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.
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Ben Jervey has been covering and working in the climate, energy, and environmental fields for a decade. He is regular contributor to DeSmogBlog. He was the original Environment Editor for GOOD Magazine, and wrote a longstanding weekly column titled “The New Ideal: Building the clean energy economy of the 21st Century and avoiding the worst fates of climate change.” He also contributes to National Geographic News, Grist, OnEarth Magazine, and many other online and print publications. His book–The Big Green Apple: Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Living in New York City–has been called the “bible of green living for NYC.” A bicycle enthusiast, Ben has ridden across the United States and through much of Europe.
One week ago, Peabody Energy cried uncle.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As politicians from oil-producing states work to draw up bills to end the ban on oil exports, Mexican officials are “confident” that the country will soon be importing American crude through a backdoor loophole in the law.
Back in January, Mexico applied for a crude swap that, if approved, would allow the U.S. to export 100,000 barrels of oil per day to Mexico. This would be unrefined crude — refined products such as diesel and gasoline are not subject to the ban — likely from the Eagle Ford and Permian shale fields, where fracking has produced a glut of light, sweet crude in recent years.
Mexico’s landmark energy reforms are already having impacts north of the border, and nowhere more acutely than Texas. One pipeline project in particular is raising hackles in some Far West Texas communities, where residents are troubled by the prospect of hosting a pipeline that would be built for the express purpose of exporting natural gas across the border.
It's been a disastrous year for Pemex, the state-owned Mexican oil company at the center of the nation’s landmark energy reforms.
In just over a month, Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) starred in three tragic incidents, two fatal.
For the first time in 76 years, a piece of Mexico’s oil and gas infrastructure has been sold to a foreign investor, and the deal will help bring fracked gas from Texas’s Eagle Ford shale region into Mexico. In this first major deal since the country’s landmark energy reforms, Pemex—the state-owned oil company that had kept domain over the country’s vast petroleum and natural gas reserves since they were nationalized back in 1938—sold a 45-percent stake of a prospective natural gas pipeline project to the United States-based investment funds BlackRock and First Reserve.