can power approximately 20,000 households Photograph: Xinhua/Alamy
Wind, of all the alternative energy sources we pay attention to, requires vast areas for generation. So water has become the go-to place to place the turbines. It looks like the new race is whether to have the turbines fixed or floating:
Technology could help power a clean energy transition if it can overcome hurdles of cost, design and opposition from fishing
In the stormy waters of the North Sea, 15 miles off the coast of Aberdeenshire, in Scotland, five floating offshore wind turbines stretch 574 feet (175 metres) above the water. The world’s first floating windfarm, a 30 megawatt facility run by the Norwegian company Equinor, has only been in operation since 2017 but has already broken UK records for energy output. Continue reading
A solar installation in Sri Lanka. DOMINIC SANSONI / WORLD BANK VIA FLICKR
Thanks to Yale e360 for this news from our old neighborhood:
In its latest climate plan, Sri Lanka is ruling out new coal power and aiming to reach 70 percent clean electricity by 2030, an important milestone on its way to reaching its goal of a carbon-neutral electricity generation system by 2050, Climate Home News reported. Continue reading
Researchers with DeepGreen Metals deploy a box core tool to capture a sample of the seafloor. THE METALS COMPANY
As more and more households and businesses and governments plan their switch to electric vehicles, considering the ripple effects is as important now as it was in the age of fossil-fueled vehicles:
The electric vehicle boom is driving a surge in demand for prized metals needed for batteries and other components. Some companies say the solution lies in mining the deep oceans, but scientists say that could irreversibly damage a vast, largely pristine ecosystem.
A polymetallic nodule containing manganese, nickel, cobalt and copper gathered from the seafloor. THE METALS COMPANY
Nauru, lying about halfway across the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean between Australia and Hawaii, is the world’s smallest island nation. But in the emerging industry of deep-sea mining, it punches far above its weight.
This June, Nauru gave notice to the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the UN agency charged with regulating mining in international waters, that it was triggering the so-called two-year rule: The agency will have to consider any application for a deep-sea mining license two years from now, under whatever regulations are on the books at the time. This effectively forces the ISA’s hand to finalize a regulatory mining code before that deadline. With this latest development, a once-fanciful idea may soon become a global industry. Continue reading
In a world that will need less oil, the attraction of going to a landlocked continental interior, such as Alberta, Canada, and trying to separate petroleum from sand is waning. Photograph by Ben Nelms / Bloomberg / Getty
Oil from the tar sands of Alberta will sink us faster than we are already sinking. How important is it to keep it where it is? Akin to some sort of holy grail. Thanks to Bill McKibben, as always, for weekly reminders to keep our eyes on the prize:
The O’Shaughnessy Dam in Ohio is being repaired and will be providing power to the city of Columbus by mid-2023. CAMERA MEETS BEARD / SHUTTERSTOCK
Thanks to Yale e360 for this story by James Dinneen:
With the era of building big dams over in the U.S., a growing number of existing dams are being modified to produce hydropower. These projects, advocates say, avoid the damaging impacts of new dams and could generate enough renewable electricity for several million homes. Continue reading
What with climate change accelerating and US politics falling apart, it’s pretty grim out there. Yet alongside these doom loops, somewhat anomalously, something good is happening: the transition away from fossil fuels to clean, carbon-free energy is underway, and it is accelerating every day…
Our reading and listening options are constantly expanding and contracting, and especially with climate change and energy topics in particular it can be challenging to find options that do not simply induce panic. We have our regular go-to sources, like Yale e360, that has been creatively informative without just heaping on the bleak (any more than necessary, which it sometimes is). A recent discovery of an analytical source worth sharing is this newsletter/podcast combo by David Roberts. Below is the most recent podcast:
Designing rules (including climate rules) that are harder to break
The US has hundreds of environmental rules and regulations on the books, meant to achieve various environmental goals — clean up coal plants, reduce toxins in consumer products, limit agricultural waste, and so on.
Once these rules and regulations are put in place, most people don’t give them a lot of thought. To the extent they do, they tend to believe two things: one, that environmental rules are generally followed (maybe, what, 3-5 percent break the rules?), and two, that the answer to noncompliance is increased enforcement.
According to Cynthia Giles, both those assumptions are dead wrong.
Icebergs near Ilulissat, Greenland. Climate change is having a profound effect in Greenland with glaciers and the Greenland ice cap retreating. Ulrik Pedersen / NurPhoto / Getty Images
Thanks to Ecowatch for publishing this story by Andrea Germanos:
Greenland announced Thursday a halt on new oil and gas exploration, citing climate and other environmental impacts.
“Great news!” responded the Center for International Environmental Law.
The government of Greenland, an autonomous Danish dependent territory, framed the move as necessary to transition away from fossil fuels. Continue reading
Donald Pols, director of the environmental group Milieudefensie, celebrates on May 26 after a court in the Netherlands ordered Shell to slash its emissions. REMKO DE WAAL / ANP / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
The hug says all you need to know. Our kids, our grandchildren, and generations to follow will all be wondering why we we fiddled so long while carbon burned. The consequences of choices we make now related to the future of fossil fuel use are epic:
For years, analysts have predicted that rising world oil consumption would peak and start declining in the coming decades. But with a recent string of setbacks for big oil companies and the rapid advance of electric vehicles, some now say that “peak oil” is already here.
