Trump Makes Strange Claim About Water Efficient Toilets: 'People Are Flushing Toilets 10 Times, 15 Times'
President Donald Trump mocked water-efficiency standards in new constructions last week. Trump said, "People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once. They end up using more water. So, EPA is looking at that very strongly, at my suggestion." Trump asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a federal review of those standards since, he claimed with no evidence, that they are making bathrooms unusable and wasting water, as NBC News reported.
Trump delivered his bizarre tangent on the state of modern bathrooms at a White House meeting about small business and red tape reduction.
"We have a situation where we're looking very strongly at sinks and showers, and other elements of bathrooms," Trum… https://t.co/XOBJK5etJv— The Washington Post (@The Washington Post)1575664684.0
He started by suggesting his beef with low-flow plumbing was for the American worker and is common sense. "But together, we're defending the American workers. We're using common sense," Trump said just before railing against modern plumbing, according to the White House's official transcript. "We have a situation where we're looking very strongly at sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms, where you turn the faucet on — in areas where there's tremendous amounts of water, where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it," Trump said.
"You turn on the faucet and you don't get any water. They take a shower and water comes dripping out. Just dripping out, very quietly dripping out," Trump continued, lowering his voice as he spoke about the drips, as CNN reported.
He continued, "You go into a new building or a new house or a new home, and they have standards, 'Oh, you don't get water.' You can't wash your hands, practically, there's so little water comes out of the faucet. And the end result is you leave the faucet on and it takes you much longer to wash your hands. You end up using the same amount of water," according to NBC News.
It was not clear what standards President Trump was referring to or what exactly he asked the EPA to look into. However, he continued and suggested that most states have a water surplus that make low-flow toilets and sinks unnecessary.
"So we're looking at, very seriously, at opening up the standard. And there may be some areas where we'll go the other route — desert areas But for the most part, you have many states where they have so much water that it comes down — it's called rain — that they don't know, they don't know what to do with it. So we're going to be opening up that, I believe. And we're looking at changing the standards very soon," he said as NBC News reported.
Older toilets use as much as six gallons per flush. However, since the Energy Policy Act was implemented in 1994, toilets have been mandated to use 1.6 gallons of water or less per flush, according to the AP. That standard is implemented by the Department of Energy, not the EPA.
The EPA does have a voluntary program called Water Sense that labels efficient fixtures, such as faucets and showerheads, as CNN reported. The Water Sense program is similar to EnergyStar labeling.
After Trump's comments, Michael Abboud, an EPA spokesman, told CNN, the "EPA is working with all federal partners including Department of Energy to review the implementation of the Federal Energy Management Plan and how it's relevant programs interact with it to ensure American consumers have more choice when purchasing water products."
- Bill Gates Unveils Toilet That Transforms Waste Into Fertilizer ... ›
- Attack on Dishwasher Standards Hurts Consumers, Environment ... ›
- Latest Trump Rollback Targets Water-Saving Showerheads - EcoWatch ›
By Lauren Urbanek
Hotels, offices, stores and other commercial spaces across the U.S. are reaping benefits from new energy efficiency standards taking effect this year, one of which is the largest ever set by the Department of Energy (DOE). Consumers will see lower bills from these efficiency efforts, which were finalized during the Obama administration, even as the Trump DOE seeks to stall new standards.
From ice makers to air conditioners, many workhorse machines that keep homes and businesses running must use less energy as of this year, saving millions of dollars and avoiding harmful pollution.
Taken together, the standards taking effect in 2018—meaning the less efficient versions no longer can be sold—will help the U.S. avoid more than 176 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions through 2030. The impact of these energy efficiency requirements is even more pronounced looking out over the next three decades, with even greater pollution reductions and more than $30 billion in consumer savings.
The national energy efficiency standards program builds in a lag time of about three years between adoption of a more efficient standard and when it goes into effect. This is because manufacturers need time to prepare for the change. Over the past 30 years, this program has quietly saved consumers billions of dollars in electricity costs and is on track to save $2 trillion by 2030.
1. Commercial HVAC units: The first phase of a two-part standard began in January, requiring the air conditioning and heat pump units that cool and heat more than half the nation's commercial floor space to be 10 percent more efficient. The biggest energy-saving rule yet since DOE began its appliance and equipment standards program in 1987 will avoid more than 885 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution over the next three decades, and as much energy as all the coal burned for electricity nationwide.
