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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 14th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


A bit of green

When the United States announced its decision to step away from the Paris accords last week, environmentalists were furious. The decision, they warned, might significantly weaken the most important international plan to fight climate change and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Others, though, suggested that the turn away from carbon energy might be too far along to be halted by the U.S.’s decision. Here’s one indication that they might be right: Global demand for coal has fallen for the second year in a row, according to a study by petroleum giant BP, down 1.7 percent worldwide. That shift is all the more impressive when you consider this: just four years ago, coal fueled most of the world’s growth in its energy demands.

“We’re seeing a decisive break with coal, relative to the past,” said the oil company’s chief economist, Spencer Dale, to the Guardian. “I think the big story here is coal getting squeezed.”

For one thing, coal has become expensive compared to natural gas and renewable energy, a rapidly growing sector worldwide. Lots of places have also pledged to stop building coal plants. The EU has said no more new plants after 2020. China, too, has shuttered about 100 coal plants and also cut back on energy-intensive sectors like iron, steel and cement. At the same time, China is investing heavily in renewable energy.

Other countries have also made marked improvements. The United Kingdom in particular significantly reduced its reliance on coal. The country’s use of coal fell by 52.5 percent in 2016, and it even celebrated its first coal-free day earlier this year. According to the BP report, Britain’s use of these fuels has fallen to levels not seen “since the start of the industrial revolution.” The decline was accomplished, in part, by shuttering major coal power plants and mines, along with a carbon tax. The United States and China are also burning far less coal than before.

The war on coal is largely responsible for another positive trend: for the third year in a row, global carbon emissions have flat-lined. (Of course, to meet the Paris goals, the world will have to actually reduce its carbon use.) But with President Trump vowing to do away with any effort to limit coal use, we’ll see how long the trend continues.
— Amanda Erickson for the Washington Post.

and from Fareed’s mail:


Politicians Aren’t The Answer on Climate Change.

Climate activists should “weep not” over Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris accord, writes Jon Evans in The Walrus. After all, politicians aren’t the ones capable of solving climate change. That depends on “the ingenuity of our engineers.”

“To stop global warming before it comes catastrophic, we need to take technology which is currently restricted to the very wealthy, and make it available to the poorest of the poor, in a matter of only a decade or two,” Evans writes. “If only the global technology industry had essentially been training for this superhuman feat for its entire existence. If only this was arguably the one thing that it is incredibly, consistently good at. Oh, wait.

“There was a time when transatlantic flights were so expensive that they were often paid for in instalments. Last month I booked a flight from Oakland to Barcelona for $200. Remember when only rich people had cell phones? And then when only rich people had smartphones? How long do you think it will be before we’ll be rhapsodizing nostalgically: ‘Remember when only rich Californians drove electric cars?'”

and from Washington:

TILLERSON STILL A PARIS FAN: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday that he still supports the Paris climate change agreement, despite President Trump withdrawing from it.

He told Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that he respects Trump’s decision but disagrees with it.

“My view didn’t change,” Tillerson said Tuesday at a hearing on the State Department’s budget. “My views were heard out. I respect that the president heard my views, but I respect the decision he’s taken.”

He said Trump was “quite deliberative” in his consideration of the Paris pact. The president “took some time to come to his decision, particularly waiting until he had heard from European counterparts in the G7 on it,” Tillerson said.

Tillerson was a vocal supporter of the Paris agreement going back to his time as CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp.

He fought against Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt, who led an all-out push to get Trump to live up to his campaign promise to pull out of the pact.

DEMS: EPA IS NOT RESPONSIVE: A hearing for EPA and Nuclear Regulatory Commission nominees Tuesday turned into a Democratic assault on the responsiveness of the EPA.

The top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee said Tuesday that the EPA is moving too slowly to respond to the lawmakers’ request for information.

“The minority remains disappointed that the committee has not received complete written responses from Administrator [Scott] Pruitt to 11 oversight letters the committee has sent to the EPA this year,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said.

“Absent a heartfelt commitment by the EPA to provide complete and timely responses to our current information requests, I will find it very difficult to support moving forward with consideration of any EPA nominees.”

The EPA and committee Republicans defended the agency, saying officials have responded to 386 of the 416 letters they have received from members of Congress this year, including many from Carper and other members.

At the hearing, Democrats raised concerns about Susan Bodine, Trump’s nominee to head the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, worrying the agency’s enforcement might tail off under her leadership and that of the Trump administration.

But Trump’s three NRC nominees drew few complaints. The committee will convene on Thursday to quickly advance Chairwoman Kristine Svinicki’s renomination before her term expires at the end of the month.

ENERGY RESEARCH AGENCY GETS A THUMBS UP: A federal study of a key Department of Energy research agency concluded Tuesday that the program works and should serve as a model.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E), modeled after the Pentagon office responsible for innovations such as the technology that became the internet, is being targeted for elimination under President Trump’s budget proposal for 2018.

But the 239-page report released Tuesday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine says the nimble, somewhat independent research agency should serve as a model for the rest of the federal government.

“Roughly half have published results of their research in peer-reviewed journals, and about 13 percent have obtained patents. One quarter of the supported project teams or technologies have received follow-on funding for continued work,” the panel wrote in the congressionally mandated report.

“All of these are positive indicators for technologies on a trajectory toward commercialized products. In fact, several are either already commercially available or poised to enter the commercial market.”

COAL CONTINUES TO DROP: A global energy report released Tuesday brought more bad news for coal.

According to an annual report from BP, global coal production fell by 6.2 percent in 2016, the largest decline since BP began reporting the total in 1950.

Energy-sector coal consumption dipped for the second straight year, falling by 1.7 percent and bringing the fuel’s share of electricity production to 28.1 percent globally, its lowest level since 2004.

Both the U.S. and China reduced coal production and consumption in 2016 and were the driving forces behind the fuel’s decline, according to the study.

Renewable energy was the fastest-growing source of electricity last year, increasing by 12 percent. The industry now accounts for 4 percent of primary energy production worldwide.

PANEL TO MARK UP OZONE BILL: The House Energy and Commerce’s environment subcommittee on Thursday will mark up a bill to overhaul the EPA’s implementation of ozone regulations.

The bill, from Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) and others, would require the EPA to reconsider ozone rules every 10 years rather than every five years, the current timeline. EPA critics say the five-year timetable makes implementation difficult for cities and states because they don’t have enough time to cut emissions before the standards are tightened.

The House passed Olson’s bill last year but it went nowhere with a Democrat in the White House.

Trump and his EPA, though, oppose current ozone standards — and last week said they would delay implementation of Obama-era ozone rules — which means Olson’s measure may find more traction this year.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY I: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on an ethanol bill.

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