PNAS published a paper today by nuclear and fossil fuel supporters, which is replete with false information for the sole purpose of criticizing a 2015 paper colleagues and I published in the same journal on the potential for the U.S. grid to stay stable at low cost with 100 percent renewable wind, water and solar power. The journal also published our response to the paper.
U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken issued an order Thursday denying motions filed by the Trump administration and the fossil fuel industry that sought to appeal her Nov. 10, 2016 order in Juliana v. United States to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The order follows the Trump administration's remarkable Tuesday night filing of a notice giving Judge Aiken a deadline of June 9 to issue her order.
Today is World Oceans Day, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Leonardo DiCaprio and telecom tycoon Carlos Slim just signed a memorandum of understanding committing to conserve marine ecosystems in the Gulf of California and to save the vaquita porpoise—the most endangered marine mammal in the world.
Fish—which is loaded with protein, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids—is among the healthiest foods on the planet, and that's not to mention that dining on fish has a smaller carbon footprint than red meat, pork and chicken.
But here's the catch: the world's increasing appetite for finned food has led to a devastating problem with nearly 90 percent of global fish stocks either fully fished or overfished, according a 2016 analysis from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Meanwhile, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development forecasts a 17 percent rise in fish production by 2025.
In addition to depleting fish stocks, the long term sustainability of the ocean's resources is also threatened by acidification, warming waters, hypoxia, sea level rise, pollution and the overuse of marine resources.
That's why Oscar-winning actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio has gotten behind Boulder, Colorado-based seafood brand LoveTheWild that sells frozen seafood kits made with 100 percent farm-raised fish.
"Estimates show the earth's population approaching nine billion by 2050, putting tremendous pressure on our natural food resources," DiCaprio said in a statement. "Seafood is a primary source of protein for nearly a billion people—but climate change, acidification and over fishing are putting increased pressure on our oceans' natural stability."
"LoveTheWild's approach to sustainable, responsible aquaculture is promoting the development of a secure and environmentally-conscious solution to feeding our planet's growing population," he added.
The Before the Flood filmmaker has made an investment in the brand and will also serve as an advisor. According to BizWest, DiCaprio and sustainable aquaculture investment fund Aqua-Spark round out a $3 million Series A funding announced in February, in which Aqua-Spark invested $2.5 million.
"The exploitation of our oceans has left many marine ecosystems on the brink of total collapse, which is hurting our ability to harvest our seas as a reliable food source as we have for thousands of years," DiCaprio continued. "LoveTheWild is empowering people to take action on this crisis in a very meaningful way."
Farmed seafood, or aquaculture, currently provides roughly half of all fish consumed globally. Experts tout it as a way to supply protein, nutrition and food security to a rapidly growing global population.
However, aquaculture operators in some countries, such as Chile's salmon industry, have been criticized for crowding fish into tight enclosures that breed disease and raising them on unnatural diets and antibiotics.
But as Tim Fitzgerald, a scientist and sustainable seafood expert at the Environmental Defense Fund, told the New York Times, farming practices are improving and some merchants set high standards for the fish they sell.
LoveTheWild, founded by Jacqueline Claudia and Christy Brouker in 2014, sells sustainable fish that's good for you and the oceans at the same time. The company said it selects its seafood from the "most well-managed farms in the world."
The line includes striped bass with roasted pepper almond sauce, barramundi with mango Sriracha chutney, catfish with Cajun creme and red trout with salsa verde. The kits are in retailers such as Whole Foods Market, Wegmans, Sprouts and Mom's.
"Our vision for LoveTheWild was inspired by our dedication to aquaculture, and we're very humbled that the quality of our products and integrity of our vision has attracted such a powerful group of supporters and investors," said Claudia, LoveTheWild CEO, in a statement.
"We are excited that Mr. DiCaprio, someone so dedicated to environmental activism, has partnered with LoveTheWild to help make it easy for consumers make an impact on the environment through something as simple as choosing the right thing for dinner. We have no doubt that the involvement of all of our investors will further bring to life our mission of making high-quality seafood exciting, easy, and accessible, while also helping to bring awareness to the potential for responsible aquaculture to play an important role in our food future."
