Japan is planning to build as many as 22 new coal plants at 17 different sites over the next five years, The New York Times reports, a sharp uptick in coal-fired power as the rest of the world eases off coal and looks to cut emissions.
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'They're Crooks': Coal Industry Aims to Exploit Coronavirus Crisis to Cut Payments to Miners With Black Lung
By Jake Johnson
Some of the largest coal companies in the United States are using the coronavirus crisis to pressure Congress to slash the tax that finances the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, a lifeline for more than 20,000 miners whose lung disease makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19.
Germany reached an agreement Thursday that will allow it to stop burning coal by 2038.
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By Steve Horn
The huge bipartisan energy bill currently stalled in the Senate would fast-track exports of fracked gas, offer over a billion dollars in subsidies to "clean coal" efforts and make available hundreds of millions in tax dollars for a geoengineering pilot project.
Bipartisan Uptake, Industry Praise<p>The legislation has thus far received bipartisan support because it contains subsidies for renewable energy sources including <a href="https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/whats-in-the-senate-energy-bill-for-clean-energy-smart-grid-and-energy-storage" target="_blank">wind, solar</a>, and geothermal. It also creates federal financial incentives for creating energy-efficient buildings and boosts funding for energy storage. For that, it has garnered lobbying support from the likes of the <a href="https://acore.org/acore-statement-on-the-american-energy-innovation-act/" target="_blank">American Council on Renewable Energy</a>, the <a href="https://www.nature.org/en-us/newsroom/statement-supporting-senate-energy-bill/" target="_blank">Nature Conservancy</a>, and the <a href="https://www.edf.org/media/bipartisan-senate-innovation-package-takes-useful-steps-towards-smart-climate-policy" target="_blank">Environmental Defense Fund</a>.</p><p>Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called for support of the bill during March 2 remarks on the Senate floor.</p>
Dirty Details<p>Outside of the renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage clauses, the energy bill contains provisions aiming to ease the way for exports of so-called<a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2017/09/07/trump-small-scale-lng-exports-without-environmental-review" target="_blank"> "small scale" LNG export terminals</a>, which rely on slightly smaller tankers and keep the <span style="background-color: initial;">LNG</span> in liquid form instead of re-gasifying it.</p><p>The Senate bill also offers over $367.8 million in federal funding through 2024 to test out a geoengineering pilot project for a technique called <a href="http://www.geoengineeringmonitor.org/2018/05/direct-air-capture/" target="_blank">direct air capture</a>, which involves vacuuming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Geoengineering is a proposal to use various technologies with goals of either removing greenhouse gases already emitted or reversing global warming. </p>
Bakken Petrochemical Hub<p>Senators have also introduced <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/2657/amendments?searchResultViewType=expanded&KWICView=false&pageSize=250" target="_blank">220 different amendments</a> to the bill, which include the one calling for a phase-out of hydrofluorocarbons from cooling and refrigeration devices. Three of the amendments, if passed, would greatly expand drilling in North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin.</p><p>Two of them received an introduction by U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), who <a href="http://v/" target="_blank">served as an energy policy aide</a> for President <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/donald-trump" target="_blank">Donald Trump</a>'s 2016 presidential campaign. One of these amendments, <a href="https://www.kirkland.com/publications/kirkland-alert/2020/03/senate-energy-legislation" target="_blank">successfully inserted</a> into the bill, calls for the U.S. Department of Energy to do a "Bakken and Three Forks Natural Gas Liquids Report" to study the potential for a petrochemical storage hub in the Bakken. The other, titled "Bakken Energy for National Security," calls for the Energy Department to do a similar study with the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Treasury Department to "assess … the potential national and economic security impacts of building ethane and other natural-gas-liquids-related petrochemical infrastructure in the geographical vicinity of the Bakken."</p>
Energy.Senate.Gov<p>The third amendment, introduced by <span style="background-color: initial;">U.S.</span> Sen. John Hoeven (R-<span style="background-color: initial;">ND</span>), calls for expedited permitting for drilling on <span style="background-color: initial;">U.S.</span> public lands located within the Bakken. The provision is known as the Bureau of Land Management (<span style="background-color: initial;">BLM</span>) Spacing Act.</p>