2. General service fluorescent lamps: Effective at the end of this past January, these standards cover the fluorescent tube lighting prevalent in places like schools, offices, hospitals and stores. More than 2 billion of these lamps are installed nationwide—they must now be 4 percent more efficient than current ones and 23 percent more efficient than those sold before 2012. That seemingly modest efficiency increase will deliver up to $5.5 billion in savings over the next three decades and 160 million metric tons of avoided carbon dioxide emissions.
3. Clothes washers: Both commercial and residential clothes washers became more efficient this year. New rules for commercial washers—the top- and front-loading machines you see in laundromats and apartment buildings—went into effect in January, amounting to energy savings of 7 percent compared to a scenario with no new standards. The resulting energy savings will cut carbon dioxide emissions by 4.1 million metric tons over the next 30 years. A second phase of standards for residential clothes washers also kicked in, increasing the efficiency of top-loading washers 18 percent compared to 2015. And that's on top of big gains in efficiency that have already occurred since 1987, when Congress established the first national standards for residential clothes washers: clothes washer energy use has decreased substantially: an average new washer in 2014 used 75 percent less energy than one in 1987.
4. Automatic commercial ice makers: As of January, new machines used in hotels, restaurants and healthcare facilities will use 10 to 25 percent less energy and save businesses $942 million in energy costs over 30 years. Over the same time period, the U.S. will avoid 11 million metric tons of harmful emissions. The latest standard updates efficiency requirements first set by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 while expanding the types of machines covered.
5. Battery chargers: The first-ever national standards for battery chargers, which went into effect in June, will save 500 million kilowatt-hours annually—enough to power all the households in a city of 100,000 people. Covering the products that recharge our phones, laptops, power tools, and other gadgets, the rule is designed to boost their efficiency by just over 10 percent on average. Thanks to a 2013 California standard, 95 percent of chargers on the market already met the new federal efficiency requirements. Combined, the federal and state standards will save an estimated 18 billion kilowatt-hours a year and more than 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over three decades.
Looking to 2019
In 2019 manufacturers will trot out improved products to meet six more new and updated efficiency standards for the following products:
- Pre-rinse spray valves, the lowly handheld fixture that is widely used to rinse off plates, trays, pots, and silverware with hot water as commercial dishwashers are loaded up, will reduce both energy and water use by an estimated 9 percent. Owners can expect to save between $70 and $80 per valve each year in operating costs.
- Dehumidifiers will save the average homeowner between $100 and $140 in energy costs as they get rid of excess moisture in air. Over 30 years, the standard will save the equivalent of one year's worth of electricity consumption by 3 million U.S. households.
- Furnace fans will meet their first ever standards in 2019. These little-known energy hogs run almost constantly to circulate air through a building. The standards will save consumers $340 to $500 over the fan's lifetime, and reduce national energy use by 4 quads over 30 years—the equivalent of 4 percent of yearly national energy use.
- Walk-in freezers and coolers—the kind used in restaurants and supermarkets—will meet new standards this year, saving business as much as $3 billion over the cost of purchasing new equipment, and creating energy savings equivalent to the annual use of 7 million homes.
- Beverage vending machines will get 39 percent more efficient in 2019, saving the building owners who pay the electric bills up to $1 billion. The standard will also save as much carbon pollution as 1 million homes produce in a year.
- Updated standards for single package vertical air conditioners, another type of commercial cooling and heating equipment, will also go into effect next year.
Energy efficiency requirements like these don't just save people money and make the air cleaner: They also generate jobs in every state. A recent report attributed 300,000 jobs nationwide to the standards program, a number set to nearly double to 550,000 in 2030.
While the remarkable benefits of this program are worth applauding, much more remains to be done. The Trump administration has made essentially no progress on standards since taking office in early 2017. So while consumers are starting to reap the savings from standards finalized in 2015 or 2016, the pipeline of future savings has been shut off for the time being. Furthermore, Trump's Department of Energy has failed to publish completed energy efficiency requirements for other important equipment such as air compressors and commercial boilers while indefinitely delaying the development of several other efficiency standards. This shortsighted—and in some cases illegal—lack of action means Americans will have to wait, needlessly, for years to see product improvements that could further lower their electric bills.
Strong Fuel Economy Standards Protect the Climate and Consumer Pocketbooks https://t.co/Ogjkd5xN8p @TheCCoalition @OccupySandy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1523352305.0
Lauren Urbanek is a senior program advocate, Center for Energy Efficiency Standards, Climate & Clean Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Jennifer Chen
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently proposed that American consumers further subsidize certain power plants (essentially, coal and nuclear power plants) by paying them billions of dollars to stockpile 90 days worth of fuel onsite. This proposal hinges on the idea that onsite fuel will somehow provide the electric grid with "resilience." But the DOE never explained what "resilience" means, let alone how making coal piles bigger would help.