DiCaprio, and his Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, has long put his philanthropic dollars towards environmental organizations and businesses that protect oceans, land and wildlife, as well as operations that work to fight against climate change.
Last year, the foundation awarded a total of $15.6 million in grants, including $7,631,508 for wildlife and habitat conservation; $2,525,000 for ocean conservation; $2,100,000 to protect indigenous rights; $2,085,000 to support innovative solutions to the world's problems; and $1,300,000 to combat climate change. With these grants, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has provided more than $59 million in support of many projects since 1998.
At the grand opening of Tesla's enormous Gigafactory in July, CEO Elon Musk said he wants to build Gigafactories on several continents. He told BBC he wanted a factory "in Europe, in India, in China ... ultimately, wherever there is a huge amount of demand for the end product."
Well, it looks like Musk's factory-building plans are well underway.
The company said in its fourth-quarter investor letter on Wednesday that it is considering building up to five Gigafactories.
The letter states:
"Installation of Model 3 manufacturing equipment is underway in Fremont and at Gigafactory 1, where in January, we began production of battery cells for energy storage products, which have the same form-factor as the cells that will be used in Model 3. Later this year, we expect to finalize locations for Gigafactories 3, 4 and possibly 5 (Gigafactory 2 is the Tesla solar plant in New York)."
Tesla officially flicked on Gigafactory 1's switch in January. The factory produces lithium-ion battery cells for Tesla's suite of battery storage products, the Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2, as well as the company's mass-market electric car, the Model 3.
Gigafactory 1 is currently being built in phases so that the company and its partners can manufacture products while the building continues to expand. Construction is expected for completion by 2018, at which point the plant could claim the title of world's largest building by footprint.
The company also plans for the building to achieve net zero energy. Tesla co-founder and chief technical officer JB Straubel once explained why Tesla wanted Gigafactory operations to be completely carbon neutral:
"The Gigafactory is maybe the best example we can talk about with this. You know, from the get-go, from the first concept of this factory, we wanted to make it a net-zero facility. So, you know, the most visible thing we are doing is covering the entire site with solar power. The whole roof of the Gigafactory was designed from the beginning with solar in mind. We kept all of the mechanical equipment off the roof. We didn't put extra, sorta, penetrations through the roof that we didn't need to and it's a very, very clean surface that we can completely cover in solar. But that's not enough solar, though. So we have also gone to the surrounding hillsides that we can't use for other functions and we're adding solar to those."
According to Straubel, the Gigafactory isn't even hooked up to any natural gas pipelines:
"The other interesting thing is we wanted to manage the emissions from the Gigafactory. Solar power can do some of that, but we took kind of a radical move in the beginning and said we are not going to burn any fossil fuels in the factory. You know, zero emissions. We are going to build a zero-emissions factory—just like the car. So, instead of kind of fighting this battle in hindsight, we just said we are not even going to have a natural gas pipeline coming to the factory, so we didn't even build it. And it kind of forced the issue. When you don't have natural gas, you know, none of the engineers can say, 'Oh, but it will be more efficient, let me use just a little bit.' Sorry, we don't even have it."
In December, Tesla and Panasonic launched operations at its Buffalo, New York plant, now dubbed Gigafactory 2. The factory manufactures high-efficiency photovoltaic cells and modules for solar panels and solar glass tiles for Tesla's highly anticipated solar roof.
Tesla's factories are all part of the company's mission to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy.
In last year's climate change documentary Before The Flood, Musk takes Leonardo DiCaprio on a tour of Tesla's massive Gigafactory in Nevada. During their chat, the Tesla CEO tells the actor and famed environmentalist that it would only take 100 Gigafactories to transition "the whole world" to sustainable energy.
With at least five Gigafactories in the books, looks like Musk's plans are slowly becoming reality. For what it's worth, even DiCaprio said building one-hundred Gigafactories "sounds manageable."
Lawmakers in California and Massachusetts have recently introduced bills that would require their respective states to get all of its electricity from renewable energy sources.
California Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), who introduced SB 584 last Friday, would require the Golden State to have a carbon-free grid by 2045. It would also accelerate the state's current goal of hitting 50 percent renewables by 2030 to 2025.
De León actually helped pushed through the initial 50 percent by 2030 law two years ago, but as he told the Los Angeles Times the legislation did not go far enough.
"We probably should have shot for the stars," he said.
As InsideClimate News noted, California is already well on its way:
"The California Energy Commission says the state got about 27 percent of its electricity from renewables last year, slightly better than the 25 percent required by law. Capacity has more than doubled over the past decade. California's largest utilities have also said they are ahead of schedule for meeting their 2020 goal."
Massachusetts legislators have also announced similar clean energy efforts. HD.3357 and SD.1932 was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Sean Garballey and Marjorie Decker and in the Senate by Sen. Jamie Eldridge.
The measure would require Massachusetts to get all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2035. All of its energy needs, including heating and transportation, would have to come from renewable sources by 2050.
So far, the only state that has an official 100 percent renewable energy standard is Hawaii. Hawaii's aggressive clean energy mandate—requiring the state's electricity to come from renewable sources no later than 2045—was enacted back in 2015.
Many renewable-energy loving states—as well as town and city governments—are ramping up their clean energy goals in spite of the federal government's favoritism of fossil fuels and indifference towards fighting climate change.
This month, Nevada assemblyman Chris Brook introduced a bill to ramp up the state's renewable portfolio standard to 80 percent by 2040. Nevada's current standard calls for 25 percent by 2025.
Transitioning to 100 percent clean energy is not as far-fetched as it seems.
Last year, The Solutions Project team published a study explaining how each state can replace fossil fuels by tapping into renewable resources available in each state such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and even small amounts of tidal and wave power.
The Solutions Project
The authors found that converting the nation's energy infrastructure into renewables is ideal because it helps fight climate change, saves lives by eliminating air pollution, creates jobs in the rapidly booming renewable energy sector and also stabilizes energy prices.
"It is now established that such a transition is possible state by state and country by country," Jacobson commented to EcoWatch in December.
Also, as USA TODAY pointed out from a University of Texas at Austin study, wind turbines and big solar farms are the cheapest sources of new electricity generation across much of the U.S. Certainly in sun-soaked California, where solar is the cheapest form of energy in much of the state.
I had the chance to take a deeper dive with Jacobson via email on Wednesday. He took the time to answer these following questions:
What do you say to the critics who say it is not feasible for California, Massachusetts (or any other state) to get to 100 percent clean energy?
Jacobson: They speak without having every studied the issue or examined the numbers, including the ability to keep the grid stable or the costs of energy.
What are some of the specific benefits for California and Massachusetts if they transition to clean energy?
Jacobson: Create more net long-term jobs than lost, stabilize energy prices because the fuel costs of wind and solar are zero, reduce the costs of energy since onshore wind and large-scale solar are the least expensive forms of new energy in the U.S. today, eliminate 13,000 air pollution deaths and hundreds of thousands of illnesses in California alone saving 3 percent of the GDP, reduce terrorism and catastrophic risk because of the more distributed nature of the grid and reduce dependence on foreign energy.
What are some of the biggest obstacles (i.e. technology, politics, fossil fuel industry) for states to get to 100 percent clean energy?
Jacobson: Lack of information and people with a financial interest in the current infrastructure. Once people have full information about the transition and its benefits, most are likely to support the transition. Ninety percent of the blockade to faster progress is due to individuals and companies that have a financial interest in the current infrastructure thus profit over it not happening.
Are you working with any of the legislators who have proposed these 100 percent clean energy bills? If so, who? And, what role is The Solutions Project playing in helping states advance renewable energy policies?
Jacobson: We provide information to all parties who request it, thus our goal is not partisan. It is purely to help facilitate the healthiest and cleanest future for Americans and the world.
How do you feel about President Trump and his administration's pro-fossil fuel agenda? Does it make the push to 100 percent clean energy harder?
Jacobson: The transition will occur regardless of what President Trump wants or does because costs are favorable and most people want healthy air and lower energy prices, and see all the benefits in terms of jobs, price stability, health and security that clean, renewable energy provides.
