Posts Tagged ‘policy’

The 1002 area

May
2021
07

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By: Jessica Miles

I want the Arctic and the polar bears to survive.

As part of their America First energy policy, the Trump administration pushed hard to open up America’s last wild spaces to oil and gas development. In December 2017, by attaching a rider to the 2017 Tax Bill, the Trump administration and leading Senate Republicans successfully opened up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling. The administration tasked the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee in particular with finding an additional one billion dollars in revenue to offset the tax cuts.[1]

In total, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge covers 19.6 million acres. The coastal plain is only 1.5 million acres, but the potential for oil discovery has made it a contested battle ground since its inception.

Rep. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told a House-Senate conference committee that drilling in the ANWR could raise a billion dollars for the federal treasury over the next decade.[2] However, that highly unlikely number is based on wildly optimistic leased drilling sales and projections that the price of oil will increase. The Center for American Progress did its own analysis, and it is likelier that any drilling in the refuge will only bring in $37.5 million over the next ten years, less than half of what was promised.[3]

The lack of an income or sales tax on Alaska’s residents hamstrings the state government. Ninety percent of the state’s budget comes from the oil and gas industry, but the amount of oil passing through the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline System has fallen steadily since 1988. As a result, Alaska is suffering from ballooning budget deficits. More than one-third of the state’s private sector jobs come from the oil and gas industry. Human-caused climate change has put an undue strain on the Southern Beaufort Sea polar bear population. The continuous melt of sea ice forces the bears inland, which is why the 1002 area has become such a critical denning habitat for females.[4]

Over the years, advocates for opening up the ANWR have expressed hope that there is as much oil in the coastal plain as there is in nearby places like Point Thompson field or Prudhoe Bay: at least 7 billion barrels, perhaps as much as 11.8 billion barrels of recoverable oil. The U.S. Geological Survey has said there is a five percent chance of finding 11.8 billion barrels of oil.[5]

Five percent.

During the 1980’s oil companies capped and abandoned KIC-1, the only drill site to have operated in ANWR’s coastal plain. While the drill site no longer resembles the start of greyscale from GOT, the trauma lingers, preventing a full recovery. At the time, the site operators tried to be environmentally conscious, using timber rather than a gravel base. However, the timber killed all the vegetation underneath it. The KIC-1 project cost BP, Chevron and other oil companies $40 million dollars. The amount of recovered oil remains undisclosed. The Arctic is a delicate snowflake, and it takes a long time for injustices to heal, if they ever do.[6]

The data on possible oil well deposits in the coastal plain hasn’t been updated since the KIC-1 project. To determine how much oil rests under the surface, and update the maps, requires the use of seismic testing. Seismic testing involves sending high-pressure vibrations into the ground at 135-foot intervals. Teams of 160 workers have to move heavy equipment, including 90,000-pound trucks, over every inch of the 1.5 million miles of the coastal plain.[7]

The heavy seismic testing equipment could break through den roofs and crush the unsuspecting bears. Seismic testing disturbs denning females, causing mothers to abandon their cubs who cannot survive outside the den during the first three months of their life. Trump’s Department of Interior wanted to mitigate the impact by using forward looking infrared radar (FLIR) cameras to detect polar bear dens.[8]

On the surface, the proposal seemed reasonable enough. The problem remains, the FLIR cameras responsible for detecting polar bear dens are inaccurate. Carried by airplanes or helicopters, FLIR cameras can detect heat under the snow. But the cameras are finicky. To get a good reading, the weather has to be nearly perfect, not too much wind and little moisture. Too much snowfall can also interfere with the readings. Over roughly a decade of surveys, FLIR technology could only locate forty-five percent of the thirty-three known polar bear dens. Climate change and the rapid Arctic melting will only make FLIR detection that much harder.[9]

If a construction survey crew, unceremoniously and unannounced, wrecked a wall of private citizens’ homes while they were sleeping, the homeowners would be incensed. I believe that polar bears are sentient beings with souls similar to that of humans. I believe that female polar bears with cubs can provide love and care the same way a human mother would to her infant.

I want the Arctic and the polar bears to survive.

