Chesapeake Region Businesses Oppose Fracked Gas Exports & Call for Clean Energy

It’s particularly difficult for me to understand the denial that fracking has devastating consequences. It’s all about fast money for corporations. — Michael Penny, Savvy Rest, Inc.

This terminal will expand and lock-in unsustainable fracking for a generation, permanently damaging communities and causing a vast amount of greenhouse gas emissions. However, most importantly for FERC and in direct opposition to their mission, Cove Point will raise prices for American electric consumers, while reducing reliability through lower fuel availability – which after the Polar Vortex – should be reason enough to deny this project. — Richard Graves, Ethical Electric

Dozens of small business leaders in Maryland; Washington, DC; and Virginia are speaking out against the proposed export of fracked gas from Cove Point on the Chesapeake Bay. As business leaders, they know they need to monitor and weigh-in on energy issues that will define energy policy locally and nationally for years to come. These businesses have come to recognize that a Cove Point gas export facility will ultimately only enrich the gas industry – while local communities will face the many dangers inherent in “fracking” gas, transporting it through pipelines, liquefying the gas, and shipping it overseas.

This past week, business leaders in the Chesapeake region delivered a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) expressing their concerns about the Cove Point gas export project proposed by Dominion Resources. First off, the businesses are concerned about the lack of due diligence on the part of FERC, noting that a full Environmental Impact Statement has not been conducted for this project—despite the many dangers to human and environmental health associated with this project. The facility would harm regional air and water quality, further incentivize fracking for natural gas, and worsen the climate crisis. Businesses also understand that exporting gas will also drive up energy costs here in the United States. As business leaders, they realize that their long-term economic success will best be achieved through a transition to renewable energy, not through increased reliance on fossil fuels.

Their conclusion? The Cove Point liquefied natural gas plant needs to be rejected.

If, however, FERC fist wishes to conduct a solid Environmental Impact Statement, businesses believe the Statement would need to:

• Assess the broader consequences of the Cove Point plant on expansion of fracking and of the gas industry;

• Evaluate the cumulative, lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions that Cove Point would cause, from fracking wells to pipelines to tanker ships to smoke stacks;

• Include an independent, quantitative risk assessment of explosions that could affect neighborhoods in the plant’s vicinity. It is not credible for FERC to rely solely on data from Dominion.

Stop Gas ExportsSmall businesses, community organizations, environmental groups, health professionals, and others are stepping forward to oppose gas exports. What do they want instead? Increased investment in our nation’s renewable energy sectors and in energy efficiency. Smart businesses and smart policy makers know that building a clean energy economy is our best course of action. Thousands will be gathering on July 13 in Washington, DC to deliver this message to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the President. Join us!

EPA Proposes New Rules for Existing Power Plants

On Monday, June 2nd, the EPA released a set of proposed regulations that would decrease CO2 emissions levels by 30% from 2005 levels. There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the proposal this week, representing a broad spectrum of opinions. While reducing carbon pollution in the air is undeniably a good thing, by just how much will our emissions as a nation be reduced? What will become of our current access to cheap, abundant electricity? Will it be enough to avoid adverse effects from climate change? These are all important questions that can be difficult to discern from news headlines and opinion articles. Hopefully, this post will help to contextualize the rules, explain what they mean, and how they will affect our economy and global climate in the coming years.

www.freefoto.com 13-35-67 Ian Britton 2007What do the rules say?

The EPA has proposed a rate-based (lbs CO2 per MwH produced) cap on carbon emissions from existing power plants across the U.S. You can think of a rate-based limit as the gas mileage on a car – if your vehicle doesn’t drive a certain number of miles per gallon of fuel used, then it will not meet its emissions standards. The purpose of a rate-based limit as opposed to an absolute limit is to allow states flexibility in meeting their target. In states where coal power is more heavily-used, for example, emissions targets can still be met by offsetting the CO2 produced by older, dirtier power plants with the use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind, or by creating an emissions trading scheme to ensure that the net amount of emissions for the state are below the permissible amount. As long as your state is able to reduce its carbon emissions by 30% of 2005 levels by 2030, it doesn’t necessarily matter how you do it.  Giving states flexibility, however, does not mean the end of dirty coal as we know it. As long as coal states are able to offset their emissions through other means, they can continue to put peoples’ health at risk by producing soot and coal ash along with their electricity.

How will they affect the economy?