The proposed rule is now before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the electric grid authority, which is taking public comment. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recommended that FERC reject the DOE proposal and outlined a framework for what developing a concept for resilience should include, at minimum. Comparing DOE's proposal to this framework exposes the proposal for what it really is—an irrational fixation on bailing out uneconomic, polluting power plants without regard for impacts on consumers.
A process of developing and procuring resilience-related services should at least include these basic steps:
- Define "resilience" and why it is different from reliability (which consumers are already paying for);
- Establish the means to measure and compare the "resilience" of various elements of the grid in the generation, transmission and distribution sectors;
- Prioritize which issues to address and consider alternatives;
- Develop services addressing those issues; and
- Allow all resources to compete in providing the services to minimize the costs for consumers.
These steps are common sense, but DOE's proposal fails to even attempt any of them.
Fundamentally, the DOE proposal fails to define what "resilience" is exactly—including how it might differ from reliability (which is well defined and has enforceable standards). Nor does it provide guidance as to how resilience can be measured. The DOE's proposal also fails to identify what parts of the electric grid should be prioritized in improving grid "resilience."
Resilience, whether it means the ability to keep running during challenging conditions, or the speed at which the system can recover after an outage, is a grid-wide issue, not simply a matter of how big the coal piles are. For example, if transmission and distribution lines are down (as is usually the main cause of customer outages) no amount of onsite fuel would get power to consumers.
The next logical step, which DOE also failed to attempt, is to determine in a resource-neutral way how to provide services to ensure resilience. Grid operators already have an arsenal they can draw from to respond to extreme weather events and supply disruptions, including deploying renewable generation with energy storage, and paying customers who can delay or reduce electricity use to do so. These solutions focus on grid flexibility, not on stockpiled fuel, which has proved useless in extreme weather. During this year's hurricane season, coal piles became too wet and several nuclear plants went offline. During the frigid Polar Vortex, coal piles froze.
What might help resilience? Leading experts have not recommended stockpiling onsite fuel. In fact, the DOE and other analyses point out the ability of fuel-free resources to ensure "resilience." Renewable power, unlike fossil fuel power plants, does not rely on fuel and is thus unaffected by fuel-supply and transportation issues. In times of drought, wind and solar have the additional advantage of not being water-intensive. Storage and distributed generation can be sited near customers and therefore have fewer points of vulnerabilities between them, such as broken power lines.
DOE, in its proposal, conflated reliability and resilience so badly, that in one telling example, the proposal brings up the generator outages during the 2014 Polar Vortex as a justification to quickly adopt the proposal before the coming winter heating season. We've heard this rhetoric before in the calls for expensive rule changes in 2014, but now with "resilience" instead of "reliability." We hope that FERC, which is charged with ensuring reasonable rates for consumers, will not allow the DOE proposal to bamboozle consumers into paying for reliability twice, just this time under a different name.
In fact, the 2014 calls for reform produced a fuel-neutral mechanism that rewards overperforming generators during disruptive events with higher prices and penalizes the underperformers. These higher payments could go to renewable or demand-side resources like energy efficiency—or fuel-based resources that can guarantee performance regardless of how they do it. It could be stockpiling onsite fuel, for that matter, if that happens to be a cost-effective way to ensure electricity is delivered in times of grid stress. (Note, however, that we do not endorse the new requirements included as part of those reforms that discriminate against resources that do not burn fuel).
A true understanding of resilience, and how best to address it, will take effort and coordination. But experts are already studying the issue. And FERC could coordinate with state and regional authorities to comprehensively investigate resilience, figure out how to measure various aspects of resilience, prioritize issues and potential solutions, and to do so on a reasonable timeline.
Market forces are indeed shifting power generation away from coal and nuclear plants. But retiring these risky, polluting and uneconomical power sources is not creating a crisis, but an opportunity. There's no doubt that our grid is changing and our climate is changing—and there are better ways to address both sensibly. The grid of the future should be cleaner, more flexible, more reliable and more affordable. Addressing any issues of resilience should also move the grid forward, not back to the past.
By Miles Farmer
Department of Energy (DOE) Sec. Rick Perry just proposed a massive bailout for coal and nuclear power plants. The radical and unprecedented move is couched under a false premise that power plants with fuel located on site are needed to guarantee the reliability of the electricity system. The proposal relies on a mischaracterization of DOE's own recent study of electricity markets and reliability (discussed here), which if anything demonstrated that this kind of proposed action is not justified.