The good news is that oil companies have lost some of their financial backers, at least for risky projects like drilling in the Arctic. In February 2020, a group of House Democrats, spearheaded by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-California), wrote a letter urging the heads of several major banks like JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley to stop funding drilling in the refuge.[10]

Environmental advocates and the Gwich’in Nation won a small victory with J.P. Morgan Chase’s announcement that they will no longer fund drilling in the Arctic. The decision is a boon for the environment, considering J.P. Morgan Chase is the largest funder of fossil fuel projects.[11] Getting the oil industry’s backers to pull their financial support from drilling in the refuge is a huge first step. But the Trump administration and Alaskan representatives have tried to open the coastal plain for drilling for decades. It’s unlikely that a small setback like this will ultimately curb Alaskan politicians or oil company CEO’s appetite for exploitation in the name of profit for long. 

I support carbon-tech like direct air capture because the less CO2 there is in the atmosphere, the less quickly the Arctic melts. And if direct air capture succeeds, it can have a much greater impact on reducing CO2 than I could as an individual. But direct air capture doesn’t stop oil drilling.

I’ve tried to turn my passion for the environment into concrete actions. In the past, I canvassed around Northern Virginia, trying to drum up support for clean energy policy. I interned for the environmental nonprofit The Wilderness Society. I interned for Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), who is part of the Safe Climate Caucus. Yet, I can’t help but feel like I am always playing catchup. When it comes to ANWR, I see a less clear path forward for individual action, but I know I can continue to write to my elected representatives urging them to oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, attend protest marches when they pop up, and pray. I pray there are enough environmental lawyers and eyes on the continual threat to one of America’s last wild spaces. I pray that elected officials continue to do their job and listen to the public’s opposition.

But I intend to keep fighting. Will I fail? Probably. I’m not Superman.

I need the Arctic and the polar bears to survive. The Arctic is the one place where the world makes sense. I have pity for the people who continue to ride roughshod over the weak and exploit the land for their gain. I know they’ll have to look their god in the eye when asked if the destruction was worth it. I pity Republican politicians and oil company CEOs, because when they look inside themselves, they’ll find nothing but a black gaping hole where their souls should be. I pity them, because no matter what atrocities they are capable of inflicting today, the earth will survive. When the bodies of oil CEOs are turned to dust, when there is no one left to remember them, maybe then, they will understand what they did. Only then, the earth will finally be able to breathe a sigh of relief. And life, in whatever non-human form it takes, will start anew.


[1] This paragraph is sourced from Matt Lee-Ashley and Jenny Rowland-Shea’s article on the Center for American Progress website. Lee-Ashely, Matt and Rowland-Shea, Jenny. “Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 101.” Center American Progress, 10 Oct 2017, americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2017/10/10/440559/arctic-national-wildlife-refuge-101/. Accessed 5 Mar 2020.

[2] Bourne, Joel K., Jr. “Arctic Refuge Has Lots of Wildlife—Oil, Maybe Not So Much.” National Geographic, 19 Dec 2017, nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/12/arctic-wildlife-refuge-tax-bill-oil-drilling-environment/. Accessed 5 Mar 2020.

[3] See footnote 13

[4] The information in this paragraph is sourced from Joel K. Bourne Jr.’s June 2018 article for National Geographic. Bourne, Joel K., Jr. “This Refuge May Be the Most Contested Land in the U.S.” National Geographic, June 2018, nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/06/arctic-national-wildlife-refuge-america-oil-risk/. Accessed 5 Mar 2020.

[5] See footnote 14

[6] The information in this paragraph is sourced from Henry Foutain’s April 2019 article in The New York Times. Fountain, Henry. “Here’s What Oil Drilling Looks Like in the Arctic Refuge, 30 Years Later.” The New York Times, 3 Apr 2019. nytimes.com/2017/12/15/climate/arctic-drilling-anwr.html. Accessed 5 Mar 2020.

[7] The information in this paragraph is sourced from Wes Silar’s September 2019 Outside Magazine Online article. Siler, Wes. “With Drilling ANWR a Go, Polar Bears Will Suffer.” Outside Online, 13 Sep 2019, outsideonline.com/2402095/anwr-drilling-doi-polar-bears. Accessed 5 Mar 2020.