Cries from conservative organizations over the proposed rules claim that ratepayers will bear the majority of the burden of meeting the regulations, that the entire economies of coal-dependent states like West Virginia or Wyoming will crumble, and that hundreds of thousands of American jobs will be lost to overseas competition. There are a few good reasons why these things likely won’t happen. First, the projected increase in average electric bills doesn’t amount to more than a few extra dollars a month. More importantly, however, are the employment opportunities this proposal creates. Retrofitting old power plants and installing clean energy technology, essentially “rewiring” the country to run on clean power, will create many more jobs than continuing to use dirty sources of energy will preserve. Finally, burning coal costs the US hundreds of billions of dollars per year in costs from health impacts, missed work days due to health incidents, and environmental damage (and its impacts on the economy).  Switching to clean sources of energy will reduce these costs dramatically.

How will they affect the climate?

Here is where the EPA still has room for improvement. Although a 30% reduction sounds like a lot, it’s important to note that since 2005, we have already cut our CO2 emissions by about 15%. That’s already halfway towards meeting our goal. By leaving ourselves 16 years to achieve this level, we leave an awful lot of time to continue burning fossil fuels as we do today. Additionally, growing economies like China and India currently have no such plan to reduce their emissions, and they are in no position to slow down their growth rates any time soon. China has indicated it is more open to reducing carbon emissions since the release of the EPA’s rules, but developing countries would be more likely to adopt rigorous targets if the U.S. acts as a strong leader. While the proposed rules are a meaningful step in the right direction, the EPA could undoubtedly implement stronger guidelines to reducing CO2 emissions from the nation’s electric power sector. It is our hope that we as a nation and a global community can continue to strive towards the common goal of cutting greenhouse gases from our energy diet – if not for our own sake, then for the generations that follow.

As Solar Prices Fall, Banks Take Notice

Following a series of reports from major Wall Street institutions, Barclays announced this week that it would downgrade the entire U.S. electric utility sector bond market ratings against the U.S. corporate bond index due to the “challenge from ratepayers’ increasing opportunities to cut electricity consumption with solar and battery storage.” Translation: the cost of powering homes and businesses with solar energy is continuing its trend downward as more consumers opt to get their electricity from the sun instead of from traditional utility grids.

www.freefoto.comThough Barclays warns against optimism over rapid growth in the solar industry, their downgrade represents a shift in paradigm regarding energy markets. Traditional electric utility bonds were long considered a solid, conservative investment, and they provided investors with steady returns while allowing people in most areas of the country to enjoy the use of consistent, reliable electricity. Electric utilities currently make up about 7.5% of Barclays’ U.S. Corporate Index by market value.

But as the grid ages and the price of fossil fuels rises, utilities struggle to maintain their position as the most cost-effective means of powering the modern world. Generating electricity with the sun’s energy and storing it in hi-tech batteries is sounding like the best bet for more people each day, and the financial world is catching on quickly. Though nobody can forecast the future, there is a growing consensus that advances in solar power and storage technologies will likely be the main challenge to utilities in the coming years.

Hawaii is the bellwether for this trend, seeing solar prices that are already competitive with traditional grid power in the energy markets. Analysts predict that California will see the same shift by 2017, with New York and Arizona following in 2018. While these trends do not forecast a certain dominance of solar power in energy markets in the coming years, they reflect the sentiment that solar technologies will disrupt the status quo very soon.

This isn’t great news for anyone with a stake in traditional electric power generation, but it represents a step in the right direction for socially-minded investors. An average household could prevent almost 14,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas most closely linked to climate change, emissions over the course of one year by generating their electricity with solar technologies instead of fossil fuels. A wider adoption of solar power will also result in a reduction of other harmful pollutants like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide in our air. Through increased investment in new energy technologies, we can shift our society away from dirty, antiquated energy sources and towards a profitable, sustainable, and healthy future. For more information on fossil-free investment options, visit http://www.greenamerica.org/fossilfree.

 

White House: Climate Change is Already Here

While most Americans understand that climate change is a real threat, they often see it as a problem to be dealt with in the distant future.  However, a growing body of data is demonstrating that climate change is already impacting our lives.