If adopted, the proposal would essentially ensure that coal and nuclear plants in regions encompassing most of the country continue to run even where they are too expensive to compete in the energy market. It would saddle utility customers with higher costs, while posing obstacles to the electricity system integration of cleaner and less risky energy sources such as solar and wind.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is still carefully analyzing the proposal, but below is a very preliminary take:
The proposal would bail out expensive and uncompetitive coal and nuclear plants
The proposal asks the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to take action within 60 days that would financially prop up "fuel-secure resources," which must have "a 90-day fuel supply on site enabling [them] to operate during an emergency, extreme weather conditions, or a natural man-made disaster." This requirement is aimed squarely at coal and nuclear power plants, which would generally be able to satisfy these criteria.
Many coal and nuclear units are very expensive and are having trouble competing in the wholesale electricity market (as discussed here). So the proposal asks FERC to bail out these power plants by essentially guaranteeing them profits and insulating them from competitive market forces. The proposal amounts to a massive subsidy that would ensure the plants continue to operate, rather than being economically retired when they are more expensive than other units (including wind and solar) that sell electricity at lower cost.
The proposal would radically reshape electricity regulation for most of the country
The rule would have a massive scope, covering regional wholesale markets where electricity is bought and sold to serve most of the nation's customers. It would apply to areas where the electricity system is operated by regional entities known as Regional Transmission Operators (RTOs) or Independent System Operators (ISOs), which administer competitive markets for electricity. The RTOs tell the more expensive plants not to operate when there's cheaper electricity available from other plants.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
As shown in the map, RTOs cover most of California, the Midwest and southern states in the middle of the country, as well as the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is not subject to FERC jurisdiction and would not be covered by the proposed rule, if adopted.
Secretary Perry's proposal would be a radical departure from the way FERC currently regulates electricity prices in these regions. Under FERC's system, electricity prices in RTOs are governed by competitive market forces. A power plant is only insulated from this system by FERC under extremely limited circumstances, where a detailed examination of the grid reveals that the plant is needed for reliability purposes. The plant is then guaranteed its costs of operating, but only on a temporary basis, until a replacement can be constructed.
The proposal would lead to higher energy bills and more pollution
Customers across the country would ultimately foot the bill for supporting these more expensive plants. While no credible analysis has been conducted of the costs (which can't even be done given the vagueness of the proposed rule), it is safe to assume that the toll would be many billions of dollars.
The proposal also would favor more expensive and risker power plants over cleaner and safer energy sources such as wind and solar power. Coal power plants emit a massive amount of pollution. They are one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases causing climate change. Coal plants also cause an array of other problems, such as acid rain and asthma. And while low-carbon, nuclear energy poses myriad health and safety risks (discussed here).
The proposal is unjustified
The purported basis for the proposal is that "[t]he resiliency of the nation's electric grid is threatened by the premature retirements of power plants that can withstand major fuel supply disruptions caused by natural or man-made disasters."
But DOE's own reliability report found that all regions of the country have excess supply of energy resources needed to meet demand. Furthermore, while it included a brief discussion of the potential benefits of on-site fuel supply, it also highlighted examples of power plants with on-site fuel supply failing, such as coal plants that could not operate during the 2014 Polar Vortex when their fuel supplies froze in the extreme cold.
The lesson that no type of power plant is immune to weather-related disruptions was clear during the recent hurricanes. Nuclear power plants had to be taken off-line in preparation for Hurricane Irma. Natural gas plants and pipelines suffered disruptions during Hurricane Harvey, and the onsite coal pile at a W.A. Parish plant in Texas became so saturated with rainwater that the coal could not be delivered into storage silos, forcing the plant to switch to natural gas for the first time in eight years.
Nuclear Availability in Florida during Hurricane Irma.Data from SNL Energy, "Daily Nuclear Operations"
Ultimately, the proposal's justification is as flimsy as Secretary Perry's initial suggested basis for subsidizing coal and nuclear—that "baseload" is necessary for the system, a myth that has been thoroughly debunked (as discussed here and here).
DOE is asking FERC to rush to judgment
FERC has already adopted detailed regulations to ensure the reliability of the grid, and follows established processes to consider any necessary tweaks. As DOE's own report explained, these systems have worked to meet the industry's high reliability standards even as the mix of generation serving customers' needs has changed dramatically.
DOE is asking FERC to sidestep that normal process by adopting its radical proposal in a mere 60 days, a timeline that would make it impossible to conduct any of the rigorous analysis that would surely be necessary before making such extreme changes. DOE's proposal is so vague that FERC could not possibly adopt it as is, making it hard to see how FERC could possibly advance it in a manner that complies the procedural requirements for a formal rulemaking proposal.
FERC should reject Secretary Perry's proposal
Perhaps the only silver lining in Secretary Perry's proposal is that DOE has no independent authority to adopt this proposed rule, which is already eliciting pushback from leaders like NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. As discussed here, FERC, not DOE, is the agency primarily responsible for regulating electricity markets. FERC should reject Secretary Perry's outrageous and poorly thought out request.
As the Trump administration tries to dismantle years of hard-won climate regulations in favor of fossil fuel development, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) boasted about reaching a renewable energy goal, enacted by President Obama, three years early.
The DOE announced Tuesday that the solar industry has achieved the 2020 utility-scale solar cost target set by the SunShot Initiative—a program that launched in 2011 to cut costs to six cents per kilowatt-hour in order to broadly deploy solar energy systems around the nation.
The irony was made clear in a Bloomberg article, which pointed out that the Trump administration is "taking credit for this milestone even though the new administration is skeptical of renewable power."
In May, the Trump administration announced plans to put the DOE's budget for its renewable energy and energy efficiency program on the chopping block with a proposal to slash it by 70 percent.
Daniel Simmons, the acting assistant secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), said in a statement about meeting the SunShot goal: "With the impressive decline in solar prices, it is time to address additional emerging challenges. As we look to the future, DOE will focus new solar R&D on the Secretary's priorities, which include strengthening the reliability and resilience of the electric grid while integrating solar energy."
But as Bloomberg noted, Simmons once criticized wind and solar for being "expensive and will increase the price of electricity." The fossil fuels champion has also served multiple roles at the Institute for Energy Research, a Koch-affiliated think tank that tried to abolish the office Simmons now heads.
"I don't know why they are touting it," Jack Spencer, vice president of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation and a former member of Trump's Energy Department transition team, told Bloomberg. "I think it should be abolished right away as should all government subsidies."
Surprisingly, the EERE announced new initiatives instead, and is putting $82 million in funding for early-stage research toward concentrating solar power and power electronics technologies, and set a new goal to further reduce utility-scale solar costs to 3 cents per kilowatt hour by 2030.
Big news! #Solar industry hits 2020 utility-scale cost target. Average price now 6¢ per kilowatt hour ➟… https://t.co/YVZYisS6jj— Energy Department (@Energy Department)1505243401.0
Natural gas and market forces are the largest influence on the retirement of coal-fired power plants, a long-awaited Department of Energy study concluded.
The study, released late Wednesday night, proposes slashing certain regulations, including reducing permitting requirements at coal-fired power plants, to make it easier for nuclear and coal plants to keep operating.
While the study does not issue an all-out attack on renewable energy, as many advocates feared following Secretary Rick Perry's aggressive April memo ordering the study, it downplays renewables' reliability benefits to the grid and suggests price changes to wind and solar. A draft of the study from DOE staff, leaked earlier this month, concluded that renewable energy is not a threat to grid reliability.
In response, Janet Redman, U.S. policy director at Oil Change International, released the following statement:
"The Department of Energy's grid study does little more than reveal the Trump administration's pro-fossil fuel bias and anti-regulation agenda.
"Trump and his dirty DOE refuse to face the facts—thanks to growth in renewable energy and efficiency, America's demand for electricity is flatlining, and clean energy options like solar and wind power are outperforming dirty energy like coal. Yet, this study ignores those facts and calls for fast-tracking coal-fired power plants, fracked gas pipelines and other dirty projects that would lock in climate pollution for decades. The DOE needs to pull its head out of the sand.
"Instead of embracing the clean energy future that Americans want, the Trump administration is looking backwards. Propping up a dirty energy system of the past at the expense of renewables makes the nation's energy grid more polluting and American families less secure."
For a deeper dive:
Sierra Club sued the Department of Energy (DOE) Monday for the agency's repeated delays in providing information on Rick Perry's ongoing grid study, amid suspicion that draft versions of the study may be dramatically altered by political appointees in the Trump administration.
Monday's lawsuit was filed after the Department of Energy failed to provide documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed on May 1, which requested communications between DOE officials working on the report and outside groups representing the fossil fuel industry or grid reliability experts.
"The public has every right to be concerned that the Trump administration is trying to use this study to push alternative facts about our electric grid. We've repeatedly asked DOE for information to ensure reality and science are coming before polluter politics, but we have only been met with delays and secrecy," said Mary Anne Hitt, director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. "If the Trump administration refuses to be transparent in accordance with the law and continues to raise suspicion that it will interfere with the process, we have no choice but to take them to court."
The Many Reasons to Be Skeptical Over Rick Perry's Grid Study https://t.co/bZoNExl1Il @greenpeaceusa @DeSmogBlog @ClimateReality @foe_us— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1500560215.0
The study has been the focus of heightened suspicion from clean energy job creators, policy experts and members of Congress as a ploy by the Trump administration to pressure grid operators and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to put in place rules that force electricity customers to bail out old, expensive coal and nuclear plants. Sierra Club's suspicion of the study was piqued after Trump and Perry repeatedly voiced the debunked theory that coal and nuclear plants were needed for grid stability, despite dozens of studies from energy policy experts at major universities, DOE laboratories and energy trade organizations that found that wasn't the case.
Amid the Trump administration's failure to disclose documents requested under the FOIA process, these concerns increased when DOE's political staff disregarded a publicized draft of the study created by career DOE staffers. The draft presented a realistic picture of the modern energy grid and how clean energy added to the grid's resilience, lowered customer costs, and contributed to the energy sector's growth.
"Study after study shows that clean energy resources like wind and solar add to the grid's resilience, lower costs for electricity consumers, and create thousands of jobs across the country. The secrecy around this grid study, coupled with the lack of input from stakeholders, have raised alarms for us, and we are concerned that Perry will seize this study and strip the science from it to justify not only curtailing clean energy's growth, but also forcing electricity customers to prop up uneconomical fossil fuel plants," Hitt said.
"The draft study captured the reality of what dozens of policy experts, engineers, and utility managers have been saying for years: wind and solar are helping keep the grid reliable and are powering growth in the the energy sector, and the coal and nuclear industries can no longer compete in the open market. If Perry has nothing to hide about interfering with these findings, he should prove it."
This time, the Department of Energy (DOE) has significantly altered its websites on renewable energy, removing references on how clean energy technologies can reduce the nation's reliance on fossil fuels and help lower climate-changing emissions.
The DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy—which could face deep funding cuts under Trump's budget proposal—has made "extensive changes and reorganizations" on websites for the Bioenergy Technologies Office, the Wind Energy Technologies Office and the Vehicle Technologies Office, according to the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI), a coalition of academics and nonprofits that has tracked changes to federal websites ever since Donald Trump took office.
Environmental Data and Governance Initiative
As The Washington Post explained:
"Under the Obama administration, these offices' websites emphasized the importance of cutting down on U.S. carbon emissions and reducing the nation's dependence on fossil fuels—a message in keeping with President Barack Obama's push to address climate change.
"But with the Trump administration de-emphasizing climate change and looking to promote climate-friendly and carbon-intensive energy sources—an agenda that coincides with a broad attempt to eliminate regulations on fossil fuels and particularly on coal—the priorities outlined on these offices' Web pages have been shifting since the inauguration."
For instance, on the wind technology office page, this sentence was entirely removed:
"Wind power is an emission-free and water-free renewable energy source that is a key component to the Administration's renewable electricity generation goals."
Instead, the new wording emphasizes the potential of wind for U.S. jobs and economic growth. For example, this sentence was added:
"Wind energy currently supports more than 100,000 U.S. jobs, and wind turbine technician is the nation's fastest-growing occupation. According to industry experts, the U.S. wind industry is expected to drive over $85 billion in economic activity from 2017 to 2020, and wind-related employment is expected to reach 248,000 jobs in all 50 states by 2020."
This, of course, is true. The renewable energy sector has been a major boon to the nation's job growth and even the DOE can't ignore that.
However, the Rick Perry-led agency gives little weight to the clear environmental benefits of renewable energy.
Take the wind technology office's "WHY IT MATTERS" description. The EDGI noticed that the wording changed from how wind can "help the nation reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants, diversify its energy supply, provide cost-competitive electricity to key regions across the country, and reduce water usage for power generation" to how wind "helps the nation increase its competitiveness, diversify its energy supply, increase energy security and independence, reduce emissions of air pollutants, save water that would otherwise be used by thermal power generation, and provide cost-competitive electricity across the country."
Another subtle change was, "creating long-term, sustainable skilled jobs" to "creating long-term skilled jobs." Notice the difference?
As the Washington Post puts it:
"Together, the changes collectively downplay the climate benefits of each form of technology and distance the agency from the idea that they might be used to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, instead emphasizing their economic advantages. It's a move that's well in line with the Trump administration's generally dismissive attitude toward the issue of climate change."
By Carol Polsgrove
Trucks full of liquid high-level radioactive waste may soon be rolling down interstate highways from Canada to South Carolina—unless they're stopped by a lawsuit that the Sierra Club and six other environmental organizations have filed.
The Department of Energy (DOE) plans 100 to 150 shipments of more than 6,000 gallons of waste from the Fissile Solutions Storage Tank in Chalk River, Ontario, to DOE's Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina. The most direct route would pass through New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, to South Carolina. Alternate routes might take the shipments through Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia (or Kentucky) and North Carolina (or Tennessee).
The DOE agreed to take the wastes from Canada as part of an initiative to return to the U.S. radioactive materials that could be used for weapons. The suit argues that wastes from the production of medical radioisotopes are "acknowledged to be among the most radioactively hazardous materials on Earth." It calls for an environmental impact statement that would analyze the hazards of transporting them, including "leakage of the liquid contents due to sabotage, accident or malfunction or from the emanation of penetrating gamma and neutron radiation from the cargo during transportation due to accidental criticality or inadequacies in shielding." The suit comes after nearly four years of requests from environmentalists for a study of the shipments' environmental impacts.
No liquid high-level radioactive waste has ever been shipped on public roads in the U.S. Plaintiffs argue that carrying out these shipments without an environmental impact statement would violate both the National Environmental Policy Act and the Atomic Energy Act and "cause serious and irretrievable procedural injury, if not actual personal physical injury and property damage, to people living along the route in two countries." Critics argue that the wastes could be "down-blended" at Chalk River (so that they are no longer usable in weapons), solidified and safely stored there.
Three members of the Atlantic (New York state) chapter of the Sierra Club are named as individuals who could be harmed by transport of these wastes near their homes. Sierra Club members along the potential routes have pressed for an environmental impact statement by signing letters and petitions, holding press conferences and talking with elected officials. The South Carolina Chapter, the Wenoca Group (western North Carolina) and the Atlantic Chapter have all played active roles in drawing public attention to the shipments.
"As you know, the [western North Carolina] economy is heavily tied to our local food and beverage production and the status of the mountains as a place for health," wrote protesting organizations in a Jan. 11 letter to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. "A nuclear accident in this area could decimate the economy based on health and visitors seeking outdoor recreation."
Joining the Sierra Club in the suit are Beyond Nuclear, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Savannah River Site Watch, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Lone Tree Council and Environmentalists, Inc. After the suit was filed, the Department of Energy agreed to put shipments on hold until at least Feb. 17. A judge heard oral arguments in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Jan. 18.
Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.
By Lauren McCauley
During his confirmation hearing on Thursday, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was able to laugh off having once called for abolishing the Department of Energy, which he is now poised to lead, but Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) refused to let him get away "sounding like a hung over frat boy," as one observer put it, when speaking about the crisis of climate change.
Sanders repeated Perry's own 2011 statement that he does not believe in global warming that America "should not spend billions of dollars addressing a scientific theory that has not been proven."
What Would U.S. Energy Policy Look Like With Rick Perry at the Helm? https://t.co/kpivkdgGEM @foodandwater @Peter_Seeger— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1484362512.0
"That position is a variance with virtually the entire scientific community that has studied climate change," Sanders observed before asking, "do you still hold the views that you expressed in 2011? ... Do you agree with those scientists that it is absolutely imperative that we transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency so that we can leave this planet in a way that is healthy and habitable for our kids and future generations?"
Perry responded by delivering what The Hill described as Republicans' "new line on climate change."
"I believe the climate is changing," Perry said. "I believe some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by manmade activity. The question is how do we address it in a thoughtful way that doesn't compromise economic growth, the affordability of energy or American jobs."
"Governor, I don't mean to be rude," Sanders interrupted. "We are in danger of spending God knows how many billions of dollars to repair the damage done by climate change. Drought is becoming a major crisis, it will impact agriculture in a very significant way."
"Let's get beyond the rhetoric," Sanders continued, "the majority of scientists who study this issue think that climate change is a global crisis. It's not a question of balance this and balance that. It is a global crisis that requires massive cuts in carbon and transformation of our energy system."
Then stopping Perry's interjection about his record of lowering emissions in Texas, Sanders said: "I am asking you if you agree with the scientific community that climate change is a crisis and if we need to transform our energy system to protect future generations?"
It is worth noting, as Climate Progress's founding editor Joe Romm did, that Perry's retort about lowering carbon and sulfur emissions speaks to his lack of knowledge as well as how Republican efforts to rollback emissions regulations are at odds with climate science.
As Romm reported, "the reductions in sulfur dioxide and NOx that Perry is now bragging about were due to EPA [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] regulations that Republicans like Perry fought against from the get-go. And now team Trump wants to kill the EPA regulations that would keep lowering carbon emissions."
Sanders also pressed Perry to state whether he thinks that "testing nuclear weapons is a dangerous idea." Perry sidestepped, saying he wants "a nuclear arsenal that is modern and safe" and that he will look to nuclear scientists for answers on whether they should be tested.
