I am sending this out on the morning of what might be my favorite holiday of the year - Halloween. I think of it as the most egalitarian one of the year, where everyone gets to celebrate pretty much the same way. It is not a religious holiday and not a national holiday. There are not two sides to it, and it's not contentious. And while adults may dress up (a lot more than they used to) the holiday is really for kids. They are the only ones who get presents as they go door-to-door.
If only the world operated like Halloween, with everyone joining together with the same objectives (in the kids' case, filling up those bags with candy). Instead the world is complicated, and not everyone is in agreement on everything.
Even when there is a common enemy like climate change, there is not a coming together. Instead, we seem to largely be ignoring it, as if we were OK leaving the kids holding the bag - and I don't mean one filled with candy.
Oh well...at least tonight we will all be waiting for the little goblins and helping to fill their bags with good things. I can't wait.
Below are a few comments on my Last Post, and then below that are a few Things That Caught My Eye. And then my Op Ed, entitled "Monty Python and Climate Change".
If you were forwarded this email, click the button below to sign up to receive these Blog Posts.
Join Our Email List
About My Last Post on NIMBYism ...
First I want to mention a chat I had with a friend who receives my Blog Posts. Judith Schwartz, author of several books on regenerative biodiversity (look her up), was in attendance at the solar farm hearing I mentioned in that post on NIMBYism. Judith herself spoke out against the project that night, but did so in a way that doesn't make her a NIMBY. She offered information in term of what the adverse impact and loss would be at the site of the project if it went through. She argued that the project would involve clear-cutting 45 acres of woodlands and that this would have a definite biodiversity impact.
My point in talking about NIMBYism was not to say that all comments against a proposed project should be disregarded. Comments that introduce data that allow local or state officials to approve or reject a project are helpful, whether they support the project or argue against it. That is the way an approval process should work. But what is unhelpful are comments and actions that are not based on facts, and may in fact be based on falsehoods and misinformation. What is unhelpful are opposition efforts that are simply an expression of desire that nothing change, no matter what the need for that change is.
Next, I want to note two pieces on NIMBYism that you may find of interest if you want more on this topic. Both are largely about wind whereas mine was mainly focused on solar, but the issues and situations are common to both.
Back in September, Heatmap put out a piece called “It’s Too Easy to Block a Wind Farm”.
There is also a new piece in the Atlantic titled “Why American Doesn’t Build”. It includes a data point that I wish I had included in my Post which is a response to one of the top things I hear from opponents of solar farms - why not put solar on the roofs of all the commercial buildings?
A 2016 assessment by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) reported that even if the U.S. put solar on every single building where it was technically feasible, it would generate only 1,432 terawatt hours (TWh) of energy annually. In 2022, the U.S. used more than 4,000 TWh of electricity.
It is estimated that to reach net-zero emissions in 2050, the U.S. will need to generate nearly 11,000 TWh of electricity a year. So, while they should be utilized as much as possible, rooftops are not going to be enough.
Things That Caught My Eye
A Non-Wires Solution Using Customers
I have talked before about the beauty of Non-Wires Solutions. This refers to projects or initiatives that result from out-of-the-box thinking before adding a new generating facility or a major new T&D addition or upgrade.
The utility Green Mountain Power has done just that. It has proposed installing batteries at most of its customers as part of a multi-pronged outage-fighting effort that includes some burying of power lines and some strengthening of overhead lines. It has filed with the State Utility Commission arguing that its expenditure on batteries for its customers will be the least cost option it can undertake.
More on the GMP initiative is here.
We're Already Capturing a Lot of Carbon?
Carbon capture is something that you may think is a new thing (along with carbon extraction). But it is both new and old. Every year, according to the EPA, companies around the United States capture around 18 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from natural gas processing plants, oil refineries and power plants. Unfortunately from a climate standpoint, 60 percent of what is captured is not stored deep underground.
Instead, it is used to extract more oil and gas in a process called enhanced recovery. A federal tax credit already existed for this but the Inflation Reduction Act included upgraded tax credits to $60/ton of CO2 captured if you capture and use in enhanced recovery and $85 if you capture and store it underground.
For more on this important area of climate and energy, check this out:
Hey Canada - Good Policy, Nice Move ...
A carbon tax is in place throughout much of the world even though it has failed to gain traction in the U.S. Canada is both a good example of how to do a carbon tax but also on how to actively manage climate and energy policy in response to information feedback.
Canada’s carbon tax system came into force in 2019 to incentivize fuel switching and quicker adoption of green technologies by making burning fossil fuels pricier. The provinces were allowed to develop their own carbon tax as long at it comported with the federal program, or they could rely on the federal tax if they didn’t have or want to do their own.
In line with the original goals of the program, the Federal Government offered rebates to individuals and families in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario (the ones relying on the federal system). Rural residents, who rely more on home heating oil, received an extra 10 percent in rebate value.
Canada is now implementing a policy shift that will see the 10 percent bonus rate for rural residents increase to 20 percent, starting in April 2024. Ottawa will also introduce a three-year freeze on the carbon tax for home heating oil, which is a big issue in Atlantic Canada where heat pump adoption has been slow and home heating oil dominates. The Federal government is also going to launch a pilot program in this region to see if the pause on the carbon tax, plus an upfront $250 payment will lead to more installations.
But wait, there’s more – heat pump purchase and installation will be free for people who earn below the median income level.
