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Trump and Biden on the biggest climate question: What kind of energy transition lies ahead?

TAKING THE INITIATIVE: Carl Pope’s Blog

October 30, 2020 San Francisco, CA

Last week’s final presidential debate ended with a revealing split between Donald Trump and Joe Biden on climate policy. But most of the media coverage is missing the real story because the media ignores what is already happening in the economics of the energy sector.

Biden was clear that he is not going to ban fracking or shut down the oil industry. He mentioned ending new drilling on public lands and shutting down subsidies for coal, oil, and gas. And he said we would transition away from oil —that it would take decades, but that we need to replace fossil fuels with renewables because of the climate threat. He mentioned some of the tools he would use to speed the transition: funding 50,000 EV charging stations and beginning the retrofitting of leaky, polluting buildings.

Trump, as he did in 2016, offered himself as a successful King Canute, and implied he had stopped the tide and effectively shut down the transition away from coal and oil. (Canute knew better — one wonders if Trump has a clue.) He pointed to his withdrawal from the Paris agreement as having saved tens of trillions of dollars. (Fact check: We haven’t actually withdrawn and won’t until Nov. 4.) Trump said Biden’s plan would cost $100 trillion, an entirely made up statistic. He proclaimed that he had “saved” the oil industry, and that as a result, “They’re making a tremendous amount of money.”

In reality, Biden and Trump’s policies would take the U.S. energy sector in very different places — but not in the ways the debate, or media coverage of the debate, might imply.

Trump has not saved the oil industry, any more than he saved the coal jobs he promised in 2016. The U.S. shale sector is unlikely ever again to pump as much crude as it did in 2019. After all, even with high oil prices, it lost hundreds of billions of dollars sustaining those levels during the Trump years. The iconic symbol of Trump’s U.S. “energy dominance,” ExxonMobil, has lost two-thirds of its market value since Trump took office. Oil companies have shed 100,000 jobs and their rig count continues to fall. If the “very inexpensive gasoline” Trump boasted of during the debate continues, those jobs will never return, and the U.S. oil industry will be headed down the pathway coal took during the past decade, even if Trump is elected to a second term. Investors are already fleeing the sector.

The reason is quite simple. Renewables are getting cheaper than oil, as they already are cheaper than coal. As a result, global demand for oil either has peaked, or shortly will, a reality recognized by voices as diverse as BP, Shell, and the International Energy Administration. As consumption flattens and then declines, oil prices will remain stubbornly below the $60-per-barrel range required for profitable expansion of U.S. oil production. Exxon, the most bullish of the major oil companies on future demand and prices, concedes that 20% of the oil currently carried on the industry’s books is never going to be profitably pumped.

What will be needed — indeed, for decades, as Biden said, although in diminishing quantities — is cheap oil, the kind owned by the Saudis, the Iraqis, the Iranians and Russia, oil that can be profitably pumped at today’s $40-$50 prices. Major oil companies own huge legacy reserves of such affordable oil but have no prospect of replacing those reserves as they sell them off. They are either going to shrink and follow many of the independent companies into bankruptcy, or they will have to transition, as BP and Shell have begun exploring, into companies that sell energy — mostly renewable energy — rather than just oil.

Demand for oil will shrink faster as electric cars and trucks replace internal combustion pollution. Europe, China, and half of the U.S. vehicle market are already committed to such a transition. It will happen globally, even if Trump is re-elected, just as his first election did not prevent renewables from replacing coal in states as friendly to Trump’s policies as Oklahoma.

We will transition off oil. That is not a debating point to be decided next week. It is a market reality already well underway.

So, does it matter who wins? Hugely. Because there are two ways to transition off oil. One is a planned transition, with strategic investments aimed at making sure that as renewables replace fossil fuel, the U.S., not China or Europe, does indeed develop green energy leadership. These investments in clean energy need to be matched with investments in fossil fuel-dependent regions and communities, so that North Dakota, after the end of the Bakken oil boom, isn’t devastated as West Virginia has been by the collapse of coal under Trump’s stewardship.