Coastal Erosion in Rhode Island following Hurricane SandyComing on the heels of increasingly alarming UN Climate Assessment Reports, the new National Climate Assessment, released on Tuesday May 6, 2014, quantifies the effects of a changing global climate on the United States. The report is comprehensive, covering all available climate data since the end of the 19th century for the US, as well as future projections obtained by climate models. The report explores the implications of a changing climate across 14 sectors in 8 distinct regions of the country. Given the fact that since the mid-1970s the US has observed between a 1.3oF and a 1.9oF increase in average temperatures, the NCA goes much deeper than making a case for the existence of climate change. Rather than stating that changes are happening, the report describes at great length what is actually changing.

For Americans, this report strikes a much more resonant chord than the ambiguously-worded reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Click on the links above to find out what is going on in your native region, or a relevant sector, and see in real time how climate change is affecting your life. President Obama spent the day of the release in interviews with local weather reporters in an effort to connect the complex global issue of climate change to an average person’s life.  On the “Today Show,” the President explained to Al Roker, “Whether it means increased flooding, greater vulnerability to drought, more severe wildfires — all these things are having an impact on Americans as we speak.”

The report is a sobering view into the study of climate science, and a call to action. The effects of climate change are at the forefront of the report, trumping the traditional “range of scenarios” format of previous publications on the subject. The NCA is accompanied by a beautifully – crafted website. Instead of attempting to explain the findings of more than 300 scientists’ work compiled by a federal advisory board of more than 60 members from both the private and public sector, I encourage you to click around and find out how climate change is affecting your own region and way of life.

The report’s findings are summarized in the following aspects of global climate change:

Our Changing Climate  Extreme Weather   Ecosystems    Human Health    Water Supply

Future Climate  Widespread Impacts  Infrastructure Agriculture  Indigenous Peoples, Lands, Resources

Summaries for different regions across the nation are discussed in the second half of the report:

Northeast      Midwest       Great Plains      Northwest      Hawaii & US Pacific Islands

Coasts       Southwest      Alaska      Rural Communities       Southeast & Caribbean

U.N. Reports on Climate Change Mitigation

The latest installment of the U.N’s fifth Climate Assessment Report explores what we must do in order to lessen the negative impacts of a changing climate. 

As our understanding of climate change continues to develop, we hear more and more about a few particularly important numbers: to ensure that average global temperature increase does not exceed 2oC by the year 2100, we mustn’t allow the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide to exceed 350 ppm (parts per million). Currently, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is about 400ppm, with an additional 2ppm emitted each year. Accounting for population and economic growth, CO2 concentrations are projected land between 750 and 1,300 ppm by the end of the century. To offset the emissions resulting from this growth, we need to substantially cut emissions by 2050 (by 40-70%), and to completely cease emissions by 2100.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, released its third working group summary this weekend in Berlin, Germany, as a part of its fifth Climate Assessment Report. Previous working group summaries have tackled the physical scientific aspects of changing climate systems, as well as impacts, adaptations, and vulnerabilities for people across the globe. The latest installment examines the topic of mitigation: the “human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.”

There are currently great efforts underway to achieve both goals of greenhouse gas mitigation. Forests are one of our most valuable carbon sinks; trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and use energy from the sun to convert the gas into glucose in a process called photosynthesis. Across the planet, reforestation projects aim to preserve the ecosystem services that trees offer.

www.freefoto.com But covering the globe in trees is not enough to keep CO2 out of the atmosphere, especially when economic growth depends on burning the fossil fuels that emit so much of the gas. Between 2000 and 2010, the IPCC reports, the “contribution of economic and population growth to CO2 emissions has outpaced emission reduction from improvements in energy intensity.” The panel cites the increased use of coal as a cheap, abundant energy source in developing nations as the cause of the reversal of the long-standing trend of gradual decarbonization of the world’s energy supply.

With ever-increasing demand for modern goods and services in countries where the population is growing at a rapid pace, restricting fossil fuels would cause significant immediate damage to highly vulnerable communities. The only way to reduce the amount of CO2 emitted by our energy infrastructure is to update it – to find a viable substitute that can meet the demands of a world literally packed with people without contributing to carbon emissions. The developing world is waiting for wealthy countries to lead the way, starting with the U.S. And as a country that already has the technology available to make this possible, the remaining impediments to clean energy are largely political. The United States needs a new approach to make financing available for the expansion of solar, wind and other clean energy sources.