Kudos to Canada for moving forward on a carbon tax and adjusting to its impact and intent as things unfold. That is good climate policy in my book.
Monty Python and Climate Change
I was going to title this Op Ed “The Headline that I Dreaded but Yet Knew Was Coming”. Another candidate was "We Finally Get a 'No-Ifs' Headline".
The actual headlines that I am referring to (depending on where you were recently reading about this) went something like these:
"Rapid Antarctic Melting Looks Certain, Even if Emissions Goals Are Met"
"West Antarctic Ice Sheet Faces ‘Unavoidable’ Melting, a Warning for Sea Level Rise"
Each of those (real) headlines refers to the new study by researchers in Britain that reported that even if nations limited global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit), it wouldn’t do much to halt the melting of West Antarctica. And since no countries are meeting their Paris commitment, it is basically certain that we will indeed exceed 1.5 degrees.
Think about that - this new research found that regardless of how aggressively humans act to reduce fossil fuel emissions — and thus limit how much the planet warms — waters around some of West Antarctica’s glaciers are forecast to warm at a pace three times faster than they have in the past. This is what is meant by the phrase "already baked in".
But instead of that kind of a headline, I decided that it would be more interesting to invoke perhaps the greatest English Supergroup ever (and yes, I am including the Fab Four, the Stones, and Traffic).
I am betting that most of you, if not all, have watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail (maybe more than once). And I am betting that one of your favorite scenes is when King Arthur meets the Black Knight.
You will remember that as Arthur approaches a crossing, the Black Knight is dispatching the Green Knight for trying to cross the bridge he is guarding.
Arthur congratulates him and offers him a place at his court at the Round Table. But the Black Knight makes no response until Arthur moves to cross the bridge. The Knight moves slightly to block Arthur and declares "None shall pass". King Arthur objects, and the Black Knight threatens Arthur with death.
Reluctantly, Arthur fights the Black Knight and, after a short battle, the Knight's left arm is severed, and copious amounts of blood squirt out. But The Knight refuses to stand aside, insisting "Tis but a scratch", and fights on.
Next, his right arm is cut off, but the Knight still does not concede. As the Knight has been "disarmed", Arthur assumes the fight is over and kneels to pray. The Black Knight interrupts Arthur's prayer by kicking him in the side of the head and accusing him of cowardice. Arthur chops off the Black Knight's right leg. At this point, the Knight still will not admit defeat, and attempts to ram his body into Arthur's. Arthur finally cuts off the left leg as well. With the Black Knight now reduced to a simple torso with a head, he declares the fight a draw and hurls insults at Arthur as the King goes over the bridge.
You know where I am going with this. No matter what kind of adverse impacts are happening due to a changing climate, too many people seem to be putting them in the category of “tis but a scratch”. No matter what is happening, there is no sense of the need to change.
Just yesterday a group of climate scientists released new research that shows that we only have 6 years left at current emission rates before we reach 1.5 degrees. And as one of those scientists said when interviewed, "There are no technical scenarios globally available ... that would support that that is actually possible".
The 1.5 degree mark is a milestone. It is not a cliff. If we miss it than the target is 1.6, 1.7, etc. Scientists tell us this is not a linear scale in terms of the adverse impacts. They say that the impacts of a little more temperature increase is not a little more impact - instead it will be a lot more.
According to one research data base, there were 32 papers published in 2015 where scientists used the words "climate emergency". In 2020 there were 862 papers where scientists used that term.
Yet we continue to do the same things we do or don't do regardless of what has already happened and what we are being told will happen. We are ignoring what has happened or may happen and proceeding with business as usual.
Hmm...sounds kind of like the Black Knight, eh? And we know how that turned out.
If you were forwarded this email, click the button below to sign up to receive these Blog Posts.
Join Our Email List
Links to Past Posts:
What You Need to Know About NIMBYism
Hmm..So How Much Did My Heat Pump Really Cost?
What it Means to Be a Climate Voter
The Climate Conundrum of Air Conditioning
Predictions Made About Utilities Made 10 Years Ago - How Did They Hold up?
My Vote For The Most Under-Appreciated Impact of Climate Change
10 Things I Should Have Written About
So I Went to the COP - Here Are My Top 10 Takeaways.
Efficiency and Clean Energy - Faster vs More
Efficiency & Clean Energy - More vs. Faster
It's Time For A Climate Vote - On the Record
Good COP, Bad COP .....Thoughts Before Glasgow
One of These Things is Not Like the Others
What I Should Have Written About
The Serenity of Being a Climate Voter
Decarbonization Dilemma: 10 COVID Impacts that Worry Me
COVID Conundrum: Looking for Clean Energy "Twofers"
Clean Energy Conundrum: The Slippery Slope to BANANAs
Decarbonization Dilemma: The Tragedy of the Common(s) Light Bulb
Decarbonization Dilemma: My Top 10 Predictions for 2020
Decarbonization Dilemma: Time, Timing and Timelines
Climate Conundrum: Wildfires, Wine, Waste and Going Without in CA
Clean Energy Conundrum: The Ring of Round Numbers
Climate Conundrum: Hitting the Utility Pocketbook
A Different Kind of Conundrum, A Different Kind of Denial - My Thoughts on the IPCC Report
Clean Energy Conundrum: How Should We Think About Natural Gas
Clean Energy Conundrum: What Are We Storing?
The ABCs...and EDFs....of Energy Efficiency