Two major pipeline spills were reported the same week that President Donald Trump signed orders to move the Keystone XL (KXL) and Dakota Access (DAPL) pipelines forward. The recent breaches highlight the dangers of unreliable fossil fuel infrastructure in North America.
The president signed executive orders on Tuesday. One a day later, about 138,600 gallons of a diesel mix spilled from a broken pipeline in Iowa.
The pipeline is owned by Oklahoma-based Magellan Midstream Partners, which recently reached an $18 million settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over alleged violations of the Clean Water Act, involving three pipeline spills in Texas, Nebraska and Kansas.
On Monday, reports emerged of a Tundra Energy Marketing Ltd-owned pipeline that spilled 52,830 gallons of crude oil onto aboriginal land in Saskatchewan, Canada. The spill happened on reserve lands of the Ocean Man First Nation.
Trump promises that pipelines such as the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access will help increase domestic energy production and create jobs. Energy companies also say that pipelines are safer and more environmentally friendly to move fuel compared to rail or trucks.
But Tundra and Magellan's pipeline breaches only exacerbate the concerns of indigenous communities who are the ones who see these projects built then rupture in their backyards.
"Of course everybody's not happy that it happened in the first place ... You hope that these things will never happen to you or to your community and so yah, it was shock. It was a surprise," Ocean Man Chief Connie Big Eagle told Canada's Global News.
Big Eagle told Reuters that a local resident smelled the scent of oil for a week, located the spill and brought it to her attention on Friday. While no homes were affected, the spill is about 400 meters (1,320 feet) from the local cemetery, Big Eagle said. The Saskatchewan government was informed of the spill on late Friday afternoon, but the public was only notified of the spill on Monday.
According to a ProPublica report, America's 2.5 million miles pipelines "suffer hundreds of leaks and ruptures every year, costing lives and money," and these lines are only getting older. Not only that, the report notes that pipeline accidents have killed more than 500 people, injured more than 4,000 and cost nearly $7 billion in property damages since 1986.
As actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio tweeted Wednesday: "This week, an oil pipeline spilled approx. 53k gallons of oil in an indigenous community. Why push risky projects when better options exist?"
DiCaprio's tweet cited a statement from David Archambault II, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
"We are not opposed to energy independence," Archambault said in response to Trump's orders. "We are opposed to reckless and politically motivated development projects, like DAPL, that ignore our treaty rights and risk our water. Creating a second Flint does not make America great again."
Trump's executive orders will revive the highly contested DAPL that will cross through disputed Sioux land and the Missouri River, which is the tribe's primary source of drinking water.
The Iowa spill was discovered Wednesday morning nearby the city of Hanlontown and did not reach water sources or cause injury to people or wildlife.
However, as Greenpeace researcher Jesse Coleman told the Guardian, while the Magellan leak is "not a major disaster" compared to other spills, it draws attention to the risks of pipelines.
"This really speaks to the central problem, which is that we're not even surprised that this company spilled something out of a pipeline because it's inevitable," Coleman explained. "That's what's really frightening about these larger pipelines."
"You can never really rehabilitate an area that got soaked in gasoline. Even this spill, it can't be cleaned up," Coleman added. "That gives you some idea of what will happen when the Dakota Access pipeline or the Keystone XL pipeline fails. It's irreversible."
The scope of global fossil fuel divestment has doubled over the past 15 months, with institutions and individuals controlling $5.197 trillion in assets pledging to divest. The announcement comes on the first anniversary of the Paris agreement on climate change.
"One year after the adoption of the historic Paris climate agreement, it's clear the transition to a clean energy future is inevitable, beneficial and well underway, and that investors have a key role to play," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
"I commend today's announcement that a growing number of investors are backing a shift away from the most carbon intensive energy sources and into safe, sustainable energy. Investments in clean energy are the right thing to do—and the smart way to build prosperity for all, while protecting our planet and ensuring no one is left behind."
