Two-and-a-half years ago, President Joe Biden announced plans to jumpstart an offshore wind industry in the United States, calling for 30 gigawatts of electricity-generating capacity to be installed by 2030. That would be enough to power 10 million households a year, avoid 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, and create tens of thousands of jobs, according to the White House. It’s an ambitious plan, but in keeping with the desperate need to replace fossil fuels with clean energy to mitigate some of the impacts of the climate and biodiversity crises.
Then, one-and-a-half years ago, in an auction conducted by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management—part of the Department of Interior—developers bid $4.4 billion for the right to install wind turbines across 488,000 acres of the Atlantic Ocean. This result was considerably better than expected and a good omen for a U.S. catch-up with the United Kingdom, China, and Germany, all of which have been building and installing large numbers of offshore wind turbines for more than a decade. The UK is the world leader, with 14 gigawatts of installed offshore capacity and more in the pipeline. The U.S. has a pitiful 42 megawatts of capacity in two projects totaling seven turbines.
Less than two months after Biden’s announcement, Vineyard Wind 1, a 62-turbine, 806-megawatt, $2.3 billion installation 15 miles off the coast Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts received final federal approval. Two weeks ago, builders Avangrid and CIP announced that the first turbine installation in the project had been completed. At 13 megawatts each, it and its fellow 800-foot, GE turbines will be able to supply electricity to 400,000 homes.
In July, while the foundation was being laid for that first Vineyard Wind turbine, the government approved the 2.45-gigawatt Ocean Wind project off the New Jersey coast. It was a project of Ørsted US Offshore Wind, a subsidiary of the Danish Ørsted, the world’s largest offshore wind energy company as determined by the number of built offshore wind farms. The project would supply nearly a fourth of the 11 gigawatts of offshore wind power New Jersey hopes to see installed by 2030. Then, last week, the company canceled both projects, citing inflation, supply chain problems, and trouble with federal tax credits. Because Ørsted US was already well underway with building the onshore components needed for the project, it says it will be taking a $5.6 billion write-down on its ledger because of the cancelation. While many other projects, including several being developed by Ørsted, continue moving forward, the company isn’t the only one re-evaluating wind project contracts and prospects for the immediate future.
For much of the past year, the mix of wind energy news has been traveling along this on up-and-down trajectory. In September, the Department of Energy published its Annual Study Finds Offshore Wind Energy Is Poised To Become a Major US Electricity Source. As of May, the report stated, more than 52 gigawatts of offshore wind projects were in the U.S. energy pipeline. Far more than enough to fulfill Biden’s goal.
But in the months while that DOE report was being written, forces were at work putting a damper on its optimism. In short, developers now face rising interest rates imposed by the Federal Reserve, supply chain bottlenecks, hard-to-get tax credits, a dearth of specialized installation equipment, and more opposition from local communities than they expected for offshore wind farms. In early October at the annual conference of the American Wind Energy Association—now renamed the American Clean Power Association—an executive of the Danish wind energy company Vestas, Josh Irwin, told a panel, “We’re clearly at a crossroads here, and it is not clear which way we’re going to go.”
Since then, we’ve seen dozens of headlines like: Offshore Wind Firm Cancels N.J. Projects, as Industry’s Prospects Dim; GE Offshore Wind to Post $1 Billion Loss in 2023, Again in 2024; U.S. offshore wind sector ‘fundamentally broken’—BP exec; Why the US offshore wind industry is in the doldrums; Inflation, interest rates and whales: Why offshore wind projects are on the rocks; Offshore wind is stumbling. Can Biden save the industry?
Effects on marine life, including whales, are being investigated. But the general sense, so far at least, is that a rise in whale deaths is not related to the activities of offshore wind companies.
Inflation is taking a big toll. Eli Rubin, senior energy analyst at energy consulting firm EBW Analytics Group, told Reuters, “It appears the offshore wind industry bid aggressively for early projects to gain a foothold in a promising new industry, anticipating steep (cost) declines similar to those for onshore wind, solar, and batteries over the past decade. Instead, steep cost gains threw project financing and development into disarray.”