That is the pathway Biden has been figuring out and would prefer. We know Trump’s pathway — we have seen it in action in the coal fields already. Lots of subsidies for the owners and shareholders in these companies, no planning for a transition or economic diversification, and no attention whatsoever to workers, families, and communities.

Given the economic realities — fossil fuels have no economically competitive future, and clean energy is cheaper almost everywhere — it is Biden’s approach which constitutes, to paraphrase Politico, attractive “climate dessert,” whereas Trump’s is “climate spinach” — or, more realistically, cod liver oil, particularly for the regions and stakeholders who currently depend on coal, oil and gas.

But commentators would rather tell yesterday’s story, in which we are debating whether to make a shift from fossil fuel to clean energy, rather than today’s reality: How do we manage our way through it, and ensure that we come out far more prosperous than we went in?

We are in the middle of a historic energy transition. Do we want national leadership to make it as smooth and fair as possible? Or do we want a repeat of the collapse of coal — or, for that matter, the coming of the coronavirus?

“To learn more about Carl’s views on the environment, energy and climate, read “Climate of Hope” which he has co-authored with former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg and which can be purchased online or from your local book store.

A veteran leader in the environmental movement, Carl Pope is the former executive director and chairman of the Sierra Club. He’s now the principal advisor at Inside Straight Strategies, looking for the underlying economics that link sustainability and economic development and serves as a Senior Climate Advisor to former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He has served on the Boards of the California League of Conservation Voters, Public Voice, National Clean Air Coalition, California Common Cause, Public Interest Economics Inc, and Zero Population Growth.

Mr. Pope is also the author of the books: Sahib, An American Misadventure in India and Hazardous Waste In America. Carl Pope is the co-author with Michael Bloomberg of Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet. How to attack climate change as a series of manageable challenges, each with a solution that can make our society healthier and our economy stronger.

October 31 Green Energy News

Headline News:

  • “Energy At Largest Air Force Base in US “Suddenly” Drops 35%” • The Commander-in-Chief has written off climate change, but the US Armed Services sure haven’t. In the latest development, the US Air Force is tooting its own horn for ripping the title of #1 energy consumer off the nameplate of the sprawling Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. [CleanTechnica]

Tinker Air Force Base (credit: Paul Shirk | US Air Force)

  • “Chevrolet Electric Connect And Cruise Package To Debut At SEMA 360” • Do you have a great old car with a bad old engine? The performance people at Chevrolet see the value of engine swaps and created a whole new business unit called Connect and Cruise with its mission to make converting a gas-burner to EV as close to plug and play as possible. [CleanTechnica]
  • “How Joe Biden May Have Outmaneuvered Donald Trump On Energy, Climate, And The Economic Recovery” • President Trump thought he had hit the jackpot during the debate when his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, declared that he would “transition away from the oil industry.” His reaction points to a basic misunderstanding of the issue. [TIME]
  • “New Satellites Can Pinpoint Methane Leaks To Help Us Beat Climate Change” • Dial down methane, and you’ll see results by the time Greta Thunberg can get a PhD. “Dramatically reducing or even zeroing industry CH₄ emissions should be a no-brainer,” says Gabrielle Pétron, a NOAA affiliate research scientist. New satellites can help with that. [Popular Science]
  • “Eco Wave Power Enters MOU Regarding Wave Energy Array In Vietnam” • Eco Wave Power announced that it had signed an agreement with MSMART Future Technology on development of a 50-MW wave energy array in Vietnam. After an in-depth feasibility study, the companies will work on a joint venture in Vietnam. [Renewable Energy Magazine]

For more news, please visit geoharvey – Daily News about Energy and Climate Change.