[8] See footnote 19

[9] This paragraph is sourced from Henry Fountain’s February 2020 article in The New York Times. Fountain, Henry. “Oil Industry Tool to Spare Polar Bears Is More Miss Than Hit.” The New York Times, 27 Feb 2020, nytimes.com/2020/02/27/climate/polar-bears-arctic-national-wildlife-reserve.html. Accessed 5 Mar 2020.

[10] The information in this paragraph is sourced from Rachel Frazin’s February 2020 article in The Hill. Frazin, Rachel. “House Democrats urge banks to not fund drilling in Arctic refuge.” The Hill, 20 Feb 2020, thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/483871-33-democratic-lawmakers-urge-banks-to-halt-funding-anwr-drilling. Accessed 5 Mar 2020.

[11] Funes, Yessenia. “Largest Bank in the US Will Not Fund Fossil Fuel Extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” Gizmodo, 25 Feb 2020, earther.gizmodo.com/largest-bank-in-the-us-will-stop-funding-fossil-fuel-ex-1841907860. Accessed 9 Mar 2020.

***

Jessica Miles holds an MFA in creative nonfiction with a concentration in nature writing. She is passionate about the polar bears and the Arctic.

posted by | on , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Glimpsing into the Emerging Market of Home Energy Storage

By Sarah Peters

At last December’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21), the USA set ambitious goals to cut carbon emissions and to invest in clean energy. One of the ways that we will reach those goals is through renewable energy technology. And already, we can see industry and policy pushing forward.

Meeting the current challenge

When I say “renewable energy” you probably imagine this:

renewables

Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are inconsistent; on sunny or windy days, they produce more energy than the grid demands. The primary challenge is how to store that extra energy efficiently for use during windless nights and sunless days.

Currently, the most common and cheapest way to store energy is pumped hydro. Here is how it works:

Water is pumped from a low elevation reservoir to a high elevation reservoir during peak energy production. When renewable sources are not meeting the energy demand, water falls from the higher reservoir, spinning a turbine to generate electricity.

PumpedHydro

Although pumped hydro stands at 99% of global bulk energy storage, it is clearly impractical for residential use.

Innovating a better battery

When I think of renewable energy, I think about this: TeslaPowerWall

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are one option for storing energy in the home. In the past, this option was impractical due to high cost.

However, in recent years lithium-ion batteries have become more attractive as prices fall, which has driven further private sector innovation. A Deutsche Bank report estimates that lithium-ion battery prices could fall by 20-30% a year, becoming cost-competitive with traditional batteries by 2022.

This has heated up international competition to build the best home energy storage options.

Using the infrastructure that we already have

Electric water heaters are essentially pre-installed thermal batteries that are sitting idle in homes across the U.S. – the Brattle Group

waterheaterAnother potential form of energy storage harnesses the storage potential of a common household appliance – the water heater. Using water heater tanks as thermal energy batteries can reduce communities’ environmental footprints and electricity costs by storing excess energy for use during higher-priced peak periods.

An energy cooperative began testing this concept in February, launched in Minnesota by Great River Energy, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), and the Peak Load Management Alliance (PLMA).

“When the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, large capacity water heaters can make immediate use of that energy to heat water to high temperatures. The water heaters can be shut down when renewables are scarce and wholesale costs are high,” explains Gary Connett of Great River Energy.

By controlling the water heaters of 65,000 participants, Great River Energy has managed to store a gigawatt-hour of energy every night.

With political will, there is a way

Adopting home energy storage will only happen where it makes economic sense. Chances are, the leaders will be in regions with supportive policies.

One such policy is called net metering, which is a billing policy where utility companies pay residential and commercial customers for the excess renewable energy generated at home. Early adopters include Germany, Australia, as well as a few U.S. States: California, Oregon and New York.

Daily_net_metering

As renewable grid-connected resources mature, it is likely that more governments, regulators and utilities will enact their own incentives for energy storage. The momentum is growing.

Moving forward in this emerging market, a combination of economic and political forces will determine where and how residential energy storage flourishes.

