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By Ben Jervey
Drivers of electric cars are being unfairly punished by punitive fees in several states, according to a newly published analysis by Consumer Reports. Legislators in 26 states have enacted or proposed special registration fees for electric vehicles (EVs) that the consumer advocacy group found to be more expensive than the gas taxes paid by the driver of an average new gasoline vehicle.
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It was early in the morning last Thursday, and Jonathan Butler was standing on the Fred Hartman Bridge, helping 11 fellow Greenpeace activists rappel down and suspend themselves over the Houston Ship Channel. The protesters dangled in the air most of the day, shutting down a part of one of the country's largest ports for oil.
Seahorses are among the species that will benefit from the new protections. Andrey Nekrasov / iStock
By Maggie Ellinger-Locke
We only have about a decade to reverse course on the climate crisis. Activism opposing fossil fuel pipelines is needed more than ever. But activists are facing threats to their right to protest in state legislatures across the country. Lawmakers are introducing legislation to restrict the right to protest. These bills are often modeled on resolutions drafted by companies and passed through groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people, and are usually supported by law enforcement groups. Advocates are fighting back, urging elected officials to vote against these bills. But even the mere introduction of these bills has the power to chill speech and curtail activism.
'Major Victory': Landowner's Legal Challenge Halts Construction of Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana
By Jessica Corbett
In a "major victory" for local landowners and pipeline activists who are fighting to block the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana, the company behind the project agreed to halt construction on a patch of private property just ahead of a court hearing that was scheduled for Monday morning.
By Elliott Negin
A decade after pledging to end its support for climate science deniers, ExxonMobil gave $1.5 million last year to 11 think tanks and lobby groups that reject established climate science and openly oppose the oil and gas giant's professed climate policy preferences, according to the company's annual charitable giving report released this week.
By Deonna Anderson
In February 2017, Seattle became the first city to pass legislation to divest from a financial institution because of its role in funding the Dakota Access pipeline.
By Chris Taylor
The best part of my 9th American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference so far was trying to get into the host hotel in Denver.
When I pulled up in my cab, it was surrounded by hundreds of protestors marching on the sidewalk and shouting some of my favorite chants. Any possible entrance into the hotel was blocked by yellow police tape or a barricade. So I marched with them for a bit, pulling my suitcase behind me, and then ducked under the tape to get into the hotel.
By Steve Horn
The Iowa Senate has advanced a bill which critics say could lead to the criminalization of pipeline protests, which are being cast as "terrorist activities." Dakota Access pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners and other companies have lobbied for the bill, Senate Study Bill 3062, which opens up the possibility of prison time and a hefty fine for those who commit "sabotage" of critical infrastructure, such as oil and gas pipelines.
By Dana Drugmand
Electric buses are replacing existing diesel-fueled fleets at an accelerating rate, and the transition to battery-powered buses is outpacing even the most optimistic projections. In this light, it should come as little surprise that commentators and organizations with ties to the Koch network and the oil industry are attacking a transportation option that yields fewer fossil fuel profits and cleaner, healthier air for people and planet.
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By Steve Horn
A leaked memorandum published by The Intercept and Documented Investigations shows that a Koch Industries' donors network, known as the Seminar Network, has taken credit for Donald Trump approving the permits for both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines during the first months of his presidency.
For better or worse, corporations have a major influence on climate change policy. Just look at Koch Industries, a multinational conglomerate owned by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch that has contributed hundreds of millions to federal candidates and lobbying over the last 25 years.
The "Corporate Carbon Policy Footprint," a new analysis from U.K. nonprofit InfluenceMap, now ranks Koch Industries as the company with the strongest opposition to the Paris climate agreement and most intensely lobbies against policies in line with the landmark global accord.
By Elliott Negin
Thursday, the company released its annual list of its "public information and policy research" grantees, which shows that it spent $1.65 million in 2016 on a dozen think tanks, advocacy groups and associations that contest climate science and oppose both the Paris accord and a carbon tax—the very policies the company professes to endorse. Last year's outlay boosted the total of the company's expenditures on climate disinformation over the last two decades to $34.6 million.
Defenders of Wildlife recently obtained a copy of Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's "Top 10 Priorities" for his department (text version). These priorities are reflected in the department's recently leaked draft 2018–2022 Strategic Plan, but the priorities themselves are noteworthy for their strikingly euphemistic tone.
They are written to evoke a responsive, progressive Interior Department serving the country by protecting our natural heritage and ensuring sensible use of our natural resources. And there's the problem. All ten priorities are entirely disconnected from Interior's actions to date. Following is our take on the doublespeak nature of the secretary's Top 10 Priorities.
By Ben Jervey
As federal support for electric vehicles (EVs) is expected to wither under the Trump administration, state-level policies will play the biggest political role in how quickly battery powered motors replace the internal combustion engine.
Yet, at this critical moment when state governments should be supporting zero-emission vehicles, many states are cutting their incentives, while others are penalizing EV drivers outright.
In the final hours of Ohio's lame-duck session, lawmakers passed House Bill 554 late Thursday night, which will freeze clean energy mandates for another two years if Gov. John Kasich signs the bill. More than 25,000 jobs could be at risk.
The state's original Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), SB 221, was passed in 2008. It set a target for the state to get 25 percent of its electricity from "advanced energy sources" by 2025, with a requirement that at least half (12.5 percent or more) would be generated from "renewable energy resources," including one-half of one percent from solar and 50 percent of the energy to be generated within the state.
A two-year freeze was enacted when Gov. Kasich signed SB 310 on June 13, 2014. HB 554 now seeks to extend that freeze, making renewable energy targets voluntary for utilities. Ohio is the only state in the nation that has frozen its RPS. To date, 38 states have adopted RPS targets.
"Ohio's renewable energy and energy efficiency standards have been frozen for the past two years, costing the state its place as a national leader in the clean energy economy by hampering energy innovation, investment, and jobs," said Dick Munson, Midwest clean energy director for Environmental Defense Fund. "Before the freeze, these standards saved families money and brought huge investments into the state, supporting more than 25,000 jobs, saving Ohioans over $1 billion on their electricity bills, and slashing the Buckeye State's air pollution."
A 2015 survey by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national, nonpartisan group of business owners and investors, showed that job growth in the clean energy sector in Ohio slowed to just 1.5 percent following implementation of the freeze in 2014. Moreover, those firms that did grow had to find business out of state.
"Investments in renewable energy in Ohio have dried up," stated the E2 report. "Solar development has ground to a halt, with new solar resources dropping below 100 kW per month when industry averages for the six months prior stood at 1 MW or more per month."
One example is First Solar. The company employs 1,200 people in Ohio and spends $100 million a month on its production and research labs in the Toledo area, according to testimony by its director of regulatory affairs Colin Meehan. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the company would "take a hard look at staying in Ohio" if HB 554 were enacted.
A manufacturing associate at work in First Solar's Perrysburg, Ohio plant.Source: First Solar
Nationally, renewable energy grew to 16.4 percent of total installed capacity in 2015. Job creation in the solar sector grew 12 times faster than overall job creation. The green workforce in the U.S. now numbers 2.5 million.
"The Ohio House of Representatives did a great disservice to the people of Ohio," said Trish Demeter at the Ohio Environmental Council. "This rushed and sloppy legislation will have untold impacts on electric bills, result in dirtier air, and stifle economic innovation and job growth."
"Newly published emails confirm the influence of utility and industry lobbyists on 2015's controversial Energy Mandates Study Committee report, which recommended an extension of the freeze on Ohio's clean energy standards," said Dave Anderson, policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute. The emails were obtained from state legislators by the Energy and Policy Institute via a public information request, and were not available publicly before now.
"In one August 18, 2015 email addressed to several Republican state policymakers and 10 industry lobbyists, Ohio Senator Bill Seitz suggested that 'we should be meeting as a small group to figure out what that report is going to say.' The following month, the Energy Mandates Study Committee that Seitz referenced in his email issued a contentious report that recommended extending the freeze on Ohio's clean energy standards indefinitely.
"Seitz's email went to lobbyists for American Electric Power, Dayton Power & Light, Duke Energy, and FirstEnergy, as well to Samuel Randazzo, a lobbyist for the Industrial Energy Users of Ohio and anti-wind attorney."
Source: Energy and Policy Institute
Seitz is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch brothers-backed group that supplies corporate-friendly model bills to state legislators. In 2012, ALEC joined with the Heartland Institute, a think tank described by DeSmogBlog as "at the forefront of denying the scientific evidence for man-made climate change," to write model legislation aimed at repealing renewable energy standards across the country.
Prior to the 2014 freeze on Ohio's renewable energy portfolio standard, emails show a trail of energy industry lobbyists working with Seitz.
The question now is whether Gov. Kasich will sign or veto HB 554.
In response to a reporter's question on Nov. 30, Kasich said, "I just would hope the legislature will not have a headline that Ohio went backward on the environment." But he did not say that he would veto the bill.