October 30 Green Energy News

Headline News:

  • “America Wind Toasts Record Breaking Third Quarter” • The US wind industry installed nearly 2 GW of capacity in the third quarter of 2020, setting a record for third-quarter additions and bringing total capacity to nearly 112 GW, the American Wind Energy Association reported. Installations in 2020 so far are up 72% on the first nine months of 2019. [reNEWS]

Wind turbines (AWEA image)

  • “Renewables Dominate As Demand Shows Strong Recovery Across Europe” • In Europe, with demand increasing, renewable power was the largest source of electricity generation for the sixth quarter in a row. Renewables provided 40.3% of the total electricity generated in Q3 while fossil fuels produced 35.2% and nuclear 24.4%. [Power Engineering International]
  • “Zeta Leaves Over 2.1 Million Customers Without Power” • At least six people have died and more than 2.1 million customers are without power after former Hurricane Zeta hit the Gulf Coast and rushed inland. Zeta made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 2 storm before weakening to a post-tropical cyclone. It is the 27th storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. [CNN]
  • “Trump Fires NOAA’s Chief Scientist In Fear Of 5th National Climate Assessment” • Craig McLean, NOAA’s chief scientist, has been forced out from the position by Erik Noble, a former White House policy adviser who had just been appointed NOAA’s chief of staff. At issue was NOAA policy banning manipulating research or presenting ideologically driven findings. [CleanTechnica]

Wildfire at Glacier National Park (NOAA image, public domain)

  • “Tesla Expanding Into Solar Microgrids And Virtual Power Plants” • Elon Musk says he expects Tesla’s energy business will one day be equal to or exceed its automotive business. That day may be some time in the future but the company is certainly expanding its solar and battery operations rapidly, both for grid scale and residential applications. [CleanTechnica]
  • “Nearly 30 US States See Renewables Generate More Power Than Either Coal Or Nuclear” • Renewables generated 20.8% of US electricity during the first eight months of 2020, ahead of 19.4% from nuclear and 18.4% from coal. Nearly 30 US states have seen renewable energy resources generate more electricity than either coal or nuclear in that time. [Energy Live News]

For more news, please visit geoharvey – Daily News about Energy and Climate Change.

October 29 Green Energy News

Headline News:

  • “Third Hurricane Hitting Louisiana, Fifth Major Storm, Seventh Evacuation – As Election Day Nears” • In Louisiana, it’s another day, another hurricane. Now, it’s Zeta, bringing mostly rain to my neighborhood but much more damage to the New Orleans area. Tuesday is Election Day and hurricanes tend to knock out power for weeks. [CleanTechnica]

Hurricane Zeta (Reshaud, via Twitter)

  • “Cleantech Creates Higher Paying Jobs – Millions Of Them” • One of the really great side benefits of climate action is that it creates a lot of well paying jobs. But how many jobs? And how well do they pay? E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), the American Council on Renewable Energy, and the Clean Energy Leadership Institute have some answers. [CleanTechnica]
  • “Tremendously Cheap Solar, Wind, And Batteries Are To Transform Society, RethinkX Forecasts” • The ongoing theme in the energy industry is a sharp drop in solar power, wind power, and battery prices. But we ain’t seen nothin’ yet, according to RethinkX. And cheap clean energy doesn’t just mean somewhat lower costs. It means disruption. [CleanTechnica]
  • “China’s Forest Carbon Uptake Underestimated” • China’s aggressive policy of planting trees is likely playing a significant role in tempering its climate impacts. An international team identified two areas where the scale of CO₂ absorption by new forests was underestimated. They account for a little over 35% of China’s entire land carbon “sink”, the team says. [BBC]
  • “New Report Shows ‘Explosive Growth’ of Renewable Energy Technologies Across the US” • Compared to 2010, in 2019 the US produced 30 times as much solar power and over three as much the wind energy, and it had 20 times as much utility scale battery storage, a report from the Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center shows. [Environment + Energy Leader]

For more news, please visit geoharvey – Daily News about Energy and Climate Change.

October 28 Green Energy News

Headline News:

  • “Three Tidal Turbines
 Pop Into New York City’s East River” • Marine energy company Verdant Power has plopped three tidal power turbines into New York City’s East River on one array. The Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy Project is the first US-licensed tidal power project. The project is a demonstration, and more turbines are on the way. [CleanTechnica]

Turbine installation (Verdant Power image)

