Ben Jervey's blog

Peabody Energy Bankruptcy Claim Must Put Lands, Water and People Above Executives and Bankers, Say Protesters

One week ago, Peabody Energy cried uncle.

The world’s largest privately-owned coal producer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, following Arch Coal, Alpha Natural Resources, and Patriot Coal in begging the United States Bankruptcy Courts for mercy.

It would be easy for climate advocates to cheer the occasion as yet another signpost along the hard-fought road to a carbon-free future. But, unfortunately for many involved, Peabody’s bankruptcy could leave many vulnerable parties—from coal workers to Navajo tribes to students in St. Louis— suffering further.

Which is why activists from impacted communities gathered on Tuesday in St. Louis, home of Peabody’s headquarters, to demand that a “Just Transition Fund” is endowed as part of the bankruptcy proceedings before the “golden parachutes” are given out to reckless executives and the loans are repaid to the reckless banks that kept funding Peabody’s speculation.

State Investigations Into What Exxon Knew Double, and Exxon Gets Defensive

On Tuesday, the number of state attorneys general investigating ExxonMobil for potential climate denial fraud doubled. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker announced that they have opened up their own probes of what Exxon knew about climate change while it was denying the realities of climate science publicly and to shareholders

They follow the lead of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — who in November 
first issued a subpoena to ExxonMobil for hundreds of thousands of pages of documents about the company's climate science research and internal communications spanning over four decades — and of California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who announced that state's investigation in January.

News of these investigations in Massachusetts and the Virgin Islands came as attorneys general and their representatives gathered in Manhattan for a daylong conference on climate change. During the proceedings, the top legal authorities from 15 states, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia announced a coalition to collaborate on legal efforts to “deal with climate change,” as Schneiderman put it.

Subsidized to the End: Not Even Corporate Welfare Can Save Big Coal

This year, two energy companies that have each received billions of dollars in subsidies and financial support from the federal government are going into bankruptcy. You might think, in this post-Solyndra political environment, that conservative commentators and politicians would be lining up at the Fox News studios to call for some heads to roll.

But, no. Even though these companies have benefited from enough federal subsidies to make the Solyndra loan look like pocket change, there's no outrage. Because they are coal companies (not solar), the story isn’t about how the federal government spent decades propping them up, it’s about how the president’s Clean Power Plan is taking them down.
 
For decades, however, coal companies have taken advantage of vast subsidies for extracting coal from public lands. The deals for mining this taxpayer-owned coal from American public lands were so good that some of the world’s biggest coal companies have relied on the cheap leases to survive as demand plummeted and the industry melted down.

A new report released last week by Greenpeace reveals just how big a part of Big Coal’s business federally subsidized coal has become. 

Oregon First to End Coal Era: Landmark Ban Sets National Standard for Clean Energy

The Oregon legislature just put another nail in the coffin of the coal era.

On Friday, Oregon governor Kate Brown signed into law one of the most ambitious and sweeping pieces of energy legislation in the country’s history, one which will eradicate the use of coal for electricity generation entirely within two decades.

The pioneering law makes Oregon the first state in the nation to legislate a ban on coal for the electric supply, while also mandating that utilities provide half of their electricity from new renewable sources by 2040.

Add those new renewables to Oregon’s existing hydropower resources and, in less than 25 years, the state’s electric sector will be between 70 and 90-percent carbon-free, one of the cleanest energy portfolios in the country.

Renewable Energy Growth Blows EIA Forecasts Out of the Water, Again

Another year, another U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) assessment report that makes the agency's own forecasters look foolish.

In the latest Electric Power Monthly report, which covers all twelve months of 2015, the EIA revealed that renewable energy sources accounted for nearly 13.5-percent of the nation’s utility-scale electrical output. This is up by more than 2-percent over 2014. But get this: less than three months earlier, in the “Short-Term Energy Outlook,” the agency predicted “total renewables used in the electric power sector to decrease by 1.8% in 2015.”

The EIA’s record for long-term forecasts is no better. In fact, it’s consistently worse.

Warren Buffett's Quieter Quest to Kill Solar in the West

There are solar battles blazing all across the west right now, as utilities anchored to fossil fuel power plants strain to avoid the inevitable spread of solar across their areas of operation.

Not a month goes by without a story of some assault on solar-friendly policies by utilities, or by the Utility Commissions that are often in their pocket.

During the holidays at the end of 2015, it was Nevada’s utter dismembering of its net metering policy. Nevada is—or was—one of 42 states that offered net metering, a program through which customers with solar arrays are compensated for the energy they produce on their rooftops or in small installations connected to the electric grid.

NV Energy Inc. unleashed this full frontal attack on the program that—in one quick vote of three unelected commissioners—pulled the rug out from under 17,000 solar customers and eviscerated at least 8,000 solar jobs. And the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) was happy to oblige.

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