That might not have deep-sixed projects if these early contracts had included provisions for factoring in inflation. But they didn’t. And as Ørsted learned in New Jersey, Equinor and BP learned in New York, and SouthCoast Wind and Commonwealth Wind learned in Massachusetts, state officials there had no interest in renegotiating the deals. A few developers paid tens of millions of dollars to opt out of project contracts that they forecast would have meant years of losses or paltry returns on investment. Meanwhile, as the U.S. Federal Reserve repeatedly raised interest rates to get inflation under control, financing costs soared, making approved projects even more expensive.
On top of this, wind developers are having trouble accessing some of the federal tax credits that helped make projects more financially viable. The total credits available go as high 50% of a project’s cost. Companies that pay prevailing wages to union labor get a 30% investment tax credit. If they don’t, just 6%. Those that use domestic content get another 10%. Developers who build a project in a community that previously depended on fossil fuels can get another 10%.
As Ben Storrow at Climate Wire reports, some of those credits are difficult or impossible to get:
Take the domestic content credit. To qualify, developers have to satisfy two criteria: at least 20 percent of a project’s manufactured components must be U.S. made, and structural components like towers need to be built with 100 percent domestically manufactured steel.
But there are no factories in the U.S. that make towers. And one proposed in upstate New York faces an uncertain future after its costs doubled.
Since the turbines are offshore, the community credit depends on where a wind farm ties into the grid. Since several of the projects under construction picked their tie-in locations before the credits were available, they lose out.
Companies who don’t pay prevailing wages don’t deserve the full 30% credit. As for the community and domestic sourcing credits, if Republicans weren’t engaged in doing everything in their power to sabotage the federal government’s involvement in the transformation of the nation’s energy system, tweaking the rules for those two credits would be a relatively simple matter. With the GOP sticking sticks in the spokes, however, making any fixes will presumably encounter partisan hurdles.
As for the other obstacles, supply chain bottlenecks won’t be permanent, and presumably neither will inflation or higher interest rates. In the wake of Ørsted’s canceling Ocean Wind, Jennifer Coffey, the executive director of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commission, said, “Just like any new industry, there are some hiccups in the beginning and that’s what we are seeing here—an industry getting off its feet and coming into its own.”
Short of fusion finally succeeding or a huge build-out of nuclear power plants happening, solar—residential, commercial, and utility scale—will provide the bulk of clean energy in the coming decades. But wind power will continue to play a crucial role. Any major transition or transformation will have its “hiccups.” Climate change deniers and fossil fuel advocates are no doubt eager for the day they can point to a failed Inflation Reduction Act-subsidized project that they can demonize the way they did Solyndra more than a decade ago. They would love nothing better than seeing all those offshore wind projects being canceled and no doubt view the current industry troubles with glee. One more of the plethora of reasons to work diligently in the coming year to keep them out of the White House and replace as many of them as possible in the Senate, House, and state legislatures.
(Normally, I wouldn’t include a 72-minute video in this slot. But with the COP28 climate summit in Dubai coming up in less than four weeks, this seems worth the time.)
- Fossil Fuel Free Credit Card Guide. How to find a credit card in North America from banks with little or no fossil fuel investment
- Research team counters solar energy misinformation. Study author Heather Mirletz’s paper, “Unfounded concerns about photovoltaic module toxicity and waste are slowing decarbonization,” appears in the journal Nature Physics. “Communities, government agencies and policymakers may be operating under outdated or false assumptions about PV module waste and toxicity hazards resulting in delay or unnecessary impediments to the rapid deployment of PV needed to meet decarbonization goals,” she said.
- A guide on how to access savings provided by the Inflation Reduction Act and fight climate change
In the 10 days since Louisiana Congressman Mike Johnson was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, the extremist views on just about every subject of this previously obscure Christian Nationalist have come to light. And on climate and environmental issues, it’s no different. Back in 2017, Johnson told voters: “The climate is changing, but the question is, is it being caused by natural cycles over the span of the Earth’s history? Or is it changing because we drive SUVs? I don’t believe in the latter. I don’t think that’s the primary driver.”