Congress.gov<p>The North Dakota Pipeline Authority is <a href="https://news.prairiepublic.org/post/study-bakken-and-three-forks-natural-gas-liquids-approved" target="_blank">currently teaming up</a> with the University of North Dakota's Energy and Environmental Research Center to study the potential for a petrochemical hub in the region, as well. That study is set for release on May 1, the publication Prairie Public Broadcasting reported.</p><p>"The petrochemical industry is the number one consumer of those natural gas liquids," Justin Kringstad, Executive Director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, <a href="https://news.prairiepublic.org/post/pipeline-authority-director-wants-study-chemical-make-natural-gas-liquids-over-time" target="_blank">told Prairie Public Broadcasting in October</a>. "As investors and companies look at North Dakota for opportunities, we need to have good, solid scientific data we can point to, and have a good understanding of this resource potential."</p><p>The oil and gas industry sees the <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/fracking-plastics" target="_blank">growth of plastics manufacturing</a>, as well as <a href="https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/sites/default/files/rpt_1905_fracking-2019-web_2.pdf" target="_blank">exporting LNG and building gas power plants</a> in the U.S., as a profitable lifeline to continue fracking in places like the Bakken Shale and the Marcellus. For climate advocates, pointing to the threat of potent methane emissions from the supply chain, this presents a major problem. </p><p><span style="background-color: initial;">"</span>From petrochemical facilities to gas-fired power plants and liquefied natural gas export terminals, these new projects would commit America to another generation of dependence on fossil fuels," the advocacy group Food and Water Watch wrote in a <a href="https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/sites/default/files/rpt_1905_fracking-2019-web_2.pdf" target="_blank">March 2019 report</a>. "These projects aren't just associated with health and safety risks: if even a fraction of them come to fruition, they will condemn the planet to a future of climate chaos."</p>
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A new report shows that investments in coal plants may be a waste of money as renewables are cheaper than new coal plants, according to new research from the financial think tank Carbon Tracker Initiative.
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Human activity has pushed atmospheric carbon dioxide to higher levels today than they have been at any other point in the last 23-million-years, potentially posing unprecedented disruptions in ecosystems across the planet, new research suggests.
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President Donald Trump’s Climate Change Record Has Been a Boon for Oil Companies, and a Threat to the Planet
By Vernon Loeb, Marianne Lavelle and Stacy Feldman
In the middle of his 44th month in office, two weeks before the start of the Republican convention in late August, President Trump rolled back Barack Obama's last major environmental regulation, restricting methane leaks.
Trump's Long Focus on 'American Energy Dominance'<p>When Trump delivered his <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/27052016/donald-trump-republican-party-election-fossil-fuels-coal-oil-gas-fracking-climate-change-paris" target="_blank">first major energy speech in the fracking fields of North Dakota</a> as a candidate in May 2016, he called for American domination of global energy supplies.</p><p>"We are going to turn everything around," Trump declared. "And quickly, very quickly."</p><p>Once in office, Trump pursued a policy of unfettered support for fossil fuel development. He immediately signed memorandums to <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/24012017/keystone-xl-dakota-pipeline-donald-trump-executive-order" target="_blank">revive the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines</a>, projects blocked by Obama. </p><p>In early March 2017, his administration ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/03032017/scott-pruitt-environmental-protection-agency-methane-greenhouse-gas-climate-change" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stop gathering data from oil and gas companies</a> needed to rein in leaks of methane, a potent short-lived climate pollutant. Fossil fuel infrastructure adds to greenhouse gas emissions, in part by leaking methane into the atmosphere. </p><p>He followed up, at the end of March, by issuing <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/28032017/trump-executive-order-climate-change-paris-climate-agreement-clean-power-plan-pruitt" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a sweeping executive order</a> directing all federal agencies to target for elimination any rules that restrict U.S. production of energy. He set guidance to make it more difficult to put future regulations on fossil fuel industries and he moved to discard the use of a rigorous "social cost of carbon," a regulatory measurement that puts a price on the future damage society will pay for every ton of carbon dioxide emitted. </p><p>As his first year in office came to a close, Trump and Alaska's Republican senators inserted a provision into his signature tax cut legislation that called for opening the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling.</p><p>In 2018, domestic oil production hit a record high. The result of this, among other things, was the <a href="https://rhg.com/research/preliminary-us-emissions-estimates-for-2018/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reversal of three consecutive years of declining U.S. carbon emissions</a>.</p><p>Many of Trump's regulations have also been tailored to favor the coal industry, often at the expense of cheaper, cleaner energy. <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/11102017/climate-denial-coal-industry-global-warming-robert-murray-energy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Robert Murray</a>, founder of the <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/29102019/coal-bankruptcy-bob-murray-energy-chapter-11-trump-regulations-rollback" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">now-bankrupt coal company Murray Energy</a> and one of Trump's closest industry allies, gave the president a "wish list" early on that became a virtual template for the administration's rollback of regulations. </p><p>The administration swiftly lifted an Obama moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands, to no real benefit. The decline of coal continued unabated, but Trump remained an unapologetic champion of the dirtiest fossil fuel. </p>