That’s why Green America is promoting the Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2014. Sponsored by US Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Doris Matsui, the CEVB Act of 2014 would issue United States Treasury bonds that would be available to all Americans for purchase. The funds raised from the sale of the bonds would go directly towards tax credits that clean energy industries, like wind and solar, as well as energy efficiency projects, depend upon. You can do your part to make the long-term investments needed to ensure that we won’t have to burn fossil fuels for much longer. Call your Representative, tell him or her you want to invest in a clean energy future, and urge him or her to co-sponsor the bill today.

Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2014 Introduced by Reps Lofgren & Matsui

Today, US Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Doris Matsui, along with 15 original co-sponsors, introduced the Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2014. The bill is now before the House of Representatives, and not a moment too soon.

ImageThe Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2014, or CEVB for short, is modeled after one of the most successful fundraising efforts in US history. In World War II, millions of Americans purchased over $185 billion (over $2 trillion in today’s dollars) worth of Victory Bonds issued by the United States Treasury, in order to fund the war effort. The bonds allowed citizens to invest directly in the materials and technologies needed to achieve victory in one of the most destructive wars in human history.

Today, however, we face different problems – a rapidly changing climate, rising sea levels, and more intense weather events like Hurricane Sandy put our infrastructure and economy at risk. Our outdated energy systems continue to inefficiently burn fossil fuels, and the extraction of these fuels continues to degrade ecosystems across the planet. Renewable energy and energy efficient technologies are a promising solution to these crises, but a lack of funding makes them unappealing to industrial-scale investors.

The United States also risks losing its position as a clean energy leader.  China, Germany and other nations are outspending the US in the clean energy race and are already seeing the benefits of increased jobs and plentiful clean energy.

Clean Energy Victory Bonds, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, will allow any American to invest in a clean energy future for as little as $25. The sale of the bonds is projected to raise up to $50 billion, which would leverage an additional $100 billion from private investors. The money raised would fund essential tax credits to renewable sources like wind, solar, and geothermal, as well as energy-efficiency programs. Continued support of these industries will reduce the demand for fossil fuels, reduce the amount of CO2 poured into the atmosphere, and create at least 1 million well-paying jobs that cannot be shipped overseas. With oil companies still receiving massive government subsidies, a fundraising effort of great proportions is needed to level the playing field for clean energy technologies.

If you want to invest in our nation’s energy future by purchasing CEVBs, call your Representative in Congress and tell him or her to co-sponsor the Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2014. With your help, we can transition our economy from one that relies on dirty fossil fuels to a clean energy economy that provides real opportunities for our citizens, all while protecting our homes from catastrophic climate change. For more information, please visit www.cleanenergyvictorybonds.org.

New UN Climate Report: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

IPCC vol 1Yesterday the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report that builds an ever more sobering case for drastically cutting greenhouse gas emissions and ascertaining how to survive on a warming planet. This latest, authoritative report, with 243 primary authors from 70 countries, discusses (yet again) the dire outcomes we can likely expect over time if we fail to cap carbon pollution.

For anyone needing an additional wake-up call, read this report.

Like me, you may well ask yourself (yet again) – What will it take to slash our climate-warming emissions? How can we allow terrible, climate-induced tragedies to destroy whole communities? What right do we have to cause further species extinction? What kind of world are we bequeathing to our children?

 

“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said at a news conference.

Key themes in the report include the following excerpts from the Summary for Policymakers:

  •  Based on many studies covering a wide range of regions and crops, negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts.
  • People who are socially, economically, culturally, politically, institutionally, or otherwise marginalized are especially vulnerable to climate change and also to some adaptation and mitigation responses.
  • Impacts from recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones, and wildfires, reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to current climate variability.
  • Climate-related hazards exacerbate other stressors , often with negative outcomes for livelihoods , especially for people living in poverty.
  • Adaptation and mitigation choices in the near -term will affect the risks of climate change throughout the 21st century.
  • Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts.
  • A large fraction of both terrestrial and freshwater species faces increased extinction risk under projected climate change during and beyond the 21st century, especially as climate change interacts with other stressors, such as habitat modification, over -exploitation, pollution, and invasive species.
  •  All aspects of food security are potentially affected by climate change, including food access, utilization, and price stability.
  • Climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts in the form of civil war and inter-group violence by amplifying well-documented drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economics.
  • Transformations in economic, social, technological, and political decisions and actions can enable climate-resilient pathways.

There are many actions we can take to pressure elected officials for policies that cut carbon pollution and that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. Green America’s current action in support of regulating carbon pollution from new power plants is a start. If we take action today, and every day, there is hope.