Delaney Nolan at Sierra magazine tracked down a few Louisiana legislators and left-of-center advocates who have experience with Johnson:
John Delgado, a former Baton Rouge Metro council member who was critical of Johnson when he was still a state representative, said Johnson’s climate skepticism is borne out of evangelical “dispensationalist belief”—the idea that the end times herald the second coming of Christ. “There are people who just want to see the world burn because they are waiting for the next one,” Delgado told Sierra. He explained that those who are eager for the Rapture “want it [the world] to end sooner…. And so they’re not going to care about the environment, they’re not going to care about the coastline, they’re not going to care about rising ocean temperatures.”
“When you talk about climate change,” Delgado said, “he [Johnson] truly doesn’t care.” […]
Justin Solet, a long-time environmental justice organizer from Louisiana, likewise expressed concern that Johnson is putting “a polite face on a terrifying aspect” of the Republican platform. “It’s frightening to see,” he added.
Solet described Johnson as “a zealot” and says if Johnson’s vision were realized in Louisiana, “we would turn into Gilead,” a reference to the fascist ethnostate in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
But his religious views are clearly not Johnson’s only motivation. Since 2015, the oil and gas industry has contributed $345,925 to his election campaigns.
A new peer reviewed study—Assessing the size and uncertainty of remaining carbon budgets—was published last week at Nature Climate Change. Scientists had calculated last year that the Earth’s carbon budget—the maximum amount of carbon emissions that can be allowed without exceeding the global warming goal of 1.5° Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit)—was about 500 gigatons. But recalculations in the new study put that maximum at 250 gigatons.
“The budget is so small, and the urgency of meaningful action for limiting warming is so high, [that] the message from [the carbon budget] is dire,” study co-author Joeri Rogelj of Imperial College London told Ajit Niranjan at The Guardian.
At the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow two years ago, scientists said we could continue emitting greenhouse gases at the current pace for another 11 years before exceeding 1.5°. The new study indicates we’ve got more like five years. Ever more scientists are coming to the conclusion that no matter what, we’re not going to keep the temperature rise to the 1.5° level. That news is likely to boost climate anxiety and climate despair even higher than it already is.
However, a rise of 2° C (3.6° F) means even worse impacts—wildfires, floods, heat waves, crop failures, species extinction, changing disease vectors, the whole litany of disasters—will occur. Working to keep the rise from soaring even higher is thus essential. Christopher J. Smith, a climate scientist at the University of Leeds who contributed to the calculations, told Raymond Zhong at The New York Times, “If we limit warming to 1.6 degrees, or 1.65 degrees, or 1.7 degrees, that’s a lot better than 2 degrees. We still need to fight for every 10th of a degree.”
From the study:
The remaining carbon budget (RCB) is the net amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) humans can still emit while keeping global warming below a given limit with a given probability, taking into account the effect of other anthropogenic climate forcers1,2. The concept is key when considering the speed of decarbonization required to meet the goal of the Paris Agreement to keep global warming to well below 2 °C relative to pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit it to below 1.5 °C (ref. 3). Many approaches to equitable international climate action involve estimating the global RCB and dividing it among nations according to various principles of equity4,5. However the RCB for the Paris-relevant temperature targets (generally interpreted as a 50% chance of keeping global warming below 1.5 °C and anywhere from a 66% to 90% chance of 2.0 °C (ref. 6)) is small compared with the uncertainty in their values. This means subtle updates to the assessments can substantially affect the values, which makes their use challenging.
Previous work shows that the temperature rise is, to first order, not strongly dependent on when carbon emissions occur, only on their cumulative sum7,8,9,10,11,12,13; however, the RCB is strongly dependent on both how much and when different types of non-CO2 emissions occur14,15,16,17,18,19. As a result, the RCB requires some set of scenarios describing co-evolutions of CO2 and other emissions to estimate.
Anyone who’s advocated for 100% renewables has inevitably and repeatedly encountered naysayers who think they’ve uncovered some previously unknown flaw when they sneer “what do you do when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow?” It usually comes as a surprise to them when informed that solar and wind advocates have thought about this matter for decades. The naysayers already have an answer to this—natural gas plants and, in the long term, more nuclear power plants. That, of course, means burning fossil fuels, which we need to be doing less not more of, and dependence on a technically capable but economically unsound technology.