Sarah Peters graduated from Gettysburg College in 2010 with a B.A. in Environmental Studies. She has written articles and blog posts for the Wilderness Society, Maryland Sierra Club, and DC EcoWomen. She volunteers for the Wilderness Society while seeking her next career opportunity.

posted by | on , , , , , , , | Comments Off on How the U.S. Can Meet Its Climate Pledge

By Manjyot Bhan

I let out a cheer when Leonardo DiCaprio mentioned climate change during his Oscars acceptance speech. But concern about climate extends far beyond the red carpet.

Religious leaders, military officials, mayors, governors, business executives, and leaders of the world’s nations are all speaking about the need to address the greenhouse gas emissions that threaten our environment and economies.

Last December, world leaders reached a landmark climate agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21) that commits all countries to contribute their best efforts and establishes a system to hold them accountable. COP 21’s Paris Agreement also sent a signal to the world to ramp up investment in a clean energy and clean transportation future.

U.S. goals and the Clean Power Plan

The U.S. committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 level by 2025. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Clean Power Plan was touted as a key policy tool to help reach that goal. However, with the recent surprise stay of the rule by U.S. Supreme Court, can the U.S. still meet its climate pledge? Simply put, yes.

Clean coal plantUnder the Clean Power Plan, the EPA sets unique emissions goals for each state and encouraged states to craft their own solutions. It is projected that the rule will reduce power sector carbon emissions at least 32 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030.

Last month’s stay does not challenge “whether” EPA can regulate—the court has already ruled that it can—but rather “how” it can regulate. And the stay is not stopping many states and power companies from continuing to plan for a low-carbon future.

Some of the key ingredients that led to success at COP 21—national leadership and a strong showing by “sub-national actors,” including states, cities and businesses—will also be fundamental to U.S. success in meeting its climate goals.

Other federal policy for emissions reduction

A recent event in Washington—held by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and New America—outlined the gap between existing policy trajectories and the U.S. goal. A secondary outcome of the meeting also explored how federal, state, and local policies and actions can leverage technology to close the gap.

Solar and windAn analysis by the Rhodium Group found that even without the Clean Power Plan, the recently extended federal tax credits for solar and wind energy will help significantly. Existing federal policies on fuel economy standards for vehicles and energy efficiency also support the U.S. goals, as well policies in the works to regulate hydrofluorocarbons and methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

States and cities drive climate innovation

States and cities made a strong showing of support for the Paris Agreement, and they have emerged as leaders in promoting energy efficiency and clean energy.

Additionally, many states are continuing to work toward implementing aspects of the Clean Power Plan. And even those not doing public planning are discussing ways states and the power sector can collaborate to cut carbon emissions cost-effectively. Last month, a bipartisan group of 17 governors announced they will jointly pursue energy efficiency, renewable energy, and electric and alternatively fueled vehicles. The Clean Power Plan stay can be looked at as giving states more time to innovate.

Private sector commitments to climate

Business Climate PledgeMore than 150 companies have signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge committing to steps such as cutting emissions, reducing water usage and using more renewable energy across their supply chains. One hundred companies have signed the Business Backs Low-Carbon USA, which calls the entire business community to transition to a low-carbon future.

Following the court’s stay, many power companies came out in support of the rule or reaffirmed plans to work toward clean energy and energy-efficiency.

A 2015 UNEP report suggests that beyond each countries’ individual commitments, actions by sub-national actors across the globe can result in net additional contributions of 0.75 to 2 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2020. While it is hard to accurately quantify the specific contributions of U.S. states, cities, and businesses in reducing emissions, they have the potential to accelerate the pace at which the U.S. meets its climate goals.

Manjyot Bhan is a Policy Fellow at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES). She holds a Ph.D. in public administration and environmental policy from American University’s School of Public Affairs and earned her Master’s in Corporate Sustainability from Arizona State University. When she isn’t being a policy wonk, Manjyot enjoys wine-tasting, hanging out with friends, and working out at a barre studio. Manjyot lives with her husband in Washington, D.C. and works across the river in Arlington, VA. 

Follow Manjyot on Twitter @ManjAhluwalia and LinkedIn page.

posted by | on , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sustainable Cities are Paving the Way at COP21

By Lindsay Parker

This week, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) 21 has begun. This conference is a very. big. deal. If successful, it could be a decisive moment in the fight against climate change.