According to a new analysis released today by Arabella Advisors, 688 institutions and 58,399 individuals across 76 countries have committed to divest from fossil fuels. Those sectors that have historically propelled the movement—including universities, foundations and faith-based organizations—account for 54 percent of new commitments made.
Representatives from finance, philanthropy, faith, entertainment, education and others announced these numbers and showed their support for the movement at a simultaneous international press conference today in New York and London—including a former top Mobil Oil executive, Lou Allstadt, who helped implement the Exxon-Mobil merger.
"As the hottest year in history comes to a close, the success of the global fossil fuel divestment movement is undeniable," said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, the grassroots climate organization whose members have led the charge to divest.
"What began on a few college campuses in the U.S. has spread to every corner of the world, squarely into the financial mainstream. Divestment has permeated every sector of society: from universities and pension funds, to philanthropic and cultural institutions, to cities, faith groups, insurance companies and more. Now at $5 trillion, the movement is unstoppable. Institutions and investors must choose whether to be on the right side of history."
May Boeve, Adrian Grenier and Mark Ruffalo at today's press event announcing $5.197 trillion in assets pledging to divest from fossil fuels.DivestInvest
Support for the movement among early adopters is now increasingly being met by support from profit-driven institutions such as large pension funds, private insurers and banks, which represent $4.5 trillion in assets, citing climate risks to their investment portfolios. As more mainstream financial institutions commit to divest, the industry faces greater scrutiny.
"The oil and gas industry is currently experiencing an unprecedented level of negative factors—from reduced profits to increased borrowing to pay dividends—while the costs of solar, wind and batteries continue to fall," said Lou Allstadt, former executive vice president of Mobil Oil. "The prudent fiduciary is acting now to reduce the risk to their portfolios. Divestment is speeding up the clock on the final accounting that will show fossil fuels are out and clean energy is in."
Mark Campanale, founder and executive director of Carbon Tracker Initiative, agrees. "The financial markets are fast losing faith in the investment case for fossil fuels. A technological revolution is underway in the energy and transportation sectors, as cheap solar and electric cars take away demand for coal and oil. With a climate trifecta of physical risks, stranded assets and the threat of legal liability—fiduciaries are now on notice to implement measures to protect their portfolios."
Today's press conference also brought forward historic new divestment commitments, including Ireland's preeminent university, Trinity College.
"Trinity intends to play our part in delivering on the Paris agreement," said Dr. Patrick Prendergast, the provost and president of Trinity College Dublin. "We aspire to be a leader in sustainability and climate solutions in every aspect of the college, not only in investments but in our research, and also in how the campus operates."
The report also documents rapid growth in the faith sector fueled by Pope Francis' "Laudato Si" encyclical establishing a moral imperative to act on climate, but commitments in the faith sector are not bound to any particular religion. A recent interfaith statement calling for divestment was signed by 303 faith leaders from 58 countries.
"Islam, like other faiths, teaches and asks its adherents to implement an ethic of restraint and conservation," said Imam Saffet Abid Catovic, board member of Islamic Society of North America Green Masjid Task Force. "In the face of the global climate crisis, this ethic, while necessary, is not sufficient to meet this existential challenge and must be coupled with a 'keep it in the ground' investment policy: divesting from fossil fuel holdings and reinvesting a portion of these funds in renewable and clean energy alternatives."
"What the world needs now is DivestInvest Culture: A bold, collective pivot away from the old energy that no longer serves us, and toward the 100 percent renewable energy future that will let the people and the planet thrive," said actor Adrian Grenier, announcing the new campaign today. "I am so excited to help launch DivestInvest Culture today—we are actors, musicians and artists moving our money from the past to the future."
These global and unparalleled commitments by both the public and private sectors are further cementing the call for a clean energy transition—and challenge the U.S. energy policy of the Trump administration, which is shaping up to favor the expansion of the financially risky and environmentally destructive fossil fuel industry.
"At the one-year anniversary of Paris, and after a historic election in the U.S., divestment is needed more than ever," said Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund and leader of DivestInvest Philanthropy. "When governments fall short, people step up. From Apartheid South Africa to the climate front lines, finance is a proven lever for change. Governments should keep their promises, but investors must move their money."