Critics point out that the problem of intermittency worsens as the grid adds more solar and wind capacity. For instance, electricity generated from solar installations during the day tapers off in the late afternoon and early evening, a time when significant increases in demand occur. As more people replace their fossil fuel-powered appliances and vehicles with heat pumps, induction stoves, and EVs, this evening electricity demand will rise. It was in 2019 that the matter became acute in California. Regulators and utilities then predicted peak hour shortfalls would occur in September of 2020. That hour falls between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m at that time of year.
To meet its ambitious goals for clean energy around the clock, California now generates 48% of its electricity with renewables and is adding gigawatts of storage capacity in lithium-ion batteries to bridge the intermittency gap. Currently, solar and wind energy often produces more electricity than the grid needs during the day and generation capacity from these sources is therefore “curtailed” or “wasted.” But this can be eliminated if the overage in clean electricity isn’t curtailed and instead sent to recharge batteries that can later supply power when solar and wind sources aren’t generating.
Four years ago, the state had just 770 megawatts of battery capacity, enough to power 770,000 homes for four hours. But late last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that California now has 6.6 gigawatts of battery energy storage installed, enough to power 6.6 million homes for four hours. This interactive map of the California Energy Storage System Survey shows where the installations are.
Here is the breakdown of the more than 122,000 battery installations in California: Residential: 843 MW, 119,483 installations; commercial: 540 MW, 2,492 installations; utility-scale: 5,234 MW, 106 installations. The state isn’t stopping there. By the end of this year, that storage figure is expected to climb to 8,500 gigawatts. The official goal for 2035 is 19,500 GW and 52,000 GW for 2045. At the current pace, those goals could be met much earlier in those timeframes.
Newsom said, “The more homes and businesses we can power with clean energy, the more we can clean our air and cut pollution. California—40 million people strong and the 5th biggest economy in the worl—is showing the rest of the globe how to fight climate change while making the grid more reliable and creating new jobs. This is essential to how we fight climate change and protect Californians.”
Worldwide, the energy storage business is burgeoning. Few if any new utility-scale installations are now proposed without a storage system being included in the plans. Affluent homeowners are adding battery storage of their own, especially when they install solar panels. The five largest companies in the industry control 60% of the global market for energy storage. The Chinese company Sungrow is No. 1 with 16% of the global market. The German company Siemens and U.S. company Tesla are tied for second at 14% each.
HALF A DOZEN OTHER THINGS TO READ (or listen to)
US Electric Train Maker Sends Hot Pink Diesel-Killing Love Letter To Australia by Tina Casey at CleanTechnica. A new electric train is heading from the U.S. to Australia with a futuristic twist. Instead of spending hours to recharge its batteries while sitting at a charging station, the locomotive will deploy energy captured from its brakes while on the move. The payoff is lower fuel costs and a smaller carbon footprint along with less down time, too. The Australian iron ore mining firm Roy Hill (a branch of Hancock Prospecting) ordered the new train. They stipulated pink to reflect to the philanthropic interests of the company’s chair, Mrs. Gina Rinehart, who is a strong supporter of the Australian National Breast Cancer Foundation among other organizations. To be clear, locomotives in the U.S. and some other parts of the world have deployed electric drive for decades. The technology was introduced in the 1930s, offering performance, efficiency, and maintenance improvements over diesel engines as well as labor cost savings. These trains don’t run on battery power, though. The electricity comes from an on-board generator that uses diesel fuel. The new electric train also demonstrates the “gravity train” or “infinity train” concept that has caught the eye of the mining industry. Infinity trains leverage the heavy loads of mining trains to harvest energy from the braking system, which then goes to replenish the batteries. A similar system can be used to cycle the batteries in trucks and other vehicles. A research team from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California made a bottom-line case for full electrification as well as an environmental case in a study published in the journal Nature Energy in 2021. “Accounting for reduced criteria air pollutants and CO2 emissions, switching to battery-electric propulsion would save the U.S. freight rail sector $94 billion over 20 years,” they said.