  • “Fraunhofer To Develop Battery Inverter For Whole-Area UPS And Renewables Integration” • Fraunhofer and its industrial and academic partners are developing a battery inverter that can be grid connected under normal operation but can use renewables generators within its area to form an island grid, for whole-area uninterrupted power supply. [pv magazine Australia]
  • “MBTA Switches To 100% Renewable Energy Starting Jan 1” • The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has signed a contract to switch its electricity supply to 100% renewable energy starting January 1. The move will save an estimated $3.5 million dollars annually at a time the agency faces large budget cuts from Covid-19 ridership dips. [Cambridge Day]
  • “Rhode Island Requests Proposals For 600 MW Of Offshore Wind Energy” • Rhode Island Gov Gina M Raimondo announced a competitive request for proposals to procure up to 600 MW of offshore wind energy. The request is in line with an executive order putting Rhode Island on a path toward 100% renewable electricity by 2030. [Windpower Engineering]
  • “Trapping Light Inside Solar Cells Can Boost Solar Panel Output By 125%” • Researchers at the University of York, working with the NOVA University of Lisbon, say they found a way to boost solar cell output by up to 125%. The research permits use of much thinner slices of PV silicon to produce the same amount of electricity as the thicker PVs used today. [CleanTechnica]

For more news, please visit geoharvey – Daily News about Energy and Climate Change.

 

USDA RD Invests $891 Million in Rural Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Improvements in 43 States

Projects Include Rural Water Infrastructure for 2733 Rural Residents and Businesses Across New Hampshire and Vermont

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2020 – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $891 million to modernize rural drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in 43 states.

“Upgrading water infrastructure provides a path to economic growth and protects the health and safety of people who live and work in rural areas,” USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand said. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Secretary Perdue, USDA continues to be a strong partner to rural communities, because we know that when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”

These 220 projects will help improve rural water infrastructure for 787,000 residents. The projects are being funded through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program, and they include initiatives across New Hampshire and Vermont.

USDA Rural Development State Director Anthony Linardos was pleased to announce the investments in a recent statement. “Delivering safe drinking water and modernizing wastewater management improves public health and drives economic development,” he said. “Upgrading and replacing this core infrastructure is crucial in securing the well- being of rural Americans. These essential projects will provide a healthier place to live and do business in New Hampshire and Vermont.”

Relevant initiatives in VT & NH include:

  • Deer Estates Cooperative in Milan, N.H. — $131,000 loan to modernize its water and sewer systems;
  • Bridgewater, Vt. — $789,000 in loans and grants to replace and upgrade aging components of the town’s wastewater treatment facility and collection system from 1978. The investment will improve pollution control by reducing maintenance and repair costs, as well as excessive infill;
  • Epping, N.H. — $13 million in loans and grants to replace two sludge lagoons with a solar field to power its wastewater treatment facility (previously released);
  • Woody Hollow Cooperative in Boscawen, N.H. — $956,000 in loans and grants to replace aging pipes and improve water quality for its users (previously released).

Background:

The Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program provides funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary solid waste disposal, and storm water drainage to households and businesses in eligible rural areas with populations of 10,000 or less.

For example, as part of today’s announcement:

  • The city of Epping, N.H. is receiving more than $13 million in loans and grants to decommission two sludge lagoons that pose a public health hazard. After the lagoons are emptied, the town will install a solar array in their place to power its modern wastewater treatment
  • The Woody Hollow Cooperative in Boscawen, N.H. received $956,000 in grants and loans to replace aging pipes and other materials in order to improve water quality for its dozens of

Contacts: Kevin Lambert, (802) 828-6080, Kevin.Lambert@usda.gov.

U.S. Department of Agriculture: 1400 Independence Avenue SW Washington, DC 20250. www.rd.usda.gov

October 27 Green Energy News

Headline News:

  • “We Must Protect Coral Reefs With Conservation Innovation And Technology” • The coral reefs are dying, and they’re the world’s first ecosystems to become extinct because of human action. Conservation innovation and technology alone cannot save reefs, but over half a billion people depend on them for food, income, and protection. [CleanTechnica]

Coral (Image provided by Dr Brian LaPointe, Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch)

