Environment Draws Unprecedented Midterm Campaign Spending
In the past, the environment, energy and climate change have been nearly invisible as issues in political campaigns. They were never mentioned in the 2012 presidential debates. With polls showing that Americans cared most about the economy and jobs and the environment usually coming in toward the bottom as a concern, poll-driven campaigns focused elsewhere.
That's changing. The awareness level of environmental issues has grown on both sides, as President Obama announced new regulations to battle greenhouse gas emissions earlier this year. Ad campaigns from energy companies burnishing their records and small buys by environmental groups have been joined by big money on both sides.
With the Republicans already controlling the House of Representatives and standing a 50/50 shot at taking over the Senate in two weeks, their agenda on the climate could very likely be a battleground in the next few years. With the Senate is likely to be closely divided either way and President Obama in office to veto extreme legislation, they're unlikely to enact most of the radical items on their agenda, such as eliminating the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), become reality. But we're also likely to see two years of stalemate with no action on the looming climate crisis.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz is counting his chickens before they're hatched. In an editorial in USA Today, possibly the most radical rightwing Senator said, "A Republican Congress should immediately help Americans get more jobs by embracing America's energy renaissance. This means passing legislation to make it easier to build energy infrastructure, such as the Keystone XL pipeline. But, we need an energy policy that's bigger than Keystone. An effective energy plan would also protect innovative energy technology, such as hydraulic fracturing, from being handcuffed by the federal government. We can also open up land for exploration and ensure that American companies can export liquified natural gas around the world. And, lastly, stop the EPA from implementing rules that will destroy coal jobs and drive up our electricity bills."
With the oil, gas and coal companies eagerly to elect those who would vote for an agenda that sounds like an environmental nightmare, both sides are spending money on advertising revolving around environmental issues, especially energy, according to an article in today's New York Times. It referred to an analysis by Kantar Media, a group that tracks political advertising, which found that it was the third most mentioned issue after jobs and health care in this election cycle, with pro-coal and pro-oil and anti-EPA ads leading the way.
The New York Times says, "The explosion of energy and environmental ads also suggests the prominent role that the issues could play in the 2016 presidential race, especially as megadonors—such as Tom Steyer, a California billionaire and environmental activist on the left, and Charles and David Koch, billionaire brothers on the right—take sides. Leaders of major environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters said they had collectively spent record amounts of money in this election cycle."
Kentucky and West Virginia are among the biggest battlegrounds, where candidates on both sides are vying to present themselves as the strongest supporters of those state's lucrative coal mining sector and their opponent as its biggest enemy. Polls show a neck and neck race between incumbent Republican Senator (and Senate minority leader) Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes.
The environment is also an issue in Senate races in Michigan between Republican Terri Lynn Land and Democrat Gary Peters for an open seat, in Iowa between Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley, and in Colorado between incumbent Democrat Mark Udall and Republican challenger Cory Gardner. Steyer's group NextGen Climate is spend in all three races. An indignant Ernst has demanded NextGen's ads be removed, saying they "deliberately mislead" about her position because she also supports some renewable energy measures and calling "San Francisco billionaire" Steyer an "extreme environmentalist."
While Republicans have made the U.S. EPA their target and support of fossil-fuel industries as their rallying point, Steyer's group NextGen Climate has focused on calling out GOP climate deniers (see TV ad below) and climate wafflers in Senate and governor races. Last week it issued its "Stone Age Report" and gave Florida Governor Rick Scott, in a tight race to keep his job against Democrat Charlie Crist, its "Stone Age Award."
Referring to the pushback on climate-related issues by Democrats, League of Conservation Voters president Gene Karpinski told the New York Times, “They’re making it part of the narrative that their opponents are outside the mainstream. To the extent that it’s being used aggressively, that’s definitely new.”
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
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