Dozens of bird names honoring enslavers and racists will be changed by Darryl Fears at The Washington Post. The American Ornithological Society announced Wednesday that it will remove names given to North American birds in honor of people and replace them with monikers that better describe their plumage and other characteristics. The group said it will prioritize birds whose names trace to enslavers, white supremacists, and robbers of Indigenous graves. Among them is one of the most famous birders in U.S. history, John James Audubon. “There is power in a name, and some English bird names have associations with the past that continue to be exclusionary and harmful today,” the society’s president, Colleen Handel, said in a statement. “We need a much more inclusive and engaging scientific process that focuses attention on the unique features and beauty of the birds themselves.” Sometime next year, the society is expected to appoint a committee to explore up to 80 new names.
Energy Dept. Pours Billions Into Power Grids but Warns It’s Not Enough by Brad Plumer at The New York Times. The Energy Department on Monday announced $1.3 billion to help build three large power lines across six states, part of a new gusher of money from Washington to upgrade America’s electric grids so they can handle more wind and solar power and better tolerate extreme weather. But officials warned that money won’t be enough. In a major report published the same day, the Energy Department said that the nation’s vast network of transmission lines may need to expand by two-thirds or more by 2035 to meet President Biden’s goals to power the country with clean energy. That would help slash carbon dioxide emitted by gas and coal-fired electric plants— pollution that is heating the planet. But it would require hundreds of billions of dollars in investment and a frenzied pace of construction. “We need to seriously build out transmission,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said.
Climate groups launch national tour for Green New Deal by Dharna Noor at The Guardian. One year after the passage of the much-lauded Inflation Reduction Act, a coalition of organizers and representatives are relaunching the push for a Green New Deal with a national tour. “The Inflation Reduction Act was the largest climate investment in U.S. history,” said John Paul Mejia, a national spokesperson for the youth-led climate justice organization the Sunrise Movement, one of the groups hosting the tour. “But for the next 10 years, we should work to make [it] the smallest by winning stuff that’s much larger.” The tour will aim to showcase support for bolder federal climate action, and will feature Green New Deal champions including Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts and the representatives Ilhan Omar, Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, and Summer Lee alongside local advocates. It will be led by the Green New Deal Network, a coalition of progressive environmental groups that include the Sunrise Movement Greenpeace, and Climate Justice Alliance, social justice organizations such as People’s Action and the Movement for Black Lives, and the small left-liberal Working Families political party. Markey said the Inflation Reduction Act “represented a major down payment on the Green New Deal.” Yet the policies have crucial differences. Green New Deal advocates noted that it included giveaways to the fossil fuel industry, including mandating drilling and pipeline deals, and that it did little to wind down planet-heating coal, oil, and gas. Many also lamented its meager attempts to protect worker conditions. It also placed less focus on improving public transportation and climate-resilient affordable housing, said Sophia Cheng, the climate justice campaign director at People’s Action, a progressive advocacy and political non-profit.
Who Were the Worst of the Worst Climate Polluters in 2022? by Phil McKenna at Inside Climate News. Emissions from the largest greenhouse gas emitters in the U.S. were down slightly in 2022, but thousands of industrial facilities with substantial emissions remain, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently released Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program data. Emissions from large industrial sources decreased by approximately 1% to 2.7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2022, according to the annual update of emissions data released on Oct. 5. The analysts scrutinized the top 10 for each of six leading greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride, the world’s most potent greenhouse gas. Four of the 10 worst emitters are based in Texas.
Tribes Are Building Food Sovereignty With Help From the Nation’s Largest Hunger-Relief Group by Kate Nelson at Civil Eats.The overarching aim of Natives Prepared is twofold: to empower Indigenous groups to produce and/or source their own food and to ensure they have integrated disaster resources. To kick off the program, Feeding America is working with a pilot cohort of five tribal nations: the Hualapai, the Onondaga Nation in New York, the United Houma Nation in Louisiana, the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate in South Dakota, and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community in Washington. Each community partners with a local food bank tasked with providing fiduciary and technical support. They’re currently in the process of developing individualized project proposals that will be implemented over the next two years with a maximum budget of $450,000 per participant. From there, Ford foresees this as the first cohort of many. For the Hualapai, whose emergency operations program launched this summer, the focus is on developing greater food sovereignty through community gardens. “Because we’re in an extremely rural location, we rely heavily on transportation to get our groceries from the next town over, which is 50 miles away,” Majenty says. “We want to teach our community to be more self-sustaining so that we’re ready if the semi-truck drivers boycott or if the highways or nearby farms shut down.”
“Above all, it seems to me wrongheaded and dangerous to invoke historical assumptions about environmental practices of native peoples in order to justify treating them fairly. … By invoking this assumption [i.e., that they were/are better environmental stewards than other peoples or parts of contemporary society] to justify fair treatment of native peoples, we imply that it would be OK to mistreat them if that assumption could be refuted. In fact, the case against mistreating them isn’t based on any historical assumption about their environmental practices: it’s based on a moral principle, namely, that it is morally wrong for one people to dispossess, subjugate or exterminate another people.”—Jared Diamond, “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fall or Succeed”
Electric Vehicles Labor Uphill by David Dayen at The American Prospect. The UAW agreement with the Big Three builds a base of good jobs in EVs, and could help the entire transition. But interest rates are a huge impediment right now. “They told us for years that the EV transition was a death sentence for good auto jobs in this country,” said UAW president Shawn Fain in a recent Facebook Live event. “We stood up and said no.” That’s a big win for the transition to EVs, amid questions on whether the auto industry will be able to overcome its short-term struggles. Over the past month, General Motors has abandoned its target of 400,000 EV assemblies by the middle of 2024; Honda canceled a co-development with GM for an affordable compact electric SUV; Ford pushed back its EV targets and delayed $12 billion in investments; Hertz killed an ambitious proposal to add EVs to its fleet of rental cars; and even Tesla’s Elon Musk is sounding dour after falling profits. Just when autoworkers have notched their biggest victory in decades, auto executives now appear unsure of the road ahead. And while certainty on the labor picture will help, the ultimate assistance may have to come from staid central bankers in Washington.
The Dirty Secret Behind the Hydrogen Hype by Jane Patton. As our planet’s temperature rises, so does the hype around hydrogen. But hydrogen isn’t the climate savior it’s made out to be. Hydrogen is a dangerous distraction, and we should not fall for it. Technological fixes to climate change are tempting, and the Biden administration has not resisted the lure of hydrogen: The Department of Energy recently announced a massive $7 billion buildout of seven hydrogen hubs nationwide, the first of several such investments. Hydrogen is dangerous, partly because it distracts from the real climate solutions we so desperately need. The world’s best climate scientists have been clear that to maintain a livable planet, we must phase out fossil fuels and transition to truly renewable energy now. Hydrogen hubs take us in the opposite direction by further embedding us in the fossil fuel economy.
The complicated history of Ferdinand Hayden and the founding of Yellowstone by Cole Messa and Ken Sims at the Idaho Capital Sun. In 1871, geologist Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden led the third and most thorough expedition to what would the next year become the nation’s first national park. Unfortunately, Hayden’s legacy is not solely one of scientific discovery and conservation. Among several shameful statements he made, Hayden advocated that Indigenous people be made into farmers, and if they did not comply with federal dictates, they should be exterminated. And the creation of Yellowstone National Park itself was an act of exclusion, as Indigenous people of the region were relocated from their home areas. While the efforts of Ferdinand Hayden in surveying the West are recognized as being highly influential in the history of the United States and the science of geology, especially in the Yellowstone region, his views of Indigenous people must also be acknowledged to respect those who walked this land long before our modern age.
Republicans Are Trying to Cut Funding for Food, Farmers, and Climate from Evergreen Action. While Congressional Republicans talk a big game about supporting rural and everyday Americans, they are attempting to use the 2023 Farm Bill reauthorization process to cut popular climate and food programs, harming everyone from farmers to urban and suburban low-income families to people who want to see urgent climate action. Their proposed revisions include cutting billions of dollars in existing funding that would help farmers grow more climate-resilient crops, support better agricultural practices, and ultimately lead to more sustainable food for all of us. Worse yet, their newly-chosen House speaker, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA)—a known climate change and election denier—has an equally spurious approach to the Farm Bill. He’s a vocal advocate of making cuts to the bill’s anti-hunger program (programs like SNAP and WIC)—something so reckless that even some members of his own party are concerned.
Postcard from California: Freeways fracture communities, poison the air and heat the planet by Bill Walker at The New Lede. In 1957, California opened its first double-decker freeway: The Cypress Street Viaduct, slicing through the heart of West Oakland toward the Bay Bridge to San Francisco. The construction displaced hundreds of Black families and businesses from a neighborhood once known as the Harlem of the West. The freeway’s eight lanes cut off West Oakland from downtown, stifling development and exposing residents to the toxic pollution of 160,000 vehicles a day. On Oct. 17, 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake rocked Northern California, collapsing a mile of the freeway’s upper span onto the lower deck. Though first responders feared that hundreds of rush-hour commuters had been crushed, miraculously the death toll was limited to 42. West Oakland residents organized and pushed Caltrans, the state transportation agency, to reroute a new approach to the bridge away from the neighborhood. The Cypress Street Viaduct was replaced by Mandela Parkway, a tree-lined boulevard with walking paths and bike lanes. Dozens of new businesses sprang up and air pollution dropped dramatically. It shouldn’t take a natural disaster to open our eyes to the damage freeways do to disadvantaged communities.
The Arctic Is Becoming One Giant Construction Site at The New Republic. Nome, Alaska—population 3,600, myself included—is one of the most remote places in North America. Entirely disconnected from the continent’s road system, it has two gas stations, two pizza joints, half a dozen sled-dog teams, and no traffic lights. And soon, Nome’s diminutive harbor, at the upper reaches of the Pacific Ocean, will be able to accommodate any U.S. military vessel smaller than an aircraft carrier. With funding from the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Army Corps of Engineers allocated $250 million last year to build the northernmost deepwater port in the United States. Spending a small fortune to make Nome a fully equipped naval rest stop is emblematic of a larger trend reshaping the High North. An unprecedented infrastructure boom, made possible in part by global warming, is transforming the region into an increasingly militarized and industrial landscape—one where the extraction of natural resources and degradation of the environment are accelerating in tandem.
LNG is worse than coal by Brad Johnson at his Hill Heat substack. As Bill McKibben writes, scientist Robert Howarth is out with new research finding that the U.S.’s booming liquefied natural gas exports are a climate killer: In recent years, Howarth has demonstrated that, domestically, natural gas is no better for the climate than coal, largely owing to the methane leaks associated with it; now, though, it appears that exporting L.N.G., because of the extra leakage of the supercooled gas during transit, could allow even larger amounts of methane to escape into the atmosphere and, hence, could do much more damage to the climate than coal does. The LNG export boom is being overseen by Biden’s global methane czar Amos “Darwin Mayflower” Hochstein—official title Special Presidential Coordinator for Global Infrastructure and Energy Security—and White House official Sarah Ladislaw, a former Statoil lobbyist who is now Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Climate and Energy at the US National Security Council. Hochstein and Ladislaw spent Halloween meeting with European officials Björn Seibert and Ditte Juul Jørgensen, European Commission Director-General for Energy. Seibert is European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s chief of staff. From the official read-out: The discussion focused on reviewing the diversification of Europe’s natural gas supply sources and the growing liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade between the United States and Europe, with the US now by far the largest supplier of LNG to Europe.
Scientists have found a ‘sleeping giant’ of environmental problems: Earth is getting saltier • For New Zealand’s Maori communities, climate change is already hurting • Clash Over ‘Fossil Fuels’ Pits U.A.E. Against Public Health Experts • California is curtailing more solar power than ever before • After Historic Subsidies, Hydrogen Giants Threaten Regulations Could Throttle Industry • Deep Rifts at UN Loss and Damage Talks Cast a Shadow on Upcoming Climate Conference • A Tangle of Rules to Protect America’s Water Is Falling Short • The world’s boreal forests may be shrinking as climate change pushes them northward