An oil platform facility operated by French oil giant Total in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Angola in 2018. RODGER BOSCH / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
May was arguably the worst month ever for big oil — and the best for its opponents — as courts and corporate shareholders sided with environmental activists to humble the biggest of the fossil-fuel giants, culminating in “Black Wednesday.”
Electric taxis line up at a train station in Shenzhen, China in October, 2019. NIKADA VIA GETTY IMAGES
On that day, May 26, three events occurred that would have seemed nearly impossible not long ago: activists angry at ExxonMobil’s climate policies won three seats on its board of directors; Chevron shareholders voted to force the company to start cutting emissions; and a judge in the Netherlands ruled that Shell must slash its emissions by 45 percent by 2030.
So what’s next for big oil? Is the game up? Have we reached peak oil? Continue reading
A solar power plant in Gujarat, India. Renewable energy in the country would be cheaper than between 87% and 91% of new coal plants, the report says. Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters
Looks like we are almost there:
Almost two-thirds of renewable energy schemes built globally last year expected to undercut coal costs
Almost two-thirds of wind and solar projects built globally last year will be able to generate cheaper electricity than even the world’s cheapest new coal plants, according to a report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena). Continue reading
Way back when, the idea of planting a million trees was set in motion. I missed this Economist film and article at that time, but while pursuing planting I have seen other related concerns, each of which is worthy of consideration (as we continue planting):
Why tree planting is not the panacea some had hoped
Here you will find some of the resources used in the production of The Economist’s film “Climate change: the trouble with trees” along with exclusive additional material. It is part of the “The Story Behind”, a film series that reveals the processes that shape our video journalism. Continue reading
The pressure has been mounting for some time, but it is finally causing needed changes. There were plenty of headlines late last week, but only today do we feel this news means something potentially lasting:
An activist hedge fund succeeds in nominating at least two climate-friendly directors to the energy giant’s board
“The stone age did not end for lack of stone, and the oil age will end long before the world runs out of petroleum.” That battle cry animates critics of Big Oil, who dream of phasing out hydrocarbons in favour of cleaner fuels and technologies. Continue reading
If we’re going to deal with the climate crisis, electric cars are a crucial part of the task. Photograph by Rebekah Zemansky / Shutterstock
In his weekly newsletter Bill McKibben shares an illuminating anecdote, titled Your Electric Vehicle Can’t Get There from Here—At Least, Not Without a Charge, about driving his electric car in New England that explains
A train loaded with newly mined coal near Gillette, Wyoming. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA
It’s been too long since we last asked this question that had been a mainstay in these pages, but today we have to ask it of Wyoming, based on this story:
Republican governor says measure sends message that Wyoming is ‘prepared to bring litigation to protect her interests’
Wyoming is faced by a transition to renewable energy that’s gathering pace across America, but it has now come up with a novel and controversial plan to protect its mining industry – sue other states that refuse to take its coal. Continue reading
The Salton Sea is one of numerous new mining proposals in a global gold rush to find new sources of metals and minerals needed for electric cars and renewable energy.
Thanks to the New York Times for this coverage of the choices surrounding how and where to mine a key ingredient of more efficient batteries–a consequential environmental question:
A race is on to produce lithium in the United States, but competing projects are taking very different approaches to extracting the vital raw material. Some might not be very green.
“This is the most sustainable lithium in the world, made in America,” Rod Colwell, the chief executive of Controlled Thermal Resources, said. “Who would have thought it? We’ve got this massive opportunity.”
Atop a long-dormant volcano in northern Nevada, workers are preparing to start blasting and digging out a giant pit that will serve as the first new large-scale lithium mine in the United States in more than a decade — a new domestic supply of an essential ingredient in electric car batteries and renewable energy.
The mine, constructed on leased federal lands, could help address the near total reliance by the United States on foreign sources of lithium.
But the project, known as Lithium Americas, has drawn protests from members of a Native American tribe, ranchers and environmental groups because it is expected to use billions of gallons of precious ground water, potentially contaminating some of it for 300 years, while leaving behind a giant mound of waste. Continue reading
Because its costs continue to slide with every quarter, solar energy will be cheaper than fossil fuels almost everywhere on the planet by the decade’s end. Photograph by Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times / Getty
Thanks to Bill McKibben, as always, for at least one bit of good news in his weekly newsletter:
Climate activists at a rally in Athens, Greece, in late 2018, hold up banners warning that time is running out on efforts to contain the earth’s warming to a rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius. Photograph by Louisa Gouliamaki / AFP / Getty
Thanks to Bill McKibben for this Earth Day edition of his newsletter, The Climate Crisis, which we sample from regularly:
Center City Philadelphia, viewed from the Schuylkill River. ZOONAR GMBH / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
Thanks to Jonathan Mingle and Yale e360 for this analysis:
Ending the use of fossil fuels to heat homes and buildings is a key challenge for cities hoping to achieve net-zero emissions. Nowhere is that more evident than in Philadelphia, where technical and financial hurdles and a reluctant gas company stand in the way of decarbonization.
In 1836, Philadelphians mostly used whale oil and candles to light their homes and businesses. That year, the newly formed Philadelphia Gas Works caused a stir when it lit 46 downtown street lamps with gas made from coal in its plant on the Schuylkill River. Continue reading
Protesters have argued that you shouldn’t try to profit off the end of the world. New analysis shows that, in any event, you won’t. Photograph by David Grossman / Alamy
This is a short read with a big implication; as always we are grateful to Bill McKibben for his weekly newsletter: