BP, the energy giant that grew from oil and gas production, is taking its business in a new direction, announcing Tuesday that it will slash its oil and gas production by 40 percent and increase its annual investment in low-carbon technology to $5 billion, a ten-fold increase over its current level, according to CNN.
- World's Largest Fund Manager to 'Reshape' Investment Portfolio to ... ›
- Oil Companies Are Thinking About a Low-Carbon Future, but Aren't ... ›
- BP Announces Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Target, but Offers No ... ›
- Mass-Market Electric Pickup Trucks and SUVs Are on the Way ... ›
- SUVs and Trucks Nullify Car Efficiency Gains - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
As electric vehicles become more mainstream, the demand for lithium ion car batteries is growing. But to increase production, the industry needs more lithium, cobalt, and nickel.
- Tesla, PG&E to Help Build World's Largest Energy Storage Facility in ... ›
- World's Largest Solar + Battery Plant Unveiled in Hawaii - EcoWatch ›
- Elon Musk: Tesla to Build World's Largest Lithium Ion Battery ... ›
- Justice Department Drops Investigation Against Four Automakers ... ›
- Trump Admin Goes After States for Protecting the Environment ... ›
- EPA Says It Will Limit Truck Pollution - EcoWatch ›
- 23 Governors Join California in Opposing Trump's Fuel Efficiency ... ›
- Judge Dismisses Trump Admin Lawsuit Against California's Cap and Trade Program - EcoWatch ›
By Dana Nuccitelli
Environmentalists and renewable energy advocates have long been allies in the fight to keep unchecked industrial growth from irreversibly ruining Earth's climate and threatening the future of human civilization. In their new YouTube documentary "Planet of the Humans," director Jeff Gibbs and producer Michael Moore argue for splitting the two sides. Their misleading, outdated, and scientifically sophomoric dismissal of renewable energy is perhaps the most dangerous form of climate denial, eroding support for renewable energy as a critical climate solution.
A Badly Outdated Portrait of Solar and Wind<p>In an interview with Reuters, Michael Moore summarized the premise of the film: "I assumed solar panels would last forever. I didn't know what went into the making of them."</p><p>It's true. Solar panels and wind turbines don't last forever (though they do last several decades), and like every other industrial product, they require mining and manufacturing of raw materials. Sadly, that's about as deep as the film delves into quantifying the environmental impacts of renewable energy versus fossil fuels. In fact, the misinformation in the film is at times much worse than ignorance.</p><p>In one scene, author and film co-producer Ozzie Zehner falsely asserts, "You use more fossil fuels [manufacturing renewables infrastructure] than you're getting benefit from. You would have been better off burning the fossil fuels in the first place instead of playing pretend."</p><p><span></span>That's monumentally wrong. A <a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/solar-wind-nuclear-amazingly-low-carbon-footprints" target="_blank">2017 study in Nature Energy</a> found that when accounting for manufacturing and construction, the lifetime carbon footprints of solar, wind, and nuclear power are about 20 times smaller than those of coal and natural gas, even when the latter include expensive carbon capture and storage technology. The energy produced during the operation of a solar panel and wind turbine is 26 and 44 times greater than the energy needed to build and install them, respectively. There are many life-cycle assessment studies arriving at similar conclusions.</p>
A Shallow Dismissal of Electric Vehicles<p>In another science, Gibbs travels to a General Motors facility in Lansing, Michigan, circa 2010, as GM showcased its then-new Chevy Volt plug-in electric hybrid vehicle. Gibbs interviews a representative from the local municipal electric utility provider, who notes that they generate 95% of their supply by burning coal, and that the power to charge the GM facility's EVs will not come from renewables in the near future.</p><p>That is the full extent of the discussion of EVs in the film. Viewers are left to assume that because these cars are charged by burning coal, they're just <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenwashing" target="_blank">greenwashing</a>. In reality, because of the high efficiency of electric motors, an electric car charged entirely by burning coal still produces less carbon pollution than an internal combustion engine car (though more than a hybrid). The U.S. Department of Energy has <a href="https://afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_emissions.html" target="_blank">a useful tool</a> for comparing carbon emissions between EVs, plug-in hybrids, conventional hybrids, and gasoline-powered cars for each state. In Michigan, on average, EVs are the cleanest option of all, as is the case for the national average power grid. In West Virginia, with over 90% electricity generated from coal, hybrids are the cleanest option, but EVs are still cleaner than gasoline cars.</p><p>In short, EVs are an improvement over gasoline-powered cars everywhere, and their carbon footprints will continue to shrink as renewables expand to supply more of the power grid.</p>
A Valid Critique of Wood Biomass<p>The film devotes a half hour to the practice of burning trees for energy. That's one form of biomass, which also includes burning wood waste, garbage, and biofuels. Last year, <a href="https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=427&t=3" target="_blank">1% of U.S. electricity</a> was generated by burning wood, but it accounted for 30% of the film run time.</p><p>In fairness, Europe is a different story, where wood biomass accounts for around 5% of electricity generation, and which imports a lot of wood chips from America. It's incentivized because the European Union considers burning wood to be carbon neutral, and it can thus be used to meet climate targets. That's because new trees can be planted to replace those removed, and the EU assumes the wood being burned would have decayed and released its stored carbon anyway.</p><p>There are <a href="https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/3/4/18216045/renewable-energy-wood-pellets-biomass" target="_blank">numerous problems</a> with those assumptions, one of which is unavoidable: time. Burning trees is close to carbon neutral once a replacement tree grows to sufficient maturity to recapture the lost carbon, but that takes many decades. In the meantime, the carbon released into the atmosphere accelerates the climate crisis at a time when slashing emissions is increasingly urgent. That's why <a href="https://www.dogwoodalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Scientist-Letter-to-Governor-Cooper_11-15_2017.pdf" target="_blank">climate scientists are increasingly calling on policymakers</a> to stop expanding this practice. So has 350.org founder Bill McKibben since 2016, <a href="https://350.org/response-planet-of-the-humans-documentary/" target="_blank">despite his depiction in the film</a> as a villainous proponent of clearcutting forests to burn for energy.</p><p>It's complicated, but the carbon footprint of biomass <a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/is-burning-wood-for-energy-worse-for-the-climate-than-coal" target="_blank">depends on where the wood comes from</a>. Burning waste (including waste wood) as biomass that would decay anyway is justifiable, but also generally only practical at a relatively small scale. A more detailed investigation of the wood biomass industry could make for a worthwhile documentary. It's still a small-time player, but it does need to stay that way.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Gibbs asks, "Is it possible for machines made by industrial civilization to save us from industrial civilization?"</p><p>Why not? Industrial civilization has a non-zero climate and environmental footprint, but the impact of green technologies like EVs, wind turbines, and solar panels is much smaller than the alternatives. They represent humanity's best chance to avoid a climate catastrophe.</p><p>The filmmakers call for an end to limitless economic growth and consumption. It's difficult to envision that goal being achieved anytime soon, but even if it is, human civilization will continue to exist and require energy. To avert a climate crisis, that energy must be supplied by the clean renewable technologies pilloried in the film. To expand on the earlier analogy, the filmmakers seem to believe we should improve nutrition not by eating healthier foods like strawberries, but rather by eating a bit less cheesecake.</p><p>Like Fox News and other propaganda vehicles, the film presents one biased perspective via carefully chosen voices, virtually all of whom are comfortable white men. It applies an environmental purity test that can seem convincing for viewers lacking expertise in the topic. Any imperfect technology – which is every technology – is deemed bad. It's a clear example of the perfect being the enemy of the good. In reality, this movie is the enemy of humanity's last best chance to save itself and countless other species from unchecked climate change through a transition to cleaner technologies.</p>
By Maddy Savage
Americans love their cars — their gas-guzzling, air-polluting, smog-producing cars. Although the vast majority agree that if we all drove electric vehicles we could reduce oil consumption and pollution, only a third would consider buying one anytime soon. Far fewer are actually making the switch.
- Electric Vehicle Sales More Than Doubled in 2017 - EcoWatch ›
- Will Norway Ban Sales of Gas-Powered Cars by 2025? - EcoWatch ›
By Raphael Gindrat
Advocates of autonomous mobility are looking forward to the day when zero-emission, shared autonomous vehicles deliver services that dramatically reduce urban congestion and pollution. But as the mass deployment of autonomous vehicles seems farther and farther off, it is important to point out that we don't have to wait for autonomy to realize many of the efficiencies that shared mobility can provide.
The European commission's effort to transition the 27-country economic bloc from a high-carbon to a low-carbon emitter in a few decades received input from the fossil fuel giant ExxonMobil in the weeks prior to its passage, according to a watchdog that monitors lobbying activity, as The Guardian reported.
- Unlike the U.S. Democrats' Green New Deal, the EU's Version Is ... ›
- Three questions EXXON doesn't want you to ask - Greenpeace ... ›
- Oil and gas giants spent 250m on EU lobbying since 2010: green ... ›
- Your guide to Europe's 'Green New Deal,' the continent's new plan ... ›
- Exxon lobbyists allowed to keep EU access badges – EURACTIV.com ›
Ride-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber are creating more climate pollution and road congestion per trip than the transportation options they displace, according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
- Self-Driving Cars Could Cause More Pollution – Unless Electric Grid ... ›
- Can Uber and Lyft Be a Climate Solution? - EcoWatch ›
- Now Is the Perfect Time to Rethink Green Transportation ›
By Kieran Cooke
Driving an electric-powered vehicle (EV) rather than one reliant on fossil fuels is a key way to tackle climate change and improve air quality — but it does leave the old batteries behind as a nasty residue.
Powering Local Shops<p>Banks of old EV batteries could store power: they could be used to store energy to feed into the electricity grid or directly into buildings. In Japan the Toyota car company has pioneered <a href="https://global.toyota/en/newsroom/corporate/22833613.html?padid=ag478_from_kv" target="_blank">a scheme which hooks up old EV batteries with solar panels</a> to power convenience stores.</p><p>In 2017 more than a million EVs were sold worldwide. The study estimates that when those cars reach the end of the road they will produce 250,000 tonnes of discarded battery packs. It's vital, say the study's authors, that this problem be addressed now.</p><p>It's estimated that <a href="https://cleantechnica.com/2020/01/18/fossil-vehicle-sales-in-global-freefall-down-4-7-in-2019-electric-vehicle-sales-continue-to-grow/" target="_blank">EV global sales combined with sales of plug-in hybrid cars amounted to more than 2.2 million last year</a>. At the same time, sales of fossil fuel cars have been falling.</p><p>All the big vehicle manufacturers are <a href="https://autovistagroup.com/news-and-insights/more-evs-way-co2-targets-cause-rush-development" target="_blank">making heavy commitments to EV manufacturing</a>. Deloitte, the market research group, <a href="https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/manufacturing/deloitte-uk-battery-electric-vehicles.pdf" target="_blank">forecasts global EV sales rising to 12 million in 2025</a> and to more than 20 million by 2030. It predicts that as economies of scale are achieved and costs of manufacturing batteries decline, the price of EVs will fall.<em></em></p>
- Renewables Are Gaining Traction, but We Need to Be Able to Store ... ›
- Driving on Sunshine: Nissan Rolls Out Solar + Storage System ... ›
- Germany Converts Coal Mine Into Giant Battery Storage for Surplus ... ›
- Elon Musk: Brexit to blame for building Tesla Gigafactory in Germany ›
- Tesla 2019 Highlights & Lowlights — Sustainable Energy ... ›
- Tesla faces protest at Gigafactory 4 site over cutting down the forest ... ›
- Planned Tesla Gigafactory in Germany drives wedge between locals ... ›
- We went to the German town where Tesla's new Gigafactory will be ... ›