Climate science denial is actually pretty rare, so why do we keep talking about it? asks Leo Barasi, author of the new book, The Climate Majority....
President Trump’s nominee to head the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has, as a corporate attorney, personally represented a host of energy and utility companies, many of which do business that is directly impacted by FERC’s decisionmaking. According to Kevin McIntyre’s financial disclosure — obtained by DeSmog and published here for the first time — these include major utilities, fracking companies, pipeline builders, and international energy corporations.
McIntyre is a lawyer who co-leads the global energy practice for the legal and lobbying firm Jones Day, and is currently awaiting final Senate confirmation of his appointment to the nation’s top energy regulatory body. That confirmation may come as soon as this week.
There are high hopes for renewable energy to help society by providing a more stable climate, better energy security and less pollution. Government actions reflect these hopes through policies to promote renewable energy. In the U.S. since 1992 there’s been a federal subsidy to promote wind energy, and many states require electricity utilities to use some renewable energy.
But when is the right time to stop government support for an energy technology?
Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and offshore drilling garner a lot of news headlines when it comes to oil and gas issues in America, but they're far from the only game in town, with those two drilling techniques not even constituting the majority of U.S. oil and gas production.
For that, look to enhanced oil recovery (EOR), an under-regulated drilling method that has been around for over a century and could be threatening drinking water sources — if only regulators and the public had enough information to determine that danger, according to a new 63 page report published this week. Environmental group Clean Water Action, with graduate students from Johns Hopkins University, plumbed the academic and professional literature on EOR and its associated regulatory issues in order to lay out the potential environmental and public health risks posed by EOR. They also detail how the drilling method came to be handled with such a light touch by regulators at both the state and federal level.
The report details that the almost non-existent regulatory treatment for EOR, which makes up 60 percent of U.S. oil and gas production, may be further watered down due to proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget cuts by the Trump administration. In addition, oil, gas, and coal companies are pushing for two Senate bills offering tax incentives for this drilling technique which cast it as a supposed climate change solution.
President Trump and his appointees, particularly Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, have made federalism a theme of their efforts to scale back environmental regulation. They argue that the federal government has become too intrusive and that states should be returned to a position of “regulatory primacy” on environmental matters.
“We have to let the states compete to see who has the best solutions. They know the best how to spend their dollars and how to take care of the people within each state,” Trump said in a speech to the National Governors Association last February.
Some liberal-leaning states have responded by adopting more aggressive regulations. California has positioned itself as a leader in the fight to curb climate change. New York is restructuring its electricity market to facilitate clean energy. And Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, has ordered state environmental regulators to design a rule to cap carbon emissions from power plants.
State experimentation may be the only way to break the gridlock on environmental issues that now overwhelms our national political institutions. However, without a broad mandate from the federal government to address urgent environmental problems, few red and purple states will follow California’s lead. In my view, giving too much power to the states will likely result in many states doing less, not more.
This week marks the three-year anniversary of the Mount Polley mine disaster, which sent 24 million cubic metres of mining waste into Quesnel Lake, making it one of the worst environmental disasters in Canadian history.
It’ll be a stinging reminder of the tailings pond collapse for local residents, especially considering no charges have been laid against Imperial Metals, owner and operator of Mount Polley.
Come August 5 it will be too late for B.C. to lay charges, given a three-year statute of limitations — however federal charges can be laid for another two years.
But here’s the thing: under the federal Fisheries Act, Mount Polley can receive a maximum of $12 million in fines: $6 million for causing harm to fish and fish habitat and $6 million for dumping deleterious substances without a permit into fish bearing waters.
As President Trump's State Department took steps to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, the project's owner, TransCanada, lobbied on two bills in Montana which will ease the company's regulatory burden in the state.
Those bills, HB 365 and SB 109, moved along in the state's legislature with no media coverage despite the state being the first crossed in the pipeline's proposed journey from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska. HB 365, which passed in May, will allow TransCanada to escape civil liability for any potential damages suffered by its contracted land surveyors. Meanwhile, SB 109 would have required environmental reviews for infrastructure projects in Montana to consider impacts beyond state lines, but failed to pass.
So a couple of weeks ago I wrote a story for DeSmog reporting on self-described “lunatic farmer” Joel Salatin’s views about climate change and how he thought it might not be caused by humans.
There’s been quite a reaction to the story, mainly through Facebook discussions sparked by Salatin himself and by others who are part of what you might broadly describe as the sustainable farming movement (this is an entirely imperfect term though, given the diversity of thought among the great many people looking for alternative ways to grow healthy food in a way that has less impact on the environment).
I’ve been accused by one Australian figure, Tammi Jonas, the interim president of the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance, of writing an “unproductive and divisive” article that was “pure click bait ‘gotcha’ rubbish.” More on that in a bit.
Salatin penned a long response on his Polyface farms Facebook page that was liked almost 3,000 times and shared 1,000 times more.
So I thought I should go over some of the responses and clear a few things up.
When will cars powered by gas-guzzling internal combustion engines become obsolete? Not as soon as it seems, even with the latest automotive news out of Europe.
First, Volvo announced it would begin to phase out the production of cars that run solely on gasoline or diesel by 2019 by only releasing new models that are electric or plug-in hybrids. Then, France and the U.K. declared they would ban sales of gas and diesel-powered cars by 2040. Underscoring this trend is data from Norway, as electric models amounted to 42 percent of Norwegian new car sales in June.
European demand for oil to propel its passenger vehicles has been falling for years. Many experts expect a sharper decline in the years ahead as the shift toward electric vehicles spreads across the world. And that raises questions about whether surging electric vehicle sales will ultimately cause the global oil market, which has grown on average by 1 to 2 percent a year for decades and now totals 96 million barrels per day, to decline after hitting a ceiling.
Energy experts call this concept “peak oil demand.” We are debating when and if this will occur.
If you drive along one of the main streets in Louisiana’s St. John the Baptist Parish, you may encounter a large sign warning about chloroprene in the air. These signs let people know that chemical emissions from the nearby DuPont facility, now owned by Denka, can greatly increase the risk of cancer for those who live around it.
“We are being killed by chemicals that the state is allowing Denka and DuPont to pollute our air with,” Robert Taylor, founder of Concerned Citizens of St. John, told me while the group posted the signs. “Putting up signs is one of the steps we are taking, so that later no one can say they didn’t know we are being poisoned.”
Taylor, a 76-year-old retired general contractor, is one of 13 plaintiffs suing Denka Performance Elastomer and E.I. du Pont de Nemours (DuPont), the companies responsible for the chloroprene emissions fouling the air in LaPlace and nearby towns for 48 years. The plant is located along the Mississippi River on a stretch of land between New Orleans and Baton Rouge known as Cancer Alley.