Perry added, "I think anyone would be of the opinion that if we don't ever have to test another nuclear weapon, that would be a good thing, not just for the United States, but for the world."
Watch the exchange below:
[email protected] questions Rick Perry on #ClimateChange and Global Warming. https://t.co/SL776bUPCf— CSPAN (@CSPAN)1484850555.0
Sanders is not the only lawmaker who took issue with Perry's past statements on climate change.
During the hearing, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) quoted Perry in 2014, when he declared: "I don't believe we have the settled science by any sense of the imagination. Calling CO2 a pollutant is doing a disserve to the country and a disservice to the world."
"Now," Franken continued, "I see in your testimony that your views have been evolving on this and you note that man is responsible for some climate change. How much climate change do you think that science shows is due to human activity?"
Perry interjected: "It is far from me to be sitting before you and claiming to be a climate scientist. I will not do that."
To which Franken retorted, "I don't think you're ever going to be a climate scientist, but you are going to be head of the Department of Energy."
What the exchange below:
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
By Rob Cowin
There's a clear trend in the president-elect's cabinet appointments—many of them are opposed to the agencies they would lead.
Some have demonstrated opposition to the particular agency and/or its mission in a professional capacity. Others have stated a desire to see the agency disappear altogether, suggesting the institution has no value.
Here’s What You Need to Know on Six of Trump’s Cabinet Nominations https://t.co/RhtZLhnK7k @earthisland @Earthjustice— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1483755007.0
Rick Perry's appointment to head the Department of Energy (DOE) is certainly consistent with this trend; in a 2011 presidential debate he famously forgot the name of the agency he would abolish. And now he's been nominated to lead it.
Why does it matter and what should we expect?
Is Gov. Perry the Right Fit?
The DOE has important national security responsibilities. It's primarily a weapons and environmental management agency, and the secretary position requires strong management skills.
One of DOE's most important responsibilities is making sure things like this (handling nuclear weapons) happen safely. Wikimedia
The DOE is also a science agency. While it's not essential that the secretary be a scientist, it's important that the secretary understands and values science and the scientific process.
Gov. Perry can certainly make a credible case that he's a good manager and he even has some experience with spent nuclear fuel policy in Texas. But he's also made numerous inaccurate and misleading scientific statements and rejects the scientific consensus on things like climate change. If Rick Perry is truly "very intent on doing a good job," he'll need to hit the reset button on his approach to science and science policy, start talking to the experts and stop making irresponsible statements.
As governor, though, he was savvy enough to see the economic and jobs potential of renewable energy, garnering a reputation as a pragmatist. The Texas wind industry, much of it under Perry's governorship, has provided $33 billion in capital investment to the state and supports more than 24,000 jobs and 38 manufacturing facilities, all while generating an incredible 18,531 megawatts of clean, renewable electricity.
How much credit Gov. Perry deserves is debatable, but his record should provide clean energy advocates some cautious optimism. One can work with a pragmatist; it's the ideologues you have to watch out for.
What the Department of Energy Does
Most of DOE's focus is nuclear weapons-related. The agency includes the National Nuclear Security Administration, with the vast majority of the agency's budget allocated to maintaining our nuclear arsenal and managing the cleanup of radioactive waste, much of it from the legacy of the Cold War.
DOE also does a lot of basic science research. DOE manages our 17 national labs, which employ roughly 110,000 people, are supported by Republicans and Democrats, and have helped the U.S. remain at the forefront of science and technology innovation since WWII.
DOE invests in basic scientific research.Sandia National Laboratories
The national labs continue to produce breakthroughs that aid our national security and economic competitiveness, as well as increasing our understanding of everything from automotive engineering, to environmental health, to computer science, to the origins of our universe.
Idaho National Laboratory / Flickr
Outgoing Department of Energy (DOE) Sec. Ernest Moniz announced a new "scientific integrity policy" Wednesday, which may indicate a midnight move from the Obama administration to protect scientists and scientific work from a possibly hostile Trump presidency.
"The cornerstone of the scientific integrity policy at DOE," the eight-page memo reads, "is that all scientists, engineers, or others supported by DOE are free and encouraged to share their scientific findings and views."
Trump's War on Science Sparks Call for Federal Investigation https://t.co/WmbktM4IYf #StandUpForScience @MichaelEMann @ClimateNexus @NRDC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1482158865.0
While Moniz did not mention Trump or the future administration in his remarks, DOE refused to provide the names of scientists working on climate last month in response to an ominous questionnaire sent by the Trump transition team.
For a deeper dive: