Environment

Global CO2 emissions stalled for the third year in a row

21 Oct 2017   Air Quality

« ICCT study finds GHGs from shipping on the rise | Main | Lancet Commission report estimates pollution responsible for 9 million premature deaths globally in 2015; 16% of deaths » The annual assessment of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by the JRC and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) confirms that CO 2 emissions have stalled for the third year in a row. The report provides updated results on the continuous monitoring of the three main greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO 2 ), methane (CH 4 ) and nitrous oxide (N 2 O). Global GHG emissions continue to be dominated by fossil carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) emissions, which however show a slowdown trend since 2012, and were stalled for the third year in a row in 2016. Other main findings include: In 2016, China, US, EU28, India, Russia and Japan, the world’s largest emitters in decreasing order […]

Lancet Commission report estimates pollution responsible for 9 million premature deaths globally in 2015; 16% of deaths

21 Oct 2017   Air Quality

Pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world today, according to the newly released report detailing the adverse effects of pollution on global health by the The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health. Diseases caused by pollution were responsible for an estimated 9 million premature deaths in 2015—16% of all deaths worldwide—three times more deaths than from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined and 15 times more than from all wars and other forms of violence. In the most severely affected countries, pollution-related disease is responsible for more than one death in four. The open-access report is published in The Lancet . To provide a framework for organizing scientific knowledge about pollution and its effects on human health and to help focus pollution-related research, the Commission developed the concept of the pollutome. The pollutome is defined as the totality of all forms of pollution […]

Pollution-related deaths exceed 9m per year

20 Oct 2017   Air Quality

More than 9m people are killed annually by pollution, equivalent to one in six of all deaths across the world, according to a new study. A two-year project carried out by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, sponsored by the Lancet journal, concluded that air pollution was the biggest contributor, accounting for 6.5m premature deaths, while water pollution causes 1.8m deaths. A further 0.8m died from pollution in the workplace. Ninety-two per cent of pollution-related deaths occur in low and middle income countries, from a wide range of diseases. In some industrialising countries a quarter of deaths are linked to pollution. The largest totals were in India (2.5m deaths) and China (1.8m). “Despite its far-reaching effects on health, the economy and the environment, pollution has been neglected in the international assistance and global health agendas, and some control strategies have been deeply underfunded,” said Philip Landrigan, a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, co-chair of the inquiry. “Our goal is to raise global awareness of the importance of pollution and mobilise the political will needed to tackle it, by providing the most in-depth estimates of pollution and health available.” In poorer countries, pollution-related diseases reduce gross domestic product by as much as 2 per cent per year and account for 7 per cent of health spending. In high-income countries they cut GDP by 0.5 per cent and account for 1.7 per cent of health spending.

Another warm winter forecast for swath of US

20 Oct 2017   Climate

Much of the U.S. should expect another warm winter, but not quite as toasty as the last two years, forecasters said. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday forecast a warmer winter from California through the Midwest to Maine. A colder than normal winter is predicted for southern Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Tier states. Normal temperatures are forecast for a thin swath of states from Indiana to Idaho. The big driver in the forecast is a La Nina weather event that is likely to develop next month. La Nina, the flip side of El Nino, is the periodic cooling of the central Pacific Ocean that affects weather patterns around the globe. There was a La Nina for the early part of last winter. The 2015-2016 winter was record warm, about 4.55 degrees hotter than normal. Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate […]

The Energy 202: Interior greenlights desert water project, prompting call for investigation

19 Oct 2017   Environment, USA

Last week, the Interior Department sent a letter to Cadiz Inc. that the company long had hoped to receive. For years, the renewable resource company had been trying to build a drinking-water pipeline between land it owned over an aquifer in the Mojave Desert and thirsty residents of Southern California. To help get the go-ahead from the federal government, it hired the law and lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck to help grease the wheels in Washington. But in 2015, Cadiz’s effort sputtered when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency within Interior, said the company would have to obtain permission from the government to build the 43-mile pipeline along an existing railroad. President Trump’s Interior Department, under new management, has mpw changed course and told Cadiz that the pipeline “does not require authorization […]

Planting Trees Could Cut Emissions As Much As Quitting Oil

18 Oct 2017   Air Quality

Planting more forests and managing land use better could be the biggest natural climate solution, because nature could deliver more than 30 percent of the emissions reduction needed to curb dangerous levels of global warming—equal to the world completely stopping the burning of oil, according to a new study . The study suggests that better management of the nature’s resources could be much more important and could have a bigger impact on fighting climate change than previously thought. Natural climate solutions could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 11.3 billion tons annually by 2030—equivalent to halting the burning of oil—and delivering 37 percent of the needed emissions reduction to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, found the study, led by scientists from The Nature Conservancy and 15 other institutions. “The results of the study indicate that the three largest options for increasing the number and size of trees (reforestation, […]

Opportunity or disaster? Traders see choppy waters due to shipping sulfur cap

14 Oct 2017   Air Quality

The world’s top trading houses, among the most nimble entities in oil, say even they aren’t sure how to stay a step ahead of a coming cut in shipping fuel sulfur. The new rules come into force in just over two years, and threaten to upend markets from heating fuel to crude oil. But uncertainty around them casts a shadow over how smoothly the transition can go; industry experts say investments in refining, tank storage or vessel upgrades need to happen now in order to be ready in time. “I don’t know if it’s going to provide opportunity or disaster at the moment, to be honest,” Vitol boss Ian Taylor told the Reuters Global Commodity Summit. […]

China targets pollution on eve of Xi Jinping’s second term

12 Oct 2017   Air Quality, China

A wave of environmental inspections in China has led to the closure of tens of thousands of businesses producing commodities from industrial chemicals to cement and rubber, pushing up prices and disrupting some global supply chains. The inspections highlight the ruling Communist party’s willingness to sacrifice some economic growth for what it calls a “war” on the country’s chronic air, water and land pollution. The crackdown comes ahead of this month’s political congress that will install President Xi Jinping as party chief for a second five-year term. Mr Xi has struggled to improve the government’s record on pollution in his first term — Greenpeace estimates that a third of Chinese cities saw worsened air pollution this spring compared with the previous year. Critics blame Beijing’s continued focus on meeting economic growth targets, the low status of environmental officials tasked with enforcing rules, and insignificant fines that fail to discourage polluters. However, a spate of environmental inspections launched in August across 31 provinces and regions were carried out by central government officials — including from the party’s feared anti-graft commission — which means negligent officials can lose their jobs or face jail sentences. Penalties imposed on polluters have also been toughened. “It used to be just fines, but now it is suspensions or shutting down production. That has a much greater impact because to the manufacturer it is life or death,” said prominent Chinese environmentalist Ma Jun. “It’s the first time I feel companies are becoming motivated to take a greener path.” More than 7,000 factories have been closed — at least temporarily — in Sichuan province, according to local media. The city of Zibo in Shandong province alone has seen 5,000 chemical companies closed this year, according to Rubber and Plastics News, an industry journal.

California Winds Are Fueling Fires. It May Be Getting Worse.

12 Oct 2017   Climate

Wildfires, fanned by high winds, threatened homes in Tustin, Calif., this week. Powerful, hot and dry winds like those that have fanned the deadly wildfires now raging in California are a common occurrence in the state, a result of regional atmospheric patterns that develop in the fall. The impact of climate change on the winds is uncertain, although some scientists think that global warming may at least be making the winds drier. “That is a pretty key parameter for fire risk,” said Alex Hall , a climate researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles. The winds, known as Diablo winds in Northern California and Santa Ana winds further south, have their origin in the high desert of the Great Basin of Nevada and parts of Utah. High-pressure air that builds over that region flows toward lower-pressure air over California and the coast. Along the way the air descends […]

U.N.: Cheaper to invest in climate change fight than to rebuild after a disaster

11 Oct 2017   Climate

It may cost less to invest in efforts to address climate change than to rebuild after major storms like Hurricane Maria, U.N. leaders write from Tehran. Photo by A1C Nicholas Dutton/U.S. Air Force/UPI Oct. 10 (UPI) — Investments necessary to reduce climate change risks may be less than what’s needed to rebuild after related disasters, U.N. leaders said from Tehran. Achim Steiner , the administrator at the U.N. Development Program, Patricia Espinosa, the climate chief at the United Nations, and Robert Glasser, the head of the U.N.’s office for disaster risk reduction, wrote for the U.N. Information Center in Tehran that climate risks would linger even if the measures outlined in the multilateral Paris climate agreement hold. “While carbon emissions are expected to drop as countries meet their self-declared targets, the impacts of climate change may be felt for some time, leaving the world with little choice but to […]

Power Companies to Stick With Plans Despite EPA’s Emissions Repeal

11 Oct 2017   Climate

Some of the biggest U.S. power companies said they are pushing ahead with investments in renewable and gas-fired electricity and are including climate change as a part of their corporate strategy, regardless of the Trump administration’s plans to roll back Obama-era environmental rules. President Donald Trump has pledged to boost the energy industry by cutting regulation, and on Tuesday his administration took one of its biggest steps yet toward that goal. The head of the Environmental Protection Agency signed a proposal to repeal the first federal limits on carbon emissions at power plants, which would vacate the Obama administration’s cornerstone plan to slow global warming. Some sizable power companies, such as American Electric Power Co. , NRG Energy Inc. and Southern […]

EPA chief to sign rule on Clean Power Plan exit on Tuesday

10 Oct 2017   Climate

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Monday he would sign a proposed rule on Tuesday to begin withdrawing from the Clean Power Plan, former President Barack Obama’s centerpiece regulation to fight climate change. “Here’s the president’s message: The war on coal is over,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told a gathering in the Kentucky coal-country town of Hazard. “Tomorrow in Washington, D.C., I’ll be signing a proposed rule to withdraw the so-called Clean Power Plan of the past administration and thus begin the effort to withdraw that rule,” he said. The Obama administration created the rule in an effort to reduce pollution from power plants by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The utilities […]

E.P.A. Announces Repeal of Major Obama-Era Carbon Emissions Rule

10 Oct 2017   Climate, Coal

The Trump administration announced Monday that it would take formal steps to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, setting up a bitter fight over the future of America’s efforts to tackle global warming. At an event in eastern Kentucky, Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said that his predecessors had departed from regulatory norms in crafting the Clean Power Plan, which was finalized in 2015 and would have pushed states to move away from coal in favor of sources of electricity that produce fewer carbon emissions. “The war on coal is over,” Mr. Pruitt said. “Tomorrow in Washington, D.C., I will be signing a proposed rule to roll back the Clean Power Plan. No better place to make that announcement than Hazard, Kentucky.” The repeal […]

Every economy at risk from climate change, IMF says

7 Oct 2017   Climate

The consequences of a changing climate pose a threat to every single economy in the world, the head of the International Monetary Fund said from Massachusetts. An annual report from the World Health Organization and UNICEF said global hunger is on the rise, affecting 11 percent of the world’s population, in part because of climate change. The report found a link between conflict and climate-related shocks because of demand strains brought on by extreme weather events. Some of the nations with the highest level of malnourished children, meanwhile, are the most war-torn. More than 7 million people faced food security risks in Syria last year. Speaking at Harvard University, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde said cooperation on […]

Puerto Rico’s Power Restoration Slowed by Miles of Downed Lines

7 Oct 2017   Climate, USA

The view from a helicopter flying over an area of eastern Puerto Rico on Oct. 5, 2017 where the power grid was severely damaged. “It looks like dental floss laying across the trees,” Sgt. First Class Gregory Ganser of the New York Army National Guard, which operated the flight, said over the radio. The wreckage offered a glimpse of the monumental task Puerto Rico faces in rebuilding a power grid decimated by back-to-back hurricanes that knocked out electricity to the entire island. More than two weeks after Maria, only about 11% of customers have had electricity restored. Compounding the challenge are the antiquated conditions of the grid and the financial straits of the government-owned utility that runs it—the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or Prepa, declared a form of bankruptcy in July. More than 85% of the grid was destroyed, and total damage from Maria is estimated at more […]

U.S. Gulf oil producers curtail output ahead of Tropical Storm Nate

6 Oct 2017   Climate, Oil Supply, USA

Oil and natural gas operators began evacuating staff and halting production at U.S. Gulf of Mexico platforms on Thursday ahead of Tropical Storm Nate, the second storm in as many months to rattle the Gulf Coast energy corridor. Nate, which has killed at least 10 people in Costa Rica and Nicaragua and caused intense rainfall, is forecast to scrape Honduras and Mexico, enter the Gulf and strengthen into a hurricane before making landfall this weekend in Louisiana, near several major refineries. That path takes it through an area populated by offshore oil and natural gas platforms, which pump more than 1.6 million barrels of crude per day (bpd), about 17 percent of U.S. output, according to government data. About 14.6 percent of U.S. Gulf oil production equaling 254,607 bpd was offline on Thursday, the U.S. Department of […]

Tropical Storm Nate Threatens Oil Rigs as It Targets U.S. Gulf

6 Oct 2017   Climate, USA

Tropical Storm Nate has formed off of Nicaragua, threatening to inundate Central America, shut oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and damage cotton and citrus crops across the U.S. South. (Bloomberg) — Tropical Storm Nate has formed off of Nicaragua, threatening to inundate Central America, shut oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and damage cotton and citrus crops across the U.S. South. Nate was about 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, with top winds of 40 miles per hour, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said an advisory at 8 a.m. New York time. The storm’s forecast track has it scraping the eastern edge of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula before becoming a hurricane south of Louisiana on Sunday. Nate could come ashore anywhere from Louisiana to Florida’s Panhandle. “Little change in strength is expected today as the center of Nate moves across […]

Tropical depression forms, could hit Gulf Coast as a hurricane

5 Oct 2017   Climate, USA

A tropical depression formed in the southern Caribbean Wednesday, with another Florida hurricane possible by the weekend. In their latest advisory, National Hurricane Center forecasters said the storm will move over warm waters and encounter light wind shear, allowing quick intensification. It’s possible sustained winds could reach 80 mph by Saturday, marking it a weak Category 1 storm as it approaches the U.S. coast. At 11 a.m., the depression was located 25 miles south-southwest of San Andres Island off the coast of Nicaragua with sustained winds of 35 mph, National Hurricane Center forecasters said. If it continues to intensify to a tropical storm and hurricane, it will be named Nate. A hurricane hunter plane is scheduled to investigate the storm later today. It’s too soon to say what impacts the storm may have on the U.S. coast, but the latest computer models take it north across the Gulf, with […]

Late-September Heat Wave Leaves Climate Experts Stunned

2 Oct 2017   Climate, USA

Century-old records across the Midwest and East Coast are being shattered by a monster late-September heat wave — the kind of extreme weather we can expect to get much worse thanks to President Donald Trump’s policies to undermine domestic and global climate action. “There has never been a heat wave of this duration and magnitude this late in the season in Chicago,” the National Weather Service reported Tuesday evening. “Summer in some regions of the world will become one long heatwave even if global average temperatures rise only 2°C [3.6ºF] above pre-industrial levels,” finds a study published Monday in Nature Scientific Reports . The Paris climate agreement, which Trump has decided to pull out of, seeks to limit global warming to “well below” 3.6ºF. On Wednesday, another study showed the connection between deadly heat waves and climate change. Scientists with World Weather Attribution (WWA) released an analysis of Europe’s […]

San Francisco Becomes First Major US City to Sue Fossil Fuel Industry Over Costs of Climate Change

26 Sep 2017   Climate

San Francisco and Oakland are suing Chevron , ConocoPhillips , ExxonMobil , BP and Royal Dutch Shell —the five biggest investor-owned fossil fuel producers in the world—over the costs of climate change . The two Californian cities join the counties of Marin, San Mateo and San Diego and the city of Imperial Beach that have taken similar legal action in recent months, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera and Oakland city attorney Barbara J. Parker filed separate lawsuits on Tuesday in the superior courts of San Francisco and Alameda County on behalf of their respective cities. They seek to hold the companies responsible “for the costs of sea walls and other infrastructure necessary to protect San Francisco and Oakland from ongoing and future consequences of climate change and sea level rise caused by the companies’ production of massive amounts of fossil fuels,” according to […]

PJM real-time prices jump above $200/MWh with summer-like weather

26 Sep 2017   Climate, USA

Real-time electricity prices across the PJM Interconnection footprint Monday jumped to triple-digit territory as hot weather fueled power demand. Real-time power prices on the western side of PJM in the Commonwealth Edison region around Chicago reached about $200/MWh around 3:15 pm EDT. At about the same time, real-time prices on the eastern side of PJM in the Baltimore Gas and Electric region rose near $228/MWh. Also, in the American Transmission System Inc. region around Cleveland real-time prices jumped to about $250/MWh. Article continues below… Platts Megawatt Daily provides you with timely and relevant North American electric power information. This market report is a valuable asset for any player in electric power and will provide clarity in this dynamic market. Platts Megawatt Daily is the only publication that delivers fundamental data, thorough news and analysis and Platts benchmark prices to participants in the North American electric power markets. Try Platts […]

Over $2 Billion In US Fire Suppression Costs From This Year’s Wildfire Season

23 Sep 2017   Climate, USA

There has been more than $2 billion spent on fire suppression efforts so far this budget year in the US (the budget year runs from October 1 through September 30), according to the US Forest Service. Image by Daria Devyatkina (some rights reserved) That figure represents a substantial increase from the previous record year of 2015, which saw the agency spend $1.7 billion on fire suppression efforts. To be clear here, these figures relate solely to US Forest Service costs and don’t include figures from federal, state, or local firefighting agencies. Altogether, 2017 has been an unprecedented year in the US (and in many other parts of the world as well) with regard to forest fires. At this point, it should be clear that the predictions that wildfires will become increasingly common and severe over the course of the century as a result of anthropogenic climate change have something […]

Norway’s Statoil says it reached emissions goals early

23 Sep 2017   Climate, Norway

After reaching its climate targets ahead of schedule, Norwegian energy company Statoil said it was raising the bar for cutting its emissions. The Norwegian energy company, one of the more robust producers in the world, said it reached its target of cutting 1.2 million tons worth of emissions of carbon dioxide from its portfolio three years ahead of schedule. “We aim to reduce CO2 emissions from the NCS by another 2 million ton by 2030,” Arne Sigve Nylund, an executive vice president for development and production, said in a statement . “This work starts now.” In 2015, the company joined nine of the world’s largest oil and gas companies in pledging to play a constructive role in reducing the intensity of global […]

Is Big Oil Going Green?

Oil supermajors rank among the biggest polluters in the world—a hardly surprising fact. In recent years, however, Big Oil has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions, in what may come as a surprising fact about the dirtiest industry globally. The world’s five largest oil firms—ExxonMobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, and Total—cut their combined emissions by 13 percent, starting from 2010 and ending in 2015, the latest year with available comprehensive data, a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) released this week showed. BP cut its pollution the most, by 25.5 percent, while the largest polluter among listed companies—Exxon—reduced its emissions by 14 percent. The oil supermajors—excluding Chevron, which only started reporting emissions in 2012—reduced their combined greenhouse gas emissions by 56.7 million tons between 2010 and 2015, according to the BNEF report. The emissions reduction this decade is in stark contrast with the trends in previous decades, when […]

California cities sue big oil firms over climate change

California cities San Francisco and Oakland filed separate lawsuits against five oil companies on Wednesday seeking billions of dollars to protect against rising sea levels they blamed on climate change, according to public documents. The lawsuits, filed in state courts in San Francisco and Alameda Counties, alleged Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell, created a public nuisance and asked for funds to finance infrastructure to deal with rising sea levels. According to a press release by San Francisco city officials, the lawsuits mirror 1980s-era lawsuits against tobacco companies. They allege the oil giants “knowingly and recklessly created an ongoing public nuisance that is causing harm now and in the future risks catastrophic harm to human life and property.” “Chevron […]

Hurricane Maria seen strengthening into major hurricane in next two days

18 Sep 2017   Climate, USA

A second powerful storm in as many weeks was bearing down on a string of battered Caribbean islands on Sunday, with forecasters saying Maria would strengthen rapidly into a major hurricane in the next two days and rip into the Leeward Islands on Monday night. Maria’s strength was building as it approached the Lesser Antilles, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said, estimating its winds at near 85 miles per hour (140 kph). ”Maria is expected to become a major hurricane as it moves through the Leeward Islands,” the forecaster said. Maria is approaching the eastern Caribbean less than two weeks after Irma hammered the region before overrunning Florida. That storm, one of the most powerful ever recorded in the Atlantic with winds up to 185 miles per hour (298 kph), killed at least 84 people, more than half of them in the Caribbean. Hurricane conditions were expected […]

Tillerson says U.S. could stay in Paris climate accord

18 Sep 2017   Climate, USA

The United States could remain in the Paris climate accord under the right conditions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Sunday. President Donald Trump was willing to work with partners in the Paris agreement if the United States could construct a set of terms that are fair and balanced for Americans, Tillerson said on the CBS “Face The Nation” program. “The president said he is open to finding those conditions where we can remain engaged with others on what we all agree is still a challenging issue,” Tillerson said. Trump administration officials said the United States would not pull out of the agreement and had offered to re-engage in the deal, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday. U.S. officials attended a meeting on Saturday of ministers from more than 30 of the nations that signed the climate-change agreement. Trump announced in June that he […]

Trump Administration to Brief Officials on Emissions Goals

18 Sep 2017   Climate, USA

President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser is expected to outline the administration’s proposals to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions while restating that its stance on the Paris climate accord has not changed, White House officials said, following signals over the weekend that the U.S. was exploring ways to remain in the 2015 pact. White House economic chief Gary Cohn’s planned breakfast discussion on energy and climate matters in New York follows a similar meeting led by Canada, China and the European Union in Montreal on Saturday, when U.S. officials broached revising Washington’s goals under the Paris accord to avoid pulling out of it, according to officials at the event. Mr. Cohn, who is leading the White House’s stance toward the 197-party accord, is set to discuss how the U.S. can continue to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions without sacrificing its re-emergence as a leading energy producer, […]

How US oil and gas passed test of ‘unprecedented’ weather

18 Sep 2017   Climate, Refining, USA

As Hurricane Harvey battered southern Texas on August 27, the National Weather Service described it as “unprecedented”. There had been stronger storms before, but the torrential rainfall brought by Harvey would have an impact that was “unknown” and “beyond anything experienced,” it warned. The severity of the damage to the oil and gas industry of Houston and along the coast was one of those unknown effects. Total refining capacity in Texas is 5.6m barrels a day, 31 per cent of total US refining capacity. It also produces 36 per cent of US crude. The flood waters lapping up around storage tanks at refineries owned by Valero Energy and Motiva, a subsidiary of Saudi Aramco, looked like a sign that there could be serious and lasting damage. Three weeks on, it is clear that the oil and gas companies have mostly been able to withstand the threat. Lessons learned from previous storms, in particular hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, have made operations more resilient. “This storm was a test for how well the US can deal with these threats,” says Jamie Webster of the BCG Center for Energy Impact. “The industry, I would say, has passed with flying colours so far.” Harvey has been a human catastrophe. At least 82 people were killed, and the mounds of ruined carpets, panelling, furniture and other possessions piled up outside tens of thousands of houses bear witness to the scale of the damage to property. Leaks from sewers, refineries and chemical plants during and after the storm have raised fears about the lasting effect on human health. But for the energy industry, the impact seems set to be mostly transient.

Trump Administration will Waste Billions by Disregarding Science in Hurricane Recovery

15 Sep 2017   Climate

The Trump administration is consciously choosing to reject climate science in its plan to rebuild from superstorms Harvey and Irma. And that means their reconstruction of Houston and Florida will squander billions of taxpayer dollars and put Americans who rebuild at risk in the future. In stunning remarks during Monday’s White House press briefing , Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert told reporters that the administration does not take seriously the “cause” of climate change. “I will tell you that we continue to take seriously the climate change — not the cause of it, but the things that we observe,” Bossert said. “And so there’s rising flood waters — I think one inch every 10 years in Tampa — things that would require prudent mitigation measures.” But the problem is that if you don’t take seriously the cause — human activity and carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels — then […]

Harrowing Storms May Move Climate Debate, if Not G.O.P. Leaders

14 Sep 2017   Climate

Extreme weather events have fueled the national debate on climate change. For years, climate change activists have faced a wrenching dilemma: how to persuade people to care about a grave but seemingly far-off problem and win their support for policies that might pinch them immediately in utility bills and at the pump. But that calculus may be changing at a time when climatic chaos feels like a daily event rather than an airy abstraction, and storms powered by warming ocean waters wreak havoc on the mainland United States. Americans have spent weeks riveted by television footage of wrecked neighborhoods, displaced families, flattened Caribbean islands and submerged cities from Houston to Jacksonville. “The conversation is shifting,” said Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii. “Because even if you don’t believe liberals, even if you don’t believe scientists, you […]

Stop Talking Right Now about the Threat of Climate Change. It’s Here; it’s Happening

14 Sep 2017   Climate

For the sake of keeping things manageable, let’s confine the discussion to a single continent and a single week: North America over the last seven days. In Houston they got down to the hard and unromantic work of recovery from what economists announced was probably the most expensive storm in US history , and which weather analysts confirmed was certainly the greatest rainfall event ever measured in the country – across much of its spread it was a once-in-25,000-years storm, meaning 12 times past the birth of Christ; in isolated spots it was a once-in-500,000-years storm, which means back when we lived in trees. Meanwhile, San Francisco not only beat its all-time high temperature record , it crushed it by 3F, which should be pretty much statistically impossible in a place with 150 years (that’s 55,000 days) of record-keeping. That same hot weather broke records up and down the […]

7 Big Changes to the Energy Industry Coming by 2040

13 Sep 2017   Climate, Oil Supply

For the most part, the way we generate and use energy hasn’t changed a lot in the past 50 years. But that’s not likely to be the case in the decades to come. As renewable energy sources become cheaper and more reliable, and we develop technology that enables us to better store and distribute that power, there could be some big changes in the energy industry between now and 2040. Factor in the historic Paris Agreement — signed by virtually every country on Earth — to reduce global carbon emissions, and it’s a near-certainty that we are at the threshold of an energy revolution. Keep reading to learn about seven of the biggest changes coming to the energy industry over the next 23 years. The Paris Agreement could lead 80% of energy demand growth to come from low-carbon and renewable sources The Paris Agreement has the potential to radically […]

China’s war on smog chokes Shandong industries, smokes out fuel kiosks

13 Sep 2017   China, Climate

China’s crackdown on pollution is choking output of chemicals, fuels and other materials in Shandong province as plants curb or cut operations amid random environmental checks. Beijing’s clear-sky efforts are not new, but the frequency and duration of recent inspections in the industrial Shandong heartland is impacting output more extensively as small and mid-sized plants come under the same scrutiny earlier focused on large state-owned facilities. Some 30 independent oil refineries in Shandong have been shut since mid-July, plus an unspecified number of chemical plants making propylene oxide (PO),PVC and rubber tyres have been closed, according to industry sources and market analysts. Unlicensed fuel kiosks have also been removed. While some of the plants have resumed operations or are hoping to restart later this month, others are less optimistic. “We were told to prepare to work half a month and be off the other half, […]

Hurricane Irma Linked to Climate Change? For Some, a Very ‘Insensitive’ Question

12 Sep 2017   Climate

Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, says it is insensitive to discuss climate change in the midst of deadly storms . Tomás Regalado , the Republican mayor of Miami whose citizens raced to evacuate before Hurricane Irma, says if not now, when? “This is the time to talk about climate change. This is the time that the president and the E.P.A. and whoever makes decisions needs to talk about climate change,” Mr. Regalado told the Miami Herald . “If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is. This is a truly, truly poster child for what is to come.” For scientists, drawing links between warming global temperatures and the ferocity of hurricanes is about as controversial as talking about geology after an earthquake. But in Washington, where science is […]

At least 58 killed in massive earthquake off Mexico coast

9 Sep 2017   Earthquakes, Mexico

Minutes before midnight, warning sirens blared across this earthquake-anxious capital. This, in itself, was not unusual. Temblors are common here, and in recent years Mexico City has held annual disaster drills, revamped building codes and installed sophisticated sensors to be ready for an emergency. Many residents still have clear memories of the calamitous 1985 earthquake that killed at least 5,000 people here and left a quarter-million homeless. But minutes after the sirens began wailing late Thursday, hanging houseplants started swaying and books tumbled from shelves. Plaster cracked. Streetlights shimmied like reeds in the wind. Lights went black. In pajamas and barefoot, with babies swaddled in blankets, residents rushed out of their apartments to wait in the darkened streets. This was no drill. This was an 8.1-magnitude earthquake, the most powerful one in Mexico […]

How Vulnerable Are Oil Markets To Extreme Weather?

7 Sep 2017   Climate

Refineries were closed, pipelines shut down, tankers held out to sea. The price of fuel shot up as gas stations went dry across the country, while crude slumped with a third of the U.S. refinery capacity shut in. A week later, a recovery is evident and most of the shuttered facilities in Corpus Christi and elsewhere are slowly coming back on line. But the impact of Harvey will likely be felt for weeks . Gas prices, according to EIA data , remain high in PADD 1 and PADD 3 (East Coast and Gulf Coast). The massive Motiva refinery has resumed partial production, and Goldman Sachs estimates that half of affected capacity will be back-online. But that leaves 1.4 million bpd that could remain off-line through mid-September, depressing prices. The actual damage to facilities, according to a report from the New Orleans-based Times Picayune, has been relatively minor . Operations […]

U.S. Braces For Second Major Hurricane In Two Weeks

6 Sep 2017   Climate, USA

Hurricane Irma has reached category 5-level winds, according to the latest reports from the Atlantic Ocean. If it hits land near Texas, it could destroy an oil and gas network already ailing from historic rainfall courtesy of its predecessor, Hurricane Harvey. Harvey knocked out one-fifth of oil production in the United States due to its activity in the Gulf of Mexico and certain parts of Texas. Still, it is uncertain if the newest hurricane will hit Texas at all. Some models strongly suggest the storm will turn north and hit the East coast, but there is a chance it could hit Houston – the nation’s energy capital. So far Irma is only confirmed to hit Florida, a state that has already declared a state of emergency to prevent prices on essential goods from skyrocketing. Still, orange juice futures are sky high. “Our biggest concern is Florida citrus,” Joel Widenor […]

If $26 oil doesn’t do us in, 52 inches of rain won’t either

4 Sep 2017   Climate, USA

Frenzied motorists scrambled to find gasoline in Dallas-Fort Worth as reports of imminent shortages spread on social media, fueled by refinery and pipeline shutdowns along the energy-rich Texas Gulf Coast. Storm-weary homeowners and renters by the thousands fled water-filled properties with whatever they could carry, not knowing what would be left of their belongings when floodwaters receded. Restaurants, boat storage centers and other small businesses battered by winds topping 130 mph emerged as twisted heaps of metal and plywood in coastal towns where Hurricane Harvey began its roughly 400-mile path of destruction. Those searing images from Harvey’s time in the spotlight also represent the layered economic impact left behind by one of the nation’s worst natural disasters. Just as the stubborn storm refused to go away for nearly a week, it’ll take months for its economic toll to fully unfold. Here’s where that damage stands nine days after Harvey […]

Did This Startup Solve The Carbon Capture Challenge?

When the Mississippi Public Service Commission earlier this year asked Southern Co. to pull the plug on its plan to turn the Kemper power plant into a clean-coal, carbon-capturing facility, the prospects of carbon capture and storage becoming a mainstream approach in power generation became a little bit gloomier. Luckily, Southern Co. is by far not the only one working on CCS. One startup in Texas is forging ahead, preparing for the first tests of its gas-fired, 50MW power plant that runs on natural gas and captures all the carbon dioxide the generation cycle produces to use it in that very cycle. In a story about the Net Power project, MIT Technology Review’s senior energy editor James Temple explains that the startup basically replaces the water that ordinary natural gas plants use to heat up to steam and power the turbines with carbon dioxide. Net Power’s generator uses supercritical […]

Caribbean Islands Begin Preparations for Hurricane Irma

4 Sep 2017   Climate, USA

Islands in the Caribbean are preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Irma, a Category 3 storm. San Juan, Puerto Rico—Islands at the eastern end of the Caribbean Sea made preparations Sunday for approaching Hurricane Irma, which could threaten the area Tuesday. Hurricane watches were posted for Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Monserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Martin, Guadeloupe and the British Virgin Islands. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the center of the storm could near that region late Tuesday. It said islands farther north, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, should monitor the progress of the storm. Antigua’s prime minister, Gaston Browne, urged people to take preventive measures in case the storm should hit, including cleaning drains and removing objects that could be sent airborne by high winds. Workers began pruning trees and shrubs to reduce chances for branches to tear down power and phone lines. […]

Texas chemical plant to burn containers at risk of explosion: officials

4 Sep 2017   Air Quality

FILE PHOTO: The flooded plant of French chemical maker Arkema SA, which produces organic peroxides, is seen after fires were reported at the facilty after Tropical Storm Harvey passed in Crosby, Texas, U.S. August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif/File Photo HOUSTON (Reuters) – The operators of a Crosby, Texas, chemical factory that ran out of electricity needed to keep flammable material refrigerated will burn the remaining trailers holding the substance, officials said on Sunday. Arkema SA, the French chemicals company that runs the plant, and Harris County fire officials decided to burn the 6 remaining trailers of organic peroxides, each storing about 500,000 pounds of the materials as a “proactive measure.” Three trailers already caught fire and burned. The 46-year-old plant lost power after becoming flooded by Tropical Storm Harvey. Staff tending to the materials, which are extremely flammable if not kept at low temperatures, loaded containers of the chemicals […]

Hurricane Irma remains potential threat to the East Coast, possibly matching Harvey’s wind strength

4 Sep 2017   Climate, USA

Irma advisory from the National Hurricane Center as of 11 a.m. Saturday morning. ( ) On the heels of Hurricane Harvey, now estimated to be the second-costliest storm in U.S. history, attention is turning to the next threat, Hurricane Irma. Irma, which weakened slightly overnight — now down to Category 2 strength with sustained winds of 110 mph — is currently marching westward across the Atlantic Ocean. Irma’s center of circulation is still more than 2,000 miles away from U.S. coast, but signs continue for future concern. As highlighted Friday, this storm will definitely be one to watch over the next several days — particularly along the East Coast — despite the high uncertainty in impacts at this juncture. Current status Although it has dropped to Category 2 strength, Irma continues to look quite healthy on satellite images, as of this morning. Hurricane #Irma in the Atlantic via #GOES16 […]

The second face of climate denial

4 Sep 2017   Climate

Human kind cannot bear very much reality. That is certainly true when it comes to long-term threats such as climate change. But the temptation to push aside inconvenient truths is not limited to those who say climate change is a myth or a plot invented by the Chinese to undermine the American economy. Some of those who accept the scientific evidence as presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others also have a strand of denial in their thinking, particularly when it comes to finding answers to the challenge.

The problem is evident in a — beautifully written — essay written by Mathieu Munsch for the website Bright Green. His aim is to lay out the facts about climate change in language that is accessible to non-specialist readers, and he succeeds admirably — his summary is well worth reading. Climate change is an existential threat to human life but there is no certainty about the detailed nature of the changes that could take place or the timing. Mr Munsch very clearly identifies what we know and do not know.

The response to the mounting evidence has been centred around a consensus target of keeping any global temperature increase to less than 2 degrees That is not based on particular scientific evidence — it is a politically driven goal. We not know whether 2 degrees represents safety, and the figure is in any case an average likely to reflect wide variation that could cause great damage in some places.

Future Hurricanes Will Be Worse Than Harvey

1 Sep 2017   Climate

How powerful would Hurricane Harvey have been in 1880? How much stronger might it be in 2100? A single Hurricane Harvey has been more than anyone can bear. But to better prepare cities for future storms, researchers are preparing to re-watch Harvey thousands of times. They’ve already been studying earlier storms, and their conclusions don’t bode well for the decades to come. In the months and years after Superstorm Sandy’s 2012 assault on New Jersey and New York, Gary Lackmann, an atmospheric science professor at North Carolina State University, was asked how the event might be understood in light of human-driven global warming. He knew that the question everyone wants answered—did climate change cause the storm—wasn’t the right one. Hurricanes were around long before the industrial revolution. Two questions did, however, resonate: How does climate change affect the frequency or intensity of huge storms? What would the weather pattern […]

U.S. states hit back at EPA chief over climate rule guidance

1 Sep 2017   Climate

Democratic state officials blasted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday for telling governors in what they describe as a “legally incorrect” letter in March that they do not need to comply with a major climate change regulation. Fourteen Democratic attorneys general and officials from six cities and counties said the guidance that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt sent to states on March 30 was misleading because the Clean Power Plan enacted under former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, remains on the books despite the Republican Trump administration’s plans to unravel it. The Clean Power Plan was aimed at curbing carbon emissions from power plants. It never took effect because the Supreme Court put it on hold in February 2016. The state officials said […]

I Was an Exxon-Funded Climate Scientist

31 Aug 2017   Climate

ExxonMobil’s deliberate attempts to sow doubt on the reality and urgency of climate change and their donations to front groups to disseminate false information about climate change have been public knowledge for a long time, now. Investigative reports in 2015 revealed that Exxon had its own scientists doing its own climate modeling as far back as the 1970s: science and modeling that was not only accurate, but that was being used to plan for the company’s future. Now, a peer-reviewed study published August 23 has confirmed that what Exxon was saying internally about climate change was quantitatively very different from their public statements. Specifically, researchers Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes found that at least 80 percent of the internal documents and peer-reviewed publications they studied from between 1977 and 2014 were consistent with the state of the science — acknowledging that climate change is real and caused by humans, […]

Peabody Says Bankruptcy Shields Coal Miner From Climate Change Lawsuits

30 Aug 2017   Climate, Coal

Some coastal communities in the state are suing energy companies over rising sea levels. Coal producer Peabody Energy Corp. says its recent emergence from bankruptcy shields it from lawsuits brought by three coastal California communities against fossil fuel companies over rising sea levels and global warming. The lawsuits were filed last month by the counties of San Mateo and Marin in Northern California and the southern city of Imperial Beach. The suits seek to hold more than three dozen oil, gas and coal companies responsible for greenhouse-gas emissions produced over decades. The lawsuits link these emissions to global climate change and rising sea levels, which they say have made coastal communities more vulnerable to flooding and other dangers. Peabody, which emerged from chapter 11 in April, said Monday in papers filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Missouri that it should be dropped as […]

Harvey Shows How Planetary Winds Are Shifting

30 Aug 2017   Climate

Meteorologists explain that Hurricane Harvey stalled off the Texas coast because two high-pressure atmospheric masses—huge bookends made out of air—have squeezed it in place, and there haven’t been any high-level currents to help steer it away. Harvey is yet another of several recent weather disasters marked by such shocking staying power, punishing whole regions for days or weeks on end—and longer. Others include a massive heatwave over Russia and flooding in Pakistan in 2010, the Texas drought of 2011, the California drought that began around the same time and continued through this year, and the flooding last year in Texas’s neighbor to east, Louisiana. Sluggishness in storms is a big deal, particularly if they’re increasing in frequency. “It turns a garden-variety disaster into a catastrophe,” said Paul Douglas , a broadcast meteorologist and weather entrepreneur. As Harvey stays put, it functions as a firehose that sucks warm water from […]

2020 low-sulfur requirements for marine bunker fuels causing scramble for refiners and shippers

29 Aug 2017   Climate

On 27 October 2016, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) announced that beginning on 1 January 2020, the maximum sulfur content allowed in marine bunker fuel will be reduced from 3.50% mass by mass (m/m) to 0.50% m/m (35,000 ppm to 5,000 ppm)—five years earlier than many expected. ( Earlier post .) The IMO fuel sulfur content regulation will have a significant global impact on both the refining and the shipping industries. Owing to uncertainty around the implementation date and the ultimate level of compliance, neither the global refining nor shipping industries have as yet made the necessary investments to comply fully with the IMO rules. As a result, both industries will experience rapid change and significant cost […]