The Sierra Club released a new analysis Friday that found that transitioning all 1,400+ U.S. Conference of Mayors member-cities to 100 percent clean and renewable electricity will significantly reduce electric sector carbon pollution nationwide and help the U.S. towards meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
According to the Sierra Club analysis, if cities belonging to the U.S. Conference of Mayors were to move to 100 percent clean and renewable electricity, it would reduce electric sector carbon emissions by more than that of the five worst carbon polluting U.S. states combined. If the 100 percent energy targets were achieved by 2025, the total electric sector carbon pollution reductions would fill anywhere from 87 percent to 110 percent of the remaining reductions the U.S. would need to achieve in order to meet the goals of the Paris agreement.
The analysis of National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Energy Information Administration data comes before the start of the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting in Miami Beach, from June 23-26, where members will consider a resolution that would establish support for the goal of 100 percent clean, renewable energy in cities nationwide.
In addition, the Sierra Club's Ready for 100 campaign and the co-chairs of Mayors for 100% Clean Energy announced Friday that 118 mayors across the country have endorsed a goal of powering their communities with 100 percent clean, renewable energy such as wind and solar.
Mayors Take Bold Step Toward 100% Clean Energy https://t.co/hlOGOZhyOi @BusinessGreen @GreenCollarGuy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1493248204.0
The Mayors for 100% Clean Energy initiative is co-chaired by Mayor Philip Levine of Miami Beach, Mayor Jackie Biskupski of Salt Lake City, Mayor Kevin Faulconer of San Diego and Mayor Stephen K. Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina. Benjamin is also a vice president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
"It's up to us as leaders to creatively implement clean energy solutions for our cities across the nation. It's not merely an option now; it's imperative," said Mayor Benjamin. "Cities and mayors can lead the transition away from fossil fuels to 100 percent clean and renewable energy."
Mayoral endorsements of 100 percent renewable energy have led to ambitious action in municipalities across the U.S. The mayors of St. Petersburg, Florida and Abita Springs, Louisiana issued proclamations endorsing a goal of transitioning to 100 percent clean and renewable energy, followed by the formal adoption of a community-wide goal establishing 100 percent clean, renewable energy as the target for city energy planning.
"In San Diego, we brought business and environmental groups together to advance a goal of 100 percent renewable energy," said Mayor Faulconer. "It makes sense for mayors across the country to work together because when we talk about the future of our planet, we're talking about the future of our communities."
Salt Lake City recently released its Climate Positive 2040 plan which details the specific steps and policies the city will pursue with Rocky Mountain Power to achieve the goal of 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2032.
Thirty-six cities across the U.S. have now committed to transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy. This growing list of cities most recently includes Columbia, South Carolina, which this week unanimously voted to transition entirely to clean, renewable energy by 2036. Other cities including Los Angeles and Denver are studying pathways to 100 percent clean energy.
"We can't ignore climate change because climate change is not ignoring us," said Mayor Biskupski. "Cities must adapt to cope with the threats of climate change, and that's also why we must take action to mitigate them. Salt Lake City has set the ambitious but achievable goals of generating 100 percent of the community's electricity supply from renewable energy by 2032, followed by an 80 percent reduction in community greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. We are taking action to achieve these goals and I am honored to join mayors from across our nation to lead the transition to clean, renewable energy."
By Simon Montlake
For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
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