During the governor's aborted presidential campaign, he took an "all sources" approach to energy supply and said that he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline. He also touted his job creation in Ohio without mentioning that many of those came from the clean energy sector. The Environmental Entrepreneurs report numbers Ohio clean energy jobs at 89,000 from 7,200 businesses.
If he does veto HB 554, it's questionable whether the legislators could override it. Most, but not all, Republicans voted for the bill.
"Today, Ohio lawmakers decided to significantly stall the state's clean energy efforts, putting politics over economic growth. The governor should continue the leadership he has demonstrated and reject this harmful legislation, so Ohio can get back to work building its clean energy economy, opening the door to well-paying jobs and millions in investment," Munson said.
"Governor Kasich has an opportunity to show that Ohio's energy policy is not for sale to utility lobbyists by vetoing HB 554 and unfreezing clean energy in the Buckeye State," Anderson concluded.
The article by Eduardo Porter, How Renewable Energy is Blowing Climate Change Efforts Off Course, serves as a flagship for an on-going attack on the growth of renewables. It is so convoluted and inaccurate that it requires a detailed response.
Our planet is burning up from fossil fuels and being irradiated by decrepit money-losing reactors that blow up. Blaming renewable energy for all that is like blaming the peace movement for causing wars.
As Mark Jacobson, director of Atmosphere/Energy Program at Stanford University, pointed out to me via email:
The New York Times article "suffers from the inaccurate assumption that existing expensive nuclear that is shut down will be replaced by natural gas. This is impossible in California, for example, since gas is currently 60 percent of electricity supply but state law requires non-large-hydro clean renewables to be 50 percent by 2030. This means that, with the shuttering of Diablo Canyon nuclear facility be 2025, gas can by no greater than 35-44 percent of California supply since clean renewables will be at least 50 percent (and probably much more) and large hydro will be 6-15 percent. As such, gas must go down no matter what. In fact, 100 percent of all new electric power in Europe in 2015 was clean, renewable energy with no new net gas, and 70 percent of all new energy in the U.S. was clean and renewable, so the fact is nuclear is not being replaced by gas but by clean, renewable energy.
"Further, the article fails to consider the fact that the cost of keeping nuclear open is often much greater than the cost of replacing the nuclear with wind or solar. For example, three upstate New York nuclear plants require $7.6 billion in subsidies from the state to stay open 12 years. To stay open after that, they will need an additional $805 million/year at a minimum, or at least $17.7 billion from 2028-2050, or a total of $25.3 billion from 2016 to 2050. If, on the other hand, those three plants were replaced with wind today, the total cost between now and 2050 would be $11.9 billion. Thus, keeping the nuclear plants open 12 years costs an additional $7.6 billion; keeping it open 34 years costs and additional $25.3 billion, in both cases with zero additional climate benefit, in comparison with shuttering the three plants today and replacing them with onshore wind."
Gideon Forman, climate change and transportation policy analyst at David Suzuki Foundation, also shared his dismay on the Times piece:
"The notion that non-renewable power sources are necessary is questionable at best. Some scientists believe that, over the next few decades, renewables could provide all our power. One is Stanford Prof. Mark Jacobson. He has done modeling to show the U.S. could be entirely powered by renewables by 2050.
"Porter is wrong to claim that nuclear produces 'zero-carbon electricity.' If we look at the full nuclear cycle, including production of uranium fuel, we find it involves considerable carbon emissions. Jacobson and his co-author, Mark A. Delucchi, have written, 'Nuclear power results in up to 25 times more carbon emissions than wind energy, when reactor construction and uranium refining and transport are considered.'
"Porter says if American nuclear plants were replaced with gas-fired generators it would lead to 200 million tons of additional CO2 emissions annually. But it's wrong to suggest that nuclear could only be replaced by natural gas. A full suite of renewables—along with energy storage and conservation programs—could meet demand, certainly in the not very distant future.
"Porter suggests that nuclear power can 'stay on all the time.' But of course, nuclear plants, like all generators, are sometimes out of service for maintenance. This downtime can be considerable. For example, it is expected that from 2017 to 2021, Ontario's Pickering nuclear station will require back-up almost 30 percent of the time."
Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, called the Times piece "outrageous." He told me:
"The Times piece continues the paper's long record of minimizing and downplaying—not recognizing and indeed often denying—the deadly impacts of nuclear power. It's been a shameful journalistic dysfunction. As Alden Whitman, a Times reporter for 25 years, told me, 'there certainly was never any effort made to do' in-depth or investigative reporting on nuclear power. 'I think there stupidity involved,' he said, and further, 'The Times regards itself as part of the establishment." Or as Anna Mayo of The Village Voice related: 'I built a full-time career on covering nuclear horror stories that the New York Times neglected.'"