Trump's War on Science<p>When U.S. government scientists released their latest volume of the <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">National Climate Assessment in November 2018, </a>it revealed much about the robust, sobering scientific consensus on climate change.</p><p>It also revealed the striking disconnect between Trump and essentially every authoritative institution on the threat of global warming.</p><p>The president rejected the assessment's central findings—based on thousands of climate studies and involving 13 federal agencies—that emissions of carbon dioxide are caused by human activities, are already causing lasting economic damage and have to be brought rapidly to zero.</p><p>"I don't believe it. No, no, I don't believe it," Trump told a reporter after the assessment's release. </p><p>In almost every agency overseeing energy, the environment and health, people with little scientific background, or strong ties to industries they would be regulating, were appointed to scientific leadership positions. </p><p>One of the administration's first actions was to order scientists and other employees at EPA and other agencies to halt public communications. Several federal scientists working on climate change have said they were silenced, sidelined or demoted. The words "climate change" have been purged from government reports and other reports have been buried. </p><p>The administration's mistrust of scientists and its tendency toward science denialism would also become a prominent feature of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, when the president <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/20/politics/coronavirus-travel-alert-cdc-white-house-tensions-invs/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">muzzled scientists at the Centers for Disease Control </a>and chafed at the dire predictions of many epidemiological models for Covid-19 deaths. </p><p>With the nation in a state of emergency over the pandemic, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist who serves as Trump's administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/23032020/trump-epa-health-secret-science-coronavirus" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">moved in late March</a> to fast-track the "Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science" rule. Wheeler replaced Scott Pruitt, an Oklahoma Republican who served as Trump's first EPA administrator before resigning in 2018 amid an ethics scandal. </p><p>Critics call Wheeler's transparency proposal Orwellian and say it would actually <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/07042020/epa-secret-science-coronavirus-covid" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">limit the use of human health science</a> in environmental decision-making, by eliminating studies that rely on patients' anonymous medical data.</p><p>While Trump and his conservative allies contend that the reliance on such studies amounts to "secret science," scientists and leading medical authorities respond that it is standard practice to honor patient confidentiality in peer-reviewed studies. </p><p>Numerous studies, including one based on health data from 60 million Medicare recipients, have shown that one of the signature pollutants from the burning of fossil fuels, microscopic particles less than 2.5 microns in width—known as PM 2.5—kill as many as 52,100 Americans prematurely each year.</p><p>Less than a month later, as much of the nation remained locked down to halt the spread of Covid-19, a respiratory disease, the Trump administration rejected a recommendation from government scientists to strengthen the national air quality standard for particulate matter. Trump chose instead to maintain the current PM 2.5 standard, handing the fossil fuel industry a major victory.</p>
A 'Concerted Attack' on Alaska, Public Lands<p>The Trump administration knew no bounds for its fossil fuel agenda, pursuing drilling from the outset on pristine public lands in Alaska and the lower 48 states, where oil companies have long sought access. </p><p>Less than four months after taking office, Trump moved <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/28042017/doanld-trump-arctic-offshore-drilling-ban-obama-executive-order" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">to lift Obama's offshore Arctic drilling ban</a> and, then, in July 2017, gave Italian oil company Eni a quick green light to drill exploratory wells. </p><p>In March 2018, the Trump administration proposed a resumption of leasing in Alaska's Beaufort Sea. President Obama, shortly before leaving office, had "permanently" withdrawn from drilling there. </p><p>By then, Trump had also carved 2 million acres of land from the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments in southern Utah in what amounted to the most sweeping reductions in protections for public land in U.S. history. </p><p>In September 2018, the Interior Department finalized a <a href="https://www.blm.gov/sites/blm.gov/files/Final%20Rule%20-1004-AE53%20-%20%20Ready%20for%20OFR%209.18.18_508%20%281%29.