Leaders from 150 countries along with 40,000 delegates from 195 countries are meeting to reach an agreement on how to address our biggest environmental challenge. Without international action, our climate is on track to warm up to 5C (9F) above pre-industrial levels, causing weather extremes and devastating our natural resources. The results of these negotiations are critical.

Leading up to the conference, political leaders and activists have responded to the call to address climate change. Countries across the world are setting sustainability goals, federally and locally. In particular, cities are enacting policies that reduce emissions and support mitigation and adaptation to global warming.

Source: Ben Johnson

Source: Ben Johnson

Today, half of humanity – 3.5 billion people – lives in cities , and roughly 5.2 billion people are projected to live in urban communities by 2050.

Cities are hubs for economic and social advancement, commerce, and culture; however, they are also the source of many energy-intensive processes and emissions: building energy consumption, vehicles and transportation, solid waste water treatment, industry, and more.

To ensure a slowdown of global warming, urban areas face a challenge: remaining hubs for jobs  and prosperity, while limiting environmental impacts.


Fun facts about cities:


While cities face a sustainability challenge, they have an opportunity to enact influential climate policy much quicker than federal governments. In the U.S., Congressional inaction towards cohesive climate policy has pushed local leaders to take matters into their own hands. Currently, cities around the world are working to cut emissions, support public transportation, and increase efficiency. They are proving that they can fight climate change while growing economically.

The move toward sustainable and efficient infrastructure will not be cheap. Luckily, cities can benefit from international funding, particularly those in developing countries.  Mexico City, for example, has pledged to commit 10% of the city’s budget to resilience goals. UNFCCC financing mechanisms, such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF), provide grants up to $10 million for urban transport projects and low-emission urban systems to all non-Annex I members of the UN. Likewise, the Green Climate Fund (GCF), also instituted by the COP, finances low emission cities using $10 billion from country pledges.

Today, during a special Summit at the COP21, over 1,000 mayors will join President Obama and Secretary Kerry for the Climate Summit for Local LeadersThe event is co-hosted by Mike Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. The event will bring a collection of local actors together to urge action and build upon the efforts of the Compact of Mayors.

The Compact of Mayors is a global coalition of city officials who pledge to create ambitious climate action plans, increase resilience to global warming, reduce urban greenhouse gas emissions, and publicly track progress toward each goal. Currently, 382 cities, representing 345,853,881 people worldwide and 4.7% of the total global population have committed to the Compact of Mayors. Major cities involved include:

Cities are leading as an example for national governments that is it possible to set and achieve more ambitious goals for emissions reductions. These officials will present their ambitious climate action plans at the COP21.

President Obama addresses attendees at COP21 in Paris Source: : https://blogs.state.gov/stories/2015/11/30/follow-along-global-agreement-act-climate

President Obama addresses attendees at COP21 in Paris
Source: US State Department

Earlier this year, President Obama announced his goal for 100 US cities join the Compact by the start of COP21. That goal has been met and exceeded. Across the country and the world, cities are taking action by retrofitting buildings, upgrading transportation, and building efficient infrastructure.

In the U.S., cities are already making great headway:

Internationally, megacities in the C40 network are leading the way with low carbon goals and sustainable urban growth. This group represents half a billion people and 25% of global GDP, and they have promised to shift towards sustainable policies. Below are actions taken by leading cities:

  • London plans to install 6,000 charging points and 3,000 battery-powered cars by 2018
  • Gothenburg and Johannesburg have issued $489 million worth of green bonds
  • Shanghai will invest $16.3 billion over the next 3 years on 220 anti-pollution projects

In sum, the COP21 is on track to have some significant outcomes. If you live in a city, you’re likely to see evidence of these first hand. You can contribute to reducing global warming by taking public transportation, turning off lights, and supporting your local sustainability leader.

Lindsay Parker is a Texas native with a Masters of Public Policy focused on energy and climate policy from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, Germany. She is currently working at the U.S. Department of Energy on energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. When she’s not hiking, she enjoys choir, running, swing dancing, and yoga.