So where do I stand on the Porter piece? Here are my eight biggest complaints:
1. Though viewed as the "journal of record," the Times has been consistently pro-nuclear. Its slanted coverage has served as an industry bulwark for decades. A long-time atomic beat reporter, Matt Wald, went straight from the Times to a job with the Nuclear Energy Institute, the primary public relations front for the reactor industry. The Times has a long history as a cheerleader for nuclear power dating back to the atomic bomb era, when it consistently denied health problems from radioactive fallout. It also denied health problems resulting from radiation releases at Three Mile Island, and much more. Now it has taken a major role in defending the nuclear industry from the renewable energy revolution that is driving it to bankruptcy while bringing a tsunami of reactor shut downs. It's these shut downs that now seem to worry the paper.
2. The primary technological transition in the world of electric power today is from fossil and nuclear fuels (King CONG: Coal, Oil, Nukes, Gas) to a Solartopian system based on green power. But there's a deeper shift going on: from centralized, grid-based corporate control to decentralized citizen-based community control. When nuclear power and its apologists defend continued operations at dangerously deteriorated reactors, they are more broadly defending the power and profits of huge corporations that are completely invested in a centralized grid. When they argue that renewables "can't do the job," they're in fact working to prolong the lives of the large generators that are the "base load" basis of a corporate grid-based supply system.
3. But that grid is now obsolete. What strikes the ultimate terror in utility boardrooms is the revolutionary reality of a decentralized power supply, free of large generators, comprised instead of millions of small photovoltaic (PV) panels owned by individuals. Industry sources have widely confirmed that this decentralized, post-grid model means the end of big utilities. Thus when they fight against PV and for nuclear power, they are fighting not for the life of the planet, but for the survival of their own corporate profits.
4. Some utilities do support some renewables, but primarily in the form of large centralized grid-based solar and wind turbine farms. Pacific Gas & Electric said it will replace the power from the Diablo Canyon nuke plant with solar energy. But PG&E is simultaneously fighting rooftop solar, which will allow individual homeowners to disconnect from the grid. Germany's transition from fossil-nukes to renewables has also been marked by conflict between large grid-based wind farms versus small community-based renewables.
5. PG&E and other major utilities are fighting against net metering and other programs that promote small-scale renewables. The Koch Brothers' American Legislature Exchange Council (ALEC) has spread a wide range of taxes and disincentives passed by the states to make it ever-harder to go solar. All this is being done to preserve the grid-based monopolies that own large fossil/nuclear facilities.
6. The idea that nuclear power might fight climate change, and that environmentalists might support it, is a recent concoction, a disgraceful, desperate load of utility hype meant to defend the status quo. Fukushima, unsolved waste problems and the plummeting price of renewables have solidified the environmental community's opposition to nuke power. These reactors are dirty and dangerous. They are not carbon-free and do emit huge quantities of heated water and steam into the ecosphere. The utility industry can't get private liability insurance for them, and relies on the 1957 Price-Anderson Act to protect them from liability in a major catastrophe. The industry continually complains about subsidies to renewable energy but never mentions this government protection program without which all reactors would close.
7. Not just nuke power but the entire centralized fossil/nuke-based grid system is now being undermined by the massive drops in the price of renewable energy, and massive rises in its efficiency and reliability. The critical missing link is battery technology. Because the sun and wind are intermittent, there needs to be energy storage to smooth out supply. Elon Musk's billion-dollar Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada and many other industrial ventures indicate major battery breakthroughs in storage is here today.
8. Porter's NY Times piece correctly says that the massive amounts of cheap, clean renewables flooding the grid in Europe and parts of the U.S. are driving nuclear power plants into bankruptcy. At least a dozen reactor shut downs have been announced in the U.S. since 2012 and many more are on their way. In Japan 52 of the 54 reactors online before the Fukushima disaster are now closed. And, Germany has pledged to shut all its reactors by 2022.
But Porter attacks this by complaining that those nukes were supplying base load power that must be otherwise—according to him—shored up with fossil burners. Here's his key line:
"Renewable sources are producing temporary power gluts from Australia to California, driving out other energy sources that are still necessary to maintain a stable supply of power."
But as all serious environmentalists understand, the choice has never been between nukes versus fossil fuels. It's between centralized fossil/nukes versus decentralized renewables.
Porter's article never mentions the word "battery" or the term "rooftop solar." But these are the two key parts in the green transition already very much in progress.