  • “GM And Ford Knew About Climate Change 50 Years Ago” • Scientists at General Motors and Ford Motor Co knew as early as the 1960s that car emissions caused climate change, research by E&E News found. The car company’s discoveries were followed by decades of political lobbying by GM and Ford to undermine attempts to reduce emissions. [E&E News]
  • “Trump Administration Buries Dozens Of Clean Energy Studies” • The DOE has blocked reports for over 40 clean energy studies. It replaced them with mere presentations, buried them in scientific journals that the public cannot access, or left them paralyzed within the agency, according to emails and documents obtained by InvestigateWest. [InvestigateWest]
  • “Silverado Wildfire Rages In California” • A wildfire has forced evacuation orders for 100,000 people in southern California. The Silverado Fire broke out just before sunrise on Monday in Orange County, south of Los Angeles. By late afternoon, the blaze had burned about 7,200 acres (2,915 hectares), California’s fire agency reported. [BBC]
  • “Big Oil May Make US Taxpayers Take Care Of Its Orphaned Oil And Gas Wells” • A report by Carbon Tracker says the US has 2.6 million unplugged onshore oil and gas wells, with possibly 1.2 million more undocumented. Oil and gas companies have a legal obligation to plug the wells, but they haven’t set aside resources to do so, and many are going broke. [CleanTechnica]

For more news, please visit geoharvey – Daily News about Energy and Climate Change.

INTRODUCTION TO BATTERY SYSTEMS 10-28-2020 WEBINAR @ 3PM EST

This is a perfect start to learning about the aggressively growing battery market.
Learn how to design a battery system that meets customer expectations by starting with project fundamentals!

Topics
Industry Overview
Lithium chemistry
2 Hour Sizing and other design rules
Battery System Components

Learning Objectives

  • Learn how various applications of lithium batteries enhance grid-tied health, safety, and welfare of buildings and their inhabitants.
  • Relate battery voltages to system performance to develop pragmatic understanding of battery bank capabilities.
  • Understand common battery under-sizing errors by examining battery specification sheets.
  • Explore various battery management system components to protect the battery against protection cases.

10-28-20 WEBINAR
3:00PM EST

Earn NABCEP Credit

Classes are available for 1 continuing education credit for NABCEP PV Installers, Associates, Technical Sales, Design Specialists, Commissioning and Maintenance Experts and System Inspectors.

REGISTER HERE
If you have any questions, please email Jamie Brill – jamieb@fortresspower.com

Chester, VT Community Greenhouse and Gardens Meeting – Oct 29, 2020

October 26 Green Energy News

Headline News:

  • “Study: Climate Change Could Interrupt Yellowstone Geysers” • A team of scientists and storytellers will create murals to help Yellowstone National Park’s visitors understand what the park will look like late this century. They will show less forest, more meadow, new species, and an Old Faithful that may be dormant due to climate change. [Casper Star-Tribune Online]

Old Faithful (Jacob W Frank, NPS, Wikimedia Commons)

  • “Tropical Storm Zeta Forms, Could Reach US Gulf Coast By Midweek” • A tropical depression east of Mexico strengthened into Tropical Storm Zeta and could reach the US Gulf Coast by midweek. Zeta could be at or near hurricane strength when it approaches the northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday. It will be this year’s fifth named storm to impact Louisiana. [CNN]
  • “Air Pollution A Major Driver of Ill Health Worldwide” • Air pollution is now the world’s fourth-leading risk factor for early death according the latest “State of Global Air Report.” The report comes annually from the Health Effects Institute and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation to sum up current scientific understanding. [CleanTechnica]
    Canyon Creek fire, 2015 (Credit: Oregon Department of Forestry)
  • “As Trump Dismisses Renewables, Energy Sector Doubles Down” • In the debate, President Trump argued that renewable energy is too expensive, wouldn’t power up America’s factories, and is bad for birds. This view is not just seriously outdated, it flies in the face of capital flows in the energy sector. Renewables are rising; fossil fuels and nuclear are in decline. [Forbes]
  • “Japan To Set 2050 Net Zero Target” • Japan is to set a new 2050 net zero target, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in his first policy speech to the Japanese Diet. The goal is an increase on a previous target of 80% emissions reductions by 2050. He said, “Responding to climate change is no longer a constraint on economic growth.” [reNEWS]

For more news, please visit geoharvey – Daily News about Energy and Climate Change.