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rule</a> that loosens methane requirements for oil and gas operations on federal lands. A month later, the administration proposed a regulation to streamline and expedite oil and gas permits on national forest lands. </p><p>The following summer, the administration proposed weakening protections under the Endangered Species Act for threatened species and critical habitat. Shortly thereafter, the Interior Department commenced the public comment period on its plan for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that had been included in the 2017 tax bill. </p><p>In early August 2020, the president signed the Great American Outdoors Act appropriating $900 million a year to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and $9.5 billion over five years to reduce maintenance backlogs in the national parks. </p><p>The bipartisan legislation was sponsored by a House Democrat, but Trump extolled its passage as the most significant act in support of parklands since Teddy Roosevelt.</p><p>Still, the administration was preparing, on the eve of the Republican convention, to start selling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The sale was <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/26082020/trump-administration-alaska-oil-drilling-mining-projects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">one of six pending projects</a> in which Trump was pursuing more drilling, logging and mining in Alaska.</p><p>One environmentalist called it the most "concerted attack" in 30 years on Alaska's natural resources. </p><p>All six of the Trump initiatives could still be blocked or rolled back in the courts, or undone by a new Biden administration working with a Democratic Congress. But for now, they are proceeding, with enormous consequences for Alaska's environment, and global climate change.</p>
One by One, Obama's Main Climate Accomplishments Fell<p>The same could be said for President Obama's environment and climate legacy: Trump's relentless attacks could be wholly or partially undone by a new administration and Congress. But for now, Trump has accomplished his mission: a near total elimination of his predecessor's most significant measures.</p><p>After countless piecemeal rollbacks during Trump's first two and a half years in office, the administration in June 2019 launched its long-awaited attack on Obama's signature plan to tackle climate change. Designed to cut emissions from coal-fired power plants, Obama called it the Clean Power Plan.</p><p>While the plan was challenged by industry and 27 states and blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court before Obama even left office, it encouraged many states to begin a process of planning for a transition away from coal-fired electricity at a time when cheaper natural gas and renewable energy already were forcing coal plants to shut down. </p><p>Next came Trump's rollback of Obama's 2012 automobile fuel efficiency standards, the single largest step any nation had taken to address global warming by cutting carbon emissions from cars and trucks. The weakened Trump plan will allow automakers to deploy fleets that average just 40 miles per gallon by 2025, instead of 54 mpg.</p><p>If Trump's standard ultimately survives legal challenges, cars and trucks in the United States would emit nearly a billion tons more carbon dioxide during their lifetimes than they would have under the Obama standards. </p><p>Finally, in mid-August, Trump <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/13082020/trump-epa-methane-emission-rollbacks" target="_blank">proposed the rollback</a> of the methane rules, the last major Obama environmental regulation still standing. Methane, a super-pollutant, is 86 times more potent in warming the planet than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.</p><p>The Obama rule required oil and gas companies to monitor methane leaks and fix them. The Trump replacement weakens those requirements, allowing companies<a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/13082020/trump-epa-methane-emission-rollbacks" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> to release 4.5 million metric tons more pollution each year. </a></p><p>In the climate realm, Obama is best known, of course, as the driving force behind the 2015 Paris climate accord. </p><p>Trump first announced in a Rose Garden speech in June 2017 that the U.S. would withdraw from the accord in three years, as soon as the treaty allowed. </p><p>So, right on cue, two years later, on Nov. 4, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified the United Nations of the formal exit of the United States, activating the final one-year waiting period. </p><p>The actual U.S. withdrawal is set for Nov. 4, 2020, one day after the presidential election.</p>
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By Lauri Myllyvirta and Sunil Dahiya
An economic slowdown, renewable energy growth and the impact of Covid-19 have led to the first year-on-year reduction in India's CO2 emissions in four decades. Emissions fell by around 1% in the fiscal year ending March 2020, as coal consumption fell and oil consumption flatlined.
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While the nation struggles to find ways to put money in peoples' pockets and to ramp up the economy so people can get back to work, over $43 billion in low-interest loans earmarked for clean energy projects sits undistributed by the Trump administration, according to The New York Times.
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