So here is what the Times obviously can't bring itself to say: "Cheap solar panels on rooftops are now making the grid obsolete." The key bridging element of battery back-up capability is on its way. Meanwhile there is absolutely no need for nuclear power plants, which at any rate have long since become far too expensive to operate.
Spending billions to prop up dying nuke reactors for "base load" generation is pure corporate theft at the public expense, both in straight financial terms and in the risk of running badly deteriorated reactors deep into the future until they inevitably melt down or blow up.
Those billions instead should go to accelerating battery production and distribution, and making it easier, rather than harder, to gain energy independence using the wind and the sun.
All this has serious real-world impacts. In Ohio, for example, a well-organized shift to wind and solar was derailed by the Koch-run legislature. Some $2 billion in wind-power investments and a $500 million solar farm were derailed. There are also serious legal barriers now in place to stop homeowners from putting solar shingles and panels on their rooftops.
Meanwhile, FirstEnergy strong-armed the Ohio Public Utilities Commission into approving a huge bailout to keep the seriously deteriorated Davis-Besse nuke operating, even though it cannot compete and is losing huge sums of money. Federal regulators have since put that bailout on hold.
Arizona and other Koch-owned legislatures have moved to tax solar panels, ban solar shingles and make it illegal to leave the grid without still paying tribute to the utilities who own it. Indeed, throughout the U.S. and much of the western world, corporate-owned governments are doing their best to slow the ability of people to use renewables to rid themselves of the corporate grid.
For an environmental movement serious about saving the Earth from climate change, this is a temporary barrier. The Times and its pro-nuke allies in the corporate media will continue to twist reality. But the Solartopian revolution is proceeding ahead of schedule and under budget. A renewable, decentralized energy system is very much in sight.
The only question is how long corporate nonsense like this latest NY Times screed can delay this vital transition. Our planet is burning up from fossil fuels and being irradiated by decrepit money-losing reactors that blow up. Blaming renewable energy for all that is like blaming the peace movement for causing wars.
The centralized King CONG grid and its obsolete owners are at the core of the problem. So are the corporate media outlets like the New York Times that try to hide that obvious reality.
Harvey Wasserman's SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at www.solartopia.org, where his
AMERICA AT THE BRINK OF REBIRTH: THE ORGANIC SPIRAL OF US HISTORY is soon to arrive. He edits www.nukefree.org and hosts the Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show at www.prn.fm.
By Jo Miles
We all expected that Trump's cabinet would mean trouble for many of the things we care about, from clean energy and healthy communities to our very democracy itself. But his chosen nominees are worse than we could have imagined. These individuals, responsible for the policies and decisions that affect the lives and well-being of all Americans, have a combined net worth of more than $13 billion so far—that's five times the net worth of President Obama's cabinet and more wealth than a third of American households. As you might expect, their ties to corporations run deep and those ties are reflected in their positions and past actions. Here's what you should know about what Trump's nominees mean for our food, water, environment and democracy—and how you can oppose their confirmations:
Nominated for: U.S. EPA Administrator
Why you should worry: Pruitt has bragged about suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) multiple times, has often decried its decisions and now he's on deck to run it. His troubling history includes:
- He opposed attempts to regulate fracking on federal lands.
- He condemned the EPA's attempts to study fracking's impact on drinking water as politically motivated.
- He's pushed the interests of industrial agriculture in Oklahoma, including a deregulatory "right to farm" measure.
Corporate ties: He's a member of ALEC—American Legislative Exchange Council—and has taken about $300,000 in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuel CEO Harold Hamm chaired his 2014 re-election campaign.
Notable quote: "It should come as no surprise that I am working diligently with Oklahoma energy companies […] to fight the unlawful overreach of the EPA and other federal agencies."
What you can do: Send an email to your senators asking them to reject Pruitt.
Nominated for: Secretary of State
Why you should worry: His tenure at Exxon gives us insight into how he'd behave as Secretary of State:
- He's presided over major deals with Russia to expand oil and gas development.
- Exxon targeted Germany, a nation with a strong commitment to renewables and energy efficiency, for natural gas drilling and fracking.
- Under Tillerson's leadership, Exxon continued to fund groups that promoted climate denial and spread misinformation about the threat of climate change.
Corporate ties: He's the former CEO of ExxonMobil and has been since 2006. He owns Exxon shares worth $151 million.
Notable fact: Tillerson once sued to keep water towers for a fracking project out of his own backyard.
What you can do: Send an email to your senators asking them to reject Tillerson.